Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mackay Idaho's St. Barbara's Catholic Church Celebrates Their Centennial - 2012


100 Years in Mackay, Idaho:  A History of Saint Barbara’s Catholic Church

By Elizabeth Martini, Ph.D.
September 2012

Saint Barbara’s Catholic Church is one of the oldest mission churches in the Diocese of Idaho.  St. Barbara’s is part of the St. Charles Parish, which includes Custer, Lemhi and Butte Counties.  Together these counties total 11,742 square miles – larger than eight of the states of the U.S.  A priest serving this parish from Salmon has a drive of 111 miles one way to Mackay – not to mention the four other churches served in the parish: Challis, Arco, Leadore and Stanley.

In the early years, mining was a major industry, with the White Knob Mining Company the major mining enterprise.  Ranching and farming were also part of the long-time economy of the area.  The Oregon Short Line railroad built a branch from Blackfoot to Mackay.  This being the northern terminal, Mackay became the center of the valley’s agricultural industry and beneficial for the mining business as well.  Mackay’s city population in 1901 was 638.  By 1918 it had nearly doubled. Over the years the population waxed and waned from as high as 1,300 to today’s population of 569.

Priests on Horseback

Long before there was a place of worship for Catholics, missionary priests traveled over 100 miles by horse and buggy or on horseback from Blackfoot or Pocatello to the mining communities of Custer County.  Since late in the 1870’s black-robed missionaries had visited the area caring for the religious needs of the Catholic people, staying in their homes for a few days and then moving on.

One of the early missionaries to come through the area was Father Louis Verhaag in 1880.  He was traveling to the Custer Mines and followed the Big Lost River to Willow Creek Summit and over into the Salmon River drainage.  In October 1882, Archbishop Seghers of the Diocese of Oregon City (now Portland) followed the same route to the Custer Mines.  From 1885 to 1888, Father Nattini and Bishop Alphonse Glorieux followed this route.  

Before Mackay became an established community, priests came to Houston, a nearby town.  From 1888 to 1900, Father Cyril Van Der Donckt covered the entire eastern third of the state. He was assigned by the Pocatello Catholic Church “to hold services on a more regular basis at Houston.” Masses were held every few months in either Gus Hein’s hotel or at city hall.  

Gradually people moved closer to the mining operations. With the exodus from Houston, a new community was formed and activities centered on the new city of Mackay.  In 1900, regular services began in Mackay twice a year.  From 1902 to 1907, Father Emil Vergrugge from Shoshone served the new town.  His territory included all of Custer County.  

As the Catholic community grew, the desire for a permanent place to worship increased.  The Ladies Altar Society was organized in 1908 before the mission church was built. The ladies were instrumental in bringing a dream to reality.  Many fund raising activities took place toward that goal. Concerts, luncheons, dances, card parties and special dinners were held to obtain the needed funds to build a church.  The St. Patrick’s Day dance was a major community event.  Members of the original group included Mrs. Marie Anthony, President, Mmes Annie Atha, Mary Atha, Phoebe Deardon, Julia Donahue, Marie Donahue, Annie Gilboy, Marie Gilboy, Ann Gilboy, Bridget Hatford, Sarah Hein, Freda Hein, Jennie Kelleher, Annie McKelvey, Kathleen McKelvey, Minnie Nowaki, Catherine Owens and Mary Sweeney. There are several descendants of these ladies who live in the community today.

In 1901 Bishop Glorieux recorded the deed for lots 4, 5, & 6, which were donated by Mr. Wayne Darlington and his wife.  He was the chief engineer for the White Knob Mining Company.  In 1911 Bishop Glorieux received $500 from the Catholic Church Extension Society towards building a church.  Finally an “all cedar” church kit was ordered from a company in Oregon.  Father Eugene Boogaers directed the work, and in 1912 the church was dedicated in honor of Saint Barbara, the patron saint of miners.
St. Barbara Patron Saint of Miners
The care of St. Barbara’ church and its spiritual needs changed several times: from Blackfoot to Pocatello, St. Anthony’s Hospital, Idaho Falls, Arco and finally Salmon. It has been under the care of the pastors at St. Charles in Salmon for over 35 years.

In 1923, Bishop Gorman sent Reverend Bernard Denvir to live in Mackay.  This was the first and only time that St. Barbara’s had a resident pastor.  Many priests have served St. Barbara’s since then, each contributing the uniqueness of themselves to the spiritual growth and continuous physical changes of the Saint Barbara’s mission church.

Catechism classes were held in different homes even before the building of the church.  Ladies of the church provided the classes to the youth.  After the church was built they still went to classes in the homes, usually one day after school for instruction.  After the church hall was built, Sisters from Idaho Falls would hold a 2-week summer school, staying with the Nuns at the Lost Rivers Hospital.  Katy (Pence) Denney recalls “memorizing the St. Joseph Catechism booklet because the Sisters expected rote answers to the questions.  “We had two 15-minute recesses during the school day, at which time we would all go out and play baseball. I remember the Sisters would roll up the sleeves of their habits and play right along with us kids.  There was just a dirt field, no lawn or fence.”

A Work in Progress

One could say that Saint Barbara’s church dwelling is a work in progress, as it has had many inside and outside “face-lifts” since it was built.  The original church included the Sanctuary, Vestibule and Sacristy.  It had no indoor plumbing.  A “two seated” privy was built to accommodate the needs of the parishioners.  When the ladies cleaned the church, they had to bring water with them.  Mrs. Fallini was often seen carrying buckets of water to the church to clean.  Heat came from a coal stove near the front left corner of the sanctuary.  Early records listed the periodic purchases of coal for heat.  The cement foundation for the heater is still visible today.  Electric heat was finally installed in the early 1960’s, eliminating the need for the coal stove.

In 1916, money was raised to purchase a pump organ, which was placed in the rear of the sanctuary.  This organ still works today and is owned by Cindy (Sayer) Christenson.  In 1972 it was replaced with a small Hammond Organ with only three “voice” options and placed near the altar.  When this one ceased to work in 2000, a new one was ordered.  Within five weeks, parishioners donated all the money needed for the organ.

A small, white, wooden stand with a gold cross painted on the front panel was used for the original altar.  This altar is currently placed in the sacristy. The unique stone altar that occupies the church today was constructed by Fritz Friedel.  Imbedded in the base of the altar is a cross of rocks from the mines where many of the parishioners worked.

The altar area was remodeled in 2006.  When the dark paneling was removed, remnants of a painted quotation were found on the deteriorating plaster. It read: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.”  (John 12:32.)  Unfortunately it could not be saved and new sheet rock was put up.

 In 1963 the main entrance was enlarged and changed from a center entryway to a side entry with double doors.  The front of the vestibule was changed to a colored glass design.  Father Ken Arnzen had a stained glass window installed in the vestibule.  Another stained glass window, dedicated in memory of Dennis and Ella Donahue, was added in 1987.
Additions to the main structure were made beginning in 1981, including the church hall, kitchen and bath. The church hall was constructed by parishioner Louie Rukavina and his sons.  One of those sons, Steve Rukavina, went on to be ordained in 1987.  Today Fr. Steve is pastor at St. Mark’s, Boise.

Inside wall where the Church Hall addition joined the original structure on the east side 
The Church Yard

In the early 1960s, Fr. Arnzen personally removed all the sagebrush around the church and put in the lawn.  Since then many church activities have been enjoyed outdoors.  One major event that became an annual highlight was “Austrian Days,” which began in 1985 with Barbara Chaffin as chairman. It began as an international food festival with many different dishes representing the various countries of the Mackay people’s origin.  In addition there were all kinds of entertainment for young and old.  Over the years, word spread about St. Barbara’s Austrian Days and people came from all over the valley and beyond.

A memorial garden was also added to the corner of the church’s yard in 2001.  The focal point of the garden is a statue of St. Francis of Assisi.  It stands in front of a lattice-topped wooden fence and is surrounded by flowering and evergreen shrubs.  Stone settees provide a quiet place to sit in the garden and meditate.

Our Centennial is a time to remember the many efforts that have been made to build up our little mission church, and be thankful to those who carried them out.


Over the years many people have donated items or funds for alterations, often in memory of loved ones:

Chalices have been donated in memory of:
Veronica Winiecki
Geldo Carron
Simon Family
Catherine and Gustavo Gabriel

Ciborium donated in memory of: 
Florence Woods Nelson

The original Song board and the Racks to hold the Hymnals and Missals were donated by Bolen Uresti in 1985.

The door to the church hall was given in memory of Walter P. and Evelyn Kahler

The Baptismal Font was donated by Ann T. Thomas in 1988

Larry Piatt designed, constructed and erected the new St. Barbara’s sign.

The kneeling and votive candle station was added in memory of Mattie Whitney. The kneeling bench was designed and made my Toni Alosi, then parish council president.

The walnut cross with a white dove, on the wall above the votive candles, was designed and made by the Confirmation class of 2002 under the direction of Mary Kate Claycomb.

Laura Pence donated the funds for new siding for the church.  Claudia (Pence) Dains donated a trophy saddle for auction to support the siding.

Barbara Chaffin had the sprinkler system installed for the whole church yard.

Ralph and Betty Martini donated a new Processional Cross.

The Memorial Garden came to be through special donations from many. A plaque with the memorial names is on display in the church classroom. The benches in the garden were donated by Carol and Lowell Frauenholz.

A small white alabaster statue of Mary was given to the church in memory of Delores Simmons. Ralph Martini made and mounted a corner shelf in the church hall to display the statue.

Bequeathed monies from Clint Whitney have provided the funds for a newly installed Sacramental Lamp and alteration of the Tabernacle niche.

A manger for Christmas was built and donated by Nolan Sauerbreit.  Artist Ruth Sauerbreit donated a drawing of the church in 1912 for the Centennial.

Interviews/Discussions/Emails with Margaret Brachelusch, Barbara Chaffin, Kate (Pence) Denney, Dennis Donahue,  Mary Hanni*,  Earl Lockie, Howard  Rosenkrance, Frances Sayer*,  Mattie* and Clint* Whitney, Henry Williams,  Ronald Williams.   
(    * have since deceased

v    Charlotte McKelvey provided materials from the Mackay Miner
v    Tom Donahue’s letter to his mother Donna Donahue, May 26, 1976.

Author’s comments
The 100 years of St. Barbara’s spiritual service to the community encompassed a multitude of activities and dedications to its vitality and spirit. Obtaining records for writing this history was an education in itself and a wonderment of all the people who made St. Barbara’s what it is today. Writing this has given me a greater appreciation of what 100 years entailed in the life of our church, St. Barbara’s. Regrettably, I’m certain there are situations and especially people that were missed in this writing. It was not my intent to leave anything out.  I extend my sincere apologies for any omissions that may have occurred.   E. Martini

Appendix A

Priests who served St. Barbara’s community

1887              Fr. Cyril Van der Donckt
1903-1907    Fr. Emil Verbrugge from Shoshone
1907-1912    Fr. Boogaers from Shoshone
1911              Fr. Hander Donket
1912-1914    Fr. Nicholas Wertzberger
1913              Fr. Doran gave a week long mission    
1914              Visit from Cardinal St. Peter
1914-1923    Fr. Gresl from Blackfoot
1916-1917    Fr. Joseph Verhoeven Missionary Assistant from Blackfoot
1921-1922    Fr. M. J. McGowan
1922              Fr. Leo Ziebarth  S.M
1922              Fr. J. C. Dolan
1922-1923    Fr. P.L.Taufin
1923-1928    Fr. Bernard Denvir
1924              Fr. Henry Schubert CSSP
1928              Fr. Jenney  CHSF
1928-1939    Fr. Ronayne who resided at St. Anthony’s Hospital
1932              Fr. R. Pecoul of Blackfoot
1934              Fr. C. H. King
1936,’37,’52 Fr. M. Dougherty
1938              Fr. H. L. Herman
1939              Fr. Bauman
1940-1946    Fr. P. J.Ahern
                       Fr. E. Russell Jackson CSP
1941-1943    Fr. Shimmick Jones
(1939-1948   Care of St. Barbara’s was transferred from St. Anthony’ in Pocatello to Salmon)
1943-1946     Fr. W. F. Ordway
1946-1956     Fr. Thomas J. Kelly
1948, 1952    Fr. James Grady
1949               Fr. William F. McQuaid
1950-1951     Fr. Denons Falk
1952               Fr. Martin Hughes
1959-1962     Fr. John Rafferty
1957-1964     Fr. Kenneth Arnzen
  (?)                  Fr. Michael Scarcello
1965                Fr. Patrick OSB
1966                Fr. Cameron
1951-1968      Fr. Phillip Canavan   
1968-1969      Fr. Kevin McArdle
1970                Fr. Wallace
1969-1973      Fr. Michael Spegle
1973                Fr. John Hebert
1974                Fr. Eugene Esch
1974, ’75, ‘76  Fr. Lawrence Bunzel
1976-1978      Fr. John O’Sullivan
1978                Fr. Frank Costello
1979- 1980     Fr. Everest Furnard
1980-1984      Fr. Gomez
1984-1985      Fr. Henry Wolozen  Resident Pastor in Arco
                          Fr. Bjorn
1985                 Fr. Phillip Mark Finley
1986                 Fr. William Gould
1986                 Fr. Timothy Ritchey
1986-1987       Fr. William C. Crowley
                          Fr. Kuiper
1981, ’88, ’92 + Fr. Steve Rukavina
1988-1989      Fr. Jose Maniyangat  (see appendix B)
1989                Fr. Francis Harlow  (Pastor from Salmon)
1990-               Fr. Meinsad Schallberges
1989-1991      Bishop Trienan
(1991-1992     Sister Bernice Wessels  O.S.B.
                          Fr. Richard Haldane  (Pastor from Salmon)
1991-1992       Fr. Tom Keller
1992-1994       Fr. Antony Aelevanthane
1994-1998       Fr. Anthony Diloreto
1998-2010       Fr. Gordon Taylor
2001-2003       Fr. Alan Cox (Pastor from Salmon)
2004-2011       Fr. Paul Wander  (Pastor from Salmon)
2011-2012       Fr. Evarist Shiyo
2012–present  Fr. Chase Hasenoehrl    (Pastor from Salmon)

                           Idaho Diocese Bishops

1868 – 1885    Rt.R ev. Louis Aloysius Lootens  
1885 – 1917    Rt.R ev. Alphonse J. Glorieux       
1918 – 1927    Rt.R ev. Daniel M. Gorman           
1927 -- 1956    Rt.R ev. Edward J. Kelly
1956 –  1962    Rt.R ev. ames J. Byrne
1962 – 1988     Rt.R ev. Sylvester W. Treinen
1988 – 1998     Rt.R ev. Todd D. Brown    
1998 – present Rt.R ev. Michael P. Driscoll
St. Barbara's Catholic Church parishioners marching in the 2012 Mackay Rodeo Parade for their Centennial. June 23 2012. L to R: Randy Dains, Theresa Smith, Campbell Gardett, Father Evarist Shiyo, Roxane Gardett.

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