Walworth County Genealogical Society
Walworth County Genealogical Society

P.O. Box 159
Delavan, WI 53115

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An Affiliate member of the
Wisconsin State Genealogical Society

St. Peter's Church

1975 Beulah Avenue
East Troy, WI 53120

This information was donated by Judy Kmiec, St. Peter's parish Secretary, Feb. 2003.

The Catholic Church of East Troy was organized in 1848.  In 1854 the first Catholic Church, named St. Thaddeus, was built at a cost of $1,200. It was just a frame building, 30 feet by 40 feet, located on Division Street just north of Elm Street on land plotted out for religious purposes by the first settlers in East Troy. The parish was served by missionary priests who traveled from village to village. As time passed the old church became inadequate to accomodate the rapidly growing parish. In 1870, James and Alex Porter donated land on Beulah Avenue, then known as Oak Street, and another site for a cemetary.  A stone mason, T. Titus was employed and the parishioners hauled the stone from a nearby quarry near Potter's Lake. The trip to and from the quarry took nearly a full working day.

The new stone church was completed in 1872 at a total cost of $16,000 and it was then named St. Peter's, after the desciple of Christ who denied him thrice but was singled out as "the rock upon which I will build my Church."  St. Peter's congregation was incorporated under the laws of the state of Wisconsin on March 8, 1882.  The articles of incorporation were signed by:  The Most Reverend Micheal Heiss. D.D.- archbishop of Milwaukee, The Very Reverend Leonard Batz - Vicar-General, Rev. Hugo Victor - Pastor of St. Peter's Parish, Daniel Ward - Secretary of the parish, and Bernard Wilmer - Treasurer of the parish. In 1888 Father Kessler, who served the church from 1887-1893 led the parishioners in the planning and building of what is now known as the old St. Peter's school.  It is still standing today across the street from the church. The school was built at a cost of $4,000. Sisters from St. Francis came to teach, but due to the small number of children and lack of transportation, the school was discontinued in 1896.

A sanctuary, chapel, and storeroom were added to the church in 1900. This addition was built of limestone which was hauled from Whitewater. The new structure increased the seating capacity of the church to approximately four hundred and three gothic style alters were installed.

In 1910, new stained glass windows and a pipe organ were installed and both are still part of this building.

In 1915 the parish voted to build a new parsonage at a cost of $7,000. Father Weinhoff occupied the new parsonage for only a few months before his health deteriorated. Soon after, Father James Hagarty was appointed to care for the parish from 1916 until the death of Father Weinhoff on March 30, 1917.  Father Weinhoff was buried in the parish cemetery and his grave is marked with a large granite cross.

The first twenty-five years of St. Peter's existance were marked by short tenures of resident priests who transfered from parish to parish to meet the rapid growth of Catholic families into Eastern Wisconsin.

For eight years after the consecration of St. Peter's there was no bell in the steeple. The bell, which rings to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the church, was purchased in 1880 by Father James Fitzgibbons.On the day the bell was blessed, Micheal Rush, who lived next to the church, voluteered to ring the bell three times a day as long as he lived. After his death, his wife carried on for him until she could no longer pull the bell rope.

In 1934, Fr. Francis Sampon was assigned to St. Peter's. During his pastorate there were many changes and improvements added to the Church: a large kitchen was added to the parish hall, two additional church exits were built, a new roof added to all parish buildings, and the church was redecorated. Five additional acres of land were purchased to the west, adjoining the parish property. It provided building and playground space for the future.

In the late 1950's the parish decided to build a new parish school under the direction of Father John Goebel.  The school was opened for classes in 1962. Sister M. Magdala was the first principal. The new convent was completed on September 28, 1962 which is now the rectory and parish offices. The school continues to educate children with grades K - 8th grade.

History of Priests serving at St. Peter the Apostle

1836-1850 Fr. Thomas Morrissy

He celebrated the first Mass in the East Troy area at the old Burlington Hotel.Fr. Morrissy was a missionary circuit rider, he had twenty years of frontier missionary experience and rode an Indian pony from parish to parish making monthly visits to his parishioners. The rugged frontier work took a toll on his health.On May 18,1850 he stayed overnight at the Paul Schwartz Senior Home in East Troy. The next day, on his way back to Waterford,he stopped at the James Porter home were he died the following day. The following is an excerpt from the Cincinnati newspaper, Wahrheitsfreund:

"The funeral of Rev. Thomas Morrissy took place in Burlington on May 21, 1850. He died while on mission, on pentecost, May 19, 1850. He was found dead, sitting in his chair in his bedroom, by the people of the house. He was a native of Ireland, and had been a missionary in the States for nearly twenty years."

1850-1854 Fr. Martin Kundig

He was vicar-general under bishop Henni, and a resident pastor at Waukesha. He came once a month and held services in the various homes in town. His stipend was fifty dollars a year. Fr. Kundig organized St. Thaddeus parish which was built in 1854 on Division Street in East Troy.

1854-1856 Fr. Sebastian Seif

He was the first resident pastor of St.Thaddeus Church.

1856-1857 Fr. Micheal Haider

The second resident pastor of St. Thaddeus Church. Fr. Micheal Haider was born October 8, 1820 at Absam, near Hall Tyrol, Austria. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 27, 1845.He came to America in 1850 and joined the diocese of Milwaukee. He was sent to the newly organized parish of St. Thaddeus in East Troy in 1856, where he stayed until July of 1857. The following is the consecration of St. Thaddeus was described by Father Haider in a letter printed in the weekly newspaper, Seebote:

"Bishop Henni blessed the Church on Sunday, Nov. 9, 1856, this being his first visit to East Troy, though the good people had prayed for his comming for several years. After the blessing of the church, Mass was celebrated, Bishop Henni preaching in English after the gospel.After the Mass he confirmed a class of forty-nine, many of them adults. After confirmation he addressed the Germans in their language. The evening services were vespers and a litany."

1857-1859 Fr. Thomas Keenan

Fr. Keenan was born 1829 in Tyrone County, Ireland. St. Thaddeus resident pastor from 1857-1859 and then trasferred to Oshkosh. He died in 1880.

1859-1860 Fr. James Stehle

Stehle's birthdate and place are unknown. He was St. Thaddeus mission pastor from 1859-1860 then transferred to Manitowoc and died in 1889.

1860-1864 Fr. Lawrence Kenny

Fr. Kenny was born 1836 in Galvay County, Ireland. He was a St. Thaddeus resident pastor from 1860-1864 and then tansferred to Eagle. Fr. Kenny died in 1870.

1864-1866 Fr. George Willard

He was born 1836 in New York. Fr. Willard was St. Thaddeus resident pastor from 1864-1866 and then transferred to Waupun and died in 1890. Fr. Willard along with Fr. Casey were instrumental in the founding of the Catholic Herald Citizen.  In 1878, while rector of St. Patrick's congregation in Milwaukee, Fr. Willard was editor and proprietor of The Catholic Citizen. Later under appointment form President Cleveland, he became a member of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

1866-1867 Fr. John Casey

He was born 1837 in Tipperary County, Ireland.  He was a St. Thaddeus resident paster from 1866-1867. Fr. Casey was then transferred to Monroe and Adams. His date of death is unknown.  In 1870, while Fr. Casey was pastor at Monroe and Adams, Wisconsin, he established the Catholic Vindicator at his own cost. This was the first Catholic weekly newspaper in Wisconsin.At the request of Bishop Henni, he relocated the Vindicator office in Milwaukee.After it left his hands, it became known as The Catholic Citizen, the forerunner of the The Catholic Herald Citizen, our official diocesan paper.  Fr. Willard, named above, was editor and proprietor of the catholic citizen while rector of St. Patrick's congregation.

1867-1869 Fr. E. A. Graves

Fr. Graves birthdate, place and date of death are unknown. He was a St. Thaddeus resident pastor from 1867-1869 and then transferred to Byron.

1869-1870 Fr. Hiram Fairbanks

Fairbanks was born in 1845 in New York and he was a St. Thaddeus resident pastor from 1869-1870. He was then transferred to Whitewater. His date of death is unknown.

1870-1876 Fr. Thomas Bergen

Bergen was born in 1844 in New York and he was the last resident pastor of St. Thaddeus and the first pastor of St. Peter's from 1870-1876.  In 1872 St. Peter the Apostle Church was built on Beulah Avenue to replace St. Thaddeus, which had become too small.  Fr. Bergen then transferred to Berlin.  He died in 1879.

1876-1881 Fr. J. Fitzgibbons

Fr. Fitzgibbons was born and ordained in Chicago. During the Civil War he was appointed to a Union Army post chaplain by Abraham Lincoln.  After the war he came to Milwaukee and served parishes at Fond du Lac, Templeton, and Darlington.  In 1876 he came to East Troy where he remained until 1881 when he was succeeded by Fr. E. Allen. from East Troy.  Fr. Fitzgibbons went to Whitewater where he resigned because of poor health in February of 1896.

1881-1884 Fr. E. Allen

He was born in Ireland where he spent most of his childhood. He lived in England for nine years and then came to the United States where, for a short time, he entered the Episcopal ministry; then he made profession of the Catholic faith and applied for addmission to the priesthood. He was ordained in January of 1868. After remaining at St. John's Cathedral for a few months, he was appointed to the pastorate at Beaver Dam. In 1881 he came to East Troy where he remained until 1884.  In 1882 St. Peter's Church was incorporated under laws of the state of Wisconsin. He transferred to Waupun as a pastor of St. Joseph's Church where, for seven and a half years, he also served as chaplain to inmates of the State Prison.  His last pastorate was at Platteville.

1884-1887 Fr. Hugo Victor

Fr. Victor served his first pastorate in 1884 at Eagle Center, Wisconsin.  He was rector of St. Peter's from 1885-1887. In 1887 he transferred to Northfield, Minnesota.  In 1894 he went ot South Dakota where he served for thirty years.  He died in Mitchell, South Dakota in 1937.

1887-1893 Fr. John H. Kessler

Fr. Kessler was the first Wisconsin born priest to serve at St. Peter's. He was born in Port Washington in 1857 and was ordained to the priesthood in June 1886. His first pastorate was at St. Joseph's Church at Waterloo. He was then transferred to East Troy.  In 1888 he led the parishioners in the planning and building of old St. Peter's school which still stands across the street from the church. The school was built at a cost of$4,000. Sisters from St. Francis came to teach, but due to the small number of children and lack of transportation the school was discontinued in 1896. After six and a half years at St. Peter's, Fr. Kessler was appointed rector of St. Mary's congregation in South Milwaukee, where he died September 11, 1935.

1893-1895 Fr. J.T. O'Leary

Fr.O'Leary was born on November 24, 1865 in Brooklynn, New York and ordained at St. Francis June 24, 1889.  After assisting at Ripon for a short time, he was stationed at Osceola, where he remained for four years. In 1893 he was transferred to East Troy where he remained until 1895. His next pastorate was at Holy Assumption Church in Franklin, where he served until 1900.  He served at Sacred Heart Church in Manitowoc from 1900 to 1918.  At the time of his death, July 30, 1930, he was pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Green Bay.  He was buried in his family lot at Calvary Cemetery in Milwaukee.

1895-1896 Fr. Charles Schmid

 Fr. Schmid was born in Milwaukee in 1873.  He attended parocial school in Greenfield and was ordained by the Most Reverend F.X. Katzer on December 1, 1895. His first appointment was as rector of St. Peter's. After ten months he was transferred to St. Mary's in Sullivan. Failing health caused him to retire.

1896-1917 Fr. J.J. Weinhoff

Fr. Weinhoff was born in the township of Franklin on March 13, 1865. He entered the seminary in 1882 and was ordained by Archbishop Heiss in 1889.  His first appointment was as an assistant at St. Joseph's in Milwaukee, where he remained for nine months.  He was then transferred to the pastorate of St. Mary's Help of Christians in Sullivan. He remained at Sullivan from 1890-1896 when he was appointed to St. Peter's.  Fr. Wienhoff remained in East Troy until his death on March 30, 1917. From 1916-1917 Fr. James Hagarty cared for the parish until the death of Fr. Weinhoff. Fr. Weinhoff is buried in the parish cemetery and his grave is marked with a large granite cross.

1917-1922 Fr. Willian Goebel

Fr. Goebel succeeded after the death of Fr.Weinhoff.  He was born in Marietta, Ohio on November 26, 1857.  He was ordained on June 24, 1881 and his first appiontment was as pastor at Kingston and after two years he transferrd to Ripon.  His next appointment was to St. Mary's parish in Janesville.  In March 1917 he was appointed to St. Peter's.  During Fr. Goebels pastorate the church's pipe organ made in Slinger, Wisconsin was installed. His next pastorate was in Pewaukee and in June of 1931 he celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination.Soon after he retired because of poor health.

1922-1934 Fr. Joseph Ritger

Fr. Ritger was born on October 21, 1876 in Milwaukee.  He was ordianed on June 10, 1900.  He was curate at St. Augustine's Church in Milwaukee, after which he was stationed at Seymour, Byron, Sullivan, Mayville, and finally East Troy in June 1922. He was assigned to St. Peter's because of a spinal ailment and was forced to walk with a cane. Fr. Ritger served for twelve years at St. Peter's and during his pastorate a new slate roof, new stations of the cross, and a communion rail were installed. Plus the church was re-frescoed. Fr. Ritger died on June 12, 1934 and was buried at Holy Trinity Cemetery in Milwaukee.

1934-1954 Fr. Francis Sampon

Fr. Sampon was born on February 3, 1879 in Fredonia. After attending a parochial school in Kenosha and a public school in Fredonia he entered St. Francis Seminary.  Fr. Sampon was ordained March 10, 1912.
  He was appointed assistant pastor at St. Mary's parish in Milwaukee. In 1915 he was transferred to Portage where he remained until 1918. He was then transferred to Byron and remained there for six years going to St. Colletta's School for Exceptional Children in 1924. He also served Johnson Creek as a mission. In 1934 he was assigned to St. Peter's in East Troy. On August 15, 1954 the parish celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the building of the first frame church (St.Thaddeus).  Archbiship Albert G. Meyer (later Cardinal Meyer) preached the centennial semon and later addressed the parishioners and guests on the parish grounds. Within a month Fr. Sampon suffered a cerebral hemorrage. He was cared for at St. Camillus Hospital in Milwaukee where he died April 3, 1956. During the period from Fr. Sampon's stroke until July 25, 1956, Fr. A.P.Kraus served as interim pastor.

1954-1956 Fr. A. P. Kraus

Fr. Kraus served as interim pastor while Fr. Sampon fell ill. Fr. Kraus was the retired chaplin of the state penal institution at Waupun. In 1956 he was transferred to Ashford. He died April 21, 1961.

1956-1968 Fr. John H. Goebel

Fr. John H. Goebel, no relation to Fr. William Goebel, was appointed pastor of St. Peter's church on July 25, 1956. Fr. Goebel was born in Fond du Lac and studied for the priesthood at St. Lawrence Seminary, Mt. Calvary in Wisconsin and St. Fransic Seminary in Milwaukee. He was ordained on June 6, 1936 at the church of the Gesu by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Samuel A. Stritch. Fr. John Goebel was assistant pastor at Holy Angels Church in West Bend from July 24, 1936 to February 24, 1949. He then became pastor at St. Goerge in Elkhart Lake with a mission at St. Fridolin, Glenbeulah.  He served at St. Peter's until July 10, 1968 when he was transferred to St. Mary's in his native Fond du Lac.  Fr. Goebel died on September 11, 1989.

1968-1986 Fr. Joseph J. Hickey

Fr.Hickey was born in Milwaukee on September 21, 1920.  His advance studies were at St. Francis Seminary and Marquette University. He was ordained June 8, 1946 and was assigned to St. John's Cathedral from 1946 to July 10, 1968 when he became a pastor at St. Peter's. Fr. Hickey was especillay interested in the future development of quality Christian education at St. Peter's School and was dedicated to the implementation of the precepts of Vatican 11 as St. Peter's began its second hundred year. In the preparation for the centennial celebration, a major restoration of the church was completed in 1971.  The restoration included new wiring, new plumbing, new pews, new carpeting, a new sacristy, removal of the side alters, and relocation of the bapistry at its earlier location at the right side of the church.  In 1986 Fr. Hickey was appointed to St. John's in Rubicon, Wisconsin.  He died January 4, 1995.

1986-1995 Fr. John Twomey

Fr. Twomey was born on December 21, 1927 in Davenport, Iowa.  He recieved Valedictorian honors from Riverside High School in Milwaukee on 1945, BA from St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee in 1949, STL from Gregorian University, Rome, Italy in 1953,and MA and PhD from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in 1956, 1958. He was appointed to St. Francis Seminary in 1959. He served as president and founder of St. Francis De Sales College (seminary) from 1969 until 1977. He then served as pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Waukesha from 1978 to 1986, before comming to St. Peter's. Fr. Twomey retired in June of 1995, but choose to stay in the community where he assists St. Peter's Church by helping as needed with mass scheduling.

1995-1998 Fr. Kenneth Derfus

Derfus was born on March 19, 1930 in Kaukauna, Wisconsin.  One of four children, he attended St. Mary's School in Kaukauna from 1935 to 1937, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Hudson Falls, New York from 1937 to 1943, St. Francis Seminary in St. Francis, Wisconsin from 1945 to 1950, St. Francis Major Seminary in St. Francis, Wisconsin from 1950 to 1956. He recieved a B.A. in Philosophy on January 11, 1954. After ordination at St. John's Cathedral in Milwaukee on May 26, 1956 he was appointed to St. Agnes in Milwaukee from 1956 to 1963. Then followed by St. Anne in Milwaukee from 1963 to 1967.  Fr. Derfus was then appointed to St. Peter and Paul in Asuncion in Paraguay, South Africa from 1967 to 1972. He returned to the United States serving St. Patrick's in Milwaukee from 1972 to 1978. Our Lady of Good Hope in Milwaukee from 1978 to 1986.  He then served at St. Leonard in Muskego from 1986 to 1995 before coming to St. Peter's Church.  Fr. Derfus fell and fractured his skull in January 1998 and never returnred to St. Peter's Church  Fr. Twomey filled in until March 1998.

1998 Fr. Don Hying

Fr. Hying was interim pastor from March 1998 until June 1998.

1998- 2002 Fr. Louis P. Luljak

Fr. Luljak retired in 2002.

2002 Fr. Lawrence J. Chapman

Copyright 2013 Walworth County Genealogical Society


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