The Early Church

The Early Church

 

Previous to the autumn of 1903, the Catholics of Stayton - about fifty households in all - attended Mass at St. Boniface Church in Sublimity. In those days, it was a long trip to Sublimity each Sunday to attend Mass. The roads were poor, and in winter they were often nearly impassable. It was particularly difficult for the young families. As more Catholics located in Stayton, they began to think of a parish of their own. On February 17, 1903, a small group of Catholic men, George Spaniol, Andrew Fery, Emil Forrette, B. Weinrich, John Spaniol, John Brown, Theodore Gehlen, Joseph Zuber, Dr. Charles Brewer, Peter Freres, Nick Geymer and E.D. Alexander met in Stayton at the old Daisy Hall located in the Streff Building, to discuss the possibility of building a church in Stayton.
 As the planning for a Stayton church commenced, an offer of four acres by Theo Gehlen Sr. was accepted. John Spaniol and Mr. Gehlen, were appointed to broach the subject with Archbishop Alexander Christie of the Archdiocese of Oregon City (changed to Portland in 1928). Mr. Gehlen and Mr. Spaniol found the Archbishop not in agreement with them, and even after several more trips they made found him unrelenting. On their last trip, Mr. Gehlen was stricken with a sudden illness and died, at which time George Spaniol was appointed to take his place. When Archbishop Christie refused to give permission for a church to be built in Stayton, the small group of disciples decided, "They would build the church anyway, and then ask the Archbishop to accept it."
 
A group of four - John and George Spaniol, Dr. Charles Brewer and Andrew Fery - became the charter members appointed as the steering committee for the construction. This group, with help from Cornel Silbernagel, Nick Fehlen, Joe Fery, Ed Goeders, Barney Pape and Herman Marking, was the major force in the building of the church. It was John Spaniol who suggested that the new parish have the title of "Immaculate Conception." The Spaniol family had all found comfort in the beautiful prayer that proclaimed Our Blessed Mother's purity. When the name was accepted, Mr. Spaniol donated the Immaculate Conception statue to the new parish.
 
 
Prayer of the Immaculate Conception
 
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, didst prepare a worthy dwelling place
for thy Son, we beseech thee that, 
as by the foreseen death of this, thy Son,
thou didst preserve her from all stain,
so too thou wouldst permit us,
purified through her intercession, to come unto thee.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son,
who livest and reignest with thee 
in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
Amen.
 
 Andrew Fery designed the church, which measured forty by seventy feet. Jordan Jungwirth, because of his ship-building experience, along with Cornel Silbernagel, Nick Fehlen, Joe Fery, Ed Goeders and Barney Pape built the steeple, which measured ninety-seven feet tall to the ball just below the six by nine foot cross. With the church built by the parishioners, upon dedication the parish was free from debt.  However, at a price tag of $5000, the members found they had no money for the furnishings. A meeting was called and it was determined that each family should purchase its own pew. Orders were given to Lee Brown & Sons of Stayton, and a price set for $11 each. The organ was a gift from Peter Freres.
 
 The construction was finally completed on August 14, 1904.  Rev. E. O'Hara (under delegation by Archbishop Christie) dedicated the church. Rev. O'Hara, Rev. Frobein of Mt. Angel and Rev. Anthony Lainck of Sublimity, assisted by Rev. Seroski of Sublimity conducted the services. High Mass was celebrated and a large number of members and guests attended. The choir rendered excellent music during the services, while the Stayton Band played before and after the dedication.
 Families of record at this time included: Forrette, Spaniol, Streff, Mertz, Geymer, Gassner, Maertz, Giesler, Pietrok, Weinrich, Behren, Heidierer, Boedigheimer, Bieneman, Freres, Trotter, Rock, Polreis, Neibert, Matthieu, Funk, Fery, Alexander, Brewer, Gehlen, Klecker, Kerber, Frank, Braun, Goeders, Marking, Deidrich, Pape, Minten, Neitling, Zuber, Schmitz, Senz, Fehlen, Rauscher and Silbernagel.
Immaculate Conception Church then began as a dependent parish, and was attended by Father Anthony Lainck of St. Boniface. The first baptism recorded was that of Anna, daughter of John and Mary Pietrok Mertz, born November 7, 1903, and baptized the following year. The first marriage was of Susan Streff, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Streff, to Herman Marking on June 10, 1908. The church purchased a strip of land running north and south along side Lone Oak Cemetery from Lydia and O.J. Ruble in 1914 for use as a church cemetery. In 1915 Joseph Hirzsiefen was the first person to be buried in the cemetery.  A 14-foot by 24-foot sanctuary was added in 1922 because of the increase in the number of parishioners.
 
 
Father Lainck served as the pastor of Sublimity and Stayton for the next 23 years. His horse and buggy traveling between the two towns was a familiar sight. Though at first he doubted the wisdom of a church at Stayton, he later became a strong proponent. After visiting his birthplace in Graes, Westphalia, Germany, for the first time since 1892, he returned with a recurring illness that hospitalized him for many months. He never rallied, and passed away calmly in Portland on June 11, 1927.
The Stayton Mail of June 16, 1927, echoing the sentiment of all who knew Father Lainck, wrote: "During his long residence in this community he made for himself hosts of friends, both inside and outside the church. He was a constant and conscientious worker for the temporal as well as the spiritual welfare of his people. His sound advice and counsel were frequently sought and found beneficial. He was intelligent and broad-minded, and his death is a distinct loss to this section of the state... Not only members of his Church will keenly feel his loss, but also by many to whom he had endeared himself by his genial manner, his cheerful and kindly disposition and his strength of character. His was a life full of helpfulness and kindly feelings, so that while serving his Master he also served his fellow men."
Father Lainck 1865 - 1927Father Lainck 

 

 
Father Francis Scherbring
The death of Fr. Lainck brought the Rev. Francis Scherbring as pastor in Sublimity and Stayton. This young priest had already been recognized as a capable builder and a strong advocate of Catholic schooling for children. On October 16, 1931, the Stayton Church became an independent parish under the direction of the first resident priest, Fr. Joseph Scherbring. He was a brother of Father Francis Scherbring, and with his kindness and zeal inspired and organized the families into a real parish unit.
 The parish at the time owned two houses; one known as the old Taylor house, and the other donated by Mr. and Mrs. Goeders. This gave the new parish a whole block of land on which to build. The Taylor house was declared not worth repairing, and the other house was not properly constructed to make a satisfactory house for the pastor. The Taylor house was then torn down to make room for a new parsonage. A few years later a modern, two-story rectory 38 feet by 38 feet occupied the site. It was of brick construction designed and built by Anthony Schindler and the parishioners at a cost of approximately $4000. The rectory included a full basement with a furnace and janitor's quarters.

 

 
 
pzvyxmvpa7wpoehesrv19e73l1l.jpgThe Rectory 
 
Antone (Andy) and Caroline Keidel donated a large section of property for use as a cemetery along Third Avenue and what is now East Regis Street in 1932. Father Joseph Scherbring blessed and dedicated the new St. Mary's Cemetery on June 15, 1933, Decoration Day. In October, of that same year, the parish gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the completion of Immaculate Conception Church. A solemn High Mass was held in the morning with a cafeteria dinner served by the ladies of the parish in the Masonic park pavilion. A capacity crowd attended. George Smith, mayor of Stayton, acted as master of ceremonies for the event. A special feature was a talk by George Spaniol, who spoke on the reason for erecting the Catholic Church in Stayton.

 

Father Joseph Scherbring
 
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The Convent 
In February of 1936, Archbishop Howard appointed Rev. George M. Sniderhon, the second pastor. His winning smile and good humor created goodwill and cooperation among many, even outside his church, right from the beginning. Later that year, a two-story, 24 foot by 34-foot convent for the Sisters of St. Mary's was built. Previously the sisters lived in a house owned by the parish. Father Sniderhon's right-hand man was Anthony Schindler. His ability as a carpenter and mason was instrumental in the construction of the new rectory, the convent and classroom. Also especially helpful during this time were Bernard Klecker, Louis Gisler, Emil Forrette, Vincent Pietrok, John Kerber, John P. Mertz and Joseph Fery.

 

Father Norbert Fritz became the first priest to be ordained from Immaculate Conception Parish. Archbishop Edward Howard ordained him at the Portland Cathedral on May 31, 1942, and he celebrated his first Mass in Immaculate Conception Church on June 4, 1942.
 In March of 1945 Father Mathias Jonas became the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish. Father George Sniderhon had served the parish for nine years and enjoyed the esteem of all the community, including members of all religious faiths. Father Jonas brought along change and a new church was in order. The last marriage in the old church was that of Marlene Odenthal, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Odenthal, and granddaughter of Andrew Fery, to Robert Hartmann on February 9, 1952. The last Mass held in the old church was on April 12, 1952. More on Father Jonas and the new Church continued in The Next Fifty Years...