The actual founding of St. Boniface Parish dates to the year 1858. The original German Catholics coming to America settled in the Westphalia area beginning around 1835. In 1840’s lands surrounding Westphalia and Rich Fountain areas were settled and the better lands were then taken up. In 1850’s, the offer of public lands to the south of Westphalia was to prompt settlers to purchase land around and including what is now Koeltztown. Among those purchasing several thousand acres of land in this area was a wealthy Protestant widow by the name of Emilie Phillipine von Beck. Emilie and her new husband, August Koeltze conceived the plan to attract settlers to the area and then resell the land at a profit. The Koeltzes thought that the erection of a Catholic church would be an excellent way to entice the German Catholics to their area and buy their land. They donated ten acres of land and promised to contribute generously to the church building fund.
Before a church was built in this area, Father Ferdinand Helias, S.J. the Jesuit missionary priest of St. Joseph’s in Westphalia would ride by mule to the Herman Sandbothe farm, (located on County Road 512) to offer Mass in their home. Before the establishment of the parish, it was necessary for Catholics in this area to cross the Maries River several times in order to reach the church in Westphalia. This several hour horseback ride was extremely difficult in good weather.
The Jesuits, who were administering to the spiritual needs of the people in the area, were spread very thin and were under instructions by the Provincial of the Jesuits not to open up any more station missions or parishes. In 1857, Father John Goeldlin was the principal Jesuit priest in charge of this area. Father Goeldlin could not immediately satisfy their wishes of a church without express permission from the Provincial. Having funds in hand and the offer of free land, the headstrong Germans in the area became impatient with the delay. They went directly to Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis to plead their case. The Archbishop encouraged the settlers to proceed with their plans. The original deed was executed on March 14, 1858.
Limestone foundations were immediately laid for a church larger than St. Joseph at Westphalia. Father Goeldlin blessed the cornerstone for the new church, to be dedicated to St. Boniface, Apostle of the Germans, in July, 1858. It was at this time, a young carpenter in charge of the project and acting the part of architect, found himself in over his head and made off with a considerable portion of the building fund. The name of the individual was not recorded. The plans for a majestic church had to be discontinued. The remains of the extensive foundation were long seen as a monument of past endeavor and enterprise.
A modest frame church was erected and was completed in early 1861. Rev. P. Goeldlin offered the first Holy Mass in the new church the first week after Easter in 1861.
Having completed their church building, the parishioners at St. Boniface ran into another roadblock altogether too familiar to us today. The Archbishop was unable to furnish them with a resident pastor. The people of Koeltztown requested Father Goeldlin to administer the parish but the Reverend Provincial was obliged to deny this request. Father Goeldlin, however, made arrangements with the Archbishop for the Jesuit Fathers to have holy mass celebrated on the second Sunday of each month until a resident pastor could be furnished. Since there was no suitable rectory, the visiting priests stayed with Mr. and Mrs. August Koeltze.
With the permission of the Archbishop, Father Goeldlin blessed the new cemetery on June 27, 1862. Several funerals had already taken place before that time.
The year of 1863, the records of St. Boniface showed 50 families, 12 visits, 290 confessions, and 250 Holy Communions.
In 1864, the Civil War was being felt in the area. It was not uncommon to hear guns in the distance. Although almost all of the German Catholics were committed to the Union cause, there were southern sympathizers known as bushwhackers that would march through the area on a regular basis. The war brought much unrest and anxiety for Osage County but no known damage was inflicted on the parish grounds.
During these war years, Fathers Goeldlin and Neiderkorn attended to the community’s needs. Their services were discontinued because of nonfullfillment of their needs and a hassle over the education of the children.
Finally efforts to obtain their own priest were successful, and Father Edward Holthaus was appointed St. Boniface’s first resident pastor. In 1868, Father Holthaus was transferred to St. Charles, Missouri and succeeded by Father William Klevinghaus. In early 1872 he was replaced by Rev. John Gruender. In 1875, Father Joseph Hellwing took care of St. Boniface’s spiritual needs.
Increased post-war immigration into Osage County brought many farm hands and craftsmen. The increased number of people made it hard to accommodate the congregation in the small wooden church. The cornerstone for the present brick church was laid on June 5, 1877, the feast day of St. Boniface. The old church was converted into a school.
In 1878, Father Hellwing was succeeded by Father Bernard Hillner. In 1880, having been the victim of an accident, he was given an assistant. Rev. Hillner was assisted by Father Kellersmann until his death on November 13, 1882. Father Kellersmann was then appointed pastor of the parish.
During these years, the beautiful new Gothic church had been built and was free of debt. As time passed, the interior of the church was furnished to harmonize with its Gothic character. A Mr. Schultz from present day Meta, is reported to have built the walnut pews which are still being used today.
In 1879, the Henry Stuckstede Bell Foundry of St. Louis cast two bronze bells for St. Boniface that measured 42 inches and 34 inches in diameter and had weights of 1,400 pounds and 875 pounds respectively (still in use today).
After the pews had been installed, the altar builder, C. Schmitt, of St. Louis, set up two new Gothic side altars, to the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph. In 1883, contractor H. Schenk from Quincy, Illinois, built the beautiful Gothic main altar. Three statues, St. Boniface, St. Anthony, and St. Aloysius were added to adorn the church. That same year, a large pipe organ by the firm Pfeffer and Son of St. Louis was installed.
August, 1884, Fathers Felix and Symphorian, O.S.F., directed a very successful mission. Both a new Gothic pulpit and confessional were placed by the builder, H. Schenk. Joseph Woehr, a local craftsman, with the help of a mule-driven lathe built many pieces for the church.
Five statues on the altar were imported from Paris, France. In 1888, the St. Ann’s Married Ladies’ Sodality purchased the new Gothic frames for the Stations of the Cross.
During the years of 1889 and into 1891, the parishioners built a new rectory. Koeltztown brick was made on the Herman Sandbothe farm and placed on the exterior of the rectory as was previously on our beautiful church.
The year of 1894, the third bell, an additional 55 inches in diameter, 3000 pounds bronze bell was cast for the church. The inscription on this bell reads:
ST. BONIFACE BELL
DONATED BY REV. H.K.,
W. SCHWARTZE, J. SCHAUWECKER|
HERM. BOEKMANN, ST. RENNEKE
H. LOENNER, H. MASSMANN
JOE MASSMAN, R.FALTER, M. LOCK,
The bell’s impressive peals can be heard for many miles.
A successful mission in 1897 was held by Rev. P. P. Pancratius and Servatius, O. S. F.
With the turn of the century, many changes were ahead for St. Boniface. The Rock Island Railroad was being built and new towns were developing. New parishes in the towns of Freeburg, Meta, Folk, and Argyle drew people closer to their homes and away from traveling to Koeltztown for Mass. Nearly half of St. Boniface’s parish family moved to the newly established St. Aloysius Parish in Argyle.
In 1905, William Kloer, of St. Louis, frescoed (the art of painting on freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments) the interior of the church and gilded the high altar. That same summer, a male choir was organized and directed by Otto Sankey. This choir continued to sing at masses for the next eleven years.
Father Kellersmann celebrated his Silver Jubilee in 1906. In the same year, a steam-heating system was installed in the church.
The statues of the four Evangelists were placed on the high altar in 1907.
A new school and combination convent made from Koeltztown brick was begun in 1908 and completed in 1910. The school was dedicated in June, 1910, by the Very Rev. Vicar General, O. O. S. Hoog. In September of this year, the Sisters of Notre Dame began teaching. From 1910 to 1913, Professor O. M. Sankey taught the high school. Subjects taught were: English, agriculture, bookkeeping, and world history from the economic and religious viewpoints. The old church was used for school purposes.
On November 24, 1914, after a lingering illness, Father Kellersmann died. He cared for the members of St. Boniface for 33 years. Fathers Adelricus Thum and Hubert J. Eggemann helped the parish until the appointment of Father Joseph P. Wigger.
Among the many improvements during Father Wigger’s tenure were: a Christmas Crib (which is still being used today), electric lights in the church, school/convent and rectory, a Pieta (a statue of the Virgin Mary mourning over the dead body of Christ), and a life-size statue of the Sacred Heart. In 1918, two large statues of Adoring Angels were added to our church.
It was a great honor and joy, when Ferdinand G. Wieberg was ordained into the priesthood on June 10, 1923. Rev. Wieberg celebrated his first Mass at St. Boniface on June 13, 1923.
After Father Wigger’s death in January, 1925, the Rev. A. Acker was appointed as pastor of St. Boniface Parish. On June 5, 1927, St. Boniface Parish celebrated its golden anniversary. Much had changed in the fifty years. Three beautiful buildings now stood on the parish grounds. The parish was providing a place to educate their children and a wonderful structure for the Lord. Upon Rev. Acker’s death in early 1928, Father John S. Kelley assisted the parish, until July, 1928, when the Rev. James M. Denner was appointed pastor.
In July, 1929, it was found that the parish treasury was practically empty. A house-to-house collection produced $292.00. This was the beginning of the Great Depression. About this time, four large electric lights were installed in the sanctuary by a benefactor of the parish.
In 1930, the church, rectory and school were rewired from the old Delco electrical system to the higher voltage electrical system. That same year, the church steeple was repaired and the cross re-gilded. Statues of the Risen Christ, St. Agnes, and of St. Theresa-the Little Flower-were donated by two parishioners. The sanctuary was enlarged somewhat by a changing of the Communion railing. New linoleum for the sanctuary was donated by the Young Ladies’ Sodality.
In February, 1931, a mission was conducted by Msgr. F. Hoefliger.
The parish was blessed and honored in June, 1931, when Herbert J. Melies was ordained into the Priesthood. He celebrated his first Mass at St. Boniface.
In 1937, the parish was the recipient of $1,300.00 from the estates of two parishioners. This bequest was used for altar and church needs, to clean and varnish the church pews, for the installation of two electric lights over the Communion railing and for a new Eucharistic Safe-Tabernacle.
In the summer of 1940, screens were installed in all windows of the rectory. The hand-operated church organ was cleaned and repaired in 1941. Also in that same year, a new roof was put on the school/convent.
The year of 1943, saw a new floor lay in the convent kitchen and a hot-air gravity furnace installed in the rectory. The married and young men of the parish renovated the cemetery and straightened the tombstones.
A Lourdes Grotto was erected between the church and the rectory in June, 1944. This beautiful edifice to our Blessed Lady was built and donated by Frank Lueckenhoff and sons, Roger, Harry and Gerald of St. Thomas, Missouri, after Henry Lueckenhoff’s death. The grotto was dedicated July 2, 1944. Also in 1944, the old school building was razed and more work on the cemetery was completed.
Sister M. Raphael, SSND, celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1946. Veneranda Otto, Marie Juergensmeyer, and Martha Schwartze honored the parish by entering the convent of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, that same year.
On January 30, 1947, fire broke out in the rectory. But, with the help of parishioners and school children a major disaster was avoided. However, the rectory could not be used completely until April, 1947.
The following year in April 1948, a tornado roared over Koeltztown and damaged the tall church steeple. The steeple was repaired.
In June 1950, Father Denner retired as pastor of our parish. He had many health problems since his car accident in 1941. Rev. Denner had spent 22 years at St. Boniface. Rev. Richard C. Reichling became his successor. This same year, a bathroom and a running water system were installed in the parish buildings.
A new fir floor and tile was laid in church, as well as new foam-rubber leather-cushioned kneelers were installed in 1951 due to generous donations and volunteer labor from the parishioners.
On June 8, 1951, a terrible wind storm struck Koeltztown. This caused much property damage. Parish property suffered especially the church steeple. In February 1952, the Archbishop gave permission for the razing of the original steeple and its rebuilding on a much smaller scale. This work was begun in the spring of 1952.
During June of 1951, with the skilled labor of the parish men, a 30 foot by 60 foot concrete playground was poured on the grounds in the rear of the school building. The playground was marked for tennis, volleyball and other games.
In November, 1951, the old wooden floor was removed in the basement of the school. A new concrete floor was laid and the basement was converted into a kitchen and lunch room for the students. Formerly the lunch room and kitchen occupied the basement of the church. The church basement was partly renovated and then used for daily religious instructions.
Work completed on the parish grounds in 1952 included the following: painting and spot-tuck pointing of the exterior of the church, convent/school, and rectory. The church steeple was lower after numerous times of wind damage and repair. The cemetery fence was repaired and sections of the fence were replaced.
Thursday, June 5, 1952, marked a triple celebration for the parishioners of Koeltztown. On that date, the church celebrated the feast day of St. Boniface, the Diamond Jubilee of the placing of the cornerstone of the present church and the Sacerdotal Golden Jubilee of the parish’s former pastor, Father James Denner. Our parish consisted of 65 families at this time.
September, 1952, saw the converting of the public school to the St. Boniface Parochial School. The school opened with 53 students and Sisters Elizabeth and Berenice were the teachers. On May 25, 1960, the School Sisters of Notre Dame were recalled to the Motherhouse. The last three nuns assigned to the Koeltztown convent were: Sister M. Raphael Merkle (superior and principal), Sr. M. George Albach (teacher) and Sr. M. Christi Quinn (housekeeper). The school was then taught by lay teachers.
On January 31, 1962, retired Pastor, James Denner died. In 1962, Father Richard Reichling was reassigned and Father Robert Scoby was appointed pastor for a short time. In December, 1962, he was transferred and the spiritual needs of the parish were provided on a temporary basis by Fathers JacquesWenting, Robert Chenowith, and Donald Greene until the appointment of Father Joseph Busald, in the summer of 1963.
The year of 1966, brought more changes to the parish. Six years after the nuns left the school, the Bishop closed the school due to declining enrollment. The next school term, the students transferred to the Holy Family Parochial School in Freeburg or the public school in Argyle.
That same year, Father Busald was reassigned and Father Ignatius Beran was appointed pastor of St. Boniface Parish. Also, the large Gothic style pipe organ was replaced by a smaller organ, this was partially donated by Elizabeth “Lizzie” and Leo Otto. Lizzie Otto was the organist for the parish for many years.
In August, 1967, Father Beran was transferred to Argyle and Father Brendan Doyle was appointed pastor. During his stay, in 1968, prompted by Vatican II reforms but much to the chagrin of the parishioners, the beautiful altars and statues were removed from the church. They were replaced with a backdrop of striped wall paper.
More and more changes continued to occur in the parish and at this time, in February, 1970, notice was received from Bishop McAuliffe that St. Boniface Church would be closed due to the shortage of priests and the short distance between the two parishes of Koeltztown and Argyle. St. Boniface Parish would be united with St. Aloysius Parish to become one parish. A retired priest, Father Leo Oligschlager, moved into the rectory and continued to offer daily Mass which kept the church building open. Father Liam Fay, pastor of St. Aloysius, took care of the administrative duties and offered Mass on Sunday. Although the Church was officially closed, it was never physically closed, thanks to the efforts of Father Fay and Father Oligschlager.
In August, 1970, Monsignor Ralph Kutz was transferred to be pastor for St. Boniface and St. Aloysius. He lived in Argyle, but continued to keep the parishes operating on an individual basis. Mass was offered daily.
In the later part of the 1970’s and into the 1980’s, the parish undertook an extensive revitalization and renovation program. The circular window in the west wall of the belfry that had been blown out as a result of a storm was restored. The brick on the rectory, which had been painted, were sand blasted and tuck pointed.
In 1985, the church was redecorated and a new main altar and two side altars were added. The striped wall paper backdrop behind the main and side altars was replaced with hardwood planking. Some of the statues were also returned to the sanctuary.
The St. Boniface School building was renovated into the St. Boniface Parish Center in 1986. A bathroom and kitchen were added to the first floor. New windows were installed, along with new floor covering throughout. Also, new ceilings and lighting was added to the second floor. The center serves the religious education classes, meetings, and social functions of the parish besides being made available for showers, funeral luncheons, and other family gatherings.
A group of dedicated ladies from the parish organized a Quilting Circle in 1986 and remain active to this day. All proceeds of their labor are donated to the parish. At first the ladies quilted on the second floor of the center. In 2000, rooms were renovated in the church basement for their use with no steps to climb.
The following year in 1987, the entire interior of the church was repainted and the original walnut benches were padded. New carpeting was installed, and new windows were installed in the bottom half of the gothic windows along the north and south exposures of the church. Two rows of the walnut pews were removed to accommodate the increase in stature of the present day person. The salvage lumbers from these pews was used for wall brackets to support the statues that were removed in 1968.
In 1989, side altars featuring paintings of Blessed Kateri Tekawitha and Saint Rose Duchesne were donated by Bill and Judie Crede to replace the altars that were removed in 1968. The altars were built by Phillip Thoenen and Sons of Loose Creek. Sabra Eagan was commissioned to do the paintings.
Also, during this time period the following projects were completed. The church, rectory, and parish center were air conditioned. New heating units were also installed in all three parish buildings. Extensive electrical work was done to the buildings and outdoor lighting was installed.
In 1991, a new pipe organ built by the Wicks Organ Company of Highland, Illinois, was installed in the church. The total cost of the organ was $30,000. The organ came complete with chimes, which cost $5,000, and sounds beautiful with the high ceilings of the church.
In the following year, the major project of sandblasting and tuck pointing of the church and center was undertaken. All three of the primary parish buildings were in “like new” appearance.
In 1993, a concrete parking lot was built on the north side of the parish center. Fill for the lot was obtained from St. Aloysius Parish in Argyle from rock that was excavated for the expansion of their cemetery.
Copper guttering, downspouts, coping, chimney caps, and roof for the church steeple were installed in 1995.
The following year, new leaded glass was installed in the circular window over the main altar. The leaded glass, depicting the Life of Christ, was designed and built by George Colbert of Jefferson City. The window was a donation of Paul and Agnes Plassmeyer.
New windows were installed throughout the center and rectory. A new additional bathroom was installed in the first floor of the rectory. The Schwartze Foundation provided the financial assistance on this project.
In 1997 and 1998, new concrete steps and handicap ramps were constructed for both the church and center.
After twenty-nine years of spiritual guidance from Monsignor Ralph Kutz, the Bishop appointed Father Michael Murphy as pastor of both St. Boniface and St. Aloysius Parish in August, 1999. Monsignor Bernard Boessen was appointed Associate Pastor of St. Boniface Parish. Msgr. Kutz was promoted to Pastor Emeritus, of St. Aloysius. He was awarded the title, “Protonotary Apostolic Supranumerary”, by Pope John Paul II in 2000. He continued daily masses until his death on July 5, 2000.
A new concrete parking lot was constructed on the south side of church at this time.
In June, 2000, the parishioners of St. Boniface Parish along with family and friends honored Monsignor Boessen on the occasion of the golden jubilee of his ordination to the Priesthood.
In 2001, a brick bulletin board was erected in the front of church along with a new flagpole. Also, under the direction of Monsignor Boessen, the confessionals in church were reconfigured to better accommodate present day needs. The components of the original confessionals were utilized to maintain the character of the church.
Also in 2001, electrical improvements were made in the three parish buildings; the cemetery saw some repairs and maintenance. Book racks were installed in the pews.
In 2002, the baptismal font was moved to the front of the church. The rails were removed from the area under the choir steps. New carpet was laid in the vestibule.
Outside the church, a bronze statue of St. Boniface was placed with the bulletin board. Beautiful landscaping was completed. Sealing and tuck pointing to all of the parish buildings were completed.
In July, 2002, Father John Schmitz was assigned to our parish, replacing Father Michael Murphy. Father Schmitz would take care of the administered business of the parish while Msgr. Boessen would continue to celebrate the Masses. This reassignment gave four parishes to Father Schmitz.
November 3, 2002, the parish celebrated the 125th year of the laying the cornerstone of our present day church. A mass and lunch followed the celebration. During the repairs of the exterior of the church, the cornerstone was removed. Inside contained a bottle with coins and a note inside (the paper was badly damaged).
This same month, the parish would suffer a great loss over the death of Msgr. Boessen. Father Syl Bauer and various other priests took turns having Mass for the next month or so.
At the January 17, 2003, parish council meeting, several priests from the diocese attended. Father Kurwicki, Father Meystrik, Father Higley, and Msgr. Wilbers announced that Sunday morning Mass would cease after March 2, 2003. They hoped that everyone from St. Boniface would attend Mass in the surrounding area churches. The end to Sunday Mass at Koeltztown, they reasoned, was due to the death of Msgr. Boessen and the extreme shortage of priests. This decision brought the parish of St. Boniface back to its origin of being a mission parish.
On June 5, 2003, the church’s cornerstone was reset. Inside the cornerstone the coins were put back along with a laminated copy of the parish’s 125th anniversary history book and a parish directory.
In 2004, more repairs were completed on the rectory and the shed behind the rectory was torn down. The parish council continued to try to find ways to celebrate Sunday services. However, as it remains today, Thursday evening Masses are offered with Adoration and Benediction an hour before Mass.
The St. Boniface Quilting Circle donated a new Holy Water container and stand for the church in 2005. The roof of the rectory was replaced; part of the funding was financed by the A.J. Schwartze Foundation. The sanctuary carpet was replaced.
Father Marion Makarewicz was welcomed to Koeltztown in July, 2005. He would be the priest for four parishes: Argyle, Brinktown, Vienna, and Koeltztown.
In 2006, the ropes for the bells were replaced and a new PA system was installed. The water-damaged areas in the rectory were repaired and painted. A new roof was placed on the center.
In November, 2006, the four parishes celebrated Father Marion Makarewicz’s elevation to “Monsignor”.
The year of 2007, saw the beginning of a year long celebration of the parish’s 150th anniversary of the beginning of the parish. The three day Mission began on Sunday, June 3, 2007. Msgr. Makarewicz held a Vespers Service and guest speaker, Fr. Joe Welschmeyer, delivered a message on the History of the Catholic Faith in Koeltztown since 1857. On Monday, June 4th, the emphasis was on prayer. Guest speaker, Deacon Michael Brooks, from Rolla spoke on daily prayer in our lives. This evening ended with the start of 24 hours of Adoration. The final day of the Mission, began with the closing of Adoration and Benediction. Msgr. celebrated Mass with German music. In conclusion, the pastor led the congregation in a procession to the cemetery. The evening ended with a gathering of a soup supper and fellowship (gemutlichkeit) at the center.
In regard to the maintenance of the parish grounds, the front doors of the rectory were refinished and the church roof was replaced. The sewer system project was started. The stove, refrigerator, and water heater were replaced in the rectory.
The people of Koeltztown and surrounding farmland are able to hear once again the sounds of the Angelus and the tolling of the hours after the installation of a remote controlled bell system in August, 2007. This system uses the same bells that were placed in the church years ago. The two smaller bells were cast in 1879 and the large bell was cast in 1894. These bells have stirred various emotions and memories from the joyful pealing of Christmas, the sad tolling of the Funeral Toll, the ringing the Mass bell to not be late, and the daily reminder of our Faith of the Angelus bells.
The statues in the grotto have been beautifully restored and painted by Mary Lou Bird. The cemetery fence along the roadside has been taken down and the area cleaned up. Also in 2007, the sand was removed from the concrete slab behind church and the parishioners are in the process of building a pavilion.
The rich and sometimes tumultuous history of the St. Boniface Parish is mirrored in its physical buildings and other structures. We are thankful for the many sacrifices and many hours of physical and mental labor of both past and present priests, sisters, and families who have given so much to our faith here at St. Boniface at Koeltztown.