History of St. Joseph Parish

In the extreme corner of Allamakee county, which is also the extreme corner of Iowa only a few blocks away stands the cast iron marker defining the Iowa-Minesota (spelled as it appears on the marker) border, which is also the extreme corner of the Archdiocese of Dubuque is the parish of St. Joseph of New Albin.  The Catholics of this community in the 1850's and 1860's attended Mass at either Wexford (20 miles away) or Lansing (13 miles away), unless some wandering Missioner visited the humble log homes and there offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Father Cornelius, pastor of Lansing, came in 1857 and in the winter of that year Mssrs. Martin Moore, Patrick Kelly, Eugene Kerrigan, Fred Hardy, Edmond Burke, John Hurley, Dan and Peter Early and George Wilson (who was not a Catholic), hewed and hauled logs to a site of land three miles southwest of New Albin donated by John Hurley for the erection of a church and cemetery.  This land is presently owned by Don Hitchens off to the north on A26 / Iowa River Road.  Maurice Caughlin and William Wright were the head carpenters of the course log church building, of the altar and rude benches. The confessional consisted of a curtain hung across one corner.  Father's Cornelius, McGown, Walsh, and Jacoby were at the dedication in June 1867, when the church received the name of Holy Cross Church.  Mary Alice Gabbett was the first child baptized by Father Cornelius on December 2, 1868.

Holy Cross Church was used until the erection of a frame building in the town of New Albin in the year of 1875, two years before the entrance of the railroad.  The church was built under the guidance of Father Jacoby of Lansing, and was given the name of St. Joseph.  That building stood on what is now the St. Joseph Church parking lot adjacent to the north side of the present brick church.  After the present brick church was built the old structure was moved to where the Alley Kat bar / restaurant stood in 2010.  Emilia Batteen, George and Mary Eck, Elizabeth O'Reilly Joyce were among the first ones to be baptized.

The years went on with Father Jacoby succeeded by Father Urbany, 1877-1879.  Father Pape was appointed pro tem from January to May of 1880.  During these years the church fell into a large debt and was at the point of foreclosure.  It fell upon Father Urbany and his successors to rescue the church from the hands of creditors.  Funds were collected from all the people and finally Martin Moore and Mike Gabbett signed papers personally guaranteeing the payment of the $1,000.00 mortgage, and thereby warded off the forclosure.

Fathe Haxmeier, resident and pastor of Immaculate Conception, Lansing, took over being the pastor of June 5, 1880, and continued to be the pastor until 1903.  Father John F. O'Doherty was appointed the first resident pastor in 1903 by Arhcbishop John Joseph Keane.  Father O'Doherty purchased the house that is still standing on the corner next to the present church for a rectory.  That house is now used as the Faith Formation Center.

The Rev. Edmund Ryan served as St. Joseph pastor from 1905-1922.  Father Ryan lived in the house purchased by Father O'Doherty.  In 1910 under the direction of Father Ryan the present brick structure of St. Joseph Church was built.  The bell, dated 1877, was moved from the old frame church to the new one.  We have a picture a picture of the laying of the corner stone in 1910 but we are not able to identify any of the priests who are there participating in that ceremony.

In 1912 a site for a new cemetery was purchased from Thomas Reburn, and is located 1 1/2 miles south of New Albin on Cemetery Road. 

On April 7, 1922, Rev. L. Hayes was installed as the pastor succeeding Father Ryan.  Father Ryan served the parish until his retirement in 1950.  During his pastorate electricity replaced gas systems of lighting in the church and the rectory; new roof was put on the church and rectory, the church was frescoed and the tower and exterior trim were repainted along with other minor improvements.

Fr. Hayes was a real Irishman and loved to sing and has a beautiful Irish voice.  His "High Masses" were really beautiful.  There was one Mass on Sunday, two weekends of the month and the other weekends there were two Masses - one at 8 a.m. and the other at 10 a.m.  During these times (until Vatican II in the 80's) there was the strict disciplinary fast from all food and drink including water from midnight till Communion time if you were to receive Communion.  The 8 a.m. Mass would help observe that fast without undo thirst or hunger pressure on the body.  There was Benediction at the end of each Sunday 10 a.m. Mass.

It was the custom before and during Father's Ryan and Hayes' pastorate to have religious education classes on Saturday morning for an hour for those who lived in New Albin and for those who went to the country schools there would be religious education after Mass on Sunday.  After the school year was completed for the New Albin school there would be two weeks of Catechism classes for students grades 1 through 8.  The Baltimore Catechism was the main textbook used.  The classes were conducted by two sister, one of whom was Father Hayes' sister who was a Presentation Sister from Dubuque.  She and another sister would conduct the class from 8:00 a.m. til noon each day for two weeks.  There were about 40 to 50 students in each of the two classes and there were no discipline problems!!!  If there was any type of problem, discipline would be carried out on the spot and again when the student got home usually in a much more severe way.  The Catechism would be memorized and the students would be asked the questions from the catechism and then the student would respond by memory. There was also a class taught about the bible.  Since there were no sister were available during the regular school year, Father Hayes or the other pastors would conduct the classes.

In December of 1950, Father John Costello was appointed pastor and remained until ill health forced him to resign in 1955.  During his pastorate an adjoining gargae was added to the rectory and the kitchen in the church basement was modernized. From 1955 until now, under the watchful eye of many pastors, maintenance on the present church has helped keep the church building in wonderful condition.  Renovation following Vatican Council II disposed of the ornate altars and the Communion rail.  In 2010 the Communion railing was located and it was reinstated as the base for the altar and the shelf under the tabernacle.

During the year 2010 the parish changes the name of the Parish Council to St. Joseph Pastoral Council; rewrote the Pastoral Council Constitution to reflect the mission statement of the Archdiocese; combined the Faith Formation Committee with the neighboring parish of Immaculate Conception, Lansing forming one commission entitled "Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Faith Formation Commission" with one commission and one constitution; continue to offer Faith Formation classes in the old rectory building.

The Centennial year of 2010 began with a special "Opening of the Centennial Year Mass" on December 31, 2009 and the year closed with a special "Closing of the Centennial year Mass" on December 31,2010.  Various celebrations took place during the year such as the parish picnic.  The annual parish festival.  A special parish directory was printed.  Archbishop Hanus was able to celebrate a special Mass on September 26 at which time we re-blessed the cornerstone of the church. 

This is our parish history.  We hope that you will come and visit and see the face of God in the people, events and history of St. Joseph Parish.