History of Immaculate Conception, Wexford
History of Immaculate Conception, Wexford
The uniqueness of Immaculate Conception Parish, Wexford, is in its founding by Father Thomas Hore. Father Hore left Ireland with close to 1200 of his parishioners and other fellow countrymen to come to America. He came to pastor, to establish a parish, for his Irish flock.
The history of Immaculate Conception Parish, Wexford, goes back to 1815, just two years after Allamakee County was established and records put on file.
While Thomas Hore, a native of county Wexford, Ireland, was a student for the priesthood at St. John's Seminary in Kilkenny, Ireland, the Rector, Rev. Dr. Patrick Kelly, was appointed first Bishop of Richmound, Virginia. After completing his course of studies, Thomas Hore joined his former Rector in Virginia and was ordained there by him. After six years of missionary labor there, he returned to Ireland in 1828.
During the famine of 1840's, things became dreadful in Ireland and Father Hore was determined to do something to help his flock. He told them of his experience in America, talked and reasoned with them and it was resolved that he would lead them in making their trip across the Atlantic.
On October 24,1850, both the 'Ticonderoga' with 450 of Father Hore's parishioners, and the 'Loodianah' with almost as many, sailed within a short time of each other. The 'Chasca', with the remaining three hundred members of the group on board, left dock eight days later on November 2, for New Orleans. Their destination was Arkansas.
Father Hore wasn't satisfied with the location in Arkansas and decided to locate elsewhere. Leaving some hundreds of people in St. Louis awaiting his orders, he arrived in Dubuque,Iowa on January 23,1851 and spoke to Bishop Loras. After some days with the Bishop and Brothers of New Malleray Monastery, he set out to explore the country along the Mississippi River. He selected a location in Allamakee County,which seemed to embrace all the natural advantages for a prosperous colony. On Feb. 22,1851, he purchased over a thousand acres at $1.25 per acre. Later on he bought more land for the same price.
Upon returning to the hundreds waiting in St. Louis, only eighteen families joined Father Hore in founding his colony at Wexford. This group boarded the Franklin steamship at St. Louis and came ashore about Mar. 25,1851, at Lafayette Lansing near Wexford.
Even though there were settlers in this area before Father Hore came, no church had been erected. Soon after Father Hore's group arrived, the first log church was built. The day of dedication, April 23, being the Feast of St. George, was the reason why the first church was dedicated to this saint. Beside the church there was a two-story house erected which was on Father Hore's farm. Here he raised crops and had a fine herd of cattle and sheep.
Records show the first baptism was Mary Ann Heatly on May 25, 1851. The first marriage was James Murphy and Mrs. McNamara on January 26, 1852.
After Father Hore arrived in the county many Catholic settlers followed him, so it was necessary to build a second church (also called St. George) to meet the needs of his growing parish. Father Hore was the only resident priest in the county until 1855. He not only looked after Catholics in Allamakee County, but also in neighboring counties, even going into Minnesota. he regularly visited these settlements on horseback.
Seventeen children were attending catechism in 1853. By 1855 regular classes began, probably in the rectory. By 1857, many children of Wexford attended school at Lafayette.
The present rock church erected during the pastorate of Father Hannon, (1863-1868) was built of limestone rock quarried from the hills of Wexford, by the united effort of the parishioners, under the guiding hand of Hugh Vincent Gildea. It was built of necessity because of the growing population at Wexford and because of the collapse of the floor of the previous church. It was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. The present rectory was built in 1905 when Father Laffan was pastor of Wexford. The belfry and vestibule were built in 1919 under Father Laffan. The parish hall was built in 1952.
A shrine was built 1965, Archbishop Byrnes came to Wexford on August 15, 1965 to offer Mass, bless and dedicate the shrine to the Blessed Mother as "Our Lady of the Wayside Shrine". He said it was his wish that she would reign over these beautiful hills and valley of Wexford, and that we would all benefit by her guidance and protection.
Some of the priests who have served in the Wexford Parish are: Father Hore, Father Walsh, Father Hannon, Father McGown, Father McManus, Father Kiernan, Father Nelson, Father Cooney, Father Boylson, Father Hetherington, Father Laffan, Father O'Sullivan, Father Louis White, Father Craney, Father Klassen, Father Tracey, Father McDonald, Father Al White, Father Krocheski, Father Kolfenbach, Father Rahe, Father Perry, Father Condon, Father Tiedermann, Father Lang, Father Levenhagen, Father Heineman, Father Smith, Father Raftis, Father Tryzil, Father Knipper, and our current pastor Fr. John Moser.
For more detailed history, photos and stories of Wexford, contact us for our published sesquicentennial book.