St. Bernard Catholic Church
Gathered by Kay Buelt Davis from
the St. Bernard's Parish Centennial Book, 1880 - 1980.
Iowa was founded in 1877, when families built a community around
the railroad that was a branch of the Chicago and Northwestern
route to Souix City. These families were mostly German Catholics
and building a church was very important for the growth of their
community. Clemens Bruning and Dennis Fee traveled to Dubuque
to see Bishop John Hennessy for advice on a location for the church
and with a request for a resident priest as soon as a building
could be built. Bishop Hennessy decided the church was to be built
in Breda. In 1879 the people set to work. They hauled stone and
lumber and helped to put up the frame structure. This was the
first church, completed in 1880, which was placed under the patronage
of St. Bernard of Clairveaux. Father Matthew B. Norton was appointed
the first pastor. He began to record baptisms on July 4, 1880.
Photo at right: St. Bernard's Church,
Breda, Iowa, October 2002.
Father Norton was transferred in September 1882
and Father Conrad Schulte came to Breda. Father Schulte's first
undertaking was the purchase of a parish house. He then built
the first temporary school and taught in it for two years. In
1884, three Franciscan Sisters from St. Rose Convent, LaCrosse,
Wisconsin, came to teach in the grade school. The school opened
September 1, 1884, with a large enrollment of pupils of various
Photo below: Interior of St. Bernard's
1886, Father Schulte erected a new parish house, which he paid
for himself. The parish later purchased the house - the exact
date and price are not known - but the vote was 54 yes and 2 no.
As St. Bernard's Parish grew, the old frame church building proved
inadequate of the needs of the increasing congregation. Under
the leadership of Father Schulte, plans were begun for the new
church building. An argument about the use of hard or soft bricks
took place. The backers of the less expensive soft brick won.
As we know, the parish has paid for the hard bricks many times
since. We do not know the architect or the building contractor
for the church, nor do we know where the first altars or windows
On June 17, 1888, the cornerstone was
laid. On Christmas Day of the same year the first High Mass was
offered in the new church. The cost of the new church was $15,000.
A note about
the St. Bernard's Cemetery
The first recorded lot in the cemetery sold to John
Venner on October 3, 1890. Henry Nieland had charge of selling
the lots from about April 17, 1899 to about 1919. The lots with
eight grave plots sold for $20.
On the similarity between St. Bernard's and
Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Okarche, Oklahoma
as remebered by Loretta Voss Schaefer,
[John F. Schaefer] and I were in Iowa a bunch of years ago and
David Nieland showed us around. It was nearly like being at home
in Oklahoma! The layout of Breda is similar to the layout of Okarche.
The church is in exactly the same place, located north of Main
Street. This is all because our town's founding fathers, at least
several of them, were from Breda. Grandpa Muggenborg [Anton] and
Francis's Grandpa, Joe Naberhaus were two of them."
Photo at right: Holy Trinity Cathrolic
Church in Okarche, OK, January 2002
back to History