Historic Places     

St. Bernard Catholic Church

Breda, Iowa

—Gathered by Kay Buelt Davis from the St. Bernard's Parish Centennial Book, 1880 - 1980.

Breda, 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 ages.

Photo below: Interior of St. Bernard's Church

In 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 came from.


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, October, 2001

"Francis [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


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