History of  St. Patrick's Church, Enfield, Illinois





1839 -1989

The story of St. Patrick's is probably not much different than that of many rural parishes in the Diocese of Belleville and throughout the Midwest. We present it to the people of St. Patrick's, to remind them of their roots while living out faith commitments, and to our friends, to testify to the faith of one group of people in their God and Church.

The first Catholic to settle in the area now known as St. Patrick's parish, and probably the first Catholic to come to White County, was Patrick Dolan, who came to America in 1834 at the age of 19 from Queens County (now Laois), Ireland, possibly from the area around Stradbally. This area is southwest of Dublin in Ireland's Lakeland region, and is primarily agricultural. In the early 20th Century the names of two Irish counties--Kings and Queens--and many towns were changed from those imposed under English rule. Dolan first lived in New York and Connecticut as a railroad laborer for two years, and Cincinnati for three, working in a foundry, before coming to Shawneetown and then Enfield Township in 1839.

Dolan spent the next 40 years in Enfield, interspersed with business ventures in Cincinnati and Evansville, and two terms in the Illinois General Assembly at Springfield. Dolan kept a general store on his farm and helped organize the Village of Enfield in 1853.

Dolan's presence attracted other Irish immigrants to the rolling hills and woods of Enfield Township in White County and Crook Township in Hamilton during the bleak 1840s and '50s, when 750,000 Irishmen and women died from famine and disease and over a million immigrated to the U.S., Canada and Australia. In 1841 the Hanagan's, Dunn's, and Connelly's came to the area, and the Miller's joined the group when Daniel Hanagan sent for his bride-to-be. Others joining the community were named Bannon, Campbell, Crawford, Connery, Devoy, Driscoll, Erskine, Hayden, McCloskey, McGuire, McMahon, Mitchell, Pierce, Reagan, Shields, and Weeks, with roots in Ireland's Queens County, Cork, and Donegal.

The small community's religious needs were served by pioneer circuit riding priests, the most famous of which was Rev. Elisha "Daddy" J. Durbin of St. Vincent, Kentucky, who travelled over 500,000 miles in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Early services, which would have only taken place in the dry summer and fall months, were held in Patrick Dolan's or John Dunn's homes. Other early missionaries to Enfield were headquartered in Shawneetown and the Franciscan Abbey in Teutopolis.

Sometime after 1850 a log building standing on Dolan's farm was dedicated for church services. A wood-frame building supplanted this humble structure between 1862 and 1865, and was located on what is now the new section of St. Patrick's cemetery. The first death in the parish was Lawrence Bulger in 1853, which lead to the donation of a part of Dolan's land for the cemetery and church grounds. Joseph Abell and Mary Ann Bannon were united in the parish's first wedding in 1854, according to family histories. Eight young parishioners received their First Holy Communion on November 1, 1859 in the earliest recorded class. The frame church saw its first confirmation class and was dedicated on April 22nd, 1866, by Peter Joseph Baltes, D.D., Bishop of Alton.

St. Patrick's was served by priests from Piopolis after the Civil War, along with the mostly German Catholic population of the Carmi and Burnt Prairie area. William O'Reilly was the first resident pastor of St. Patrick's, and established the parish registry and bylaws in 1871. He also served Carmi between 1870 and 1872, after which both congregations were tended by Rev. John Neuhaus (1872-1876) and Rev. John N. Enzlberger of Piopolis.

Rev. Henry Hegemann was resident pastor of Enfield and Carmi from 1876-79, and directed the construction of a Catholic church in Carmi. Fr.  Hegemann officiated at the marriage of Michael Flatley and Elizabeth Dunn-Jackman (parents of the late John Flatley) in 1879. Revs. Lubertus Riesen and Longinus Quitter were resident pastors in 1880 and 1881. A rectory was built in Carmi in 1881, under the leadership of Fr. Jacob Rensmann, resident pastor of Ridgway, and in 1882, Father Joseph Spaeth was appointed pastor of St. Patrick's and St. Polycarp's, with residence in Carmi.

In January, 1885 a newly ordained priest was appointed to serve St.  Patrick's, marking the debut of the second major personality in the history of Enfield's parish: Rev. Baltasar Wittauer, pastor from 1885 to 1914. Fr.  Wittauer was born in Belleville, and studied for the priesthood at Ruma and St. Francis de Sales College, Milwaukee, graduating from the Grand Seminary in Montreal, Canada. He was ordained for the priesthood of the Alton Diocese by Montreal's Bishop Fabre on December 21, 1884.

Fr. Wittauer came to serve congregations in Carmi, Enfield, and Grayville (its parish was designated for the Holy Name of Jesus, and existed from 1872 to 1938, with never more than 15 families). He transferred his residence to Enfield in 1887. The next year the parish began construction of a fine new wooden church, which was completed in 1890. This building seated over 200 people, and cost $5,000. The main altar was of wood, with white marbleized paint and gold leaf trim, featuring a tall back panel with a portrait of St. Patrick and a round tower, probably reminding the immigrants of the great Irish monastic community of Clonmacnois on the banks of the River Shannon. Ornate side altars honored the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.

The exterior of the church was finished with Victorian gingerbread, including a fan light over the front door and curved top windows. The two-story white building (the second floor housed a choir loft) was crowned by a tall silver-painted spire and bell tower, and topped by a metal cross. The church bell could be heard and the cross seen from St. Patrick's hill to the hills of Enfield, two miles away. Shortly after the church was finished a two story rectory was built and both buildings were surrounded by wrought-iron fencing.

Fr. Wittauer's plans for St. Patrick's did not end with a church and rectory, and the old church was moved to the west and opened as a parish school, staffed by lay teachers. Father was able to add to the size of the church property and used this to persuade officials of the Order of the Servants of Mary, stationed in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, to establish a Motherhouse and boarding school at Enfield. When the first two Servite sisters, Sr.  Mary Xavier and Mechtilde, arrived on September 27, 1895, the convent and boarding school were not yet completed, and they lived in the attic of the old building, which was without a front door, until December 10th. Luckily, nothing more dangerous than a cow visited the sisters in their unprotected home.

Attendance at the Academy, named for St. Mary, was good for several years, and many young local women entered the Servite order. Among them, Sr. Mary Alexia (Rose Reagan), Sr. Mary Philippa (Mary Wilhelm), and Sr. Mary Veronica (Margaret Lawler) all celebrated golden jubilees at Servites. Academy students came from a wide area, including Albion, Carmi, Ridgway, and Evansville.

During the final decades of the 19th Century, Catholics continued to move to the area near Enfield, and several families originally from Belgium and France--Belva, Fyie, Etienne, Douby (now Dauby), and Deom--settled near Springerton. Fr. Wittauer served these families by saying Mass once a month at the home of Narcissus Belva, traveling by horse and buggy and train. He continued to take the train to serve Carmi's Catholics until 1895, when Fr. Anton Wirtschoreck was appointed resident pastor of St.  Polycarp's. Enfield became a part of the Belleville Diocese in 1887, when the Alton Diocese was partitioned; the seat of the old See was later moved to Springfield.

Between 1908 and 1910 the Order of the Servants of Mary decided to leave their Victorian convent with the broad veranda in Enfield for Cherokee, Iowa and, later, Omaha, Nebraska. Fr. Wittauer persuaded the Sisters of the Incarnate Word from Victoria, Texas to staff the parish school beginning in 1913, and they stayed in the area until 1935, serving Ridgway, Eldorado and Harrisburg, but the school in Enfield soon closed. The hard life of a country pastor and the loss of the Motherhouse took their toll on Fr. Wittauer, who was known to have kidney and heart disease, and succumbed to a heart attack on the morning of February 15, 1914.

The 1920's and '30s saw many improvements in Southern Illinois. A concrete highway at the bottom of St. Patrick's hill linked the parish with McLeansboro and Carmi, and REA brought electricity to the parish. The old convent, school and 1865 church were remodeled into two buildings; A combined school and convent (for the Adorers of the Precious Blood who came in 1938) and a parish hall, which was later covered by tar-paper siding. The school and convent were dismantled around 1950. Several parishioners were seriously injured and homes belonging to members of the Dunn and Hanagan families were destroyed by the Great Tornado of 1925, as the storm roared through the parish in its 325 mile path of destruction.

To this date St. Patrick's parish has produced only one "native son" priest, the Very Rev. Monsignor Wilfrid E. Hanagan. Ordained in 1926, Fr.  Hanagan served as an assistant in East St. Louis and elsewhere before receiving his first and only pastorate, to St. Mary Parish, Eldorado, on September 20, 1934. Msgr. Hanagan served St. Mary's Parish until September 20, 1969, overseeing the construction of a new stone church in 1953-54 and serving as Dean of the East Deanery from 1952 to 1969. Known for his wit and love of tennis, Mgsr. was active in many community and religious organizations. After retirement, Msgr. Hanagan took up residence in McLeansboro, attended by his sister Mary Rose. After a near-miraculous recovery from an auto-train accident in the early 1970's, he passed away in 1982.

November 27, 1938, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, was the darkest day in the history of St. Patrick's. Parish Pastor Fred Halbig, a Mt. Carmel native, began the first Sunday of Advent by firing up the boiler on the heating system on the 50 year old church. If was a relic from the days of the convent and academy, when underground pipes ran between the buildings. No one noticed anything unusual until smoke began pouring out from behind the side altar of the Blessed Virgin after Communion, near the end of Mass. Those who investigated were stunned to find much of the attic and steeple consumed by fire, and quickly evacuated the building.

Fire departments from Enfield, McLeansboro, Mt. Carmel and Eldorado came to fight the blaze. A brisk northwest wind hindered the firefighters and volunteers, and in little more than an hour the church and rectory were reduced to ashes. Sacred items and Fr. Halbig's personal effects were saved, but many furnishings and fixtures were lost or broken in the panic. A defective flue was blamed for the fire.

The parish and pastor responded to this tragedy by immediately raising funds for a new church and rectory. Fr. Halbig went from parish to parish to celled funds, using collection boxes shaped as miniature churches, crafted by Lawrence Unfried, Sr. The cost of the new stone church and rectory, $18,300 and $4,500, respectively, was kept down through the use of volunteer labor, local contractors, and Father's expert management.

Dedication services for the new St. Patrick's were held on Thanksgiving Day, 1939, with Bishop Henry Altoff presiding. Parishioners enjoyed a turkey dinner, while local hunters provided quail for the assembled priests. Mary Bernadine Devoy (sister of Al Devoy) and Lewis J. Drone of Ridgway were the first couple to celebrate their marriage in the new building on April 23, 1940.

The new church exudes a quiet and simple beauty. If is a fine example of the Tudor or Old English architectural style, and with time has achieved an additional patina. The interior and exterior are of variegated St. Meinrad sandstone, with stone altars. The church floor is of terrazzo, while the sanctuary floor and steps are covered in black, cream and olive tile. A large walnut crucifix, topped with a carved walnut canopy and red and gold velvet drapes, dominates the sanctuary, formed by a stone arch rising to the ceiling. Large statues of St. Patrick and the Sacred Heart of Jesus overlook the altar, and smaller figures of St. Anthony and St. Theresa rest on brass platforms above the sanctuary area. Arched alcoves house side altars dedicated to St. Mary and St. Joseph.

Exposed oak beams and an oak ceiling lend a warm appearance to the structure, which is furnished with oak pews and bronze metal fixtures. An elegant round stained glass window of St. Patrick captures the morning sun above the church entrance, and gold tones dominate the eight side Tiffany glass windows. The roof is covered with dark red tile shingles, and a small bell tower juts above the north side of the sanctuary.

Fr. Halbig must have liked the finished church: At his next assignment--Nashville--Fr. Fred built a slightly larger version of St. Patrick's, with the rose window dedicated to parish patron St. Ann.

Fr. Halbig asked Sisters of the Precious Blood--officially known as the Order of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ--to reopen the parish school in 1938. It served the parish well into the early 1950's, falling victim to county school consolidation. The Adorers came from Germany to Piopolis in 1870, and later moved their Motherhouse to Ruma. The order is still active in Diocesan-level educational programs which benefit our parish, although St. Patrick's CCD classes are now taught by lay leaders. School Sisters of Notre Dame, stationed in Carmi, taught religion classes in the parish from 1982 to 1975.

A stone altar and Crucifixion shrine were added to the parish cemetery around 1960, a gift of the Joseph and Anna Dunn family. Four parish pastors--Fr. Baltasar Wittauer, Fr. Bernard Monaghan, Fr. Charles Brumleve, and later Fr. Julius Schoen--have chosen the shrine for their final resting place. Nearby are the markers of five Servites: Sister Mary Ignatia, Sr. Mary Juliana, Sr. Mary Alphonsa, Sr. Mary Mechtilde, and Sr.  Mary Xavier. A lovely statue of St. John marks the back of the cemetery.

Many of the markers in St. Patrick's Cemetery indicate an Irish, German, or Belgian heritage. Some of the names are familiar - Mitchell, Hanagan, Deom, Crawford, Unfried - while others are no longer directly represented in the parish register - Driscoll, Hayden, Belva, Caffrey, Mcguire, and McCloskey. All of these and more have made important contributions to the parish.

In modern times there have been more changes to the Catholic Church than to Enfield's buildings or grounds. In response to the Second Vatican Council, the Mass and other services were said in English, with the priest facing his congregation, on Saturday evening as well as Sunday; women no longer were required to cover their heads; fast and abstinence laws were relaxed; and Catholics were encouraged to study the scriptures and take an active part in parish operations. Religious literature reminded parishes that they were "faith communities", a self-evident fact at St. Patrick's, and encouraged Roman Catholics to respect other religious traditions, never a problem for Catholic Christians in heavily Protestant White and Hamilton counties.

Enfield's Catholics were lucky to have two young pastors to guide them through the reforms of the 1960's and early 1970's. Fr. Joseph Trapp, a native of Mt. Carmel, celebrated the first folk Masses in the parish, participated in ecumenical services, and organized the parish council. He was followed by Fr. Joseph Lawler, from a distinguished Ridgway family, who worked tirelessly with the Catholic Youth Organization, building floats for Mule Day and sponsoring trips to Crab Orchard Lake. Always a man of action, Fr. Lawler is also responsible for the lovely pond below the church.

Due to the generosity of the Joseph and John Dunn families, the parish was able to replace the old parish hall in 1975, during the pastorate of Rev.  Julius Schoen, who returned to Enfield in 1973 after spending 38 years in Beckemeyer. The new building, all brick and fully air-conditioned, was dedicated by Bishop Albert Zuroweste at the 1975 summer picnic. It is a popular spot for family and business meetings, and serves as a home to St. Isadore Council of the Knights of Columbus Council 8271, founded in 1978 by Enfield and McLeansboro Catholics.

After Fr. Schoen became ill in 1979, Fr. Trapp, then living in McLeansboro, was appointed Enfield's pastor, making Enfield a mission parish for the first time in many years.  St. Patrick's rectory was only vacant for a few months, however, as Rev. Michael A. Maughan, S.N.A., took up residence in 1980.  A native of Cregmore, County Mayo, Ireland, Fr. Maughan was been helpful to parishioners interested in touring Eire and researching their Irish roots. In church matters Fr. Maughan, who has been stationed in the Belleville Diocese since 1959, encourages lay participation and leadership.  In 1983 St. Patrick's was pleased to be the scene of Fr. Mike's 40th Ordination Anniversary celebration.

At the present time St. Patrick's parish contains approximately 60 families from Enfield, Springerton, Norris City, Carmi, and rural areas in Hamilton and White Counties.  The finances of the church and cemetery are stable, the buildings are in good repair, and the parish boasts a full complement of parish organizations and activities.

In closing, we wish to express our thanks to all the priests and nuns to have served the parish for the spiritual leadership, and to all our benefactors over the years.  With their help the people of St. Patrick's can continue to live as a father community, true to the traditions of church and family, yet ready for new opportunities for service and worship.

The following Priests served the parishioners of St. Patrick's Parish during its 150 year history.

Rev. Elisha J. Durbin 1839-1857--"Daddy" Durbin--Circuit Rider from St. Vincent, Kentucky--Dunn family history includes his visits to Enfield from Shawneetown

Scattered local records exist before 1870, but the following priests probably served Enfield between 1840 and 1965--J.A. Drew; John Fahay; Patrick McCabe; Francis Fisher; Thomas Walsh; John A. Jacque; C. Zwinze,  O.F.M.; S. Altmicks, O.F.M.; and F. Bergmeyer, O.F.M. Most of these ministers were based in Shawneetown, while the Fransicans came from  their Teutopolis abbey.

Rev. Kilian Schlosser, O.F.M. 1864--From Teutopolis--Officiated at Mary Mitchell Baptism per Parish Register
Rev. J. Blasius Winterhalter 1865-1870--From Piopolis--Probably pastored when first confirmation took place in 1866
Rev. Ambrosius Janssen, O.S.F. (Mar) 1871--From Piopolis
Rev. August Brumleve (Apr-June) 1871--From Piopolis
Rev. William O'Reilly 18C1-1872--First Resident Pastor
Rev. John Bernard Neuhaus 1872-1876--From Piopolis
Rev. Anton Demming (Sept) 1873--From Shawneetown
Rev. Thomas Cusack (Aug-Oct) 1875
Rev. John Nepomuk Enzlberger (May-June) 1876--From Piopolis
Rev. Herman Hegemann 1876-1879
Rev. Jacob A. Rensmann May 1877 and Sept 1880--From Shawneetown
Rev. Lubertus Riesen 1880-1881
Rev. Longinus Quitter 1881
Rev. Joseph Spaeth 1882-1885-From Carmi--First Resident Pastor Carmi
Rev. Baltasar Wittauer 1885-1914--Moved Residence to Enfield in 1886-87--Pastored Carmi and Grayville Missions until 1896
Rev. Bernard Monaghan 1914-1922
Rev. Peter Geolzhauser 1922-1925
Rev. Theodore Eckermann (Sept-Nov) 1923 and part of 1925-Temporary Pastor From Carmi
Rev. Julius Schoen 1925-1928
Rev. Lawrence Gilmartin 1928-1931
Rev. Eugene Traynor 1931-1932-Temporary Pastor From Carmi
Rev. Bernard Monaghan 1933-1934--Temporary Pastor From Carmi
Rev. Cornelius Collins 1934-1936
Rev. Fred Halbig 1936-1941
Rev. Charles Brumleve 1941-1954
Rev. Paul Stauder 1954-1959
Rev. Lawrence Drone 1959-1967
Rev. Joseph Trapp 1967-1969
Rev. Joseph Lawler 1969-1971
Rev. Edmund Perjak 1971-1973
Rev. Julius Schoen 1973-1979
Rev. Joseph Trapp 1979-1980--From McLeansboro
Rev. Michael Maughan, SMA 1980--

Ladies of St. Patrick's who have entered various religious orders.

Sr. Mary Ida Donnelly - Sisters of Loretta
Sr. Mary Pauline Mitchell - Sisters of St. Joseph
Sr. Mary Elexia Reagan - Servants of Mary
Sr. Mary Patricia McGuire - Servants of Mary
Sr. Mary Petronella Dolan - Servants of Mary
Sr. Mary Angela Dolan - Servants of Mary
Sr. Mary Ignatia Fyie - Servants of Mary
Sr. Mary Bonfilia Dunn - Servants of Mary
Sr. Avellina Dolan - Servants of Mary
Sr. Mary Gabriel Hanagan - Sisters of Mercy
Sr. Gertrude Marie Mitchell - Sister of St. Mary
St. Carmalita Devoy - Benedictine Order
Sr. Anna Marie McCloskey - Precious Blood



Mary Ann Bell - Director of Religious Education
Teresa Mitchell - Kindergarten and First Grade
Carol Weiss - Second Grade
Cindy Russell - Third and Fourth Grades
Roy Kissel - Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Grades
Vincent Mitchell - High School


President - Jaqui Basinger
Vice President - Adam Roesch
Secretary - Robyn Martin
Treasurer - Gwen Basinger
Moderator - Vincent Mitchell


President - Karen McKinney
Vice President - Carol Weiss
Secretary - Debbie York
Treasurer - Connie Unfried


President - Vincent Mitchell
Vice President - Jo Basinger
Secretary - Eleanor Rankin
Members - Janet Lytle, Mary Lee Stephens, Patrick Dolan, Terry Brown, Lawrence Unfried


Carol Weiss


Patrick Dolan
Lawrence Unfried


Laurence Dolan
Richard Basinger
Vincent Mitchell


Adam Roesch, Ryan Roesch, Chris Russell, Jason Russell, Scott Bell, Aaron Dauby, Dustin Weiss, James Whitney


Lucille Crawford, Lawrence Unfried, Lucinda Birk Conley  cbconly@midwest.net

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