Brief Highlights of History of Church and School
The first Catholic settlers in the area were Mr. and Mrs. James Rogers, who came in 1872 to a farm 2 miles west of Loyal. The second Catholic settlers, Mr. and Mrs. Clem Esselman and family came in 1876, to farm 2 ½ miles southwest of Loyal. In 1881, the following Catholic families arrived from Dodge County: Mike Schieffler, John Bauer, John Domine, Joseph Klimmer, Andrew Braun, Joseph Bauer, and Simon, Peter, Frank, Matthew, and Joseph Schuld. This group settled in the Pelsdorf area, about 6 miles southeast of Loyal.
Other families soon gathered, namely, Adam Miller, Joseph Spangler, George and Carl Meyer, and Joseph McMann, mostly in the town of York.
As the names indicate, the earliest settlers were principally of German origin, and were involved at first in lumbering, and later in farming.
In 1889 John Hine, a Catholic lumberman, settled in the area known as “Hinetown” and built a saw and heading mill, a store, boarding house and even a post office. The Schecklemans came in 1892 and started a brickyard in Hinetown. The Hinetown brickyard furnished the brick for St. Balthasar’s church in Loyal.
The only known Catholic families living in Loyal prior to 1891 were Dr. Mulvey and his brother Henry, a druggist. In 1891, Balthasar Christman came to Loyal, and, with Michael and John Riplinger and William Uthmeir, built and managed a store and also operated a saw and heading mill. The erection of the mill attracted many new workers to Loyal, among whom were about a dozen Catholics.
Prior to the completion of the railroad into Loyal in 1891-92, the visiting priests had a horse and buggy trip to make from Marshfield, Hewitt, Neillsville, or wherever they were located, to reach St. Joseph’s at Pelsdorf. With the arrival of the railroad, the trip to Loyal was easily arranged, but there still existed the horse and buggy (or sled) trip to Pelsdorf. By 1893, services were being held twice a month in an upper room of Balthasar Christman’s store, and it was decided to build in Loyal, and close services in Pelsdorf.
In 1893 and 1894 the first Catholic Church in Loyal was built under Father Daniels who was also the pastor of Hewitt. He commuted back and forth by way of the railroad. This church had a capacity of 225 and was built at the extremely low price of $1,500.00. This cost was made possible due to the generous donation of land, lumber and the “high altar” by Balthasar Christman. The first Catholic church of Loyal was called St. Balthasar Church. Mass was celebrated in Loyal every second Sunday until 1902 when a pastor, Father G. Burkard was appointed for the 72 families of Loyal. In 1902 and 1903, Fr. Burkard supervised the building of a rectory. He was succeeded by Fr. August Douvan in 1906.
In August of 1908 Father Joseph Stenz arrived and remained for 22 years. He saw a need for a parochial school and had it built in 1909. The school was opened in January or February of 1910 with 100 pupils taught by two lay teachers, Eleanor Atteln and Marvel Devlin for the balance of the school year. In the fall of 1910, two sisters came to Loyal from St. Rose Convent in LaCrosse; Sister M. Ambrose and Sister M. Engratis. In 1912 there were four sisters. Fr. Stenz saw St. Balthasar School grow from a two room school to a three room grade school with a one room high school.
In September of 1930 Bishop McGavick sent Father Anthony Aurit as pastor of this 170 family parish. The two year high school was discontinued and St. Balthasar Grade School opened with 116 pupils.
On April 13, 1931 ground was broken for a new church to be built on the site of the old one. Leon Hoeser, age 101, still remembers wheeling barrels of cement for the church. While the church was being built, services were held in a chapel in the school basement where the weekday services were held since 1919 after remodeling the school basement getting rid of the bowling alley.
On June 14, 1931 the Very Rev. John Kaiser, dean of the district, conducted the ceremonies for the laying of the cornerstone. On November 1st, All Saints Day, in 1931, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church with a seating capacity of 500.
The new church was dedicated on May 2, 1932 by Bishop McGavick and was given the new name of St. Anthony of Padua. Balthasar, Melchior, and Casper were names given to the Three Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on that first Epiphany. However, there is no historical or biblical proof that those were the names of the three wise men. So, Bishop McGavick changed the name of our church and school to St. Anthony of Padua.
Between 1938 and 1950, Father Zinthefer led the way to obtaining various parcels of land to provide parking space and a much expanded playground area for the school.
In 1952 all four rooms of the school on the first floor were crowded to absolute capacity and it became necessary to remodel the building to make four large rooms. The sisters were moved to a newly constructed convent just west of the school building.
In 1963 an additional school building was built by Father Norbert E. King just north of the original school. Fr. Roman F. Kaiser was the pastor for St. Anthony Church from 1990 to 2008 The principal is Sister Carol Schnitzler of the School Sisters of Notre Dame . In 2009, Father Jerome Naduvathaniyil, OSB, from India, is our pastor.
Pastors who conducted services and administered the sacraments in the Loyal churches were as follows:
1885 Rev. Joseph F. Volz
1890-1895 Rev. Winand Daniels
1895 Rev Alois Schauenberg
1895 Rev. John Eisen
1895-1896 Rev. Anth. E. Muhlenkamp
1896-1897 Rev. Adolph Miller
1897 Rev. Winand Daniels
1898 Rev. Gerardus Vadder
1901 Rev. Adolph Miller
1902 Rev. G. Burkard
1906 Rev. August Douven
1908 Rev. Joseph F. Stenz
1930 Rev. A. J. Aurit
1938 Rev. Alois Zinthefer
1950 Rev. Norbert E. King
1974 Rev. Chester J. Osowski
1980 Rev. James Logan
1985 Rev. Dennis Lynch
1987 Rev. Chester J. Osowski
1990 Rev. Roman F. Kaiser
2009 Rev. Jerome Naduvathaniyil, OSB
2011 Rev. William P. Felix