About Us

A Brief History of St. Joseph Church Told with Humor and Love

Madison County and the ground upon which St. Joseph's Church, Rectory and Parish Hall now stand was once native ground of the Fox and Sac Indians. Because of a treaty in 1842, these Indians agreed to move westward and the land was ceded to the U.S. government. Irish Catholic families were well represented among the first settlers eager to lay claim to this land. Their spiritual needs were periodically tended by circuit rider priests. Among these was Fr. John Brazill, famed pioneer, explorer, founder and builder, who built no less than ten churches outside of Des Moines. He and others came from the city at regular intervals and celebrated mass in the homes of parishioners.

In 1878 land was purchased for the building of the first Catholic church in Winterset. The cost to build this wooden church was $1,5oo. Our present church was constructed in 1911 at a cost of $8,000. The beautiful stained glass windows depicting gospel stories were brought here from Munich, Germany. Our bell was a gift from Mary Monaghan and her brother, John. Sadly, the first funeral for whom this bell tolled was that of Mary Monaghan.

The priest at the time of the construction of the second church was Fr. James Troy. Mary McNamara wrote, "My father tried his best to have a spacious basement put under the church for future use on account of the heavy tile roof which he was not in favor of. My father knew what he was doing, for he was a heating and plumbing contractor for many years and had the contract for such large buildings as Fort Leavenworth Penitentiary and the buildings at Conception Abby. Anyhow, Fr. Troy wanted to build a church for show instead of for the future so there was just a hole instead of a basement."

"The church had an old pot bellied stove in the back on the west side and the choir loft was on the east side and raised several steps. They had an old pump organ and outside was a long hitch rack north of the rectory and church for those who drove a team of horses to Mass."

Excerpt was taken from the Madison County Cookbook With Stories & Traditions pages 35-37.