Before a congregation was established in Bear
Creek, people attended services in Lebanon, where Mass
was celebrated occasionally in some of the homes there
and in a schoolhouse. They occasionally went to New
London to attend Mass. Later, priest came to Bear Creek
where people attended Mass in different homes. Services
were held about once a month. Father Christopher Verwyst
(or Ver Vyst) offered the first Mass in Bear Creek.
It was through the efforts of Father Verwyst, who
was the pastor in New London (1865 to 1867), that the
congregation of Bear Creek was organized and the
building of the first church begun. The first church
started to be built in 1867 but was not completed until
1868. It was built on what is now the corner of Highway
45 and Blueberry Road. Michael Cayton donated the land
for the new church.
It measured 22 x 30 feet, twelve foot ceiling and
fourteen pews. Although the first Mass offered in the
church, by Father La Magie, was in the summer of 1868,
it was not yet completed. The first marriage ceremony
performed in the church was that of John Mares to
Appollonia Gotten in the summer of 1869. Confirmation
was held in the Northport church. Funeral
services were held in St. Patrick church in Lebanon with
burial in Lebanon until a Catholic cemetery at Bear
Creek was established. Many bodies of the deceased
members were later removed to the cemetery at Bear
Above is the rectory destroyed by fire
in 1937. It was replaced by another rectory that is
still standing next to the present day church. The
church, built in 1885, was replaced by the current
church built in 1922.
||Above is the
second church of St. Mary Parish built in 1885.
The church is situated what would be behind the
present day church. Next to the church is the
convent and school completed in 1906-1907.
St. Mary Parish became the mission of St. Patrick
Lebanon in 1872. In 1872 Father Duerr became
resident pastor at Lebanon and continued until the
summer of 1881 when Father P.J. Lockamn was
appointed resident pastor at Clintonville. St.
Mary was then transferred to Clintonville. Bear
Creek Corners (now the intersection of Highways 45
and 22) was, at the time, the beginning of a
little rural community with a saloon, store and
some houses. Present day Highway 45 was known as
Shawano Road that went from Shawano to Oshkosh.
The Northwestern Railway had not yet extended its
tracks beyond Appleton. The first church,
completed in 1868, served its purpose until about
1885 when the Lake Shore Railway built its line
from Appleton to Antigo. The tracks were laid
about a mile from the village (Bear Creek
Corners). The village soon began to build up
around the railroad. More Catholic families had
arrived and the railway brought more people and
soon a need for a larger church was realized. It
was decided to build it near the railway station.
This church was built what would be behind the
present day church. The present church was
completed in 1922.
left newspaper photo shows all the St. Mary Parish
buildings in 1910. The rectory in the foreground
was destroyed by fire and replaced in 1937. The
frame church was replaced in 1922 by the present
church. The partially hidden convent was
razed in 2004. The school at the far right was
replaced by the present school building in 1960.
Bear Creek at this time was know as Welcome,
Wisconsin. The right photo is the school
completed in 1907
During this time the mission of St.
Catherine of Alexandria at Helena* was organized
and was put in charge of the pastor of St. Mary
until 1926 when the mission parish closed. The
graves in the parish cemetery were exhumed and
most were moved to St. Mary Cemetery.
*Helena is located in Dear Creek
Township, Outagamie County. Mrs.
Helena Cunningham maintained a small post
office. Since she was the postmistress,
the place was referred to as Helena.
The first rectory was destroyed by fire in
1937. A new one was erected at a cost of
$9,571.63. It is still standing next to the
In 1890, the first school was built under
the direction of Father Arthur Belle who was
serving the parish from Clintonville at the time.
The school was a combination of two classrooms and
living facilities for the nuns. The Franciscan
Sisters in Alverno were the first nuns to serve
the school. The school was temporary discontinued
when Father Gregory Pellegin came to Bear Creek in
1901. In February 1906 the school burnt and
classes were temporary held above a store and
graduation class at St. Mary School. Fr. H.
A. Littel is pastor. Bishop Robert Morneau, now
Auxilliary Bishop Emeritus of the Green Bay Diocese, is
standing, first on the far left.
The nuns lived in a home of a parishioners
A new school was built, along with a convent. The
school was dedicated in January 1907. It served
the parish until 1960 when the present school
building was erected. The convent was razed in
2004. St. Mary School and St. Rose School combined
in 2001. The school building was renovated into a
social hall, office and meeting rooms.
In 1970, Bishop John B. Grellinger, Pastor,
encouraged parishioners and worked with them to
refinish the pews. The interior of the church was
painted and reredos screen was erected on which
the new statue of the risen Christ was hung. In
1973, the spire was added to the roof to enhance
the outside appearance of the church.
In 1997, with Msgr. Mark Schommer as
Pastor, a group of parishioners worked diligently
for many long hours to again refinish the pews and
furniture. A new floor was laid, carpeting
installed the church was cleaned and other
necessary repairs were completed. An interior
decorator was hired to paint and preserve the
eminent beauty of the church.
photos are of the 1997 renovation.
Served St. Mary Parish
|Fr. O. L. Lamagie
|Fr. Clemens Duerr
|Fr. Henry Anen
|Fr. Peter Lochman
|Fr. John Seubert
|Fr. Arthur Belle
|Fr. G.J. Pelligrin
|Fr. J. DeVries
|Fr. D. S.
|Fr. H. A. Littel
|Fr. R. J. Hogan
|Fr. Leo J. Schmitt
|Bishop John B.
|Fr. Joseph T.
|Fr. Don Everts
|Fr. Terry LaCombe