History of the Church and School

1885 to Present

Beginning in the 1860's men and women of Irish, Swiss, and French birth settled in or around St. Martins. However, the group of immigrants that was the largest was of German descent. These families, being largely Catholic, found a need for a convenient place of worship. In 1885, St. Martin Catholic Church was founded. Reverend John Schramm was appointed the first pastor. The parish's patron is St. Martin, who was also the patron saint of France, and was responsible for the founding and caring for many rural parishes in his lifetime. The cost of the first church, rectory, and furnishings was $5,376.

Picture of stained glass window sign outside chruch.The first parish school was a one-room building that began in 1888. The school was operated by a group of lay teachers until 1911 when the School Sisters of St. Francis came to teach.

A fire destroyed the original church in 1889. The source of the fire was traced to an incense burner located near a curtain. A new and larger wooden frame church was constructed in 1899 on the site of the original church.

At the turn of the century, summer picnics were started and have become an annual tradition to help pay for church operations and improvements. One of the first picnics netted 583. Parishioners not only had the chore of preparing and serving food and beverages and operating various concessions, but were also called upon to transport, by carriage, the arriving and departing Jefferson Citians to and from the Elston train station.

In the midst of the Great Depression, the St. Martin's clergy and laity met in 1932 to decide the question of building a new school. The building of the school was approved and a loan was obtained from the St. Louis archdiocese and through the pledges from parishioners. In 1933 the school was completed and the School Sisters of Notre Dame took over its direction.

Picture of stained glass window from inside church.In 1953 the property across the highway from the church was bequeathed to St. Martin's Parish under the will of Thomas B. Barnicle. Through the generosity of Mr. Barnicle this property was sold which made it possible for a new modern rectory to be built.

Through the years, the parish has had to expand facilities to handle its growth. The first addition to the school was dedicated in November 1961. In 1972, the parish CYO raised the funds through group projects for the building of a gymnasium and recreation center. The center was named the Doyle Youth Center after paster Father Brendan Doyle who worked so hard on the project. Valued at $120,000, the building was completed at a cost of $18,000 plus a lot of donated time and materials. Additional classrooms were added in 1974 and 1978 and in 2003 major renovations were made including a larger water line.

Corresponding to the school's growth has been the growth of the parish family. In 1967, there were 175 families and as of 2003 there were 754. In the mid 60s, the St. Martin parish Board made the decision to build a new church and ground was broken on November 10, 1966. The church is fan-shaped with a seating capacity of 500 and also includes a kitchen and cafeteria/hall. Stress on this facility was alleviated in 2003 with the completion of the new Knights of Columbus Hall on Route T.

As of this date, Father Albert Bauman is the only native son from St. Martin Parish to be ordained a priest and celebrate his first Mass from our altar. The most recent priest to be ordained from our parish is Father Sam Sturm.

Parishioners can be proud of the fact that, through the years, St. Martin's continues to be a progressive and financially sound parish community with adults and youth working together to promote both their social and spiritual growth.

Photos courtesy of Kelly Boeckman.