In the spring of 1856, the Most Rev. Mathias Loras, Bishop of Dubuque, ordered the establishment of a parish either in Clear Creek Township or German Township in Keokuk County, Iowa. The bishop imposed the conditions that 20 acres of land be donated for a church site. That stipulation was a very practical one, in keeping with the vision of the saintly and practical Bishop Loras. In those days the pastor would be an itinerate one, who would have to journey to missions scattered throughout the countryside. The acreage would thus provide pasture for his horse. Clear Creek had the first chance for donating the church site but could offer only 5 acres. Catholics of German and West Lafayette Townships immediately offered the required 20 acres. Thus, Catholics of German and West Lafayette Townships obtained the first church.
However, the very next year, somewhat annoyed and not relishing the journey for Mass and the sacraments, the Catholics of Clear Creek Township met once again. On June 26, 1857, they purchased 21 acres from Jacob Baker for $450.00. One acre was immediately resold to Peter Mersch for $20.00. A log house on the ground, located due east of the East Sacristy in the present church between the present church and present rectory house, was transformed into a crude church. Here the Catholics gathered every Sunday, and under the leadership of Constantin Buch, heard the Gospel reading of the day, and the explanation of the same read. Thus, he kept them instructed in the faith, and by many other sacrifices of time and effort, held them together in the early years. A later pastor paid him this tribute: “The Catholics of Clear Creek will never in this life fully understand the gratitude they owe Constantin Buch.” In later years he occupied the position of Janitor-Sacristan up to about 1893.
From time to time a priest would visit the community, offer Mass and administer the sacraments in the log church. The first Mass in the log church at Clear Creek was celebrated by Fr. Johann Fendrick in May 1859. On March 23, 1860, Fr. George Schneider visited this community for the first time to administer to the faithful. It was he who later formally organized the parish. The first records of the parish start on November 21, 1860, when there was a temporary organization.
On February 27, 1861, land extending from the church site to the west end of the original section of the cemetery at Clear Creek was sold to the Most Rev. Clement Smith, Bishop of Dubuque, and his assigns by Michael and Anna Keefer for a consideration of $400.00. This included 20 acres off of the West Half of the Southeast Quarter of the Northwest Quarter of Section 16; it being 20 acres off of the West part of the above described 40 acre tract and reserving 19 acres of the East part of said 40 acres and 1 acre off of the South part of the West Half of said described 40 acre tract.
On April 30, 1861, a parish meeting was held at which Johann Wallerich, Michael Ludwig and Peter Mersch were elected trustees. At the same occasion a sort of contract was entered into with Fr. George Schneider. For a consideration of $64.00 he agreed to say Mass there six times a year, three of which were to be said on Sundays. The following members subscribed this sum and can be considered the original founders of the parish: John Vogel, $2.00; Valentine Heisdorffer, $2.00; Lorenz Adrian, $4.00; Johann Wallerich, $2.00; Wendel Horras, $2.00; Johan Schilz, $3.00; Jacob Baker, $2.00; Peter Baker, $2.00; Peter Ohlinger, $2.00; Michael Kieffer, $1.50; Friedrich Greiner, $2.00; Johan Engeldinger, $1.50; Peter Biewen, $2.00; Peter Mersch, $3.00; Peter Mersch, Jr., $1.50; Nickolaus Peiffer, $1.00; Constantin Buch, $1.00; Mathias Leinen, $1.50; Michael Karfer, $2.00; J. Joseph Kraemer; Peter Fritschen, $2.50; Paul Peiffer, $3.00; Johan Trierweiler, $1.00; Peter Trierweiler, $1.00; Witwe Vogel, $1.50; Mathias Ohlinger, $1.00; Michael Osweiler, $1.00; Nickolaus Ohlinger, $1.00; Mathias Weber, $0.50; Mathias Hahn, $0.50; Nickolaus Tinnes, $0.50; Nickolaus Ludwig, $2.00; Peter Kraemer, $2.00; Witwe Wallerich, $2.00; Witwe Streit, $1.00; Michael Haerber, $2.00; Franz Ollinger, $0.50; Fritz Greiner, $0.50; Peter Ollinger, $0.50.
The following year the agreement was renewed, but only 32 pledged the sum of $53.50. Their first enthusiasm seemed to have cooled somewhat. Fr. George Schneider felt that a revival of some sort was necessary. At any rate, he engaged the famous missionary Francis Xavier Wenniger to preach a mission during October 1862. On October 14, 1862, he erected the mission cross. It stood somewhat to the south and west of the first brick church, or about mid-way between the present church and the second school. For many years it stood there as a faithful guardian of the faith and a reminder of the good resolutions made at the mission. Encouraged by the October mission, in early 1863 the parish began to erect a new church. The records show that on February 25, 1863, $337.00 was paid to Joseph Kraemer for brick.
No agreement could be reached on the naming of the parish patron. Consequently, Fr. George Schneider resolved upon a unique scheme to settle all disputes regarding the name. Six candles dedicated to six patrons were lighted. Ss. Peter and Paul seemed to vie for the honor as their candles lingered longest, flickering out together. This left them no choice but to dedicate the parish to the two contenders for the honor. The symbols of Ss. Peter and Paul are the inverted cross, representing St. Peter’s martyrdom, and the two-edge sword, representing St. Paul’s writings.
On May 3, 1863, Fr. George Schneider laid the cornerstone and dedicated the church to Ss. Peter and Paul. It was a day of jubilee and the parish thereafter continued to grow. An imposing structure for its time, the second church had a large, circular, spoked window above the main entrance. The enlarged church was able to accommodate the growing parish, which, by January 1, 1864, counted 59 families.
During the pastorate of Fr. George Schneider in 1864, Adam Handel taught school in the old log church. Shortly after the building of the second church, in 1864, Fr. George Schneider was transferred and for a while the parish was visited irregularly by priests. However, a mission was preached by Fr. Peter Matthew Hiltermann on October 16-22, 1864. During 1865, Fr. John Junker visited the parish. In May and June 1866, Fr. Johan Fendrick visited the parish.
In October 1866, the first religious order priest appeared in parish records when Fr. Cyprian Zwinge, O.S.F., conducted funeral Mass and burial services for John Trierweiler and Margaret Vogel.
In February 1867, Fr. George B. Temmen visited and he attended the parish at regular periods until May 1870. Fr. G.S. Luehrsmann visited the parish from August 1870 to the beginning of 1874. Fr. Thomas Frauenhofer visited from February 1874 to January 1876, which included a successful mission by Fr. Cyprian Eisele in May 1874. Fr. Thomas Frauenhofer built the first school in 1875. However, while Fr. Thomas Frauenhofer had the credit of building the first school building, it was not to be his pleasure to see the school in real operation. He was transferred at the beginning of 1876.
Fr. Peter Kern succeeded Fr. Thomas Frauenhofer, and with his pastorate began the regular parochial school, 26 years before the parish had a resident pastor. Fr. Peter Kern employed John Barth as the first teacher of the new school. He taught the terms of 1876-1877. Then Peter Arens came and taught until 1882. In 1882, John Barth returned and taught until 1887.
Fr. Peter Kern was succeeded by Fr. John Fedler in the fall of 1887. Fr. John Fedler had charge of both Clear Creek and Harper until 1893. He did much by his zealous labor and his influence with the Most Rev. Henry Cosgrove, the second Bishop of Davenport, to prepare the parish for a resident pastor. Constantin Buch taught school during the term of 1888-1889. Otto Rauch came in 1889 and taught school until 1895.
Fr. Joseph Rangger was appointed pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek in April 1893. Fr. Joseph Rangger had first been appointed pastor of Sigourney with Clear Creek as an out mission. However, at his request, the appointment was changed and he became the first resident pastor of Clear Creek.
A place of residence for the pastor was thus necessary. On April 24, 1893, a parish meeting was held. The meeting resolved to build a rectory, the actual cost of which was about $1,400.00. Fr. Joseph Rangger moved into the new rectory on February 24, 1894. The following week the Redemptorist Fathers Neu and Straubinger preached a most successful mission.
On October 5, 1894, Bishop Cosgrove of Davenport administered the Sacrament of Confirmation at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek. This was, as far as records show, the first time this sacrament was administered here.
The Franciscan Sisters of St. Francis of Wisconsin succeeded Otto Rauch in the fall of 1895 and conducted the school until 1902.
On September 15, 1897, Bishop Cosgrove of Davenport again held Confirmation at Clear Creek. He encouraged the parish to build a new church, the present church. On October 6, 1897, Fr. Joseph Rangger began to collect for the project.
The present church dates from 1898-1899 after architectural plans by Ferdinand S. Borgolte of Rock Island, Illinois. The contractor was Harry Schroeder of Washington, Iowa. Brickmakers were Fuller & Schumacher of Muscatine, Iowa. The contract price was $5,850.00, not including bricks, furnishings, frescoes or lumber; the total cost estimate was $10,000.
The cornerstone for the present church was laid on Wednesday, June 8, 1898. The following week, a local newspaper called it “one of the most notable events in the history of Catholicism in Clear Creek Township.” It was witnessed by at least 1,500 people, and some estimated the audience at 2,000 people. The clergy in attendance were Fr. Peter Kern of Fort Madison, Iowa, a former pastor of the congregation; Fr. F.W. Hoppman of St. Paul, Iowa; Fr. Schulte of Iowa City, Iowa; Fr. J.I. Grieser of Muscatine, Iowa; Fr. B. Jacobsmeyer of Washington, Iowa; Fr. James Cleary of Sigourney, Iowa; Fr. Henry Grothe of Harper, Iowa; Bishop Henry Cosgrove of Davenport and Fr. Joseph Rangger, pastor.
It was an impressive ceremony that was to be long remembered by those who were present. The old church, which stood by the new foundation, had witnessed the passage of a generation. The church where their ancestors went to worship and offer up a prayer, and listen to the divine words of their pastor would soon be no more. The old church, the second church, was to be torn down and in its place a new and grand edifice was to be erected. The members of the parish would see the rising up in its majestic proportions of a great temple to the living God. The old church would soon be gone, but not forgotten. The many weddings, able sermons, would be cherished in the memories of those who witnessed the ceremonies and heard the earnest words as they fell from the lips of their pastors.
At 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 8, 1898, the clergy formed in line at the rectory and marched to the old church, the second church, at that time the present church, where High Mass was celebrated by Fr. Michael Kern of Ft. Madison, Iowa. The church was tastily decorated. Beautiful flowers were in profusion. Never did it look grander. At the conclusion of Mass, the clergy again formed in line and marched to the foundation where they would build the now present church. The sermon was conducted by Bishop Cosgrove of Davenport, after which the bishop proceeded to the spot where the altar would be constructed in the now present church, and blessed the cross where erected. When this was done, Bishop Cosgrove and the clergy marched around the foundation of the now present church, and blessed its yet unfinished walls. Returning to the platform which adorned with beautiful decorations, the cornerstone of the now present Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek was laid and blessed. When this was completed they returned to the platform and listened to an able sermon delivered by Fr. Hoppman. It was delivered in German and those understanding the language said it was a brilliant effort.
Immediately after Fr. Hoppman’s address, Fr. Schulte addressed the congregation in English. He spoke feelingly and impressively. He had a wonderful voice and his oratory was grand. In part, he said, “the Catholic church was progressing; that many souls had been conquered, not by arms, but by the cross; that many souls were brought into this world by God and saved by Christ.” He rejoiced that the members were going to have such a fine place of worship. He hoped that truth would be the watch word and nothing but truth would be spoken from the altar; Christ had given the church for the salvation of man. “You have every reason, therefore, my brethren, to rejoice and be glad on this occasion, when you will see the beginning o what is to be a temple of God, your own church, where you will come to receive your God into your souls, to seek consolation in time of trial, to give thanks for past favors and blessings and to offer up to God the tribute of your homage and adoration in the greatest of all religious acts, the holy and adorable sacrifice of the Mass. You have abundant reason indeed to thank God for the gift of the true faith, whereby you can enjoy all these comforts and blessings. In this age of unbelief, when men are so indifferent to things spiritual and seem to forget all about God and the duties they owe Him of love, homage and adoration, it is a consolation to know that the faithful ones still remember Him and are ready to make sacrifices in order to have a proper place wherein to worship Him. The erection of a church is a sign that the faith of Christ still lives; it is an indication that the doctrines taught by the Apostles are still practiced. By the members of our own household of faith the building of this church is hailed with joy, as it marks the spread of our holy religion in this vicinity. To the people of every religious persuasion residing in this vicinity it ought to be also a pleasure to see rising up in their midst a noble edifice where saving truths of religion are to be taught, whose truths which alone can elevate the nature of man, make him a child of God, and in consequence, a faithful, up-right and law-abiding citizen of the State. One of our proudest boasts as a people is that we are always ready to respect and obey the laws of our land. But where is this very reverence for law more strongly inculcated than in the Catholic Church? Where are the duties of the citizens more strongly urged than within the walls of a Catholic Church? Our fundamental principle is that the better Christian a man is the better citizen he will make; that the faithful performance of our duty to God must necessarily make us good citizens.”
After Fr. Schulte’s address, Bishop Cosgrove stepped to the edge of the platform and desired in conclusion to say a word, which was in substance as follows: “It remains only for me as bishop to say a word of encouragement and exhortation that you may continue to correspond with the efforts of your pastor. To continue I say, you already have shown your zeal in the foundation of a new building which is nearing completion. It is not for himself, but for you and your children and your children’s children that this edifice is to be built. You must understand your responsibility and understand the sublime ends, for which this church is built and were so eloquently explained by the preacher. Remember all that God has done for you and with the gratitude of your hearts going out to Him, give back generously of the means He has given to you. Give generously and through the invocation of the Patron Saints of this church and you will be tenfold rewarded. They will look down upon this church and pray to God to those who promoted its erection. Let me exhort you to zeal in completing this temple. Let me call on Almighty God to bless this congregation, to bless you pastor, your families, that your children may grow up in chastity, in honesty, in loyalty to God, and in loyalty to country and in all that goes to make a true Christian and a devoted American citizen. It is not only the house of God but your house also; the house of prayer, of praise, of consolation in sorrow, of light in darkness, a little heaven on earth. Such will it be to you and yours for years to come.” Here Bishop Cosgrove gave his Episcopal blessing. At the conclusion the clergy, choir and vast audience united in singing “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.”
The present church at Clear Creek is a fine example of vernacular architecture employing late Victorian Gothic stylistic details. The scale of the building is unusually large for a rural Iowa church. The building’s verticality dominates the landscape. The interior features three altarpieces of particular exuberance carved in Victorian Gothic style. The church also calls attention to German settlement in Keokuk County, Iowa.
Foundation stone was quarried from a nearby field and the brick clay pit was located south of the building site. Machinery was shipped in for the making of the bricks and experts of Fuller & Schumacher were hired to conduct manufacturing operations of the 250,000 bricks. The number of bricks fell somewhat short of the needed amount so new bricks had to be purchased which did not quite match the coloration of the first ones. Today, a close observer can detect the difference in texture and color of the bricks on the upper portion of the church and those on the lower layers.
The nave and sanctuary have 14 windows. They feature brick, Gothic arches, cast stone sills and fixed sash with stained glass. Each window bears a beautiful painting, representing different saints. The paintings were very expensive, costing $50.00 each, and were donated respectively by the following people: St. Joseph, donated by Fr. Joseph Rangger; St. James, donated by Jacob Conrad; St. Mary Magdalene, donated in memory of Paul Peiffer; St. Matthias, donated by Matthias Bohrofen; St. Nicholas, donated by Nicholas Berg; St. Ann, donated by Magdelena Klein; St. Rose of Lima, donated by the Jungfrauen Vereen (German for Young Ladies’ Sodality); St. Barbara, donated by Nicholas Peiffer; St. Catherine, donated by the Weber Family; St. Michael, donated by Michael Peiffer; St. Liborious, donated by Liborious Conrad; St. Margaret, donated in Memory of Peter Greiner; St. Francis of Assisi, donated by Frank Lutz; St. Lawrence, donated by Fr. Lorenz Conrad.
The three altarpieces are notable. High altars are increasingly unusual in Catholic churches in the wake of liturgical reform. Those at Clear Creek appear unsigned. They are attributed to Nickolas Juhl from Davenport, Iowa, and date circa 1899. Juhl was an accomplished wood-carver, a native-born German, and a Jew. He carved altars for several Catholic churches in Davenport, Iowa. Attribution of the Clear Creek altars is made through Juhl’s association with Borgolte.
The slate slab that makes up the altar stone in the central altar is engraved in Latin and dated 1854. The four crosses in each of the corners of the stone represent God in all corners of the word; the cross in the center represents Christ who is the Center of All. The name in Latin (Paulus Georgius Maria DuPont des Loges, Episcopus Metensis) was believed by Fr. Timothy Regan, pastor from 1994 to 2001, to be the name of the French bishop who consecrated the stone. Early settlers may have brought it with them from Germany to establish their church here, and moved it over from their previous church.
Concerning the brick in the church, there is an interesting story told. Fr. Joseph Rangger was a man of strong mind. He was particularly concerned that the church should be built to endure and he was not of a mind to tolerate shoddy workmanship. On one occasion he complained to the contractor about a wall which was out of kilter and not to his satisfaction. Unable to obtain any remedy from the contractor, Fr. Joseph Rangger took care of the situation himself. He knocked down the wall and it had to be rebuilt.
That integrity was shown on yet another occasion, according to old timers who later told the story to Fr. Paul Kleinfelder. The church having been completed, Fr. Joseph Rangger found that only a few hundred dollars were necessary to pay all the bills for the construction of the new church. Wishing to have a debt-free church for the dedication, he called the people to Mass in the newly finished church on Sunday, April 16, 1899, two days before the dedication. Once the congregation was inside admiring the magnificence of the building, he locked the doors. Until the members shelled out enough to make up the deficit, he would not open them. Thus, on Tuesday the building was dedicated debt-free.
Tuesday morning, April 18, 1899, was the day set for the dedication of this great church. It was well decorated for the occasion, and the exercises were beautiful. At 9:30 a.m. the solemn and impressive ceremonies commenced. The services were conducted by Bishop Cosgrove of Davenport, assisted by Fr. Joseph Rangger, pastor; Fr. Jacobsmeyer of Washington, Iowa; Fr. Hauser of Sigourney, Iowa; and Fr. Henry Grothe of Harper, Iowa.
The Psalms recited during the dedication were alternately chanted by Bishop Cosgrove and Fr. Peter Kern and Fr. Zaiser. Twelve bright altar boys were engaged for the services, and they did well their part, making not a single error to mar the occasion.
After the dedication of the church, Solemn High Mass, “Coram Episcopo,” was celebrated by Fr. Fred Hoppman of St. Paul, Iowa, assisted by Fr. Hauser of Sigourney, as deacon and sub-deacon respectively. The bishop was assisted at his throne by Fr. George Herr of Dyersville, Iowa, and Fr. Zaiser of Ft. Madison, Iowa.
After the Gospel, Fr. Peter Kern of Ft. Madison delivered an eloquent sermon in the German language, from the eighty-third Psalm, first verse. Fr. Peter Kern is an able speaker. His address was impressively and feelingly delivered. He was listened to by apt attention. He first congratulated the congregation on this magnificent structure, erected by their zeal and generosity. The speaker then passed over to the consideration of the dignity and sanctity of the church, showing by apt comparisons and strong arguments the dignity and sanctity of the house of God. He argued that if the temple of the old law was dignified and holy, much more is the church of the new law dignified and holy, because it is not only a house of prayer, but also a house of sacrifice wherein is offered up the oblation of the new law. In conclusion, Fr. Peter Kern encouraged the members to continue their good work, and to remain firm in the faith.
Fr. Peter Kern was followed by Fr. Zaiser of Fort Madison, who delivered an eloquent eulogy upon the magnificent church, and congratulated parishioners on their noble work, as it was God’s work. After Fr. Zaiser’s sermon the celebrant proceeded with Mass. At this time beautiful strains of music were put forth by the choir. At the same time, Fr. Zaiser, Fr. Kern and the congregation donated liberally. At the conclusion of the morning services, Bishop Cosgrove stepped to the front of the altar and spoke impressively. He remarked that he had just listened to two able and appropriate discourses, and he could not let this solemn occasion go by without encouragement and praise. He wanted to congratulate the people on this magnificent structure, when he took in consideration the few short months previous when he had come and laid the cornerstone. “Surely faith and piety did much in so short a time. This temple erected to Almighty God by you and your pastor is deserving of praise. Remember that it was not built for man, but for God.” Bishop Cosgrove related a beautiful story of Jacob, wherein he said in part, “God is here. This church is certainly a legacy to your children. When you are laid away in your final resting place you need have no other stone to mark your grave, but you will have this church which the Almighty God has given you, as a monument to your efforts and zeal.” In conclusion, Bishop Cosgrove wished the congregation every prosperity and eternal happiness to come. The congregation and choir then sang, “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.”
In 1902, Fr. Joseph Rangger obtained the services of Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, who remained only a few months. Fr. Joseph Rangger departed on November 14, 1902. Fr. Henry Grothe attended Clear Creek from Harper until August 1903. He employed Miss Veronica Rung to finish teaching the school year 1902-1903. Fr. Peter Stahl was then appointed pastor in 1903. Fr. Peter Stahl obtained the services of the School Sisters of St. Francis of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
A new school at Clear Creek was built, the cornerstone being laid on June 19, 1906. It was dedicated on October 2, 1906. The building plans for the new school incorporated larger and more convenient living quarters for the teaching nuns. Another interesting feature of the new school was an arrangement for boarding students. Some students still walked five and ten miles to school, but many families boarded their children. They would leave the children after Mass on Sunday and pick them up again on Friday after school. The nuns served not only as teachers but day and night care providers in every sense of the word. Records show that lots of fried potatoes were prepared by these surrogate-mother nuns for their charges at meal time. Many times, they were hard-pressed for sleeping accommodations for these youthful boarders. The children would often sleep three to a bed. Fr. Henry Sendbuehler came in September 1907 to succeed Fr. Peter Stahl. One of his first tasks was paying the remaining debt on the new school.
Prior to 1911, the church and cemetery property ended with the west side of the old portion of the cemetery. That year, the cemetery was to be enlarged and laid out in lots. Joseph and Helena Sieren owned land bordering the east, south and west sides of the church and cemetery property. On June 27, 1911, the parish gave Joseph and Helena Sieren the 10 acres of land along the south side of the parish’s property and in return Joseph and Helena Sieren gave the parish 10 acres of their land along the west side of the parish’s property with which the parish could use to expand the cemetery to the west. This western expansion is referred to as the first addition because it was the first addition of land for cemetery use since the cemetery was established in 1861.
On June 27, 1911, Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek also celebrated the parish’s Golden Jubilee. Fr. Peter Kern delivered the sermon in German after Mass. He was pastor at Clear Creek 25 years before. He recalled changes since his day. Fr. Henry Grothe, another former pastor, spoke about the growth of the parish. Many priests were in attendance. Following this there was the blessing of the Old Crucifixion Group erected in the cemetery. In preparation for the Golden Jubilee, the statues of St. Henry, St. Aloysius, St. Ann and St. Mary Magdalene were added to the side altars of the church. Two of the three bells in the steeple were also purchased for the Golden Jubilee.
While Fr. Henry Sendbuehler took a well earned vacation to Europe to visit the old home and his parents during the summer of 1911, the parish sold the first rectory and erected a second modern one of which they could be very proud. Before his departure, Fr. Henry Sendbuehler had initiated the undertaking by completing the sale of the old rectory and providing plans for the new, but the building was done during his absence. Records state that the old rectory was purchased by Peter Adrian, Sr. and it was moved to the Adrian farm east of the church property. It still serves as home to the J.P. Adrian family.
A parish mission conducted by Fr. F. Schroeder, a Dominican priest from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was held during the week of October 19-26, 1913. In the choir loft, you can view the mission cross dated October 1913. When a parish had a mission, they purchased a cross. This cross probably served as a primary focus throughout the mission. The mission cross was repainted and hung on the tower wall in the choir loft in preparation for the parish centennial in 1958. It serves as a reminder of the mission and the spiritual lessons learned.
In 1915, the storm windows on Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek were installed by the DePrato Statuary Co., of Chicago. The Young Men’s sodality and the Young Ladies sodality each paid for one window while voluntary subscriptions paid for the rest.
Modernization of the parish gradually took place, with Campbell furnaces being installed in the church during 1916 and a bathroom being equipped in the Sisters’ dwelling. The school children continued to use the outdoor plumbing facilities until 1955 when indoor lavatories were built.
In 1916, parishioners were extremely proud of the frescoes which were put on the ceiling of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek. An Italian artist, Faliero Conquidi of the John Amidei Co. in Chicago, Illinois, did the work. An artist from Davenport, D. Beanci, executed two large pictures, one of St. Francis of Assisi, paid for by the St. Aloysius sodality, and another of St. Rita, paid for by the St. Agnes sodality.
Parishioners in 1919 purchased a tabernacle and some vestments, gold-plated the chalice and ciboria, and erected an iron fence on two sides of the cemetery as well as in front of the church. This was in gratitude for the safe return of the 18 young men who served in the United States military during World War I and for protection against influenza, which had plagued so many throughout the United States at that time.
In 1922, a new roof was needed on Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek. C.P. Hammes was engaged to lay asbestos shingles for $1,500.00. The parish oversubscribed $300 in a collection to pay for the new roof.
Fr. Henry Sendbuehler was succeeded by Fr. Bernard Luedtke who became pastor of Clear Creek in September 1923. He devoted much effort to beautifying the cemetery. He was succeeded by Fr. John Scherf who came in October 1927 and remained until July 1, 1928. Fr. William Schmitt came in July 1928. During Fr. William Schmitt’s two year stay in Clear Creek he installed an electric light plant and made many other improvements of a minor nature.
A strange thing happened the following year on July 1, 1930, when Fr. William Schmitt left as pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek to be succeeded by Fr. Paul Kleinfelder the same day. That day, Fr. William Schmitt left in the morning and Fr. Paul Kleinfelder arrived in the evening. Before leaving, Fr. William Schmidt had cleaned out the last of the debris and burned the papers in the furnace so as to leave everything orderly for his successor. Somehow or other, no one knows just how, whether it was sparks from the chimney or what, the dry shingled roof caught fire. The house was vacant, for Fr. William Schmidt had departed for Cosgrove, his new assignment, and Fr. Paul Kleinfelder had not yet arrived. Farmers in their fields first noticed the smoke curling from the rectory roof. They came running but arrived too late to save the rectory. What they could do, they did. Swarming into the house, they tried to save the furnishings and anything movable. Out the windows came bedclothes and linens, doors were taken off their hinges, and furniture was carted out and placed in the lawn. So it was that Fr. Paul Kleinfelder and his housekeeper Grace Heller arrived to find a heap of ashes where they expected to find a commodious rectory. Undaunted, he immediately began to plan and collect for the erection of a new rectory. Since school was not in session, Fr. Paul Kleinfelder and Grace Heller occupied the living quarters of the school until the new rectory was completed that fall.
The situation was difficult. Already the parish had a debt of $2,500.00. Now an additional $3,500.00 was needed to pay for the new rectory. The money was borrowed, not to be repaid until August 1, 1942, when the mortgage was burned at a gala parish celebration. During those intervening years many other necessary improvements forestalled the payment of the debt, try as the parish did to reduce it.
Back in depression days the parish picnic was the necessary fund raiser to which trustees contributed their work. The first parish bazaar was held in 1931, shortly after Fr. Paul Kleinfelder arrived. The parish treasury contained no money. Sister Sigismunda got St. Anthony’s statue down from the shelf, lit a vigil light, baked a fruit cake and announced that the cake would be raffled off at $5.00 a chance. Some $19.00 came in on that one fruit cake and the bazaar was born.
On September 2, 1935, Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek celebrated the parish’s Diamond Jubilee. This was an occasion for the present generations to, not only admire the deeds of their forefathers, but resolve to imitate them for the greater honor and glory of God and the salvation of their souls.
In the spring of 1955, Fr. Paul Kleinfelder, never sick in his life, came down with mumps. Complications set in when he also suffered a stroke, paralyzing his right side. Through one weird night with the rain pouring down outside, his parishioners maintained a vigil at his side. Through the succeeding weeks they ministered to him as he had ministered so long to them. A long convalescence followed. Staunch determination and will power brought some usefulness back to the withered limbs. Treatments at Sacred Heart sanitarium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin enabled him to return home, capable of offering Mass, which he resumed as soon as he was physically able.
In June 1955, the bishop had sent an assistant, Fr. William F. Wiebler, a newly ordained priest, to help the afflicted pastor. The arrangement was to prove a profitable one. The older priest gave the benefit of his wisdom and holiness to the younger, while the young Levite gave the use of his limbs and agility to the older priest so that parish work might go on. On June 7, 1957, Fr. Marvin Sieger arrived to replace Fr. William Wiebler as Assistant to Fr. Paul Kleinfelder.
In 1956, in preparation for the Centennial of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic parish at Clear Creek, Fr. Paul Kleinfelder called a general parish meeting which resulted in the redoing of the interior and ultimately the exterior of the church. Twelve “apostles” were chosen from among former trustees to lead the campaign. In a whirlwind of activity they raised $13,500.00.
Immediately after Easter 1956 the work of destruction began. No sooner had Mr. and Mrs. Don Paarman left the church in a shower of marital rice than the school children were stripping the altars of their linens and candelabra. Statues, altars, pews, stations and pre-dieus, the organ, vestments and other furnishings were removed from the church.
A temporary church was erected in the basement and was used for two months. Eighth grade graduation, First Holy Communion, and a funeral were held in the basement. Except for a few bumped heads the parishioners cheerfully put up with their catacomb church during that time.
Upstairs the church was further stripped of its plaster and lath. The work had been scheduled to take two weeks but the parishioners turned out in such force and worked with such diligence that the job was done in two days time. They appeared with ladders, wrecking bars, trucks and hammers and returned home laden with plaster dust, having put in a good day’s work. The church was now stripped of everything and only its bare walls remained.
Then they began the slow task of rebuilding. Preliminary work was begun by the Roe Roofing Company of Washington, Iowa. Roofs were made tight and weatherproof. Copper flashing was renewed between the tower and church and around the two chimneys. Sacristy roofs were caulked, reflashed and retarred. A new cross was specially made in the shop and erected to replace that which had been demolished by the storms. Outside the church, the old stone steps in front of the church were replaced with concrete steps and new cement walks were built.
Interior work began with metal lathing. Parishioners again helped with this work. The entire church skeleton was covered with metal lath. The fireproof material replaced the old wood lath and gave a smoother base for the new plaster.
Orville Thompson of Sigourney, Iowa, had the plastering and lathing contract. The project called for tons of sand and plaster to be applied to the walls and ceiling of the building and it was done in three weeks time. The tremendous height of the ceiling (35 feet to the interior beams) necessitated a steel scaffold from Cedar Rapids which covered the entire church and provided easy access to the high arches on the ceiling. On the scaffold, the plasterers applied scratch coats, browning coats and finishing coats of plaster until the church began to look clothed once again. Acoustic plaster was used on the ceiling, with the final coat sprayed on to give a rough textured finish. Use of the acoustic plaster improved the acoustics of the church so much that a whisper in the sanctuary can now be clearly heard in the choir loft.
Wooden window sills were replaced with cement, and sloped at a slight angle. Ornamental plaster column heads were replaced with simplified continuations of the arches into the walls.
The tinted plaster was given a sand finish to contract with the acoustic ceiling. A color scheme using grays, greens and browns as worked out for the church. To complement the Creole gray of the ceiling the walls were tinted Seafoam Green. To contrast with the nave of the church the sanctuary and tower walls were tinted Autumn Buff.
Flave Hagist of the Keota Electric Company rewired the entire church and installed the new incandescent lighting system. Two spotlights were centered on the altar to provide the celebrant with adequate lighting where needed for the missal used at the Mass. Two floodlights were mounted on the ceiling arches to light up the entire sanctuary. Six Gothic-style lanterns with louvers were hung in the nave of the church. Six spotlights were recessed in the choir’s balcony quarters and four recessed fixtures under the balcony were provided to light the rear pews. Outside porch lights with switches at the convent and rectory were fixed above the sacristy entrances. A reading lamp for the priest to say his office in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament was affixed to the sanctuary wall.
Ed Rains of the Rains Furniture store of Keota supervised the laying of the masonite under-flooring and rubber tile which covers the nave of the church and the vestibule. Large 12×12 blocks of ecrulite color were accentuated with two parallel stripes of mottled red running down the center aisle and the red baseboard around the outside wall. In the sacristies, linotile of soft gray and rose was laid. Stair treads were placed on the choir loft stairs.
Parishioners refinished the sanctuary floor and predellas. The oak and maple floors were sanded, sealed and given a natural light finish. Blue carpet runners were laid on the main predella. Varnish was removed from all woodwork in the church which was revarnished as were the vestment case and communion table.
Miss Genevieve Schmidt of Fort Madison, Iowa, lived in the rectory for several months while she was refinishing the statues in her school-loft studio. Statues of the Sacred Heart, St. Peter, St. Paul, the Blessed Virgin and Child, St. Joseph, St. Henry, St. Anne, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Aloysius were redone. The Little Flower statue was put in a special niche in the priest’s sacristy. St. John the Baptist remained in his traditional place above the baptismal fount. The old mission cross from 1913, previously hanging on the side wall, was repainted and hung in a prominent position on the tower wall in the choir loft. Browns, reds, greens, cream and blues were used on the statues. St. Peter and St. Paul were garbed in the colors of the church, tan and green, to signify their patronage of the edifice. Missing fingers, broken through the years, or lost symbols, were replaced. The statue of St. Joseph was restored a lily and King Henry regained his scepter.
The large and bulky vestment case in the priest’s sacristy was dismantled and rearranged. Relocation of the upper portion of the vestment case made it more accessible for storage of linens and Mass articles. The lower portion of the vestment case thus gained more room for the laying out of vestments.
Bamboo shades were hung in both sacristies and a new Orations card was obtained for the priest’s sacristy.
Above the vestment case was hung a 96-year old corpus of the crucified Christ. The corpus was hand-carved by one of the pioneer founders of the parish and was part of the original altar in the first church. It was remounted on a new cross made by one of the parishioners. Fr. Joseph Rangger’s picture, in an ornate brass frame, was rehung on the wall of the church he built so many years before.
Carpentry work was done by Bill Yoder of Keota. New windows were put in the sacristies, the pews renovated, timbers replaced in the tower, a closet built in the server’s sacristy, communion rail remodeled and general repair work.
In order to make the communion rail more accessible and to enlarge the sanctuary the table was moved from the sanctuary to the floor of the church and mounted on a platform directly in front of the pews. The platform was padded with white leatherette and a bronze chain hung between the two portions of the rail.
On Wednesday, August 1, 1956, the Feast of St. Peter-in-Chains, Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek was rededicated under its dual patrons in recognition of the renovation program that was recently completed, and in honor of Fr. Paul A. Kleinfelder, who completed his 26th year in the parish on July 1, 1956. The Most Rev. Ralph L. Hayes, Bishop of Davenport, preached the sermon at the solemn High Mass which was celebrated by Fr. Michael Diedrich, S.C.J., at 10:00 a.m. Other celebrants of the Mass were Fr. James Grubb of St. James Parish in Washington, Iowa; Fr. L. Jerome Leinen of St. Paul’s Parish in Burlington, Iowa; Fr. Francis Hendricksen of St. Mary’s Parish in Fairfield, Iowa; Fr. Martin J. Diamond of St. Elizabeth’s Parish in Harper, Iowa; and Fr. James Mackin of St. Mary’s Parish in Sigourney, Iowa. Members of the Knights of Columbus, fourth degree, formed an honor guard. A picnic dinner was held on the parish grounds immediately after the Mass. The picnic dinner was open to all those who attended Mass, including parishioners, former parishioners and friends. Each family brought a meat dish and another side dish as well as their own tableware. Coffee and lemonade were provided. The Catholic Youth Organization sponsored a pop and ice cream stand on the ground and the Altar and Rosary society sold pies and coffee in the afternoon. There was an open house in the afternoon. Members of the surrounding communities, both Catholic and non-Catholic, attended to view the building improvements. The Clear Creek C.Y.O. softball team played the Harper C.Y.O. at 1:30 p.m. on the Clear Creek diamond. Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament at 3:30 p.m. closed the day’s activities though the church remained open to visitors all evening.
The rededication of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek served as a day of recognition by the parish for the 26 years that Fr. Paul Kleinfelder had spent at Clear Creek. Any celebrations the year before when the 25th year mark was reached were postponed because of the grave illness which afflicted him then. By this time, Fr. Paul Kleinfelder was able to offer Mass and to be up and around, for which his parishioners were grateful. As a token of their appreciation they presented him with a purse on the occasion.
To honor their eight children killed in a car-train accident, the Richard Hammes Family Memorial was erected in 1957. It features St. John and Mother Mary standing at the foot of the cross, symbolizing the sorrow of the parents. At the redwood cross base are eight heads of wheat in memory of the eight children. The base was constructed of rocks from parishioners and the Hammes rock garden where the children played. The cornerstone of the second church building was used in this memorial and the plaque names the Hammes children killed on October 25, 1956.
Some dispute arose over the date of 1858 as the basis for the true centennial year of the parish. Complete records are lacking. There are many beginnings of the parish: the purchasing of the log house, the offering of the first Mass, the selecting of the trustees, the securing of a transient pastor. Accordingly, Fr. Paul Kleinfelder was determined to select a date appearing to coincide with the many firsts in the parish. The final date for the celebration, August 19, 1958, was selected by the bishop.
An estimated crowd of 5,000 people attended the day-long celebration of the parish centennial at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek on Tuesday, August 19, 1958. About 2,500 people were on the grounds at one time during the evening. The celebration began in the morning when Bishop Hayes of Davenport celebrated the Mass of the Trinity at 10:00 a.m. Fr. William Wiebler, assistant pastor at Clear Creek during 1856, preached the centennial sermon to 800 people. The Mass was followed by a chicken dinner in the church basement at 11:45 a.m. and the Sigourney Saddle club staged a horse show at 2:00 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., a post office auction was held. Auctioneers were Bill Brudy of Washington, E.E. Tremmel of Sigourney, Ed O’Brien of Kinross and Jake Hendrickson of Richland. 109 packages were mailed to the parish by former members, friends and well-known personalities. Donors included Mamie Eisenhower, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Governor Herschel Loveless, Senator Bourke Hickenlooper, Senator Thomas Martin and Secretary of Agriculture Ezra T. Benson. All packages were auctioned unopened. Booths of all kinds were open during the celebration. A platform dance was held at 9:00 p.m. and dance prizes were awarded to Mr. and Mrs. Peter Peiffer in the oldster’s group and to Terry and Kathy Horras, children of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Horras of Keota in the teenage group.
In December 1961, Fr. Paul Kleinfelder’s condition had grown worse and he was taken to a Burlington nursing home run by Sisters. Fr. Marvin Sieger was left in charge of the parish.
In July 1962, Fr. Francis Lollich arrived with Mrs. Ruth Neashem, housekeeper and organist. At his sermon on July 4, 1962, Fr. Francis Lollich said that he was not here to raise chickens and make garden. He took sealed bids and sold off the chicken shed/coop, pulled out the garden fence and landscaped the yards, and took brushes and shrubs out around rectory and church.
Fr. Paul Kleinfelder passed away on December 18, 1962. He chose to be laid to rest in Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery at Clear Creek, where he spent 31 years as pastor and leader. Bishop Hayes, priests and Sisters returned for the funeral on Friday. No meat allowed. Facilities were small in the parish hall kitchen and they had to borrow oven to bake the salmon loaf. That could well be the reason Fr. Francis Lollich decided to enlarge/redo the parish hall in 1963.
In the fall of 1963, renovations began on the parish hall at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek. There was a new enlarged kitchen at the north end of the hall, footings and cement were poured, a new gas heating plant was installed in the old kitchen area, plumbing for the kitchen and rest rooms was installed, cupboards were built, a ceiling was installed, and the walls were covered with paneling. On the west elevation, a small addition was built to provide direct outside access to the basement. The work continued during the winter months. The new spacious hall was completed in 1965 and dedicated at Fr. Francis Lollich’s 25th anniversary on May 4, 1965. The total cost for renovations was $21,156.48, including $10,759.67 for labor and materials and $10,396.81 for the new furnace, kitchen and hall equipment.
In 1967, the stained glass windows at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek were re-leaded and sealed with protective storm windows at a cost of $5,538.75.
In 1968, Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School at Clear Creek was closed. With the new law of two grades to a classroom and a shortage of teaching nuns, the school was closed. The school had been staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis for 73 years.
Fr. Francis Lollich left and was succeeded by Fr. John Hebenstreit in August 1969. Martha Kelly was his cook and housekeeper. Fr. John Hebenstreit loved the rural area. Soon the yard and cemetery took on a neat appearance.
Fr. John Hebenstreit permitted a very strong parish council. He knew that the parish belonged to the people and that the priest was called to work closely with the Council in serving the parish. These were not easy times. Parish Councils were beginning to make decisions, and it’s a real challenge to learn such a new responsibility quickly. And those changes to a parish that was accustomed to getting things done, and a church that was renewing, and God only knows what can happen.
In 1970, the church needed to be painted as the new tinted plaster that had been done in 1956 began to fade. A meeting was called to get bids on the job and they met with a decorator who was doing a neighboring church. He suggested taking out the altars and replacing the old organ with a pipe organ. The steam was rolling high that night. No one was going to let those beautiful hand-carved altars go out the door.
Bids were again taken to paint the church in February 1971. Norbert Peiffer and crew redecorated it in March and the church was all cleaned and finished in time for Easter that year on April 10, 1971.
In 1977, Clear Creek voted to become a member parish of the Harper-Keota Catholic School system. From very early on its beginnings, the school was part of the parish, and thanks to Fr. John Hebenstreit’s love of children, it returned.
Times were not easy for Fr. John Hebenstreit, for it seems that sickness has no respect for anyone. Father’s sickness impaired the very pastoral work that he did best, which was being one with his people and communicating with them in speech and leadership. In those days it became increasingly difficult for him to communicate plainly in his speech, but not even that could block the communication of love for his people. The good memories of his snowmobile and motorcycle are only tainted by the pain of a broken ankle. But always, Fr. John Hebenstreit yearned for the friendships and support of the people, whether it be an afternoon of hunting, a round of golf, a late night visit to a home, or a pastoral call to the sick. A good pastor loves being with his people and that was Fr. John Hebenstreit.
In 1979, it became necessary for Fr. Hebenstreit to retire due to his sickness, although he would continue to live in the rectory for a time. Changes are not always easy, and so the parish was challenged in an entirely new way in February 1979. Fr. Robert McAleer, who was already serving St. Elizabeth Catholic Church at Harper, was appointed by the Most Rev. Gerald O’Keefe, Bishop of Davenport, to share his time between the two parishes. After so many years history repeats. Again the parishes would share a priest, and Clear Creek would no longer have a resident pastor.
It was not easy for many to understand and to accept the new arrangement. The plea “we want our own priest” was hardly in line with the church and the availability of priests that could serve parishes. The hard realization for the necessity to change only becomes more apparent as the years go by. And so those beginning days weren’t easy.
Fr. Robert McAleer from the very beginning approached the parish honestly, directly and candidly. He sensed a rift in the spirit of the parish. Fondly he remembers those first two Sundays. As he read the bishop’s letter to the parish directing the parish to cooperate, support the school and combine C.C.D. programs, he hoped all would join in. The bishop’s words, “Do this and you will live,” are proved today in our “alive parish.” And sometimes Fr. Robert McAleer says his knees still shake when he recalls his second Sunday when he came down the center aisle before Mass and from his heart told the parish “that scripture says we are to make peace with one another. We were never taught to speak in church but he told us it was far more important to talk with one another.” And so much has happened since then.
On June 28, 1979, the parish gathered for a farewell party honoring their pastor, who was their faithful leader for 10 years. Many of the parish helped Fr. John Hebenstreit and Martha move on July 5, 1979, to Weller, Iowa, where he retired.
On June 25, 1983, Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek celebrated the parish’s 125th anniversary. The old parish school was torn down in the fall of 1983.
In September 1984, Fr. Robert McAleer moved to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fort Madison, Iowa. Fr. H. Robert Harness, 32, a young and energetic priest, was appointed to serve both Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek and St. Elizabeth Catholic Church at Harper. In 1988, Fr. H. Robert Harness also became pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church at Keota.
In 1991, a brick monument was designed and built in front of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek by parish member Jeff Hammes. The money was raised by selling $1.00 chances on four quilts cut and sewn by Mrs. Ed (Virginia Greiner) Weber and Mrs. Alva (Isabelle Hammes) Baker, and hand quilted by parish ladies. The quilts were raffled off at the Pork Chop Supper the fourth Sunday of June that year. The cornerstone for the monument was laid on June 13, 1991. Inside this monument is the cornerstone from the second school.
On Saturday, June 21, 1997, a new Jesus on the Cross, sculpted by Paul Algueseva of Washington, Iowa, was dedicated in the cemetery. It replaced the 1911 statue which was destroyed by lightning.
On Sunday, June 21, 1998, an 11:00 a.m. Mass and celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for the present Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church was held at Clear Creek with the Most Rev. William Franklin, Bishop of Davenport, and other special guests. An afternoon celebration included historic tours, a raffle of a beautiful handmade quilt and other items, bingo, children’s games, and a free meal.
Effective on July 1, 2001, Fr. Timothy Regan was replaced by Fr. Marty Goetz. Fr. Marty Goetz not only encouraged, but exemplified the highest ideals of the faith. The personal joys and struggles that Fr. Marty shared with the parish have helped us to prosper similar situations in our own lives. He consistently advocated that people contribute their skills according to their time and ability to better the human condition, bringing about a truly Christian spirit in our communities and in our world. Fr. Marty has been known to consider and endorse projects or programs that would bring a greater sense of faith to our parish, even when they seem to be futile. We live in a world in which the actions of a single individual can determine the judgment of an entire group of people. Many people, both Catholics and those of other faith traditions, have yielded a more positive image of Christianity and Catholicism from Fr. Marty Goetz.
The last scheduled Mass at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Clear Creek was at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 25, 2006, with pastor Fr. Marty Goetz officiating. Many people came from a distance to attend.
On July 1, 2006, Fr. Marty Goetz became pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Sigourney, Iowa, and on July 1, 2007, became part-time Vocations Director for the Diocese of Davenport, in addition to serving as pastor of Holy Trinity Parish. On February 1, 2008, Fr. Marty Goetz was reassigned to serve as full-time Vocations Director for the Diocese of Davenport, to be replaced by Fr. Charles Fladung.
On June 13, 2009, the Most Rev. Martin Amos, Bishop of Davenport, approved a motion by the Holy Trinity Parish Council to sell the building site at Clear Creek to the Heritage Association for $1.00.
1983 Ss. Peter and Paul Parish Directory.
1992 Holy Trinity Parish Directory.
1997 Holy Trinity Parish Directory.
2002 Holy Trinity Parish Directory.
Page, W.C. (1985). National Register of Historic Places Nomination for the Ss. Peter and
Paul Roman Catholic Church, Clear Creek Township, Iowa.
Pieffer, Rev. N.J. (1935). History of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church of Clear Creek
Township, Keokuk County, Iowa.
Wiebler, Rev. W.F. (1958). Clear Creek: A Torrent of Grace; A Centennial Historical
Sketch of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, Clear Creek, Iowa.