Jack Reagan and his son, Neil, attended this church. Mrs. (Nelle) Reagan and son, Ronald attended the Church of Christ.
SAINT MARY CATHOLIC CHURCH 105 BENTON STREET P.O. BOX 159 TAMPICO, ILLINOIS 61283 (815) 438-5425 REV. DONALD M. AHLES ADMINISTRATOR DEACON BILL LEMMER St. Mary Catholic Church (Transcribed from the Tampico Centennial Year Book, 1875-1975)
Let's turn back the pages of history, to the early 1860's, and we find the Catholic Church has already come to Tampico. Rev. John Daley of Sterling rode his horse out here about three times a year to offer mass for our few Catholic families in the Hutten schoolhouse, nine miles south of Sterling, within the boundaries of the present Tampico parish. At times he offered Mass at some private home in the district. In the seventies Tampico was attended from Sheffield as the records of 1874 mention the services of Rev. Hugh O'Gary McShane, pastor of Sheffield, at present in Peoria diocese. In 1875 we were joined to the parish of Ohio,IL, and the Rev. P. J. Gormley traveled from over there to direct the building of the first Catholic Church in Tampico. Planning was begun in April, 1875, by a committee of four, consisting of Maurice Fitzgerald, George Dee, Thomas Burden, and Peter Burke. On the 20th of May, 1875, Right Rev. Bishop Foley, of Chicago, granted a charter to the Committee, authorizing them to raise subscriptions to build a church edifice. The Committee went immediately to work and in a comparatively short time raised an amount sufficient to erect and complete the first church. A part of the amount was raised by notes.from parties in that section of the County, and the other part, amounting to $2,520.00, by a Fair held at Tampico. At the Fair a tea set was put up for a prize. Two young ladies, one the daughter of Thomas Burden, and the other a daughter of Mr. John Gaffey, to be the contestants. The tickets were one dollar each and the parties could buy one or more as they chose, each ticket being a ballot for one or the other of the young ladies. The prize was awarded to Miss Burden, who received the most votes. It was a spacious church for those days, a frame building 40 by 9Oby 30, with a spire ll2 feet high. Father R. V. McGuire was appointed in September, 1879, as the first resident pastor here. The limits of the parish were the Northwestern part of Bureau County, which at present belongs to the Peoria diocese, the township of Tampico, Hume, Prophetstown, Hahnaman, and Montmorency. There were 963 members of the church, old and young, throughout the parish. In 1881 the F. McGuire purchased four acres near the church for the cemetery. Following Father McGuire were Fathers J. A. Fanning, J. Sullivan, A. Goulet, F. J. Kearney and P. J. Weber. Father Peter Weber built the first rectory in 1895. In 1902, he began construction of the present Catholic Church, the land was donated by John W. Glassburn, its dimensions were 150 x 50 feet with a spire 125 feet high. A winter chapel was also attached to the building. The church is of pressed brick with stone trimmings, Gothic in style. In 1901 a stone was brought here clear from Ireland, the old sod dear to many, to form the cornerstone of the new St. Mary's Catholic Church. The stone, which arrived in Philadelphia, came here as soon as Father Weber made out the necessary papers stating what the stone was for, so that duties would not be charged on it. The stone is about two feet square and came from the quarries of Nenagh, Lahoma, county Tipperary, near the tomb of Erin. Father Weber planned to lay the stone on the Fourth, which attracted hundreds of people here to witness the imposing ceremony. It was stated that the new church was the first one in the state to have a cornerstone imported from Ireland. Within two years the church was finished and on Thursday, September 8, 1904, the Most Rev. Peter J. Muldoon, who became the first Bishop of the Rockford Diocese, which was established in 1908, dedicated the new church, built at the cost of $30,000.00. The entire debt was liquidated by 1920. Father L. X. DuFour came to Tampico in 1906. He served Tampico parish for nearly 24 years. He was forced to retire in 1928 because his eyesight failed. He was suceeded by Fr. Lynch, who replaced the rectory with the present one for $12,000.00 and furnished it and retired the debt by 1929.
End of transcription
Additional History submitted by Sharon Callaghan
The first settlers came to our area in the 1840s and 1850s. The majority came from Ireland, a country where from the late 1600s to the early 1820s Catholics had been subjected to harsh laws. All Catholic churches were closed and priests had a price on their head. Catholics could not own land nor educate their children. In 1650, ninety-five percent of the land was owned by Irish Catholics. 175 years later, Catholics owned only two percent. In the mid 1840s, a blight attacked the potato crop, Irish tenants’ main source of sustenance. Thousands of people perished or emigrated to America. These early settlers came with no worldly possessions and many worked for the railroads or on the Erie Canal. They saved their money and bought land. These settlers might see a missionary priest once a year, if then. In the early 1860s Father John Daley came from Sterling on horseback three times a year. Catholics met either in the Hutton Schoolhouse, nine miles south of Sterling, or in a settler’s home. At this time, Chicago’s Archdiocese extended from the Indiana border west to the Mississippi River. In the early 1870s a priest from Sheffield, Father Hugh O’Gary McShane, tended to the Catholic settlers. In 1875, our area was extended to Ohio, Illinois. Father P. J. Gormley traveled from there to supervise the building of Tampico’s first Catholic church. The frame was 40 x 90 x 30 feet around with a 112 foot high spire. The rear and side marble altars, imported from Italy, were given by Thomas and Eleanor Burden. Over the rear altar is a baldachino, also from Italy, given by the Burden family in memory of their parents. At the top of the baldachino is a statue of a pelican pecking her breast to feed her young of her blood, an ancient symbol signifying Christ’s sacrificial role. The Stations of the Cross are three dimensional and hand painted. The stained glass windows are unusually beautiful. In 1906, Father DuFour became pastor and served for nearly 24 years. He was forced to retire in 1928 due to failing eyesight. He was succeeded by Father Lynch who replaced the rectory with the present one for $12,000.00 and retired the debt by 1929. In 1930, Father Thomas Maguire became pastor for the next 16 years. It was he who went through the Great Depression and World War II with this community. In 1946, Father died of pneumonia and is buried in our cemetery. Father Robert Donovan served as pastor from 1966 until 1970. Father Eugene Parker then became pastor for the next 13 years. Early in 1971, Father began the first Parish Council and a new religious instruction program involving many people of the parish as volunteer teachers. Following Father Parker were Fathers Robert Balog (Sept. l983 to Dec. 1983), Jim Tranel (Jan. 1987 to July 1990), and Leo Ambre (Dec.1983 to Jan. 1987). During Father Ambre’s tenure, a team ministry was established. As pastoral associates, two School Sisters of Notre Dame Sr. Anna Marie Zeitner and Sr. Celeste Waugh who was succeeded by Sr. Anita Heffron lived in the rectory and ministered to the daily needs of the people from Aug. 1983 to Aug. 1986. Father Ambre came from Rockford Saturday night and Sunday to say Mass, give the sacraments and take care of the administration of the parish. Following Father Ambre were Fathers Paul Lipinski (July 1990 to July 1991), Vincent Shindelar (July 1991 to June 1997), F. James Larson (June 1997 to August 1999), Thomas Bales (Sept. 1999 to June 2000), Anthony Pantyra (June 2000 to December 2002), Father Thomas Brantman (July 2002 to March 2004), and the present administrator from St. Mary of Sterling, Father Donald Ahles and his assistant Father Jesus Dominguez. With the ordination of William Lemmer in May 1998, the parish received its first permanent deacon. The majority of the descendents of those who contributed to the building of this church one hundred years ago, have moved away to larger towns and cities. But a part of who they are, can be found in this beautiful church. The hopes and dreams of a past generation rest on our shoulders now. The limits of the parish were the northwestern part of Bureau County, which at present belongs to the Peoria diocese, and the townships of Tampico, Hume, Prophetstown, Hahnaman, and Montmorency. There were 963 members in the parish. In 1879, Father R.V. McGuire was appointed as the first resident pastor. In 1881, four acres were purchased near the church for the cemetery. Following Father McGuire were Fathers J.A. Fanning, J. Sullivan, A. Goulet, F.J. Kearney and P.J. Weber. Father Peter Weber built the first rectory in 1895. It was a two story frame house. In 1902, Father Weber began the construction of the present Catholic Church. The dimensions of the church are 150x50 with a spire 125 feet high. A winter chapel is also attached to the rear of the building. The church is of pressed brick with stone trimmings, Gothic in style. The cornerstone is from a quarry in Nenagh, county Tipperary, Ireland. Given by the James Graham family, it was the first cornerstone in the state to be imported from Ireland. On Thursday, September 8, 1904, The Most Rev. Peter J. Muldoon, who became the first Bishop of the Rockford Diocese which was established in 1908, dedicated the new church, built at a cost of $30,000.00. The entire debt was paid off by 1920. Father Ambrose Weitekamp, who had been an assistant under Fr. DuFour, returned as pastor in 1946 and served for 20 years. Further decoration of the church was undertaken. Using gold nail head fabric as a background, murals were painted over the side altars. Murals of the four evangelists were painted on the back wall to the sides of the main altar. In 1952, Father Weitekamp tried to fulfill the wishes of Father Maguire’s dream of a parish hall. In May of 1954 the present hall was completed. The building is 50x73 feet on the block north of the church. Father Weitekamp died in 1966 and is buried in our cemetery. It is our faith experience that fills this church today. And so we come from near and faraway to celebrate our faith in God, our gratitude for those who came first, and our pride in St. Mary of Tampico. Church Photographer: Jim Seyller Centennial Chair: Sharon Welch Callaghan
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Related Links (off site) History of St. Mary's Church click here
Tampico Churches 1877
History of St. Mary's Catholic Church - 1908
Tampico Churches 1855 - (brief paragraph)