St. Henry, Holy Roman Emperor

The History of Our Parish

A Story of God's Love - Page 6 of 20

St. Henry's First Fifteen Years

In 1873 the Archbishop of St. Louis appointed Father Henry Willenbrink to be the first pastor in Charleston.  Father Willenbrink placed the parish under the patronage of St. Henry, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  The congregation constructed a new frame church in Charleston on property still occupied by the parish.  The frame church stood in the space on the north side of the present [cornerstone laid 1905] church edifice (where the parking lot is now located).  After consecrating the new church Father Willenbrink discontinued regular mass services in the old log church of St. Francis deSales in Texas Bend.

Photograph of the first Catholic church in Charleston
First Church in Charleston
Built by Fr. Willenbrink - 1873

St. Henry's first fifteen years witnessed the pastorates of the following eight priests in the following order:

Those first fifteen were very difficult years for our struggling parish.  The parish file in the Archdiocesan archives in St. Louis contains an interesting letter written by Rev. F. Pommer, mission priest of Charleston, to the Chancellor, Rev. H. Van der Sanden, and dated February 23, 1883.  Among other things, Father Pommer wrote the following:

"Charleston has only 3 good Catholic families; these families, however, are truly poor ones; 3/4 of the country where the rest of the Catholics belonging to the mission place live is totally inundated, and hence almost inaccessible; many a thousand bushels of corn is spoiled by the flood this year as well as the year before, and on account of a total failure of the melon crop (this year) there is less money here than in any previous year."

- Father Frederick Pommer, Pastor, February 23, 1883

Excerpted from St. Henry Parish 1873 - 1973.