Past Mission Churches and Their Present-Day Cemeteries
St. Benedict Church and Cemetery at Ponder
After the Civil war and the threat of bushwhackers had passed, many of the early settlers hopefully returned to Ripley County. They built homes, not in the Irish Wilderness, but along Fourchee Creek west of Doniphan and Current River. They built their second St. Benedict Church (the first structure was in the Irish Wilderness) on a plot of ground given by the Clark family at what is now called Ponder (near the community of Gatewood). The church was merged with St. Benedict in Doniphan at an unknown date. The Ponder St. Benedict Cemetery, set on beautiful hilltop, remains in use today.
St. Benedict Church and Cemetery at Doniphan (on Ball Park Road)
In 1878 Michael and Annie Stack gave to Archbishop Kenrick a plot of ground on the Doniphan road, about three miles east of town, with the stipulation that a new St. Benedict church be built on the site. The building (the third St. Benedict structure) was started in 1879 and Fr. P. O. Trumm was resident pastor at the time. Father Trumm, however, was resident in name only because he was required to continue the missionary work of this vast area. Under his care were the Catholic people at Fourchee Creek (Gatewood/Ponder), Des Arc, Piedmont and Poplar Bluff. The difficulties of missionary life forced Father Trumm into retirement in 1882. For almost three years, the St. Benedict church was without a pastor. The people, however, rallied to complete the building of their church. Today the site of that church is the current St. Benedict Cemetery on Ball Park Road east of Doniphan.
In 1885, a Benedictine Monk, Father Theodore Schmitt, was sent to Doniphan from St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania. He and his successor, Father Pius Reiser, also a Benedictine, did profitable work in rejuvenating the Parish of St. Benedict.
St. Josaphat Mission Church and Beaver Dam Cemetery
The Beaver Dam Community, about 15 miles northeast of Doniphan, was settled mainly by Hungarian, Polish and German families around 1900. Until 1959, when the St. Anne Mission Chapel at Grandin was built and began serving the Catholics of the Beaver Dam area, the little St. Josaphat church was reached “over very bad roads and in the woods,” wrote Father Filipiak in the early 1950s. St. Josaphat Church was pastored by the priest from Doniphan.
The cemetery had 2 sections, unique in a Catholic cemetery, one section being for people not of the Catholic faith. Although the church was torn down in 2010, the cemetery is still in use today.
St. Gertrude Mission Church and Oxly Cemetery
In the late 1890s and early 1900s, the main Branch Line (Neelyville to Doniphan) of the Iron Mountain Railroad went right through the heart of the village of Oxly (formerly known as Varner) located east of Doniphan. Oxly was also the shipping point for lumber from the mill town of “Kingbee” some 8-10 miles north of Oxly. The railroad and the lumber community brought many Catholic families to this part of Ripley County, and soon a mission chapel, St. Gertrude, was erected. St. Gertrude church existed until the early 1950s when it merged with St. Benedict church in Doniphan. The Oxly Cemetery remains to the present day.
St. Joseph Mission Church and Pulaski Cemetery
Around 1909 a group of Polish people came to Ripley County settling near Mullin’s Switch east of Doniphan. Though not far from Doniphan, they organized themselves into a parish, held regular meetings every Sunday and pledged themselves for contributions toward the building of a church. They called their community “Pulaski”. In a letter addressed to Archbishop Glennon in 1910, they explained their situation and their desire for a priest who could speak Polish. The Archbishop sent Father Joseph Zielinski to reside at Poplar Bluff and attend the Polish people throughout the area. Soon the St. Joseph chapel was built at the community of Pulaski. The church was merged with St. Benedict church in Doniphan in the early 1950s. The Pulaski Cemetery remains to the present day.
St. Anne Mission Church at Grandin (est. 1959, Closed 2005)
(Mission Chapel only. No Cemetery)
Blessing of the structure and the first Mass was held on March 8, 1959 (the centennial year of sister parish, St. Benedict Church in Doniphan). Reverend Val Reker of St. Benedict Catholic Church designed St. Anne Mission church and was its first pastor. The church seated 100 persons and was built by Paul McCracken of Grandin. The edifice featured a Williamsville stone front. The altar was designed and refinished by Rev. Reker from a piece of furniture hand-carved around 1859, probably in Germany. The altar piece belonged to the late Sebe Street and was contributed to the church by his widow as a memorial to him. The crucifix in St. Anne was hand-carved around 1909.
The church was built through funds raised by the 75 Catholics in the area and was highly endowed by the Catholic Church Extension Society of America. The church of St. Anne was in the planning stage for more than a year but actual construction took only three months.
The building was located in a grove of pine trees on Highway 21 north of the Grandin city limits on one acre of ground donated by Mr. and Mrs. Niles Pinney. The church was in a more central location for the Catholics in the area. It replaced the Beaver Dam church, and served Catholics of Grandin, Hunter, Ellsinore, and along Ten-Mile Creek.
“Such are the workings of God that a church now stands to serve that area that Father Hogan first dreamed about 100 years ago,” wrote the author of the centennial history of St. Benedict church.
St. Anne Mission Chapel was closed in 2005.
*Regular Mass Times:
Sunday: 9:00 AM
Saturday: Vigil Mass 6:00 PM
M,Th, F ~ 9:00 AM
Sat & Sun: 30 minutes before Weekend Masses
First Fridays: 9:30am-5:00pm
Last Thursdays: 6:00-7:00 PM
Rosary & Divine Mercy Chaplet:
Saturday: 5:00 PM
Sunday: 8:00 AM
St. Benedict Catholic Church
P. O. Box 595
Doniphan, MO 63935
Pastor phone: 573-785-9635 or 573-785-0401, 573-351-1107
Parish Office Hours: vary
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