All of the following excerpts are taken from The Port Washington Star newspaper, Published in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

October 1, 1881- Very Reverend L. Batz, Vicar General, spent Sunday in the village. His special mission was in the interest of St. Mary’s Church. The object being the building of a new edifice, which is much needed to accommodate the large and constantly increasing congregation. He met with satisfactory encouragement, and the effort too erect a new building will be pushed with vigor. Fr. Willmes, the pastor of the church, will at once begin the work of raising the funds needed by subscription, as it is the intention to erect a building, which will be an ornament to the place, and the pride of the whole county. The style of architecture will be Gothic, and in all its departments complete tasteful, capacious, the size will be 64 by 135 feet, the spire looming skyward 160 feet.

November 26, 1881 -Fr. Willmes informs us that the subscriptions toward building a new church by St. Mary’s Congregation are now of sufficient amount that the building will be erected and work begun next spring.

January 14, 1882 – The building of a new church by the Catholics in this place is a certainty. Fr. Willmes, the pastor of the congregation, informs us that the plans have been adopted and are new in the hands of competent architects for the completion of details and specifications. Work on the edifice will begin early in the spring. The new building will occupy the grounds now used, and will be a large, imposing, sightly structure, and an ornament to the town. Subscriptions to the necessary fund have been liberal. We are certain everyone who contributes will be proud of his investment when he sees the stately building completed. Every citizen of the town should help according to his ability and thereby assist in building up the place and affording himself the gratification of having done a good act.

February 11, 1882 -Next Wednesday bids for building the new Catholic Church will be opened. Stone for the foundation walls of the new Catholic Church are being delivered on the grounds.

March 4, 1882 – The Catholic church project is moving along. Recently new lots have been purchased upon which to locate the new edifice. These are situated just west of the present building, across the street, and if the new church is to be built on them it will front to the south and the head of Franklin Street, which is claimed to be a more sightly and pleasant situation than the present one. The contract for building the new church has not been led. The bids opened were found to be so much higher than was expected that all were rejected. The lowest bid was about $33,000 for the building alone. What the next move will be we have not learned. All the bids were made by Milwaukee contractors.

April 1, 1882- Architect Messmer, of Milwaukee, has completed the plans for the new Catholic Church in this city, the estimate cost being $34,000.

May 27, 1882-The buildings on the property recently purchased by the site of the new Catholic Church were torn down Wednesday to make room for the new structure.

July 1, 1882-The contract for the building of the new Catholic Church was let Thursday. The building will be built of cut stone. The amount to be paid is $27,00, which does not include materials to be used. When finished it will be as nice a church, for the size of the town, as there is in the state.

July 15, 1882- Work on the Catholic Church goes on steadily. Workmen will commence the foundation walls next Tuesday.

July 29, 1882 – Work on the new Catholic Church is progressing rapidly. Last Sunday evening the fire engine was obtained and water pumped up to the church for the mason’s use.

August 19, 1882 – The men at work on the foundation of the Catholic Church struck for higher wages.

September 9, 1882 – The cornerstone of the new Catholic Church has arrived and will be laid with appropriate ceremonies in about a month.

September 30, 1882 – Laying the Corner Stone. Tomorrow the ceremony of laying the corner stone of the new building being erected by the congregation of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, in this city, will take place. We are requested to make the following announcements relating thereto: 1. Archbishop Heiss of Milwaukee will celebrate Mass at 7:30 a.m. High Mass will be celebrated at 10 o’clock a.m. 2. The cornerstone will be laid at 2:30 o’clock., by the Archbishop, assisted by the priest of OzaukeeCounty. 3. Remarks will be made in German and English. 4. During the ceremony of laying the cornerstone a collection will be taken up by the building committee. 5. After the ceremonies, opportunities will be given for the observance of the old custom of “striking the stone’ and contributing the “mite” by those who wish to do so. The cornerstone is of Joliet Marble, neatly and properly prepared for the purpose intended. In the center is a cavity where will be placed the following: Document in Latin, Names of Contributors to the building, United States Coins, Copy of the “Columbia”, “Luxembourger Gazette”, “See Bote”, “Weekly Star”, “Advertiser”, and “Zeitung”.

October 7, 1882 – Fully one thousand people witnessed the laying of the cornerstone of St. Mary’s Church on last Sunday afternoon. Archbishop Heiss performed the ceremonies assisted by Revs B. Welbs, RandomLake; A. Leitner, Belgium; W. Franz, Holy Cross; P. Doran, Cedarburg; J. Fridl, Saukville; A. Decker, Milwaukee; H. Willmes, Port Washington. Addresses were made in English by Fr. Doran, which was particularly appropriate and eloquent and in German by Rev. Decker. The contributions amounted by $440.00.

December 2, 1882 – We are requested by Fr. Willmes to state that work on the new church is closed for the winter and will be resumed in the spring. During the interim solicitors for funds will call on the people, and it is hoped the subscriptions will be both generous and general.

February 17, 1883 – A church fair for the benefit of a new Catholic Church will take place soon. The exact date has not been determined.

March 10, 1883 – The Catholic fair will occur on the second of April.

March 24, 1883 – A part of the door and window frames for the new Catholic Church arrived last Thursday.

March 31, 1883 – The Catholic Fair. The grand opening of the fair for the benefit of the new Catholic Church in Port Washington will occur on Monday, the second of April, 1883, at 10 o’clock a.m. The fair will be held in Singing Hall and will be open from Monday until Wednesday, inclusive, from 10 o’clock a.m. every evening at 7 o’clock Professor Zimmermann’s orchestra will entertain the audience, assisted by the Singing Society and the Quartette club. All are cordially invited. Admittance free.

Workmen are busy hauling material for the new Catholic Church. Work will soon begin.

April 7, 1883 – The Catholic Fair. The Catholic fair for the benefit of the St. Mary’s Church now being built in this city was held in the Singing Hall on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The fair was a decided success, both financially and socially. Indeed, from a financial point of view, it exceeded the expectations of its most ardent supporters and the originators themselves. At the present writing we are unable to state how much money has been sent from other towns and cities. Several Milwaukee firms sent goods and other articles to the fair, and altogether there was a large collection. These goods were raffled off and a good sum of money realized from them. The event of the fair, however, was the contest for a gold-headed cane, of considerable value. The contest was between H.W. Lyman, of the Malleable and Grey Iron Works, and William Croat, a wealthy farmer residing a short distance for the city. The friends of both gentlemen were firmly resolved to win the prize, and some spirited voting was indulged in. The price of a vote was 10 cents. First one gentleman would be ahead and then the other, and it was nip and tuck between them. The foundry boys stood by their employer nobly and whenever Mr. Croat’s side would get ahead, one of the boys would take off his hat, and throwing in a half dollar, or a dollar, would pass around the hat and the way the boys would chip in was astonishing. The close of the first evening the vote stood: Lyman 801, Croat 757 the second evening the score stood: Lyman 1,517, Croat 1,479. The third evening voting was permitted up to 15 minutes of 10o’colock, when a blind ballot was taken. The score stood at the close of the open vote: Lyman 3,533; Croat 3,470. At 15 minutes of 10 o’clock Father Willmes stepped to the front and declared the open vote closed, and directed the cashiers to empty the boxes and prepare them for the bond vote. The boxes were soon emptied and Father Willmes, watch in hand, declared the voting could proceed. The excitement at this time was intense, and as one after another the people stepped up to the boxes and passed in their money the audience watched with eager interest. Mr. Lyman stood upon the stage and told the boys to “step right up and help Fr. Willmes build the church,” While Mr. Croat stood down near the boxes and directed his friends to vote, and passed out large sums of money. As these 15 minutes told the story, the money flowed into the boxes. The foundry boys had each chipped in one day’s wages, and many of them threw in a five or ten dollar bill besides. Most of our businessmen and the residents of the city were on Mr. Lyman’s side while the farmers stood by Mr. Croat. As the 15 minutes drew to a close, and the two candidates stepped upon the stage and shook hands, the audience became more demonstrative and cheer after cheer was given. As many be supposed the bulk of the audience was on Mr. Lyman’s side, and the applause was almost. Deafening when Fr. Willmes arose and said that Mr. Lyman was the first man he went to when they decided to have a cane contest and they had determined to have him as one of the contestants, and he (Mr. L.) Had told him that he was willing to do anything to build up our city and would be proud to be the means of helping build a church, which would be an ornament to the place and the pride of our citizens. At the conclusion of Fr. Willmes’ remarks Mr. Lyman spoke a few words and then Mr. Wm. H. Landolt and Mr. Charles Bisch were appointed a committee to count the money. As the counting proceeded the interest increased. When it was whispered about that the money in the Lyman box figured up $745.40, the Lyman party began to loose heart, as it was known that over $800.00 would be in the Croat box, and were therefore prepared for defeat when the latter box was counted. When the other box was counted the figures were marked down on the blackboard as follows: Croat $1,225.93 Lyman $745.40. After the cheers following the announcement had subsided Fr. Willmes stepped to the front and moved that Mr. Lyman present the cane to his opponent. Mr. Lyman took the cane and presenting it to Mr. Croat made some very appropriate remarks, and was lustily cheered by the crowd. Mr. Croat, being a German, could not make a speech, but Mr. Michael G. Ruppert stepped forward and said for him that he was thankful for the support he had received, and that he did not believe there was a more popular man in the county than Mr. Lyman, or one who could draw such an immense number of votes. Fr. Willmes, looking at the figures on the blackboard, said “I am astonished,” and he certainly had reason to be, as the sum realized from the Contest amounted to $1,971.33. Throughout the entire contest the utmost good feeling prevailed on both sides and both gentlemen shook hands over the result. At the conclusion of the contest Mr. Croat gave the band $5.00 to play a tune for Mr. Lyman, and the audience left for their homes. We learned from Father Willmes that the total receipts were $4,819.89, the expenses $219.48 leaving a handsome balance of $4,600.41.

April 14, 1883 – A magnificent Gift. Mr. H.W. Lyman, of the Western Malleable and Grey Iron Works, was last Saturday presented with an elegant gold watch chain, by Fr. Willmes, on behalf of the many Catholic friends of Mr. Lyman, in this city. The chain is of 14 carat gold and very handsome and heavy. On the charm is the monogram “H.W.L.” beautifully engraved, with the words “From his Catholic Friends,” on the stem of the L. No better testimonial of the popularity of Mr. Lyman could be wished, and being entirely unexpected was the more acceptable. It is a magnificent gift, worthily bestowed.

April 21, 1883- Workmen are busy hauling stone and other material to be used for the new Catholic Church.

May 19, 1883- The substantial walls of the Catholic Church are going up apace. The stone used is first class and so is the mason work.

June 9, 1883 – The new Catholic Church is assuming such proportions as to enable one to judge of its appearance and sightlines. The window frames on the southwest side were put in place, and the wall ran up quite a distance this week.

June 23, 1883- Thursday quite a quantity of dress Joliet stone for the new Catholic Church was received by rail and hauled to the grounds.

July 21, 1883 – The walls of the new Catholic Church begin to loom up on good proportion.

August 11, 1883 – Work on the Catholic Church is progressing rapidly, a large number o men being at work.

September 8, 1883 – The carpenter work on the new Catholic Church was begun this week.

October 13, 1883 – The walls of the new Catholic Church are nearly completed.

November 3, 1883 – The carpenters will soon have the roof of the new Catholic Church completed.

December 8, 1883 – Three masons, employed on the new Catholic Church, while engaged in placing a cope-stone on the wall of the structure, were severely shaken and one of them slightly injured by the giving way of the scaffolding on which they were standing, precipitating them to a lower scaffolding some ten feet below. If the way had been clear we would be called upon to chronicle an accident terrible in its results as every one would have been killed outright. The one injured will be confined to the house for a short time.

May 10, 1884 – Masons began work on the new Catholic Church last Wednesday.

June 14, 1884 – Work on the new Catholic Church is progressing.

July 12, 1884 – The sailing master of the yacht “H.W. Lyman” asserts that the new Catholic Church is visible, even its incomplete state, from off the North Point in Milwaukee.

The mason work in the new Catholic Church is finished.

July 19, 1884 – Carpenters will again begin work next week on the tower of the new Catholic Church. They will also finish the interior of the building.

August 2, 1884 – Carpenters commenced work on the tower of the Church.

The window guards for the Catholic Church are being made at the Milwaukee Wire Works.

August 9, 1994 – The woodwork on the tower of the new Catholic Church was completed this week.

August 30, 1884- The new Catholic Church is rapidly nearing completion, and it is expected to be in condition for holding services by October first. The spire and outside work is done. Work on the interior is being rapidly pushed forward, a large force of men constantly employed.

September 6, 1884 – The interior decorations of the new Catholic Church are arriving and being put in place.

A mason employed about the Catholic Church sustained a compound fracture of his left arm last week by the breaking of a scaffold. He fell 14 feet.

A painter engaged in the interior decorations of the new Catholic Church was severely bruised about the head and shoulders, Monday, by falling from a 16 foot scaffold upon which he was working. The timber falling upon him did most of the injury. He has been unable to work this week.

October 4, 1884 – The new Catholic Church will be dedicated next Thursday.

October 11, 1884 – Dedication of St. Mary’s Church. The dedication of the new magnificent Catholic Church in this place occurred Thursday as previously announced. At 10 o’clock a.m. the most Revered Archbishop Michael Heiss, dressed in pontificals, assisted by deacon and sub deacon, headed by the clergy in cassock and surplices, proceeded from the parsonage, the St. Francis Benevolent Society filing on either side and accompanying them to the main door of the new building. The ceremonies commenced by the chanting of a prayer by the Most Rev. Archbishop, the Fiftieth Psalm being intoned by the clergy. They moved in procession around the church, the Archbishop blessing the exterior walls. Entering the main entrance they changed the litany of All Saints, which being completed, the interior of the church was also blessed while psalms were sung.

Anxiously the faithful and numerous friends were awaiting the moment to enter, as during the blessing entrance was not granted. Permission given the spacious interior was soon filled. Impressions mad on all are, of course, beyond description for the individual, but we might venture to say in general it was that of an agreeable and grand surprises. Be it that the eye rested upon the lofty gothic arches ornamented in the most attractive colors and frescoing, or on the fields enclosed, where the pictures of the twelve apostles resting upon the clouds seem to speak to the beholder. Be it that the eye traveled the entire length of the edifice to the well proportioned sanctuary, beautifully frescoed, with an azure ceiling sparkling with golden stars, until at last rested on the new high and grand altar. This artistic work, with the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary on either side of the tabernacle, surely captured the attention of many, until the celebrant Re. Joseph Albers, of Racine, with Rev. Nich. Thill as deacon and Rev. G.L Haxmeier, of Lansing, IA., as sub-deacon, and Rev. Anthony Decker of Milwaukee, as master of ceremonies, entered from the sacristy to celebrate solemn high mass. The Most Rev. Archbishop assisted in cope and Mitre.

Msgr. L. Batz. V.G., delivered a sermon in German, and Rev. D.F. Thill briefly and appropriately addressed the audience in English. In the sanctuary were noticed of the clergy of the following: Reverends – Jos. Neu, C.S.S.R. of St. Louis; Wm. Neu, of Milwaukee; L. Conrad, Milwaukee; F.X. Etschmann, Brighton; L. Rasch, O.F.M. Cap. Of Milwaukee, J.W. Blum, New Muenster; W.Peil, Manitowoc; M.Welbs, Two Rivers; P.H. Welbes, Kewaskum; T. Meyer, St. George; A Schleier, Calument Co.; W. Frantz, Holy Cross; L.Limscher, Mequon; M. Ruchkenguber, Barton; Jos. Friedel, Saukville; Peter Stepful, Newburg; F. Rees, Fredonia; P. Schumacher, Waterford; H. Willmes, city.

The collection taken by the pastor at the morning service amounted to $332. In the afternoon the Most Rev. Archbishop administered the sacrament of confirmation to 142 persons. Before its administration Rev. P. Schumacher addressed them in German. After the ceremony the Archbishop made a few remarks, admonishing them to be faithful. The ceremonies closed with the Papal benediction. A large number of visitors were present from other cities.

October 18, 1884 – The committee having in charge the clock in the new Catholic Church tower, yesterday ordered the time keeper from the Ansonia Clock Co. of Brooklyn, N.Y. The cost is $600.00.

At St. Joseph side alter was erected in the St. Mary’s church last Thursday, which was manufactured and donated for the use of the new church by Rev. John Friedel fo Saukville. The thanks of the congregation and city are extended to Father Friedel.

December 6, 1884 – The clock for the Catholic Church is expected daily.

A new chandelier was placed in St. Mary’s Church last week.

December 27, 1884 – The tower clock for the new Catholic Church has arrived and will be placed in position as soon as the weather moderates.

January 10, 1885 – The tower clock was placed in the Catholic Church this Week.

January 17, 1885 – The new tower clock on the Catholic Church is in running order and meets the approval of everybody. It strikes every hour, and can be heard and seen a considerable distance.


More history can be found in our Pieces of the Past book which is available for purchase for $20.00. Call the Parish office for more details 262-284-4266.



[i] A Historical Journey Tracing the Building of St. Mary’s Church, Port Washington, WI.

Based on excerpts from The Port Washington Star Newspaper

Researched and compiled by Kevin Wester for the 100th Anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of St. Mary’s Church, Port Washington, WI August, 1982; Revised – October, 1994

St. Mary’s