On August 19, 1869, the first Catholic Mass to be celebrated in Butler County was at the home of the John Mannion family. The priest to offer that Mass was a Jesuit missionary, Father Paul Ponziglione. Ten years later, through the perseverance of Father J.C. Schurz, who traveled this territory, the first church building was dedicated in February of 1879. It was called Saint Henry after the patron saint of the carpenter who designed and built it, Mr. Henry Loftus.
Following the departure of Father Schurz, other priests were assigned to see to the spiritual and sacramental needs of the people: Fathers Butler, Kelly, Loevenich, Schumant, Finn, Pottgiese, O’Brien, Lenehan, Maloney, and Nagle. The first resident pastor, Father James Kealy, came in 1903. At the same time, Father Kealy served parishes in El Dorado and Wellington.
Under the pastoral care and direction of Father James Hayes, a new church was constructed in 1906. Thanks to thegenerous stewardship of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, the new building was dedicated, debt-free, to the patronage of Saint James.
In 1923, the site of the former church was used to construct a parish school. When the school opened it was staffed by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. In July 1924, the parish complex was almost completely destroyed by a tornado that ravaged Augusta. Only the school building survived the storm and it was used for Holy Mass and school until a new church could be built.
In 1927, the school was closed and the building served as a place of worship until a new church was dedicated in 1951. The school later re-opened with the Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ assuming the teaching duties. The school was closed again and reopened in 1984.
Priests serving the parish in recent decades have been Fathers James Colgan, Thomas Reilly, Robert Kocour, James Eatough, David Cushing, Thomas Stroot, James Billinger, James Mainzer, and Samuel Pinkerton.
While the 1951 church served the parish well for fifty years, the parish grew. In recent years the need for a new parish complex was seen by pastor and parishioners alike. In 1997, a 19.6 acre tract of land in the northeast part of the city of Augusta was purchased. On it stands the new Saint James Parish Complex.
Our new parish school was dedicated while the new church was still under construction in May, 2003. The parish school currently has an enrollment of 127 and is staffed by lay people under the leadership of Richard Guy, principal.
St. James Today
On November 29, 2003, the new church and Saint Gertrude Chapel of Perpetual Adoration were dedicated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead.
Father Michael J. Schemm has served as pastor of Saint James since July, 2007. Father Lisle Pottorff, a retired priest of the Diocese of Dodge City, also serves the people of Saint James. The parish is comprised of over 500 families from throughout Butler County.
Look What Was Found in the Dirt Around the
Property of the Former St. James…