Saint Patrick's Church at Little Creek - History





Ancestral Brigade

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John Beloger and Tom Gray after Mass on the south side of Little Creek Church.

History of Saint Patrick's at Little Creek - Liberty Parish

 During the 1850s and 60's, the Irish Catholics of Hinkletown and the Little Creek area of northern Liberty township, Keokuk County, worshipped at the frame Catholic church in Holbrook, Iowa.  In those days, this was the only Catholic church between North English and Iowa City.  In 1867, a much larger sanctuary was constructed on the site of the old frame church and was named Saint Michael's.  This substantial building was said to have been constructed with many bricks from the Hinkletown brick factory, operated by William J. Watkins, the organizer of Liberty township.  Worshippers traveled the 12 miles from Hinkletown, by foot and horseback, across fields and in bad weather, for Sunday Mass.  During the early 1870's, the hardship and inconvenience of this trek caused residents of the Hinkletown area to agitate for their own parish.

Land for the church, seven acres, was donated by Patrick McCann, and was deeded to Rev. Joseph F. Nugent on December 28, 1874.   A site was selected on a scenic hilltop, and the cemetery was laid out to the south on flatter ground.  Work immediately began, with Wesley Green, carpenter, as the contractor.  One of the men who worked on the job was Eric Erickson.  With the help of many parishioners, the church was completed and dedicated with much fanfare on July 4, 1875.   People came from miles by buggy, horseback and by foot to see the dedication of this fine new church.   In the beginning, Saint Patrick's at Little Creek did not have a parish priest.  The first mass was held by Father King, who came from Armah or What Cheer.  The first person baptized in the new Little Creek Church was Charles Monaghan.  Thomas and Anna (Fahey) McCann were the first couple married at Saint Patrick's.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians constructed a hall at the north side of the church at the base of the hill.  The building was later moved to the churchyard as a summer kitchen to accommodate the cooking for the large picnics held at Little Creek.  A rectory was built on the north side of the church in 1900, and Father Thomas Sheehy was the first resident priest.   At one time a barn stood south of the church, where the priest kept his team and buggy.  


Beginning in the early years, special events were held at the Little Creek Church at Liberty township.  The annual picnic drew large crowds and attendees from as far away as Riverside, Hills, Sigourney and Richmond.  When Saint Patrick's was the only parish for the Liberty area, the Ancient Order of Hibernians were thriving and took part in the extravaganza.  From the 1920's, the picnic was held by the three parishes of Kinross, Liberty and Wellman.  

For days prior to the event, the men of the parish borrowed lumber from the lumber yard and built tables, benches, a speaker's platform, bandstand and concession stands.  Tables were covered with ironed white tablecloths and cloth napkins, and decorated with fresh flowers.  Often, a bishop and other distinguished guests were brought in to speak.  Candidates for congress practiced their oratory talents.  Bands played, a large dinner was held, and dances were held to live orchestra music in the evenings.  Guests often stayed over at the Corridan house.  There were also ice cream socials held in the church yard, but the annual Liberty picnic was the highlight of the year.

1887 Plat of Hinkletown area - Liberty Township

Some of the early pioneer family names of those attending Mass at Saint Patrick's at Little Creek included: Corridan, O'Rourke, Barrett, Fahey, Hanley, McGurk, McKenna, Bigley, McMahon, Fischer, Kelly, Dunn, Gray, Stapleton, Reilley, LaVelle, Hudson, Walsh, McCann, Florang, Monaghan and Feldavert.  Today, many of the descendants of these original families, living throughout the United States, have organized the Ancestral Little Creek Brigade


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