Saturday, January 8, 2022

St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church Remsen, Iowa

When I walk in my ancestors’ shoes, visiting the places they have been, I feel closer to them. Since I am unable to see or talk to them, this is a way for me to see the area they lived or worked or where they attended church. This was my experience in the summer of 2020 when I took a trip to Remsen, Plymouth County, Iowa to see where my maternal grandfather, James Jacob Hammond, was baptized and where his parents Henry Hamman and Susan “Suza” Bentz Hamman were married, lived and died. Both Henry and Suza’s parents (Jacob & Catherine Hein Hamman and John & Mary Robin Bentz) had immigrated to this area from Luxembourg. Both of these families, I had learned, were Roman Catholic and attended the same church, St. Mary’s, in Remsen.

  • St. Mary’s first structure was completed in 1884. St. Mary’s was a parish of immigrants from Luxembourg, Germany and Alsace. The original structure was destroyed by a tornado 13 June 1885. A second wooden structure was completed in 1885. The third structure, a neo-Gothic design, was begun in 1902 and the cornerstone was laid on 21 April 1903. My maternal grandfather was born in 1904.

In August 2020, despite Covid, I was able to visit and walk through the church that my ancestors attended. I was in awe of this church. The beautiful blue paint on the ceiling contrasted so well with the wooden pews, altars and the off-white coloring throughout the church. As I looked at the vibrant stained glass windows I noticed all the writing on them was in German. There was so much amazing detailed work from the wooden confessional, to the stenciling on the ceiling, the Stations of the Cross to the carved altars. And what a comfortable feeling of belonging as I walked through this church.

click on images to enlarge

Unfortunately, a visit to the church office had little in the way of records. A few notes on index cards seemed to be all that was available. I had contacted the church several years ago and was told to contact a parishioner who held some of the records for the church. Unfortunately, she did not find anything pertaining to my ancestors either. Despite newspaper articles mentioning my ancestors’ connection to this church, my great great grandfather John Bentz Sr.’s, death date and location still elude me.

What a wonderful experience to walk in the footsteps of three generations of my ancestors here at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Remsen, Iowa!

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share, I look forward to hearing them.

Enjoy the journey,


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