Thursday, April 14, 2022


In a previous post, Joel Johnson, Finding the Facts, I learned about a land sale that occurred 187 years ago today where my maternal 5th great grandfather Asahel Johnson (67 years old) sold some of his property to his youngest son Joel Johnson (36 years old), my 4th great grandfather.  Here is the documentation of this transaction:

(click on image to enlarge)


This indenture Made the fourteenth Day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty five between Asahel Johnson of the township of Orwell in the County of Bradford Pa and Buleh his wife of the first part, and Joel Johnson of the township: county and state aforesaid of the second part, witnesseth that the said party of the first part, for and in consideration of the sum of one hundred Dollars Lawful Money of the United States to him in hand paid by the party of the second part, his heirs executors and administrators by the present have granted bargain, sell, alien, enfeoff[invest with a fee], release and confirm, unto the said party of the second part and to his heirs and assigns all that certain message Lot, piece or parcel of land lying and being in the township of Orwell aforesaid and bounded as follows, viz-

Beginning on the line of lands owned by the heirs of the late Samuel Wells, thence north forty six degrees East two chains and twenty links[145.1'] to a large Beech post and stones for a corner-thence north north forty one degrees west forty seven chains and four links[3,104.64'] to Birch tree for a corner-thence South twenty-eight degrees west eight chains and eleven links[535.26'] to Beech saplin for a corner-thence south forty eight degrees East forty four chains and fifty links[2937'] to the place of beginning containing Twenty one acres fifty-seven perches[940.5'] and four tenths of a perch[6.6']

and allow and ? being a piece or parcel of land conveyed to the said Asahel Johnson by William Pointett and Marianna F. his wife by deed bearing date the Sixteenth day of August AD 1815 and recorded in Bradford County in Deed Book No. 2 page 200.  Together with all the singular the rights, privileges, hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever thereunto belonging or in any wise appertaining, and the servitudes[part of easement] and remainders[future interest in the land], rents issues and profits thereof: And also all the estate, right, title, interest, claim and demand whatsoever of the said party of the first part in law or equity of, in, to or out of the same.  To have and to hold the said hereditaments and premises hereby granted or mentioned or intended so to be, with the appurtenances unto the said party of the second part his heirs and assigns forever, and the said Asahel Johnson for himself, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns all and singular the hereditaments hereby granted unto the said Joel Johnson his heirs and assigns against the said Asahel and his heirs and against all and every person and persons whomsoever lawfully claiming or to claim the same shall and will warrant and forever defend by these presents In witness whereof the said parties of the first part have hereunto set their hands and seals Dated the day and year first above written

                                                                                                                           Asahel Johnson (seal)

                                                                                                             Beulah (X her mark) Johnson (seal)

Sealed and Delivered in presence of 

Chauncey Frisbie

Byron Flitcher

              Bradford County On the 14th day of April A.D. 1835 before me the subscriber one of the Justices of the peace in and for the said county the within named Asahel Johnson and Beulah his wife and separately acknowledged the within Indentured to be their respective act and deed and desired the same might be recorded as such The said Beulah being of full age and by me separate and apart form her said husband examined and the content made known to her declared she executed the same of her own free will and accord without any compunction[misgivings] or control of her said said husband Witness my hand and seal the day and year appointed 

                                                                                                             Chauncey Frisbie

              Recorded May 14, 1835 

Some thoughts:
  • There is always a challenge reading old land deeds and trying to understand them.  First, I needed to understand the measurements used in a Metes and Bounds survey system.  If you look carefully at the photo on the top of the page (above the word "deed") there is a picture of Gunter's Chain which was an English system of measurement introduced in 1620.  A "chain" is equal to 66 feet.  A "link" is 7.92 inches.  A "perch" is 16.5 feet. If the math is done correctly, I added the distance in feet for additional understanding above within the description of the land.
  • This piece of property was about 21 acres in size.
  • Beulah was unable to write her name and used a mark.
  • After some additional genealogy, I was able to determine that the recorder of the land deed and a witness to the signing, Chauncey Frisbie's father and Joel's father Asahel were two of the early settlers in this area.  An interesting connection between the families.
  • Care was taken by Chauncey to determine that Beulah was in agreement with the sale of the property and was not coerced by her husband to sell the property.
  • I always chuckle at the markers for the property description: the line of lands owned by the heirs of the late Samuel Wells, to a large Beech post and stones, Birch tree, Beech saplin.  I doubt the markers could be found today.
  • Asahel would live another 22 years after the sale of this property.

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

Enjoy the journey,


Monday, March 14, 2022

The Will of Joel Johnson

Joel Johnson, my maternal 4th great grandfather, passed away at the age of 81 on 6 November 1880 in Orwell, Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  His Will (located at the Bradford County Historical Society) was dated the 6th of October 1880, a month before he passed away.

(click on images to enlarge)


I, Joel Johnson, of the Township of Orwell in the County of Bradford and State of Pennsylvania being weak in body but of sound mind memory and understanding do make and publish this my last will and testament hereby revoking and making void all former wills by me at any time heretofore made As to such Estate as it hath pleased God to intrust me:  I dispose of the same as follows, First I direct, that all my debts charges and funeral expenses and charges of proving this my will be fully paid and satisfied out of my personal estate.

Item.  I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Saphronia Johnson all my household goods and furniture of every description to be hers absolute and forever: and also all the benefit use income and profits of the balance of my personal property and all of my real estate wherever situate except as here in after directed:

I order and direct and it is my will that Charlotte Maynard my daughter shall live and occupy that portion of part of the house that she now lives in and enjoys with the same privilege she now enjoys during the life time of my wife if she so desires.

Item.  I give to my son Frank E. Johnson all the interest which had accrued on a certain Judgement which I now hold against him in the Court of Common Please of Bradford County No 554 September Term 1876 Debt $2900.00 and written for interest from April 1st 1876 and I order and direct and it is my will that no further interest shall ever accrue or be paid on said Judgement by my son F. E. Johnson but all payments made upon such Judgement shall be taken and received and applied towards the satisfaction and payment of the said Judgement.  And I further order and direct and it is my will that my son F. E. Johnson shall pay yearly to my beloved wife the Sum of Two Hundred dollars during her life time for her maintenance and support, the some to be applied on said Judgement:  

And further it is my sincere wish and desire that my grandson J. J. Johnson shall remain with and make it his home with my beloved wife.  Whatever property I may have at the death of my wife, if any, after payment of debts-charges abatements & as above directed I give an bequeath to my children living and to the heirs of those that are dead to be divided equally between them Share and Share alike.

Lastly.  I nominate and constitute and appoint my son George N. Johnson Executor of this my last will and testament.  In witness whereof I the said testator Joel Johnson have to this my last will and testament set my hand and seal this the 6th day of October AD 1880.

                                                                                                             Joel Johnson    (seal)

Signed sealed published and declared by the said testator Joel Johnson as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us who in his presence and at his request have subscribed our names thereto 6th October AD 1880.

                                                                                                             G. W. Brinks

                                                                                                             Henry Gibbs

Filed January 26th 1881.  Probate made February 1st 1881.

Will from the Files of the Bradford County Historical Society No.   #412 pages 385-386

Some thoughts about Joel's Will:

  • Joel left his wife Sophronia with goods and income, etc.
  • Daughter Charlotte and family, who were living with her parents at the time of the 1870 census, but not in the 1880 census, is able to live in the family house as long as her mother Sophronia is living.
  • What was the "Judgement" against son Frank that Joel held?  Joel stopped the interest for Frank to pay but wanted him to pay $200 a year to his mother for her support. I guess, as payment for Joel holding the Judgement and in place of the Interest.
  • Grandson J. J. Johnson is, I believe, son Ashel's son, Jerome Joel Johnson.  J.J.'s father had died in 1862.  JJ ( age 21) was living with Joel and Sophronia according to the 1880 census done in June of the year Joel died.
  • At the time of Joel's death his sons Asahel, Jehiel, George W. and Avery had predeceased him.  Daughter Harriett had died 1 month before Joel.  
  • Of his ten children the following five children were still living at the time of Joel's death: Amanda Johnson Browning (my 3rd great grandmother), Emeline Johnson Russell, George N., Frank and Charlotte.
I always find it interesting, the deposition of property and goods, in helping to piece together the lives of my ancestors, what was important to them as their bodies were failing.

(See previous posts Joel Johnson Finding the Facts,  Tombstone Tuesday-Joel and Sophronia Johnson and Joel Johnson, Biographical Sketch to learn more about the life of Joel Johnson.)

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

Enjoy the journey,


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Joel Johnson, Biographical Sketch

In the previous post Joel Johnson, Finding the Facts I was able to learn about the facts of my maternal 4th great grandfather Joel Johnson.  These bits of facts contained in census records, church records, legal documents or in the newspaper help me recreate his life story.  

Unfortunately, I can't call him up or go visit him and ask him all the questions I would love to in order to learn more about the person that he was: What made you happy in life? What frustrated you the most? What was it like clearing the land for your farm?  What did you like/hate about growing up in the wilderness?  What made you laugh?  

Sometimes, we get very lucky and we find a great obituary or a biographical sketch that tells us about our ancestor.  I was very fortunate that I was able to find the following information about Joel in the book History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania: with biographical selections by H. C. Brasby on page 924 and published in 1891:

(click on image to enlarge)

How interesting that this sketch talks about him lumbering, building a sawmill and even driving a stagecoach and in all the census records he is only listed as a farmer.  I wonder, did he do the lumbering in the Fall and Winter when he wasn't farming?  Did it supplement the family income as he developed his farm?

I am very proud to hear of his "sterling integrity" and his being known for his hospitality, something I would never learn from the 'facts' I found.  He was accustomed to toil and hardships.  I would believe that since he survived and prospered in a wilderness area.  But it was important for the storyteller to comment on this about Joel.  

Along with the facts I had already learned about Joel's life this biographical sketch tells me more of the character of my ancestor.  I am so grateful to learn more, beyond the facts, about my ancestors.

Remember to look for histories of the areas where your early American ancestors lived for information.  Brasby was attempting to present "an immense array of facts concerning nearly every prominent family in the county, both the living and their departed ancestors."  While there is no mention of who or how he gathered the biographical information I am VERY grateful for his history of Bradford County and the biographical selections he provided.

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

Enjoy the journey,


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Joel Johnson, Finding the Facts

What can I learn about my maternal 4th great-grandfather Joel Johnson? 

Joel was the 6th child of 12 born to Asahel and Beula (Hitchcock) Johnson. He was born 18 May 1799 in Orwell, Pennsylvania. Joel’s parents were born and raised in Connecticut before moving to Orwell just two years before he was born. Joel’s birth in the wilderness 

was reported to be that of the first male child born in Orwell, formerly known as Minden. 

In the 1800 US Federal Census Joel’s father Asahel and family are residing in Ulster, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. There were 7 children in the home. In the 1810 US Federal Census Joel’s father Asahel and family are residing in Wysox, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. There were 10 children in the home. 
  • This area would become known as the county of Bradford when organized in 1812. 
A 21 year old Joel married 16 year old Sophronia Benham 1 June 1820 in Orwell, Pennsylvania. The couple would have 10 Children: Asahel (b 1821), Amanda (my 3x great-grandmother b. 1822), Jehial (b. 1825), George W. (b. 1827 died 1836 at the age of 9), Harriett (b. 1829) , Emeline (b.1832), Avery (b 1834 died at the age of 3), George N. (born 1838-2 years after brother George W.’s death), Frank E. (b 1841), and Charlotte S. (b. 1843). 

In the 1820 US Federal Census on 7 Aug I am unable to locate Joel. Joel’s father Asahel is not listed in the 1820 census either. I believe Joel and Sophronia were living with a family member which would be difficult to determine on this census since there are only tic marks following the name of the head of the household. 

In the 1830 US Federal Census in Orwell, Bradford County, PA Joel Johnson is listed with the following:  2 males under 5 [Jehial & George W.], 1 male 5-9 [Asahel], 1 male 30-39 [Joel], 1 female under 5 [Harriett], 1 female 5-9 [Amanda], and 1 female 20-29 [Sophronia]. The dwelling listed before Joel is his father Asahel Johnson. The dwelling after Joel is his brother Artemus. 

On 14 April 1835 Joel purchased land from his father Asahel in Orwell. 

On 4 April 1838 Joel purchased land in Pike and Orwell townships. Joel was listed as being from Orwell. 

In the 1840 US Federal Census in Orwell, Bradford County, PA Joel is listed with the following: 1 male under 5 [George], 1 male 10-14 [Jerrell], 1 male 15-19 [farm worker?], 1 male 40-49 [Joel], 1 female 5-9 [Emeline], 1 female 10-14 [Harriett], 1 female 15-19 [help in house?], 1 female 30-39 [Sophronia], 2 persons were noted as employed in Agriculture. Perhaps the male listed as 15-19 years of age was a farm worker? Three dwellings before Joel is his father Asahel Johnson. 

In the 1850 US Federal Census on 20 September in Orwell, Bradford County, PA Joel was 51 years old and listed as born in PA with his occupation being that of a Farmer. His wife Sophronia and children Jehiel, Harriet, Emeline, George, Franklin, Charlotte are also living in the household. A Benjamin Doty age 20 born in NY is also living with them. Could he perhaps be a farm laborer? Living next door to Joel and Sophronia is their daughter Amanda and her family. Living 2 dwellings in the other direction are Joel’s parents Asahel & Beulah Johnson with Joel’s brother Nelson on the other side of his parents. 

December 1855 Joel served on a jury in Orwell. On 7 Aug 1856 the Bradford Reporter newspaper in an article titled Republican Associations states that the citizens of Orwell organized a Republican Association at the school house and Joel Johnson is listed as the President. “At the meeting held July 26, a declaration, platform and constitution, were adopted, and the association is now ready for active exertion in the cause of Freedom.” I wonder if this group had to do with the political feelings leading up to the Civil War?

In the 1860 US Federal Census on 26 July in Orwell, Bradford County, PA Joel is listed as 61 years old and his occupation is a Farmer. His Real Estate Value was $4,000 and his Personal Estate Value was $1,748. His wife Sophronia and children Harriet, George, Frank, and Charlotte are all listed in the home. Mary Johnson 45 is also living with them (perhaps Mary is Joel’s sister?). 

In August 1861 there is Property Sale listing in the newspaper that mentions Joel’s property as a boundary. 

On the 1870 US Federal Census on 21 June in Orwell, Bradford County, PA Joel is listed as 65 years old and having been born in PA. Joel’s occupation is listed again as a Farmer. Joel and his wife Sophronia are living with their daughter Charlotte S., her husband Lycurges L. Mainord and their 5 year old daughter Mertie. 

On the 1880 US Federal Census on 24 June in Orwell, Bradford County, PA Joel is listed as being 81years old, born in PA, with his father & mother being born in CT. Joel’s occupation is again listed as Farmer. Living in the house with him are his wife Sophronia, daughter Harriett (Dress Maker), nephew Jerome Johnson [Joel’s son Asahel’s son], and niece Mary Russell [Joel’s daughter Emeline’s daughter]. Perhaps Harriett gave the information to the census taker and she listed Mary and Jerome as ‘her’ niece and nephew. They are Joel and Sophronia’s grandchildren. 

Joel died at age 81 on 6 November 1880 in Orwell and is buried in Orwell Hill Cemetery. Joel’s wife Sophronia would live another 13 years after her husband’s death and be buried next to her husband. (See post Tombstone Tuesday-Sophronia and Joel Johnson.)

I was surprised how much information I was able to find on Joel from the 1800s.  I find it interesting how different family members lived with Joel and Sophronia over the years.  Why in 1870 are Joel and Sophronia listed as living with their daughter but in 1880 Joel is again listed as head of household?  Was the information in 1870 given incorrectly as the son-in-law being the head of household?  

I've learned a lot about where he lived, what he did but, unfortunately, it doesn't tell me a lot about the person he was,  what he believed in and what he thought about life.  Wouldn't it be great to just have an hour or so to talk to our ancestors?

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

Enjoy the journey,


Monday, January 24, 2022

The Luxembourger Statue

"Mary Mother of Jesus.  Consoler of the Afflicted." 
statue St. Mary's, Remsen, Iowa.

My adventure at St. Mary’s (A Church, Bells, a Statue and an Amazing Adventure)  church was not quite over.  There was definitely more to this adventure and more to learn.

Later, that day I went back and reread Father Petty’s sermon and realized the ‘Luxembourger window’ was in the Basilica St. Francis Xavier, in Dyersville, Iowa (oops) and that the ‘Luxembourger statue’ was what was at St. Mary’s in Remsen, Iowa.  Oh, dear, I should have done a better job preparing for this. 

The ‘Luxembourger statue’ is of Our Lady of Consolation, the Patroness of Luxembourg.  From Father Petty’s sermon I learned, “ The original [statue] is a 16th Century dressed statue of Mary and the Child Jesus, kept in the Cathedral of Luxembourg.  There are statues of this Madonna in St. Donatus, Sacred Heart in Dubuque, and at St. Mary’s in Remsen: three Iowa parishes where many Luxembourgers settled.  Here is Dyersville we have a stained glass window of the statue attesting to the presence of a group of Luxembourgers here in the parish when this church was built.  The Latin: Maria Mater Jesu; Consolatrix Afflictorum “Mary Mother of Jesus.  Consoler of the Afflicted.”  

Searching through my pictures of the Basilica from 2020 showed no pictures of the individual windows.  I had planned on going east to Dyersville anyway to visit the Dyersville Historical Society, so, I guess a return trip to the Basilica was now also on the agenda.

The next day I went back to the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville and found the ‘Luxembourger window’ :

There it was, on the right side of the window..."Mary Mother of Jesus.  Consoler of the Afflicted."

On the left side of the Luxembourger window is the depiction of  the female saint Kunegunda.  On the bottom of the window in German are:

Stating that the window was donated by the Luxembourg members of the parish who had immigrated from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Later that day after visiting the Dyersville Historical Society I learned that one of the first settlements of Luxembourg immigrants in the area was at a town called St. Donatus and that there’s still an old church there by the same name.  As I headed south to my stop for the night I decided to try and find the church. Luckily, I found St. Donatus and it was open. 

 No one was around but this is what I found inside:

Mary, Consoler of the Afflicted

I fully believe it was the ‘Luxembourger statue’ I was meant to find and learn about.  Now I can see the pattern and the importance of the ‘Luxembourger statue’ in the lives of the early settlers and their strong connection to their homeland.  Perhaps, one day, I will make it back to Luxembourg and I can see the statue in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City.  At the end of the 18th century Lady Comforter of the Afflicted was adopted as the patron saint of Luxembourg City and the country Luxembourg.  

What an amazing find in learning more about my ancestors!  Remember, the research is about more than just the vital records.  Always be open to those amazing, spur of the moment, adventures.

Moral of the story-I should do a better job next time of reviewing my information.  Hmm… but would I have had such an amazing adventure in the steeple of St. Mary’s and learning about the ‘Luxembourger statue’ if I’d done that?? 

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

Enjoy the journey,


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

A Church, Bells, a Statue and an Amazing Adventure

 Sometimes when you make a mistake it can lead to a great adventure.  Such was the case when I returned to Remsen, Iowa in 2021.

In 2020 I traveled and visited St. Mary’s church in Remsen, Iowa and the Basilica of St.Francis Xavier in Dyersville, Iowa. (See previous posts).  I knew that my maternal great grandparents John & Marie Bentz and Jacob & Katie Hamman had immigrated from Luxembourg, settled first in eastern Iowa and then made their way to Remsen, Plymouth County in western Iowa.  I was so grateful that I was able to visit the churches they were involved with.

Due to Covid many research facilities were closed to the public.  I was not able to visit the DyersvilleHistorical Society while I was there but I did leave a message on the phone. Later we talked and a researcher from the Society sent me a copy of a sermon one of the priests had written that talked about the Luxembourg connection that she thought I’d enjoy reading.  From Father Petty’s sermon I learned a little more about St. Mary’s, the Basilica and the Luxembourg stained glass window.  How interesting.  I looked back through my 2020 pictures of St. Mary’s and did not find one.  Bummer!  Guess this means I MUST go back.  It sure would be interesting to know which window it was and have a picture of it to better understand the connection of the people of the parish to their motherland of Luxembourg.

When I made it this spring to LeMars, Iowa I called the church office to ask if the church would be open on Saturday when I would be in town.  Well, there was going to be a wedding that day …so, no, I couldn’t go in…but I’m only there for a few days and drove from California, etc. etc…but after some checking they said if I was there at 9 am on Saturday I would be able to go in.  (If they’d said 6 am you can believe I would have been there!)  I asked specifically about the Luxembourg window and was told there was information in the back of the church that talked about the windows.

click on images to enlarge

I was there at the appointed time and parked out in front of the church.  The information in the rear of the church had to do only with donations to restore the windows, so, I walked around the church and began taking pictures of all the stained glass windows.  I caught the attention of a gentleman walking through the rear of the church and asked if he was a member of the Parish, and asked "Gee, do you know which of the stained glass windows is the Luxembourg window?"  He hesitantly replied, “well no” and explained that he and another gentlemen where just there to service the bells and quickly asked if I wanted I could go up and see the bells?  I gladly accepted.  This may not have anything to do directly with my ancestors but shouldn’t we always be open to new experiences?  And what an exciting adventure it was!

Up we went.  First we climbed on several levels of regular stairs and then up straight wooden ladders and through trap doors.  I was able to see where the original ropes had gone through the levels of flooring to ring the bells that are all now automated.  Wow, we made it up to the bells. 

1884 stamped on the bells

While the church may have been rebuilt I am guessing these were the original bells that hung in the church when my ancestors, three generations of them, attended this church.  What an amazing piece of history this was!  The men did their servicing of the bells and I was ready to descend when they said, “ But don’t you want to go up a few more levels to the highest point and look out the clock faces?”  Well, sure, I’ve come this far why not go up and look out?  Wouldn’t you?

Looking out the four windows-

I know Jacob owned land out in one direction.  Last year I had gone and found his farm land.  Now I was looking out from the clock and seeing it from a different vantage point.  I knew where the wives (Katie and Mary) had lived, the next block over from the church, and looked in that direction also.  What amazing views!  What an amazing vantage point to see the area where my great great grandparents and great grandparents and my grandfather had lived!  Looking down at my camper showed how high I was.

Now it was time to descend.  Down the narrow stairway, 

down the horizontal ladder missing the rung, past a beautiful window,

down, down.  That process seemed a little slower but we all made it safely. How many people can say they have been up in the church tower and seen the bells that were there when their ancestors were there well over 100 years ago?  Pretty amazing and an adventure that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been there at that particular time and hadn’t reached out to ask for help.  I am so grateful for this opportunity!  Always be open to those new experiences, things that perhaps were not on your agenda but are just as wonderful to discover.

One of the men had called the Deacon of the church while we were climbing and asked him about the Luxembourg window for me.  Turns out there wasn’t a window at St. Mary’s but something else that came from Luxembourg- the ‘Luxembourg statue’:

Not what I was looking for but so very beautiful!  At least I found something that connected the immigrants from Luxembourg to their homeland.  What is this statue all about and why was I so wrong about the window being there?

Later, I went back and reread Father Petty’s sermon and realized ...

(to be continued)

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

Enjoy the journey,


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Basilica of St. Francis Xavier and Dyersville, Iowa

Almost 30 years ago, while trying to trace the immigration path of my maternal ‘Hamman/Hammond' ancestors from Luxembourg to Remsen, Iowa I learned that my maternal great grandfather, Henry Hamman, was probably born in Dyersville, Iowa. A snail mail request was sent to the Roman Catholic Church in the area, St. Francis Xavier, to determine if this was perhaps where Henry was baptized. In 1994 I received the following:

The parents and location were a match. Yes, I can confirm Henri’s date and location of birth and his baptism at St. Francis Xavier. Hmm…who are the sponsors Henri Heien and Elizabeth Faber?

In 2020 when I was taking my Genealogy Road Trip I wanted to stop and see the area where Henry and his parents lived and try to visit the church where he was baptized. So many places were closed to the public due to Covid such as the Dyersville Area Historical Society, I wondered if the church would be open?

Happily, the church was open when I stopped in Dyersville and I had the privilege of walking through this amazing structure with it's beautiful stained glass windows (in German), intricate carvings, and gorgeous murals.

click on photos to enlarge

Here is what I learned about St. Francis Xavier:

  • The first church was completed in 1862. The size of the church was doubled in 1869. By 1880 the structure was no longer adequate for the population in the area. This second building was later used as a church school before being torn down. In 1870 the new church structure was started and the cornerstone was laid June 3, 1888. Henri was born in 1873.
  • The church was named in honor of the missionary Saint Francis Xavier.
  • St. Francis Xavier became a Minor Basilica on May 11, 1956. It was the twelfth church in the United States to have this honor.
  • Gothic Revival style architecture
  • Seats 1200 people
  • Has 64 large cathedral glass windows
  • The wood carved crucifix above the altar was created in 1873 for the original church.
  • One of the roles of a Basilica is to serve as the Pope’s church when he visits the area.
  • In 1999 the church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Dyersville Area Historical Society linked to this interesting video about the history of the Basilica

Side note: Some of you may also recognize the name Dyersville, Iowa as the location where the movie Field of Dreams was filmed. Yes, along with my research I took a little side trip there as well:

While the Basilica is not the building Henri was actually baptized in, I now have a much better feeling for the religious community he and his family were part of. Driving through the town and countryside gave me a sense of the area where Jacob, Catherine and their family lived before moving west to Remsen, Iowa. Now, I understand a little more of the story of their lives.

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

Enjoy the journey,