1828 to 1904
As a sort of prologue to our story, we look at the years from the settlement of Bronson Village (now Kalamazoo) until the establishment of St. Joseph Mission.
The Settlement of Bronson was organized and chartered by Titus Bronson a land
speculator from the Eastern United States. The name of the settlement was later changed to Kalamazoo.
The first white Catholic settler (Dennis Talbot) came to Kalamazoo.
The Diocese of Detroit was created by Pope Gregory XVI. It took in all of
Michigan. Prior to this time, the Michigan Territory was under the jurisdiction of
Bishop Frederic Rese served as the first bishop of the Diocese of Detroit.
Michigan was admitted to the Union as the 26th State.
Fr. Cullen visited the area and said Mass in a home.
Bishop Peter LaFevre served as the 2nd Bishop of the Diocese of Detroit.
A mission was organized in Kalamazoo. Fr. Sorin, the founder of Notre Dame, was given jurisdiction over the region. Fathers of the Holy Cross served the Kalamazoo Mission on a regular basis.
An attempt was made to build a church at what is now Church and Academy Streets, but this church building was never completed. Titus Bronson designated this block for the first four denominations who would come into the area to build their church. The Catholics were one of the four groups. They started their church but the unfinished building was destroyed during a severe windstorm. By the time they had the permission from Bishop LeFevre and were ready to rebuild another group had already arrived and taken the place they once had.
Another building was begun near what is now the corner of Kalamazoo Avenue and Park Street. This was the beginning of St. Augustine Parish. The brick wall which still stands near the railroad at the west side of Park Street was the dividing line between St. Augustine’s and the railroad’s property.
The church, measuring 30x60 feet was completed and dedicated. The Fathers of the Holy Cross continued to serve the mission.
Catholics of Kalamazoo, Van Buren, and Allegan Counties were placed under the care of Fr. Anthony L. Label. He also had the care of Berrien County for about a year and was later given charge of St. Joseph and Barry Counties. At that time, there were 47 Catholic families in Kalamazoo.
Bishop LaFevre visited Kalamazoo and confirmed 76 persons from Kalamazoo and the surrounding area.
The Diocese of Detroit was led by Bishop Casper Borgess. After his retirement as Bishop of Detroit a hospital, through his generosity, was able to be opened to serve the sick poor in Kalamazoo . Today Borgess Hospital is a leading medical facility in the area.
Fr. Frank A. O’Brien was appointed pastor of St. Augustine. Under his leadership, St. Joseph Mission eventually was established. He would be the first pastor because of his role as pastor of the mother church. He invited the Sisters of St. Joseph from New York State to come to Kalamazoo in1890.
The Diocese of Detroit was led by Bishop Foley.
A meeting was held in the home of Patrick Redmond Sr. to plan a new parish. The Redmond farm was located on what is now the corner of Cork Street and Redmond Avenue. Cork Street was so named because early settlers from County Cork, Ireland, settled there.
An acre of land near the Kalamazoo Paper Mill was purchased and the construction of St. James Chapel and School took place within the year. A dedication Mass was celebrated that same year. This was the only Mass ever celebrated there due to the distance from town. Two classrooms were on the second floor.
St. James School opened in January and was staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph who lived at St. Augustine’s. Someone drove them back and forth with a horse and buggy.
St. James School closed. To this day there is a St. Mary’s Street and a St. Joseph Street off Cork Street in the general area where St. James was located. The cornerstone from St. James now serves as a plant holder in the courtyard between our present church and rectory.
In 1904 the John W. Parker homestead, at what is now 930 Lake Street, was purchased by Bishop Foley of Detroit. The original transfer was made to Rev. Frank A. O'Brien. Of the purchase price, $8,500.00, the church paid $5,000.00 and the Sisters of St. Joseph paid $3,300.00. St. Joseph Parish had its real beginning at this time.
The cornerstone for the new chapel and school, a gift of Winslow and Crooks Marble Works, was laid in the summer of 1904.