Builder of the Church
Beyond physically building churches, Father Mazzuchelli spiritually built the Church in the Upper Mississippi River Valley.
Father Samuel Mazzuchelli documented building more than 20 churches in the tri-state area. Five of those original churches are still in existence. His first endeavor was to enlarge St. Anne Church on Mackinac Island, Michigan, in 1831. He also established more than 35 parish communities. Parish communities he established without building a church include Portage, Mineral Point, Patch Grove, Dodgeville, Diamond Grove, Mill Seat, and Elk Grove, Wisconsin; Rock Island, Savanna, and Menominee, Illinois; and Rockingham and Fort Madison, Iowa.
Father Mazzuchelli erected the following churches in Wisconsin.
1831 Green Bay, St. John the Evangelist
1838 Potosi (then called Snake Diggings), St. Thomas
1839 Prairie du Chien, St. Gabriel
1841 Shullsburg, St. Matthew
1842 Near the Wisconsin state line, St. Augustine (This was later moved to Sinsinawa Mound in 1844.)
1844 New Diggings, St. Augustine
1844 Sinsinawa, St. Dominic
1847 Hazel Green, designed St. Francis de Sales
1851 Cuba City, St. Rose of the Prairie
1852 Benton, St. Patrick
Father Mazzuchelli built the following churches in Iowa.
1835 Dubuque, St. Raphael Cathedral
1838 Davenport, St. Anthony
1840 Burlington, St. Paul
1840 Garryowen, St. Patrick
1841 Iowa City, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1842 Muscatine, St. Mathias
1842 Bellevue, St. Andrew
In Illinois, Father Mazzuchelli planned the construction of St. Mary Church, Galena, in 1850. He also constructed St. Michael Church in Galena in 1835.
The following churches built by Father Mazzuchelli are still in existence today.
St. Michael, Galena, Illinois
The Catholics of Galena had many opportunities to hear Father Mazzuchelli preach. He delivered more than 280 sermons in Galena from 1835 to 1843. Preaching was only part of his service. Besides aiding Galena in building a courthouse and market house, he also built the first Catholic church begun in 1835 and completed in 1842 at the cost of $14,000, a great sum for those days. The parish extended throughout Jo Daviess County—about 24 square miles—and contained more than 2,000 Catholics. Disaster struck Galena when a fire destroyed a section of the city. St. Michael Church lay in the path of the fire and was completely destroyed. Father Mazzuchelli came to the aid of his former parish and began work on a new church. The present church is the result of his architectural genius. One unique feature is the roof at St. Michael. It is carried on a truss formation which eliminates the need of pillars.
St. Anthony, Davenport, Iowa
When Father Mazzuchelli prepared to build St. Anthony in 1837, there were only 25 Catholics among the 100 inhabitants of the city. By 1843, the figures showed a change to 300 Catholics and 1,200 total population. By removing the east wall of the church, a 35-foot addition was constructed. Successive changes have been made through the years, but the original building is still being used today, sturdy after more than a century and a half. The bell of the original St. Anthony Church, costing $102 in 1839, still hangs on the outside of the present church. Though silent now, it reminds parishioners of the zealous pastor who established their parish.
St. Gabriel, Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin
Father Mazzuchelli first visited Prairie du Chien on September 22, 1832. He wanted to build a church but decided against it since he was stationed 400 miles away in Green Bay. When he returned to the city in early 1835, he found that no priest had been there since his visit three years earlier. In 1839, the church was started and Bishop Loras laid its cornerstone on July 21. Father stated in his Memoirs that he was the architect of this stone building which measured 100 feet in length by 50 feet in breadth. Father considered it necessary to visit often not only to direct the work, but also to rouse the people to contribute the necessary material to minimize expenses. He worked in the stone quarries with the people helping to get the necessary rock. The quality of his material and workmanship is attested to by the fact that St. Gabriel still serves as a place of worship.
St. Mathias, Muscatine, Iowa
In his Memoirs, Father Mazzuchelli described St. Mathias Church as tiny, 20 x 30 feet, and built from material that floated down the Mississippi River. It was built on land purchased by Bishop Loras. A plaque on the church today reads "First Catholic Church in Muscatine erected on Cedar Street in 1842 by Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, and Mathias Loras, Bishop." It is gratifying to know that the current parishioners have restored the old church as it was originally built. Father Samuel's hopes are also realized as he stated "when these new villages shall have become transferred into populous cities, our holy religion will there have its splendid temples where the praises of God will be daily sung." Its new roof, freshly painted exterior, and lovely museum attest to present parish appreciation of the past.
St. Augustine, New Diggings, Wisconsin
The famous Menneally bell in the tower of St. Augustine can well afford to ring a tribute to its architect and builder, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli. Erected in 1844, this weather-beaten Greco-Gothic church has withstood the battering of time. Having been restored by the Father Mazzuchelli Assembly of the Knights of Columbus of Lancaster, Wisconsin, it has created interest throughout the country. Designated by the American Historic Building Survey as worthy of preservation, one has a sense of reverence upon entering it. Three rooms behind the altar provided living quarters for the priest whenever he could stay in the village. In these three rooms, Father Mazzuchelli opened a school in 1847 and brought Sisters from Sinsinawa Mound to staff it. Account book records preserved in the Archives at Sinsinawa, as well as letters and recollection of the pioneer citizens of the village, provide a fascinating chronicle of American life a century and a half ago, attesting to the self-sacrificing virtue of Father Samuel.
St. Patrick, Benton, Wisconsin
Benton was Father Mazzuchelli's home for the last 15 years of his life. The present St. Patrick Church made of stone still serves the parish. It was built in 1852 after the first church became too small for the growing congregation. However, his ingenuity showed him that the old church could be used while the new church was under construction, so he planned the new stone walls to encompass the old church. When the old church had to yield to the new, he had it carefully dismantled, moved across the street, and rebuilt it as St. Clara Academy.