The History Of St. Stephen Church
Begins With One of The Previous Pastors
And His Writings About The Parish

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This is Father Peter J. Dempsey. He was born July 2, 1885 in Castlerea County Roscommon Ireland. He passed away on October 20th, 1936 and Member List is buried in St. Stephen Parish Cemetery. These two pictures of Father Dempsey were sent to St. Stephen in 1992 by his family.

The brief history of Richwoods, Missouri which follows, was found among some papers in the attic storage area of the rectory of St. Joachim's Church, Old Mines. It was sent by Rev. P. J. Dempsey to Rev. John Rothensteiner of St. Louis. It is not known whether this is the first or final draft of Father Dempsey's brief history of St. Stephen's Parish. But it begins a written story of St. Stephens

Member List

St. Stephen's first church was built about 1840. It was an upright log building, and is still in existence and used as a parish hall. (It is the largest hall at Richwoods.) There is no evidence of a formal corner stone laying. In all probability, the parish was erected about the time the first church was built. Richwoods had then about twenty Irish Catholic families, who were mostly engaged in the mining and smelting of lead, and a larger number of French Canadian Catholic families, and a large number of Indians. Altogether there must have been about fifty Catholic families.

Richwoods is the mother parish of Sullivan, St. Clair, Luebbering, and probably Mozelle. For some time DeSoto was a mission of Richwoods. Prior to 1840, this vast territory formed part of, and was attended by priests of Ste. Genevieve parish. Lists of pastors: Rev. L. Galtier, Rev. James Duggan, Rev. L.A. Bernier (first resident pastor), Rev. L. Rosia, Rev. J. J. Caffrey, Rev. James O'Brien, Rev. Patrick O'Brien, Rev. Edward Regan, Rev. Theodore Kussmann, Rev. R. J. Hayes, Rev. E. J. Shea, Rev. P. J. Clarke, Rev. M. Busch, Rev. J. Hennis, Rev. J. P. White, Rev. D. Sullivan, Rev. P. Gross, Rev. P. Woods, Rev. J. J. Hughes, Rev. J. J. Murphy, Rev. James A. Dockery, Rev. Jos. A. Tammany, Rev. P. J. Dempsey.

The first baptism recorded in the "Register of Baptisms" of St. Stephen's parish at Richwoods, was made by the Rev. L. Galtier, and is dated December 24, 1846.

About June 27, 1847, Father Galtier was succeeded by Rev. J. Duggan, who became the first bishop of Chicago. The then Father Duggan registered nine baptisms in the Richwoods register. The first is dated June 27, 1847 and the last October 17, 1847.

The third and the first resident pastor was Rev. L. A. Bernier. Father Bernier labored at Richwoods nearly two years. Little is known of his life except that he lived in a two room log house about six feet from the original church.

Rev. J. J. Caffrey labored at Richwoods and lived in the two roomed log cabin from August 27, 1854 and October 25, 1855. While riding a flighty horse, attending a long distance sick call, Father Caffrey was drowned trying to cross the Meramec, at a point about ten miles from Richwoods.

Martyrdom is not the only indication of Father McCaffrey's piety and zeal. He built a one room school near his church, and he himself taught the children in this school.

Moreover, we have an indication that his labors in this school were very fruitful. The only priest Richwoods parish has ever produced, the Rev. Matthew Dougherty, studied at Father McCaffrey's school. Father Caffrey's body was buried at St. Joachim's cemetery, Old Mines, Missouri.

The population of Richwoods is now about five hundred. The parish has given to the church, one priest, two brothers, and sixteen sisters.

The Rev. J. Hennis labored at Richwoods from November 1, 1879 td July 15, 1884. He built the present eight roomed frame parochial residence about the year 1881, and this work proves that he possessed unusual ability, wisdom, and taste.

During the pastorate of Rev. M. Busch, the corner stone of a new and larger frame church was laid by Father Mueller, Provincial of the Redemptorists, on September 9, 1877. On November 1, 1878, the first mass was said in this church. It was dedicated by the Very Reverend Henry Muchlsieppen, V. G. on September 25, 1879. Owing chiefly to faulty planning and construction, this church had to be torn down.

Rev. John J. Hughes was pastor of Richwoods from December 1901 and March 1907. He planned and had built under his own supervision one of the most beautiful frame churches in the diocese. This church was struck by lightning on September 27, 1916, and burned to the ground.

The present substantial and artistic frame church was built during the pastorate of the Rev. Jeremiah J. Murphy. It is a grand monument to the zeal and the sound judgment of Father Murphy. This church was dedicated May 10, 1918 by the Most Reverend J. J. Glennon.

At present, St. Stephen's parish has about eighty families, no debt, $1,000.00 invested in real estate bonds for the erection of a school, fourteen acres of land adjacent to the town, arid eighty acres of woodland which was donated by the late Patrick Kavanaugh, Ireland.

However, since the area of the parish is about 200,000 square miles, and since much of the land has a market value of only four dollars an acre, and since the roads are very bad, and the church is twenty miles from the railroad, it is hardly necessary to state that its members, with few exceptions, are materially poor, and that the knowledge of Christian Doctrine, possessed by a large minority, leaves much to be desired. Most of the people, however, are good Catholics.

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