The history of the Diocese of Superior dates back to the 17th century. Our Journey Through Faith offers a glimpse into the historic events that played a role in the growth of Catholicism in Northern Wisconsin.
Our Journey through Faith: A History of the Diocese of Superior,
December 8 - Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception
German and Polish immigrants who settled in the region founded Immaculate Conception Church in the late 1800s. For several years the Franciscan Fathers came about four times each year to administer the sacraments, celebrating them in people's homes. In 1885, residents built a small frame church, completing it in 1887. In 1907, the church was moved to a central location in the village. When completed, Bishop Augustine F. Schinner blessed the new church property. Immaculate Conception was a mission parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Fifield and served by Fr. Bernard Klein, who arrived in 1893. In 1910 the status of the parish changed from mission to parish with a resident pastor. That same year a new church was built, with dedication taking place in 1911. In 1923, Bishop Joseph G. Pinten made an agreement with the Society of the Precious Blood religious order to serve the parish. They served until 1999 and were replaced by a diocesan priest, Fr. Jim Jackson. Presently Immaculate Conception is part of the N. Park Falls, Fifield, Butternut cluster.
REFERENCE: Our Journey through Faith: A History of the Diocese of Superior,
by Sam Lucero, 2005.
The history of Immaculate Conception Parish at Butternut is closely identified with the development of the southern part of Ashland County. Around 1876 some land was offered for homesteading and many immigrants took advantage of the opportunity to become land owners, either by homesteading or buying land at a low price.
In 1870 a company of speculators formed to build a railroad through the forest to Lake Superior. This was the Wisconsin Central Railroad which went only as far as Butternut. A Franciscan priest, Casimir Vogt, was on his way from Illinois to Ashland and since the railroad went only as far as Butternut on that particular day, was forced to seek lodging overnight. Upon hearing there was a settlement of Catholic families west of Butternut he carried his Mass Kit to the settlement and offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Franciscan Fathers from Ashland attended to the spiritual needs of the settlers until 1890. They encouraged the people to begin thinking about the construction of a church and in 1885 a building committee was formed. A lot was purchased and plans drawn up to build the church. The church measured 30x50 ft. and was completed in the Spring of 1887.
Many of the immigrants from Bavaria prayed to the Mother of God and carried a painting of Mary imploring her protection on their perilous journey to America. Their native Bavaria is dedicated to the Mother of God, thus the people decided to give the title “Immaculate Conception” to their church and place it under the protection of the Mother of God.
In 1890 the priests of the Diocese were given charge of the Butternut Mission church. By the turn of the century the country around Butternut improved considerably and newly arriving immigrants found living conditions much more improved than those of the early settlers.
In order to accommodate the growing congregation a meeting was held on April 28, 1907 and it was decided to build a larger church. On May 22, 1910 Bishop Schinner came to Butternut for the laying of the cornerstone of the new church. In 1911 the construction work was completed and the church still stands today.
At first the priests lived in their own residence, which was a house across from the church that was brought in by rail. It was a Sears Roebuck home that sold for about $900. In 1916 the parish purchased the current rectory and lots for $3,950.
In 1923, Bishop Joseph G. Pinten made an agreement with the Society of the Precious Blood religious order to serve the parish. They served until 1999 and were replaced by a diocesan priest, Fr. Jim Jackson.
Presently Immaculate Conception is part of the Northwoods Park Falls, Fifield, Butternut cluster.
In addition to keeping the interior aesthetically beautiful and inspiring, many other improvements have been made. One of the most ambitious projects was a new west side entrance that included an elevator thus making it possible for all to enjoy God’s home.