Join Us in Writing Our History

The history contained on these pages is a work in progress. Our parish history has been posted on the web in order to have as many people as possible working on it. If you have information or photos about any of the topics below (or if you have suggestions for other topics), please use the comment feature. We have just started this project and we hope to be finished before our Parish Centennial in the fall of 2014.

Establishment of the Diocese of Superior

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On May 3, 1905 Pope St. Pius X formed the Diocese of Superior from the northwest section of the La Crosse Diocese (the 16 northwest counties of Wisconsin). Its first Bishop was Augustine Francis Schinner. “The announcement that the bishop will reside in Superior and that the diocese will be known as the Superior diocese will be quite satisfactory to north Wisconsin Catholics,” the Superior Telegram reported April 19, 1905. “Catholics in this section of the country will be nearer to the head of the see (city) and a number of advantages will accrue to the north Wisconsin Catholic population as a result.”

Bishop Schinner left Superior on Jan. 15, 1913 when he was appointed the first Bishop of Spokane, WA. On April 6, of that same year Pope Pius X appointed the auxiliary bishop of Cleveland, Joseph Maria Koudelka, Bishop of the Diocese of Superior. He would remain as Bishop of the Diocese of Superior until his death on June 24, 1921.

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Growth of Superior’s “Eastern Suburb”

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From Mosquito Village to the Best Homes

At the turn of the 20th century, despite years of growth in Superior, the eastern edge of the city beyond the Nemadji River remained undeveloped. Allouez was known as “mosquito village,” home to transients. Although at times hard to squash infestations of the blood sucking pests would surface from the standing water of “the swamp” near the river and bay, this did not stop “squatters” from putting up a stake, and calling Allouez home.

Things started to changed in 1905, a year in which the Superior Telegram reported that more houses were being built in Allouez than in any other section of the city.

In 1905 the population of Allouez was 1,131 , (with another 428 people living in Itasca). A year later the population had rose to almost 2,000. Most of that increase was due to men employed at the Great Northern ore docks, the largest in the world, which at the time employed 500 men.

With all the construction, the city began to take notice although it would be almost a decade before Allouez would receive needed improvements to its infrastructure .
Improvements, however, occurred on other fronts. For example, those calling Allouez home who for years had been either transients or “squatters” were ordered to vacate the land, or put forth the required money to build new homes. Lots near Itasca street and Fourth Street which sold for about $50 each, a year earlier, were now being sold for around $200, with choicer lots selling about $250 or more.

Not withstanding though, the Belgians did have a propensity and affection for building their own homes. “Every Belgian is born with a brick in the stomach”, was a popular slogan among Belgians who would rather build their own homes than buy an existing property. 

With new homes being constructed, the town was receiving a fair amount of press coverage in the Superior Telegram, with one article on November 10, 1907 with the headline “Allouez= A Suburb of Homelike Homes.”

The article reads as though it were written by W.R. Hallam, Tenth Ward Alderman, himself, who lived in Allouez. The caption under his photo refers to the city council member “as one of the best citizens in the suburb.” Other prominent Allouez residents whose photos were included were, James. C. Morrel, superintendent of the Allouez ore docks; Fred Hertlein, called the “Genial Mayor of Allouez,” a street foreman who invented a grading machine ; and James G. King, principal of Franklin School.

Indeed, hyperbole was in the air as the article exaggerates the wonders of Allouez. For example, the residents were the “most valuable asset of the City of Superior.” The eastern suburb had “the best kind of homes” in which “the working people who earn their daily bread and a few of the luxuries of life by the sweat of their brows and who are always counted among the very best citizens of any town.”

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Trains and Ore Cars, but No Street Cars

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Turn of the Century

Passenger trains also ran on the Ashland line of the Northern Pacific railway (which is visible on the map along the bay). On the southern edge of Allouez ran the Duluth, South Shore, and Atlantic (DSS&A) railway (see map) which stretched from Duluth, Minnesota, through Allouez, to Sault St. Marie, Michigan. It was the lifeline of the north country. As on historian put it, “For many residents there was comfort in the sound of the DSS&A locomotive’s whistle heard in the middle of a long winter’s night. One felt connected to the outside world knowing that you could ride the DSS&A and connect to other railways that went to Chicago, Detroit, Montréal, and beyond.”

The region’s slow growth of infrastructure at a time in which the iron ore industry was expanding by leaps and bounds created a void in which the town found itself isolated along the south shore of the bay. The only way in and out were by Itasca Street and 4th Street both had wooden bridges across the Nemadji River and Bear Creek, respectively; the latter built in 1898 to connect the eastern edge of Superior to the county road system under construction. By 1910 the Bear Creek bridge was beginning to fall into a state of ill repair. It was eventually replaced with a wide road embankment through the creek valley. These improvements were being made, in part, because in 1896, the post office had inaugurated Rural Free Delivery in Wisconsin promising home mail service on roads passable enough to permit it. By 1902 Rural Free Delivery had been established throughout United States.

Rural carriers carried more than the mail. They could provide the latest local news or the current price of goods in town. Patrons expected a lot from their carriers. In addition to collecting and delivering mail, they also sold stamps and money orders out of their buggies or wagons. The carriers essentially operated traveling post offices out of their vehicles. They might also be asked to run errands or to read or write letters for those who could not read or write themselves.

Rural Free Delivery service was a welcome improvement for the isolated rural farms. Finally, farmers could get timely livestock quotations and produce price information, which allowed them to sell their stock and goods at the best time. Weather forecasts were delivered directly to farmers, along with newspapers, magazines and mail-order catalogs from Sears and Montgomery Wards. In 1897, one year after the start of the rural free delivery, Sears boasted that it was selling four suits and a watch every minute, a revolver every two minutes and a buggy every ten minutes. And within five years, Sears had tripled its revenues.

The roads in Allouez were often little more than dirt paths which meant that for much of the year they were mud. In spring the roads were often impassable. During the winter months residents used sleds. In the summer, for the most part, people braved the dirt roads which were dusty and filled with ruts. Fragrantly laced with horse dung and urine, people traveled on them to the train and back, or to bring their harvest from the farm. For any trip beyond that, they went by rail.

At the turn of the century, the residents of the Allouez demanded that their roads be improved. However, the city of Superior had little time to catch its breath, busy with its own projects. Whereas heavy freight wagons, or horse “trucks” as they were called had forced the city of Superior to pave its business districts, the crushed stone that was used was just too expensive for the less traveled “horse roads” of Allouez. (In 1909, only 8 percent of roads were improved in any way; more than half of the improvements was gravel. Concrete accounted for all of 9 miles.)

Although these “horse roads” of Allouez were sufficient for pedestrians and horses, residents wanted the street car line to extend into their town. However, in order for them to accommodate street cars they would have to be reinforced. As a spokesmen for the street car company stated, “We could hardly be expected to extend our line until there is something to build our track upon.” In 1914 sewers were finally built in Allouez.

In order to connect with the rest of the city, therefore, early residents of Allouez had to walk across the timber wood bridge on Fourth Street and then walk to the East End where the street car line ended. In 1900, the service was extended to the Nemadji River though, between the hours of 4-7 and early in the morning to accommodate those who worked on the ore docks and had homes in Superior. However, no accommodations were made on Sunday mornings for church services.

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Sunday Mass–No Short Order for Allouez

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What began as a small trickle before the founding of the parish, when the pastor of St. Francis, Fr. Eustace Vollmer, O.F.M. would come to Allouez at least twice a month (with residents reciprocating on intervening Sundays), would soon become 400-500 people a day crossing the bridge in order to connect with the street car line.

The two mile walk–not always an easy journey whether for the portly Fr. Eustace or Allouez’s residents who would often have to trudge through snow on their way to Sunday Mass. They received slight compensation from late spring to the end of summer (as white clover bloomed in wild profusion). The air was filled with a fragrance that made the walk delightful.

Until Ss. Anthony and Margaret school opened in 1925, Jay Dhooge (d. 2012) and other children of Allouez would walk across the timbers of the 4th Street bridge to attend St. Francis school. The wooden bridge would eventually be torn down and replaced by a concrete bridge on 2nd Street.

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Establishment of the Belgian Club

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The Belgian Club was established in 1912 by a group of 25 men. In 1927 they would later combine with the Organ Club and the Pigeon Club to raise their membership to 130. Before 1912, Julius Bleyenberg would invite newly arriving immigrants into his basement to complete paperwork for government officials.

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Parish Franciscan Roots

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No history of Ss. Anthony and Margaret parish would be complete without mentioning St. Francis Xavier parish founded in 1854. When the Methodist church were unable to make payments on their church, St. Francis purchased it (photo courtesy of Superior Historical Society), which later became St. Adelbert Church after the present day church was built.

In 1878 the Franciscan Fathers of the St. Louis, Mo. Province began to serve in the diocese. In the years before the foundation of the Allouez parish, its growing Belgian Catholic population was being taken care of by Father Eustace Vollmer, O.F.M., (who is pictured in the lower left hand corner of the photo above).

The pastor of St. Francis (1882-1913) would come to Allouez at least twice a month. It was a two mile walk–not always an easy journey for the portly priest. On the intervening Sundays, it was not an uncommon sight to see a procession of people from Allouez to the East End trudging through snow and mud to hear Sunday Mass at St. Francis. Although from late spring to the end of summer as white clover bloomed in wild profusion, the air was filled with a fragrance that made the walk delightful.

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Franciscan-Belgian Foundations

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