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History of St. Mary Catholic Church - Dell Rapids, SD

The history of the church dates from the first coming of the Milwaukee Railroad. The contractor, John Naughton, who built the first railroad through the Sioux Valley, was one of the first Catholics, and at his residence, the first Mass was celebrated in Dell Rapids by Father Maher of Sioux Falls. In May 1880, the first train arrived from Minnesota, but it could not go on since the track was not yet laid farther than Dell Rapids.

Mike Collins, who moved from the Irish Colony, was joined by his brother Timothy from Wisconsin. They opened a drugstore in June of 1880. The second story later became the setting for the celebration of Holy Mass and the administration of the Sacraments. Father Maher celebrated Mass in the Naughton and Collins homes and later in the home of Mike Anthony who moved from Columbus, WI, in 1881, to work on the railroad.

The Catholic Church began mission services in Dell Rapids in 1880, with Father Maher of Sioux Falls in charge until sometime in 1882. During the next year, only occasional services were given. In July 1883, Father Quinlian took charge and celebrated Mass once a month until the spring of 1887, when Father Colman officiated for a short time. He was succeeded by Father Vandevere of Flandreau, who said Mass montly until the fall of 1888.

In December 1888, Father X.P. Guay, of Flandreau, came to Dell Rapids to organize the three groups of Catholics into one parish--the Irish Colony, the Huntimer neighborhood, and the Catholics of Dell Rapids. A committee was named to decide upon the question of building a church in Dell Rapids. Because of the distances involved, it appeared impractical to reconcile the three groups into one and the project to build in Dell Rapids failed. The next spring, the Huntiemrs and their neighbors built a small church for themselves, at a cost of $1,500, under the direction of Father Flynn, of Madison. St. Joseph's Church was established in 1889.

In 1892, the hopes of the Catholics for a church were strengthened by the arrival of John Dolle, who beame the depot agent of the flourishing town. It wasn't long before he deteremined to give his whole support to the end of having a church built in Dell Rapids.

The next year, 1897, Joseph Huntimer and his family became residents of Dell Rapids. This family was always ready to help in church projects, and they did much toward the early development of the parish. The number of Catholics had by this time become too large to be accommodated in the Anthony home and there was a need that Mass be celebrated in a more public place--Mike Collins' two-story drugstore . Later, it was the AQUW Hall. When Mass was said in the AQUW Hall, the preparations were in the hands of the ladies of the Altar Society, the nucleus of which had been formed some time between 1884 and 1889, with about a dozen women as members. There were no pews and each family furnihshed chairs for thie won number.

In February 1898, Father M.J. Martyn, pastor of Garretson, took charge of the Dell Rapids Mission. He was a young Irish priest who had done parish work in Ireland following his ordination in 1893. His zeal in managing and improving his parish resulted in over-exertion and a decline in health. Advised to transfer to a different climate, he came to South Dakota. He was placed in charge of the churches at Garretson, Dell Rapids, and Huntimer.

Father Martyn confided to his little congregation his dream of building a more suitable temple for the worship of God. His plan was accepted with enthusiasm and another building committee was formed. Contributions flowed in and plans began to take tangible shape. All members of the parish took an active part, the men hauling rock, sand, and lumber, and donating labor. The women held numberous fundraisers, the proceeds going to defray the expenses of the new church.

In April of 1899, Father Martyn moved to Dell Rapids as the first resident priest. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated in August of 1899!