The 133 year history of St. Joseph Parish, Cottleville, MO
"The town of Cottleville is one of the oldest in St. Charles
County. As far back as 1800, a group of houses existed near the
spot where the old Boonslick Road crosses the Dardenne Creek, about
ten miles southwest of St. Charles. This road at one time was
an Indian trail and later was one of the major highways leading
westward through Missouri for covered wagons, and stage and mail
coaches. Largely as a result of travelers getting stranded when the
creek overflowed over the road, small places of business began to
In 1866, about 35 Catholic families lived nearby. They attended
All Saints Parish in St. Peters when the road was not impassable
from the Dardenne Creek. In this event, they would have to travel
to a Catholic Church in St. Charles, or the priest from St. Peters,
Father Wapelhorst, would try to make it out and hold services in an
old farm house. It became evident that Cottleville needed a parish
of its own. Fr. Wapelhorst appointed two local men to get money
donated and pledged from the community and an acre of land was
purchased. Soon plans were made for a brick church. Windows and
doors were purchased and the native limestone foundation was laid.
With bricks, sand and lumber on hand, winter set in unexpectedly
and the work was halted. When Fr. Wapelhorst was transferred to
Wisconsin to assume duties as a professor in January, the new
pastor of St. Peters felt he was unable to take on the added
responsibility of Cottleville. As a result, dissension arose among
the members of the young congregation and work on the
building was abandoned. During the next nine years, several
attempts were made to persuade the Catholics to reorganize, but
without success, largely due to the financial strain on all but a
few of the local families. Two priests had spent a short time
there, but both moved on to thriving parishes.
Success came at last in the spring of 1874, after five leading
men of Cottleville went to St. Louis and made an agreement with the
Archbishop to build a church and residence for a priest. Now over
$2,000 was pledged for the new church and it was completed in six
months with the hard work of many local men. It had the look of a
large two-story, wood frame house with the church located upstairs
and the living quarters for the priest on the ground floor.
For the next two years, Franciscan priests traveled by train
from St. Louis to St. Peters and then by horse and wagon first to
Dardenne to say Mass and then to Cottleville. One elderly priest
nearly collapsed at the altar after the journey in the heat of the
Then in 1876, Rev. Joseph Reisdorff became the first resident
priest. His fluent use of German was a great asset since most
people spoke German in the area. By 1876, Cottleville had eleven
stores, two hotels, two carpenter shops, two public schools (one
for Caucasian children and one for Negro children) and three
churches, Evangelical, Methodist and Catholic. The population was
500. When the parish grew, Fr. Reisdorff was able to purchase two
large bells (in 1877) which were hung in a bell tower erected near
the entrance of the church. (These same bells are mounted in
the steeple of the new church today.) After ten years of service,
Fr. Reisdorff asked to be relieved of his duties when some local
protestants objected to his playing cards and drinking beer on
Sunday with parish families. (I think I would have liked knowing
our first pastor!)
For the next six years, Cottleville became a mission of
Dardenne, until the people believed the priest, Rev. Schmidt, was
only interested in raising funds from them in order to build a new
church in Dardenne. No services were held for almost three years
until Rev. Hundhausen, an elderly priest living in retirement in
St. Peters, took over. He served for five years until he sustained
an injury which incapacitated him."
"Next came Fr. Schultz who stayed for nine years. Then Fr.
Striewe served fifteen years up to 1925. The parish had steadily
grown and the old two-story church was no longer adequate. The
dream of a brick church was finally realized in 1924 during Fr.
Striewe's pastorate. The men of the parish again worked hard on the
new building. They kept their horses busy hauling gravel from the
creek and materials from the railroad stations. What a beautiful
church it was! The inside was very ornate with scrolled woodwork
and lifelike statues.
The next pastor, Fr. Range, oversaw the building of a six-room
rectory for the priest in 1926 during his seven-year service at the
Nearly seventy years after its beginning in a farm house, St.
Joseph Parish entered its longest period of pastoral stability
when, in 1932, the beloved Fr. William Pezold arrived. From the
many stories that are told of him, one quickly perceives that he
was a man held in high esteem by all who knew him. His reputation
of being a humble, kind, Godly man who so generously gave of his
time and love for the Lord has traveled far beyond the little town
of Cottleville. To many he is a legend.
Shortly after his arrival, he obtained the teaching services of
three Sisters of the Most Precious Blood from O'Fallon, Missouri.
The first church of 1874 was renovated, with the upper floor
serving as the living quarters for the sisters with two classrooms
on the ground floor. Fr. Pezold picked up the forty students in the
Chevy "school bus" which looked more like a large car than a bus
since it held about six pupils a trip.
After six years, the class rooms of the old building became too
small for the increasing enrollment. So, with the help of the
Catholic Rural Life Conference and contributions from parishioners
and friends, a new school was erected in 1938 (This portion of our
current school was renovated in 2009). It could accommodate 160
students in the upper classrooms. Downstairs was a spacious
hall with a seating capacity of 325. It was used for lunch and for
a play area in the wintertime."
"Around the early 1940's, the government built the TNT plant at
Weldon Spring displacing many families when the towns of Hamburg
and Howell were removed. With the help of the Bank of O'Fallon and
donations from his friends, Fr. Pezold was the inspiration behind
All Saints Village. Thirty-five acres of farmland became
attractive home sites for families, Catholic and non-Catholic
Another priest, Fr. Svehla, came out of retirement in1942 at the
age of seventy to join Fr. Pezold. He served for twenty-five years.
Together, the priests founded the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of
Mary in New Melle in 1945. They took care of this church as a
mission of St. Joseph Parish for eleven years at which point, New
Melle received their first priest.
By the late 1950's,
St. Joseph Parish once again had outgrown its existing church.
Sixty-five percent of the Parish gave or pledged money for a larger
church despite their shedding of tears over the old church that had
served them for fifty years having to be torn down. The new
beautiful colonial-style church with colorful stained glass window
was completed in 1961. (This church was renovated and now serves as
our Parish Center.)
With the parish continually growing, Fr. Pezold needed some
assistance, since he had been on his own since 1967 when Fr. Svehla
died. In 1970, Fr. Maguire came to St. Joseph as the new
pastor where he quickly assessed the dire need of repair to the
sisters' residence. When it was discovered that the
ninety-six year old first church had a cracked foundation, it was
decided to remodel the rectory to serve as a convent.
(Currently, the Dominican Sisters from Nashville live in the
convent and teach in our school.) The old convent was torn
down and a new brick rectory including office space was built in
With the old school now bursting at its seams with students, a
new school building was erected in 1970 adjacent to the old one.
Initially, it consisted of removable partitions. But later it
was turned into permanent classrooms. Later a gymnasium was
In 1977, at the age of eighty-four, Fr. Pezold died after
serving St. Joseph Parish for forty-five years. The memories
of Fr. Pezold will live on forever because he touched so many
After Fr. Maguire served the parish from 1970-1976, Fr.
Griesedieck was appointed the new pastor. He served for twelve
years as Pastor and died of cancer at the age of 57 in 1988.
I suspect Fr. Griesedieck witnessed the gradual change of our
parish from a rural area to a suburban area.
Msgr. Whited was appointed pastor in 1988. He witnessed
the growth of St. Joseph Parish into a mega-parish. Under his
leadership, the parish built a new church, another addition to our
school and the renovation of the old church into our parish
center. Msgr. Whited did an excellent job in providing the
needed space for the spiritual and educational needs of our growing
parish. When he left the parish in 2004, there were over 4500
families and St. Joseph was the largest parish in the Archdiocese
of St. Louis and the State of Missouri.
In August of 2004, Archbishop Burke appointed me as your new
pastor. Needless to say, I was more than a little nervous to
take over the responsibilities of the largest parish in the
Archdiocese of St. Louis and to follow in the footsteps of a well
loved pastor, who served the people of St. Joseph for almost 17
What impressed me most about St. Joseph Parish was how I was
immediately welcomed and embraced as your new pastor.
Although I missed my former parish of St. Cletus, it did not take
long for St. Joseph Parish to be my home. I truly feel
blessed to be your pastor.
During my years as your pastor, I view my major accomplishment
in working to bring the Dominican Sisters of Nashville to our
parish school. It took a full year. But with the help and
personal intervention of Archbishop Burke, the Dominican Sisters
accepted our invitation to minister in our school in 2007. Our
Parish Council guidelines were revised so that the primary
responsibility of the members is to advise me on how we can
continue to spiritually enliven our parish community. Life
Teen was initiated in our parish in June of 2008. This
program, which centers on the Eucharist, has certainly enriched the
lives of our teens. Our 12:15 p.m. Sunday Mass is being
attended by more and more of our teens. Our original school
building was renovated and completed for the 2009-2010 academic
year. It includes a Library/Learning Center, a chapel, an art
room, a music room, offices for the school and PSR and a teachers'
lounge. Finally, we were also able to retire our parish debt
of almost $5,000,000 in four and a half years.
So, this completes the 133 year history of our parish. Over this
period of time, we have grown from one the smaller parishes in the
Archdiocese to the largest parish in the Archdiocese. I think we
would all agree that God has truly blessed our wonderful parish
over these many years. Our prayer is that God will continue to
bless us for many more years.
Monsignor James Callahan