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The Community of Monches

Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly

Last Revised 03/03/2005


Monches in 1920

The Founding of Monches, Waukesha County, Wisconsin

extracted from historical publications by Donald J. Schulteis

    Back in 1843 two four acre plots of land were donated to the Milwaukee Diocese. These were contiguous acres four (Section 34) were located in Washington County and four (Section 2) were located in Waukesha County (Merton Township). The rally around the flag pole location was a log church constructed in the southeast corner of the Washington County four acres. It would seem, at the time, the dominant individuals (Irish) lived in the Township of Erin and the rally around the flag pole area was referred to as O'Connellsville. In 1845 this community had a resident pastor by the name of Reverend Thomas Morressy and a church St. John The Baptist. So we have, it would seem, the making of a community on the rise.

    But something happened. It would seem the dominating factor switched from the Washington County side (Irish) to the Waukesha County side (non Irish) and by 1850 the area was called Monches. (See St. John's Parish link below.) In 1853 the new flag pole area was confirmed as the log church was replaced and the new church located across the border, only a stones throw away, but in Waukesha County. So the rally around the flag pole location was then Waukesha County with its name Monches.

A second version of history of OíConnellsville and Monches,
at the web pages for St. John's Catholic Parish in Monches.

    The first documented Catholic Mass celebrated in the town was by the Rev. Father Kundig at the home of William McGrath, in November, 1842. Three sources verify this event including an article written by Archbishop Messmer entitled "Chips from a Kundig Block", which references a letter written to Rev. Patrick O'Kelley by Father Kundig. It stated:

    As near as can be ascertained, the first Catholic settlers to locate in the neighborhood of Monches came there on September 2, 1842. Services were first held at the home of William McGrath in the town of Erin by Rev. Martin Kundig, in November, 1842. . .

    There is also documented evidence that masses were held at Bernard McConville's log home shortly thereafter (September, 1844) —(J.M. LeCount, 1891). Rev. Kundig made his advent into Erin on foot, coming up from Prairieville (now Waukesha) by the way of Merton and Monches. Soon after, the citizens assisted in building a log church at Monches where the early settlers of Erin worshipped for a number of years. (J.M. LeCount, 1891)

    Regardless of where the first mass was held, what mattered to those early pioneers was that they were continuing in the practice of their Catholic faith by receiving the sacrament of holy communion.

    The first Catholic church in the area seems to have been in Monches.  A priest from Fond du Lac, a Father Morrissey came down and said Mass there.

    Early settlers in Pewaukee trekked to Monches for Mass. People arrived in the Duplainville area in 1848 attended Mass in Brookfield (There seems to have been a parish in Brookfield - St. Dominic -1842-1845, but there is no actual record prior to 1858. ). In 1855 they built a meeting house (church) in Duplainville where people attended Mass.

St. John's Church

St. John's Church in its early Monches days

    The earliest record of St. Mary's Church appears on December 16, 1858, when a frame church was built on 306 Main Street as a mission of St. Joseph Parish in Waukesha.

In 1859, Fr. Weiss of Fussville (Menomonee Falls) built a log cabin church in Duplainville as a mission of St. Anthony.

In 1865, Fr. Thaddeus Kerwin was appointed priest of St. Mary's. It then became a mission of St. James, Templeton (Sussex).

On May 30, 1868, a deed was signed for the property on which St. Mary now resides. St. James in Sussex remained the principal church until 1874, when Fr. Thill from St. Joseph of Waukesha came twice a month to say Mass

Origin of the name Monches (from Town of Erin IMMIGRATION & SETTLEMENT)

    Other tribes in the same locality had the same tradition. Away back in the early "forties" (1840's) , when the settlers came in, there were several families of the Menomonies scattered along the Oconomowoc river from below Loew's Lake on the south, to Friess Lake on the east.

    Old Monches was the chief of this tribe at the time, and was always on friendly terms with the white people. Living in the vicinity of the hill, whenever by chance it was alluded to, he would become greatly interested and loved to tell of how his tribe was knowing to the fact that white men once came from Lake Michigan many years before and planted a cross on its top. When speaking of the event, he would always illustrate his story by marking the shape of the cross, either in the snow, sand or whatever soft substance happened to be most conveniently at hand.

    After the death of both Kewaskum and Monches, their remains were subjected to the most shameful and ghoulish usage, and at the hands of a race for which they had shown great friendship, while living. Both shared a similar fate, for each, after he had been buried over twenty years, was dug up from his humble, shallow grave by relic hunters and his bones left to bleach upon the surface or to be scattered by the winds of earth. Old Kewaskum was buried on Indian (now Barber's) island, on the Rock River, about four miles north of Hustisford. Old Monches died about the year of 1848, while living by the Oconomowoc river near the residence of the late John Whelan of Erin. Nearly thirty years later, some curiosity seekers found his grave, and some others of his tribe on a little knoll (Blanket Hill) about a half mile east from the village that bears his name. They unearthed his remains and those of others and left their bones uncovered, until a hand more humanely disposed reinterred them.

    But while the graves of these chiefs were desecrated, yet their names were made lasting; for each has a place in Washington County named after him; Kewaskum near the north, and Monches in the south.


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