St. Michael Catholic Church (1888-1986); AngelArmsWorks Studio est.1993

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Excerpts from the Journal of Father Tryphon F. Van DeWalle;
(b.1896 Belgium –
d.1948 Snohomish);
Served as pastor from
1906 to 1947.

 
 
 

In August 1883 a movement was organized for the construction of Catholic church in Snohomish. A Protestant gentleman, Mr. E. C. Ferguson, first County Commissioner, first Justice of the Peace, and first Postmaster, all three at the same time, was the donor of the parcel of land on which the church was to be erected. Wrangling, however, among the members of the Catholic community halted the impetus given.

In 1886, Rev. Father M. McCauley was appointed and came to Snohomish as the first resident parish priest. He was possessed of unusually great zeal and determination; and having a certain amount of financial means of his own, he went ahead brushing all opposition aside and began at once to execute the plans Father Kuster had delineated before him. An old skating rink was acquired and dismantled, and the lumber there from was used in the construction of the new church, which measured 28 feet in width, 55 feet in length, and had a spire that towered 80 feet up in the air. One of the two Boyce brothers was the architect and H. A. Eddy the builder. The structure was dedicated in 1889 to the Bl. Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. How and when the title of the church came to be changed to that of St. Michael, is unknown to me.

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The present pastor is the 6th at St. Michael’s. He took office on Sunday, the second day of February 1906, the feast of the Purification of the Bl. Virgin Mary. The parishioners impressed him very favorably and showed him unmistakable signs of kindness, respect, and goodwill. The rectory in which he was to reside was in a dilapidated condition and it needed immediate repairs. The pastor, therefore, called his trustees in consultation and spoke of an effort to be made to raise some 5 or 6 hundred dollars to provide for the most pressing needs. $600 sounded like an exceedingly big sum of money to them, and they shook their heads. The following Sunday the congregation was told that no trustees were further needed, that the pastor would henceforth look after the necessary work himself and try with their kind and sustained cooperation to defray the cost of it. In three months, new rooms were built onto the house, and from the top to bottom it was an almost new construction.

snohomish stories imagesA 19th-century lawn party from the DeLoy Album.

In 1920, the pastor suggested that the old church should be torn down in part, remodeled, and rebuilt; that a concrete basement should be built under it and another one under the rectory, too; that separate heating plants should be installed; and that every member do his bit to shoulder, and in the little time as reasonable, to liquidate the huge debt to be contracted. Everyone responded, and the pastor and flock have repaid the debt incurred; not only have they paid that debt, but to further obtain God’s blessing upon them, they have liquidated the debt that had long ago been outlawed, some of them dating back to the time the first church was built in 1888.

snohomishstories imagesAngelArmsWorks Studio winter 2010.

Today, St. Michaels’s with hardly 35 families left, some of them destitute, all of the poor, without industry of commerce to help them, many forced to commute, find help in neighboring towns or in logging camps, when in operation, unaided by agriculture or dairying, which is in the hands mostly of Scandinavians and Germans of the Lutheran faith, — St. Michael’s, I’d say, is still the sweet, peaceful, church it has ever been – ever since that eventful day, 20 years ago.

Truly the little parish in the valley where the Snohomish River flows is a little Paradise on earth; and the pastor may well exclaim with the sainted abbot de Clairvaux: “O beata solitudo, sola beatitudo.” (Oh blessed solitude, my happiness.”)

T. F. Van de Walle (circa 1925)

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FEATURED IMAGES ABOVE: Father A. T. Bourke with the First Communion Celebration, 1905, photographed by the Rigby Sisters Photo Studio; and Jami Sieber Concert in the studio, 2018.

Karen and I renovated the rectory building in 1993 and rented it until we could renovate, then move into the church building in 2000. We are very grateful for Maurie DeLoy sharing the album his mother put together of her days working as a housekeeper under the direction of her sister who had moved with Father Van from New York State in 1906 when he was assigned to the first Catholic Church of Snohomish County.

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We plan on installing this 18×24″ interpretive sign in the approximate location of the lawn party pictured above before the New Year 2019!

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