Origins of St. Benedict's Monastery (convent), St. Joseph, Minnesota. From its beginnings in the eleventh century, St. Walburg Convent in
Eichstätt, Bavaria, survived many trials of fire, war, famine, and secularization. "Fortunately for America, when the call came to plant a branch house in the new soil of the New World, the religious spirit of St. Walburg Convent was at its height." (McDonald, page 7). In 1851 St. Walburg Convent, EichstÃtt, Bavaria, was challenged by an invitation from Boniface Wimmer, OSB, (a missionary monk from Bavaria in America as early as 1846) to go to America to teach the children of the German immigrants. On June 18, 1852, Sister Benedicta Riepp with Sisters Walburga Dietrich and Maura Flieger blazed the trail for the EichstÃ¤tt sisters to the New World by way of the steamer, "Washington." They reached New York amid the confusion of fire crackers and shooting cannons for the July 4th celebrations. Undaunted, they traveled on to settle in St. Marys, PA. New members soon joined them. With the second group (3 nuns and one candidate) from EichstÃ¤tt, they were ready to establish other convents in frontier settlements, among them the Northwest Territory in the area which later became the state of Minnesota. In summary, the origin of St. Benedict's Convent, St. Joseph, MN, can be traced as follows: in 1852, the Bavarian branch of Benedictine Sisters who came to America first settled in St. Joseph's Convent, St. Marys, PA.; in 1857, a small group of sisters from St. Joseph's Convent (PA) ventured to the western frontier -- to St. Mary's Parish, St. Cloud, MN; in 1863, the St. Cloud group of sisters moved to St. Joseph, MN. In St. Joseph, they established St. Benedict's Monastery which became the largest Benedictine monastery in the world. (Early records refer to St. Benedict's Monastery as St. Benedict's Convent.) [St. Benedict's Monastery Archives (Saint Benedict's Monastery Archives; Sister Grace McDonald, OSB, With Lamps Burning, pages 7-10).
Early years in St. Cloud (1857-1863). The six Benedictine women (4 sisters and 2 candidates) arrived in St. Cloud from St. Marys, Pennsylvania, earlier than expected; no convent had been prepared for them. John Tenvoorde's boarding house and entertainment hall (on the far left) was rented for ten months as the first convent in the Midwest frontier. Describing this convent, Prior Demetrius di Marogna, OSB, pastor of the German settlers in St. Cloud, wrote: "The house has two rooms and a spacious refectory with a built-on kitchen and above the refectory, a long attic room where ten or twelve school children's beds can easily be placed. Well, garden, and cellar are in the enclosure. But the rent for the year is $250.00...that price is cheap for here." (McDonald, page29) ..In this temporary abode, the sisters took in 6 boarders, and taught music, art, needlework, English, German, and religion to Catholics and non-Catholics in the neighborhood. The following year they were able to move to the renovated St. Mary's Church and Convent (Saint Benedict's Monastery Archives; McDonald, pages 27-34).
Early years in St. Cloud (1857-1863). Mother Willibalda Scherbauer and her companions traveled from St. Marys, Pennsylvania by rail and wagon to Pittsburgh; by river boats on the Ohio River to St. Louis and on the Mississippi River with a stop-over in St. Paul; finally reaching St. Cloud. However, the riverboat, "North Star" was stranded on a sand bar two miles from St. Cloud. After two days, on July 4, 1857, the sisters were taken ashore in small boats. They stopped at the Benedictine monks' college in St. Cloud to enjoy their first meal after three days on the boat without food as they could not afford the price of a meal (50 cents). Then the monks took the sisters to their destination, St. Mary's Parish in the German settlement of Middle St. Cloud. The whole area was desolate having been ravaged by a grasshopper plague. The resulting food shortage and the extreme cold tested the endurance of the sisters during their first years in St. Cloud (Saint Benedict's Monastery Archives; McDonald, pages 20-27).
Orgins of St. Benedict's Monastery (convent), St. Joseph, Minnesota. Mother Willibalda Scherbauer, OSB, led four sisters and two candidates, ranging in age from 18 to 26, from St. Marys, Pennslyvania, to the Midwest frontier (St. Cloud, Minnesota) in 1857. Mother Willibalda (Franciska) was born in Kastel, Bavaria in 1831. At an early age, her family took her to St. Walburg Convent in EichstÃ¤tt to be educated. There she professed her vows in 1851; four years later, she volunteered to join the sisters in America. Then in 1857, she volunteered to venture to the Northwest Territory and was appointed prioress of the St. Cloud community by Boniface Wimmer, OSB. Mother Willibalda was an accomplished musician of whom Jane Swisshelm, editor of a local newspaper, wrote, "The Lady Abbess is small, slight, delicate, graceful, and as accomplished a lady as you could meet in any circle...waking the first echoes of those broad prairies in a call (daily ringing of the church bell) to bow regularly at an altar of Christian worship..." (McDonald, page41). Mother Willibalda's able administration as leader gave the Benedictine sisters a firm monastic foundation, not only in St. Cloud, but also in St. Joseph, the nucleus of St. Benedict's Monastery. She is lovingly remembered for accepting Mother Benedicta Riepp into the St. Cloud community when she was misunderstood by authorities and some community members for upholding the rights of the sisters in America (Saint Benedict's Monastery Archives; McDonald, pages 12, 15-16, 19).
View of the First Episopal Church under construction in the summer of 1862. This first church was known as St. John Evangelist, but was never completed. It was destroyed on August 18, 1862 during the Dakota Conflict of 1862. The church is now known as St. Cornelia's Church at Lower Sioux Agency.
Early years in St. Joseph, Minnesota (1863-1880). This sketch of the layout of the first church/school/convent complex in St. Joseph was drawn in 1930 by Sister Paula Bechtold, OSB, from her memory of St. Joseph's Convent where she had lived as a young sister. This complex became the home of the Benedictine sisters when they moved from St. Cloud to St. Joseph in 1863. Gradually a small campus to the west of the complex developed -- consisting of laundry, bakery, summer house, chicken coop, barn, woodshed, and a well. Though the primary purpose of the sisters' coming to St. Joseph was to teach the children of the parish, the site served well as the beginnings of St. Benedict's Convent which continued to flourish in St. Joseph. Varied projects were begun in this simple convent complex: the school (the beginnings of the academy), care of orphans, and the Industrial School for Indian girls. In 1886, the old complex of log church and school was completely destroyed by fire. Although new housing had to be found for the orphans and the Industrial School, a new convent/academy had already been built in 1881-1882. With the completion of that new building, the name was changed from St. Joseph's Convent to St. Benedict's Convent (Saint Benedict's Monastery Archives; McDonald, pages 59-62, 70-72, 120-122).
This negative provides a front view of Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. The church's first building, dedicated in December 1858, stood at Fourth Street and Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota. No photographs remain. In June 1860, Plymouth�s second minister, Henry Martyn Nichols, preached a fiery temperance sermon that inspired women to launch an effort to close the saloons. Within days of the sermon, a fire destroyed the building. People widely believed the fire was the work of arsonists representing the saloon interests. The Congregation�s second church, built on the same spot, was dedicated in September 1863. Its interior had circular seating for 350 people and a raised pulpit. The congregation worshipped in this church until 1875 when growth in membership required a larger building.
This photograph provides a front view of Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. The church's first building, dedicated in December 1858, stood at Fourth Street and Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota. No photographs remain. In June 1860, Plymouth�s second minister, Henry Martyn Nichols, preached a fiery temperance sermon that inspired women to launch an effort to close the saloons. Within days of the sermon, a fire destroyed the building. People widely believed the fire was the work of arsonists representing the saloon interests. The Congregation�s second church, built on the same spot, was dedicated in September 1863. Its interior had circular seating for 350 people and a raised pulpit. The congregation worshipped in this church until 1875 when growth in membership required a larger building.
Schools in St. Cloud (1869-1909). By 1860, St. Cloud had expanded from its four homes in 1854 to 1,651 citizens. The 1856 church/school/convent was no longer adequate. In 1864, St. Mary's parishioners built a new church on the shores of Lake George. The large Gothic-style church served the parish for almost 60 years . When it was destroyed by fire, another church, the present St. Mary's Cathedral, was built. St. Mary's Parish eventually solved the school controversy by building its own parochial school. The first one in 1887 was a one-story frame building to accommodate 180 pupils. In 1896, a large parochial school, still in use today, was built next to St. Mary's Church (Saint Benedict's Monastery Archives ; Witte, pages 10-11, 17; Dominik, John, J. pages 12-14, 20).
Professional portrait of "The Church and Settled Pastors of Pontoppidan Lutheran Congregation from 1868 to 1918". Includes photos of P.J. Ostergaard, 1884-1886, Nils Olson 1868-1880, N.S. Heggerness 1880-1882, R. Anderson 1887-1890, H.S. Quanbeck 1893-1896, E.O. Larson 1898-1905, H.C. Caspersen 1905-1912, Johan Mattson 1913
Eight Benedictine Sisters in rounded habits stand in front of a Queen Anne-style convent. They are all facing the same direction, but their gaze is cast slightly downwards. They are all holding their rosaries. The house has 10 steps leading from street level to porch. There are lace curtains in the window. A tall industrial building looms in the background. They were once presumed to be sisters of Notre Dame.
Congregation standing in front of church; address of Jacoby's Artistic studio listed as 252 Nicollet Ave; donor identified church as First Free Baptist Church which was erected in 1871 and taken down 1891; it was located on Washington Ave near 1st Ave. N (not located on 1887 city atlas); cannot verify that any churches listed on verso of card were the church on the stereographic card.
Hennepin County Library, James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library