St. Joseph's Catholic Church (Lacona, Iowa)

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St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church and Cemetery Historic District
St. Joseph's Catholic Church (Lacona, Iowa) is located in Iowa
St. Joseph's Catholic Church (Lacona, Iowa)
Location 1 mile east of the junction of County Road G76 and SE 97th Street, Lacona, Iowa
Coordinates 41°12′12″N 93°18′29″W / 41.20333°N 93.30806°W / 41.20333; -93.30806Coordinates: 41°12′12″N 93°18′29″W / 41.20333°N 93.30806°W / 41.20333; -93.30806
Built 1876
Architect Unknown
Architectural style Romanesque Revival, Late Gothic Revival
NRHP Reference # 94001580 [1]
Added to NRHP 1995

St. Joseph's Catholic Church is a former parish of the Diocese of Davenport. The church is located in rural Lacona, Iowa, United States, one mile east of the junction of County Road G 76 and SE 97th Street. The church building still stands and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The parish was known in the Davenport Diocese as St. Joseph's, Bauer.


St. Joseph's was founded in 1853 to serve German immigrants in a place in western Marion County called Newbern, and later called Bauer, Iowa. It was founded in the Diocese of Dubuque during the episcopate of Bishop Mathias Loras. The church building was built in 1876 under the leadership of Bishop John Hennessy. [2] Initially, the parish did not have a resident priest and was served by priests located at St. Patrick’s in Georgetown.[3] The parish became part of the Davenport Diocese when it was established in 1881.

The parish supported a school staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee. It was one of seven parochial schools in the diocese that operated as public schools. All of these areas were predominately Catholic, nearly 100%.[4] In the early 20th century the state of Iowa required all districts to have a school. Parochial schools fulfilled the requirement. Funds were used to pay at least some of the Sister’s salaries, books (except for religion), equipment and other items per the contract with the state. In Bauer the salary that was paid to the Sisters was so low that the superintendent chose not to report it so as to not bring down the salary level of the other teachers in the district. A map was the only piece of equipment that was provided, and $50 a year was provided for coal to heat the school.[5] Starting in 1937 lawsuits were brought against the districts challenging their legal right to employ the Sisters. The District Court upheld the practice, but the state Supreme Court overturned the decision and left it open for a retrial. The case was dropped as was one in 1941. While the state could not restrict employing teachers based on their religious beliefs, they could restrict what they wore. The Sisters continued to wear their habits, but they removed their rosarys and reliquaries. In 1953 the state legislature passed a law that refused state aid to these parish based schools. The school at St. Joseph’s became a parochial school and remained open until 1964.[6]

As the numbers of clergy started to decline, St. Joseph’s lost its resident priest and it was clustered with other parishes. The number of parishioners declined as well and the parish was closed in the early 1990s.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  2. ^ Schmidt, Madeleine M. (1981). Seasons of Growth: History of the Diocese of Davenport. Davenport, Iowa: Diocese of Davenport. p. 326. 
  3. ^ Schmidt, 61
  4. ^ Schmidt, 254
  5. ^ Schmidt
  6. ^ Schmidt, 255

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