Alexian Brothers' Novitiate

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The Alexian Brothers' Novitiate is a manor house located in Gresham, Shawano County, Wisconsin, United States.[1] Originally built in 1939 as a residence, it would be converted into a novitiate for the Alexian Brothers' order in 1950 after being donated to them.[2] The building ceased to be used as a novitiate after 1968, following the Second Vatican Council and the reforms from it. It has since been largely vacated and partially demolished, leaving very little of it standing. The building is best known for being seized by the Menominee Warrior Society, a subset of the American Indian Movement, in 1975, with demands that it be turned over to the nearby Menominee Indian Reservation. Though successful, it ultimately was returned to Gresham, where it would be largely forgotten.[3]

Early history[edit]

The Novitiate was originally a home for a New York widow and her disabled child in 1939.[4] The structure had been built with the intention that it eventually be donated to the Brothers, as the late husband had formed a strong connection to them in his youth in Chicago.

In 1948, the building was turned over to the Brothers, with the final acquisition occurring in 1950 and in 1951 would begin admitting novices. The area encompassed approximately 232 acres. This building was expanded in 1954, to include a new monastery. More land was also purchased in 1955, to provide a farm to feed the novices.

Following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council the Brothers ultimately decided to move their operations to Chicago, putting the novitiate building up for sale in 1969, with the last brothers moving out in 1972, with only a caretaker staying behind. Attempts to sell the property stalled for several years, until 1974, when the property was offered to a group of Indians from Green Bay for an unknown "nominal cost" with the intent of converting it into an alcoholic rehabilitation center.[5] However, the seizure of the Novitiate in 1975 ended this potential deal.

Seizure of the Novitiate[edit]

On January 1, 1975, an armed group of Menominee Indians, called the Menominee Warrior Society, seized the property and took the caretaker and his family hostage. They demanded that the Novitiate and property be turned over to the Menominee Reservation, using claims from a treaty that allowed them to take unused land.[6] The National Guard moved into the area and sealed it off behind several checkpoints. Tensions ran high as shots were occasionally exchanged and negotiations largely stalled.[7] Negotiations went nowhere in January, as the Brothers refused to hand over the deed except for a reasonable price and the Menominee Warrior Society demanded it be turned over free, as they felt it already belonged to them. Complicating this further, some people in Menominee, Gresham and the nearby city of Shawano sympathized with the Society and others didn't wish for the National Guard to be there. Vigilante activity was also common, making security a difficult task.[8]

On February 2, 1975, the standoff ended with a deal between the Brothers and the Society.[9][10] Fearing that the incident would end like similar situations at Kent State and Attica Prison, the Brothers instead chose to sell the property to the Menominee Reservation for one dollar. The standoff ended and the 39 members of the Menominee Warrior Society were arrested.

Recent history[edit]

Since the standoff, the Novitiate has struggled to find a purpose in the area. The Menominee Reservation was unable to maintain the building and surrendered their claim to the property within a few months. In October 1975, a fire severely damaged the building.[11] In November, the Brothers turned the area over to Crossroads Academy, based out of Milwaukee. The land was divided up, with 56 acres given to the Town of Richmond, to be turned into a park. Since then, the area has changed hands many times, though no substantive improvements have occurred.[12]

Documentary and Book[edit]

In 2001, former Alexian Brother novice J. Patrick Rick created a short documentary film called The Novitiate about the property and 1975 takeover,[13] followed by a book called The Abbey & Me in 2011.[14][15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Alexian Brothers' Novitiate". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  2. ^ "Alexian Brothers // Alexian Brothers Novitiate: Gresham, WI". Alexian Brothers. Alexian Brothers. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Pulaski, Lee (6 January 2012). "Remembering the Novitiate". Shawano Leader. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "Alexian Brothers // Alexian Brothers Novitiate: Gresham, WI". Alexian Brothers. Alexian Brothers. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  5. ^ "Alexian Brothers // Alexian Brothers Novitiate: Gresham, WI". Alexian Brothers. Alexian Brothers. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  6. ^ Nigh, Terry. "Deed or Death". Amazon. iUniverse. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  7. ^ Siebert, Tim. "Alexian Brothers' Novitiate Stand Off". Portage County Historical Society. Portage County Historical Society. Archived from the original on 12 October 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  8. ^ Pulaski, Lee (6 January 2012). "Remembering the Novitiate". Shawano Leader. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  9. ^ Siebert, Tim. "Alexian Brothers' Novitiate Stand Off". Portage County Historical Society. Portage County Historical Society. Archived from the original on 12 October 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "Alexian Brothers // Alexian Brothers Novitiate: Gresham, WI". Alexian Brothers. Alexian Brothers. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  11. ^ "Alexian Brothers // Alexian Brothers Novitiate: Gresham, WI". Alexian Brothers. Alexian Brothers. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  12. ^ "Alexian Brothers // Alexian Brothers Novitiate: Gresham, WI". Alexian Brothers. Alexian Brothers. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  13. ^ "The Abbey & Me a.k.a The Novitiate". J. Patrick Rick. J. Patrick Rick. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  14. ^ "The Abbey & Me: Renegades, Rednecks, Real Estate & Religion". J. Patrick Rick. J. Patrick Rick. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  15. ^ "The Abbey & Me: Renegades, Rednecks, Real Estate & Religion". J. Patrick Rick. J. Patrick Rick. Retrieved 23 February 2013.