Annunciation Catholic Church (1859-Present)



Above: The 1901 church building and the present church built in 1985.


From Goodspeed's 1889 History of Cole, Moniteau, etc Counties, Missouri:

Prior to 1859 the people of Moniteau were visited by priests from Jefferson City. In August, 1859, the Catholics of California erected a church building on the ground donated by Dr. John Burke, north of the I. O. O. F. cemetery, and dedicated July 15, 1860. Rev. Father Walshe was priest of this mission.


From the Thursday, April 2, 1914 Moniteau County Herald:


The Catholic Church


The Annunciation parish was organized in the year 1858 by Fr. Walsh of Jefferson City, Missouri. The church was built the same year – that is, that frame church that was destroyed by fire in the year 1900. It is not probably that any Catholics lived in California before 1850, otherwise, the missionaries that traversed these regions in those early days would have known about them, for Fr. Helias, as early as 1842, then living at Jefferson City, visited no less than twenty places, among which we find Moniteau – now Cedron, and Boonville – neither California nor Tipton being mentioned.


According to the best information obtainable, the first Mass ever celebrated in California was said in the two story log building on the Buchanan homestead; just two or three blocks south of the present church. Very few Catholic families lived in the city in those days – the first to come here were the Burkes and the Buchanans. Soon, however, a goodly number of Irish families settled a few miles east of town.


As near as can be learned the following families belonged to this parish about the time of organization: The Burkes, Buchanans, Walshes, Sullivans, Cullens, Hartnetts, Daltons, Cashens, Callahans, Leonards, McKennys, Reynolds, O’Briens, Evans, Stacks, Mahoneys, Walterscheids, Handleys, McCartheys, Maloneys, McNultys, Quirks, Kielys, Hengens, Cronins, Bakers and others.


In the early forties a number of German Catholic families took up homesteads a few miles north of the Courthouse, viz: The Herfurths, in 1844; Walterscheids, in 1845; Fischers, in 1845; Wittmans, Classes, Knipps and others.


The priests of Jefferson City attended to the spiritual wants of the California Catholics during the first several years. Since its organization the following priests have attended to the Annunciation parish: The Reverend Fathers Walsh, Meller, Meurs, Hillner, Keuper, Reisdorf, Stultz, Steinker, Kuhl, Duggan, Healy, Jacobs, Dick, Meyer, Pohl, Engerer, Schirack, Groth, Gietl, Metzdorf, Hynes, and the present pastor, Father Rosch.


The frame church, built by Fr. Walsh in 1858, together with a frame school building, were destroyed by fire in 1900, but a stately brick structure, as the above cut shows, soon replaced the old church. All the parochial buildings – the church, the school, the Sisters’ house, the pastor’s residence – are substantial brick structures, showing the progress Annunciation parish has made in the past. The Membership, at present, is about 290 souls.


From Ford's 1936 History of Moniteau County:

Prior to 1859 the people of Moniteau County were visited by priests from Jefferson City. In August of that year the Catholics of California erected a building on grounds donated by Dr. John Burke near the I. O. O. F. cemetery. This building was dedicated in 1860. Rev. Father Walsh was Priest of this mission


Of the priests who have served this parish within the last twenty years. Father Tiernan, who left at the outbreak of the World War to serve as chaplain was succeeded by Fr. John Downing, he by Fr. Frank McChartle, he by Fr. John Lyons and he by Fr. Jennings who came to this pas­torate in 1935. The congregation consists of about seventy families.


From 1980 History of Moniteau County:

In the year 1858, a Father Walsh came from Jefferson City and celebrated Mass for the people of California in the Buchanan home, a two-story log building located a few blocks south of the present church.


From that time on Father Walsh celebrated Mass about once a month in the Buchanan or Burke home until 1859, when a frame church was built on three acres donated by Doctor Burke. The present Church, School, Convent, and Rectory and Cemetery are located on the original three acres. The first church was dedicated in 1860.


On the night of March 15, 1900, the church caught fire and was destroyed including all the parish records. The school also burned. The only thing saved from the church was two stained glass windows which are in the front entranceway of the present church. The present church was dedicated by Bishop Glennon on May 1, 1901. At the same time the Bishop gave it the name of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in honor of Mary.


Over the years, a number of priests have served as pastors of the church. One priest, Father Paul Engener lost his life serving the Catholics of California and Cedron. In May 1892 on his way back from Cedron, he drowned fording the Moniteau Creek which was high. He is buried in the parish cemetery.

The present pastor is Father Donald Greene and the church has a membership of around 250 families.


The 1901 church and a picture of a portion of the inside of this building.


From 2000 History of Moniteau County:

Annunciation Parish, situated in southeast Moniteau County about twenty-two miles west of Jefferson City, is a parish in the Jefferson City Diocese that traces its earliest beginnings to the missionary efforts of Father Helias, S.J.


In 1857, with the building of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, a number of Irish families settled in the northeast part of California and, together with a few German families who settled out from the colony of Moniteau, a congregation was formed.


These German families, namely the Herfurths, Walterschiedts, Fischers, Witmans, Swillums, and Knipps, settled in Moniteau County in the 1840s, the Burkes and the Buchanans in California itself in 1857. About the same time the following families either came to California or founded the settlement northeast of the town popularly called "Dublin," namely the Malonys, Walshs, Sullivans, Daltons, Cullins, Hartnets, Cashens, Callahans, Leondards, McKennas, Stocks, Kileys, Bakers, Eckerles and others. Father Walsh came from Jefferson City in 1858 and celebrated Mass for the people in the Buchanan home, a two-storied log building which was located a few blocks south of the present church.


From that time on Father Walsh celebrated Mass about once a month in the Buchanan or Burke home until 1859, when a frame church was built on three acres donated by Doctor Burke, which is the site of the present church, office building, rectory and cemetery. The first church was dedicated in 1860.


It is not clear how long Father Walsh continued to care for the mission in California, but his successors, Father Mueller and Father Van der Sander and Father Meurs continued to care for the mission from Jefferson City until 1865. Later that year, Father Kalmer established the parish in Tipton and visited the church several times.


About this time, the Odd Fellows of California, in an effort to increase the population of the community and the surrounding country, requested Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis to send a resident priest to care for the Catholics in the California and Moniteau communities. But as both congregations were unable to support a priest, these gentlemen assured the Archbishop that they would guarantee the pastor's support, a promise which they faithfully fulfilled. Under these circumstances, California received its first resident pastor in the person of Father Kuiper.


From 1885 to 1889 the Fathers of the Most Precious Blood served as pastors of the parish. In 1898, the parish was again entrusted to the care of the secular clergy. Father Metzdorf was appointed in the spring of 1898, and Bishop Glennon administered Confirmation and spoke to the community in the old Opera House. In January 1900, Father A.M. Hynes was appointed and on the night of March 15, 1900, the old church caught fire and all was destroyed with its contents including all the parish records. Preparations were immediately made for the erection of the new church. Two stained glass windows were salvaged from the old church and placed in the entrance way of the 1901 church. In July of that year, Father Hynes blessed the cornerstone of the new church, which was being erected on the site of the old one, and Bishop Glennon dedicated the Church to Mary under the title of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 1, 1901.


Realizing the need to root the faith of future generations in sold Christian values, a parish school was established as early as 1889. This frame structure adjoined the original church as was also destroyed by the fire of 1900. It wasn't until 1911, during the pastorate of Fr. Rosch, that a two-room brick school was built. From 1912 to 1913, the school was staffed by lay teachers, among them was Elizabeth Yoest Theissen and Laura Hart Cronin (Jones), until Father Rosch procured the Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas. The Sisters taught here until their recall to Concordia in 1917.


The school remained closed until 1922, when it reopened with a lay teacher in charge. Helen Gerhart Hoelscher, Ann Gerhart Kroll, Mary Alice Gerhart Riley, Alverta Heinen Haldiman, and Margaret Kerperin are among those who taught during the next 24 years. Upon the retirement of Margaret Kerperin in the spring of 1948, the Annunciation School closed until the coming of the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1950. These Sisters, together with lay teachers, continued to staff the school until 1980 when the administration of the school was again resumed by a lay faculty.


On July 2, 1956, the present Diocese of Jefferson City was formed, with Bishop Joseph M. Marling, C.P.P.S. as its first bishop. He made several trips to California, administering the Sacraments of Confirmation and visiting with his new congregation. During the pastorate of Father Peter O'Rourke, a committee of seventeen man and women were formed to build an addition onto the school and remodel a portion of the same. The new school was built as well as the Sisters' convent. An addition to the school in 1960 expanded the facility to three large classrooms, a hall, a kitchen, library, and faculty lounge. This was the existing structure at the time of the fire on October 4, 1982.


Throughout the history of Annunciation School adjustments of teachers and classes were made due to the fluctuation in enrollment - a dozen in 1889, 112 in 1953, to 53 at the time of the fire in October, 1982. A study of projected enrollment for the next five years was conducted in February of 1982. The study indicated no substantial increase in the projected over-all enrollment up to and including the school year 1987-1988. The reality of the projected enrollment, together with the cost factor involved led the Parish Council to the decision of the closing of Annunciation School with the hope of consolidation with St. Andrew's School in Tipton, and/or St. Martin's. Plans for this consideration are completed and the option for the continuance of Catholic education is possible for the families of Annunciation parish due to the proximity of our neighboring parishes.


Priests who have served recently in California are Frs. Jerome Bestgen, a native son of California, from August 1963 until September 1964, Blaise Scheffer 1964-1969, Leonard Misey 1969-1976, Robert Keating 1976-1978, Don McKenna 1978-1979, Donald Greene 1979-1985, Patrick Daly 1985-1989, and Francis Gillgannon from 1985-present [2000]. In August 1981, Sr. Peggy Bonnot, C.C.V.I. began working in the parish as a Pastoral Minister and continued until 1985. Sister Anne Boessen, S.S.N.D., was the Pastoral Minister from 1986-1996 and Sister Mary Ruth Ward, S.S.N.D. came in July, 1999.


Under the leadership of Fr. Greene, a Parish Council was elected and continues as the basis of parish planning and development. An elected building committee participated in the planning and approval of the new church building. Ground-breaking was held on March 25, 1984, for the design of a building complex which would provide for worship space, education facilities, and social functions. Work progressed through the summer, fall and winter of 1984, and the building was completed in May of 1985. The new church facility was dedicated by Bishop McAuliffe on June 23, 1985, just 5 months after the death of Fr. Donald Green on January 23, 1985.


The parish, composed of about 330 families, has a Religious Education Program coordinated by Mrs. Josephine Wolken.


Vocations from the parish include Fr. Jerome Bestgen and Sr. Carol Prenger, S.S.N.D.


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