As St. Francis Borgia Parish approaches its 175th anniversary (1844-2019), we will share some short articles about our congregation’s growth through the 1800s into the present. Thanks to Marty Moore for his diligent research for these articles.
Missionaries visited the Wisconsin region early. But religious growth in the area mainly arose in 1673 when Frs. Marquette and Joliet portaged from the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi River into Prairie du Chien, which became the natural starting point for religious growth in Wisconsin. The territory was Indian-occupied and unsettled.
Since 1817, Jesuits ministered there, at the oldest continuous congregation in Wisconsin. In 1839, the cornerstone for that congregation – the present St. Gabriel Catholic Church – was set in place. It is the oldest continuously-used church structure in Wisconsin. By 1866, religious education was established there as well.
The only older church structure in Wisconsin is the St. Joan of Arc Chapel on the Marquette University campus in
Milwaukee. But the 15th century church is not native to Wisconsin. It was moved from Chasse, France to the campus in 1965.
The earliest stone church structure in our area was the 1869 St. Francis Xavier Church at Maple and Pleasant Valley Road, a mission church of St. Joseph Grafton. (The ruins of this church still stand.) In 1870, St. Francis Borgia erected what is presently the oldest stone church in the area.
Later structures include Immanuel Lutheran (1883); Trinity Lutheran-Freistadt and St. Mary-Port Washington (1884); First Immanuel (now St. Nicholas), Trinity-Cedarburg and Ozaukee Congregational (1891); and Advent Lutheran-
Cedarburg (1909). Also a charming, but unoccupied frame church (1905) is located at Portland and Mill Street in Cedarburg.
As the oldest church structure in continuous use in this area, St. Francis Borgia-South, our historic stone church, has earned the title, “Jewel of Cedarburg.”