Early Catholic Churches in La Crosse
The first Catholic Mass held in common was in the old court house on August 24, 1855 by Rev. Henry Tappert, the first pastor and also the first resident priest of La Crosse County. Within one year, he erected a small frame church, 35×60, on the N.E. corner of 7th St. and Cameron Ave. called St. Mary’s. This was accomplished with difficulties since everyone was poor and there were only 25 Catholic families.
By 1874, the building had become too small and was moved to 805 West Ave. and remodeled into a residence. A new larger brick church was built on the same site.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
In 1863, it was decided to divide the St. Mary’s parish by having the English and French remain at St. Mary’s and a new church, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, built for those who spoke German. Frank and Theodore Mader contributed money toward the purchase of the lot which cost $1,500.00. A parochial school was built first. The first mass was celebrated in the new church on the first Sunday in October of 1870. Without an architect, the German settlers themselves built the church by memory, favoring a German style of Gothic Revival. The Cathedral was built with Mader brick. There was not enough to finish the steeple until 1883. Florence recalls her father Frank Jr. telling her that because of a lack of funds, the Maders donated the brick for the steeple. (The old St. Joseph’s Cathedral was torn down when the new cathedral was built.)
The increasing Catholic population of La Crosse made it necessary to establish two new parishes, St. John’s on the north side and St. Nicholas on the south side. In 1887 six lots were purchased between North and South Park Streets and construction of the new church began. Dominick and Theodore Mader furnished the brick for the church. It was two stories, the first story used for school purposes and the second as a church. The first mass was held on Sunday, October 30, 1887 and the school was opened with 72 pupils.
By 1894, St. Nicholas Parish was replaced by a new and larger church dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity.