St. Patrick Catholic Church History
St. Patrick’s parish in Watkins provided for the area’s Irish settlers in the 1800s. The first church was built in 1880. This small frame church met their needs until it was destroyed by fire in 1906. The following year the Fairfax pastor, Fr. Patrick Reynolds, bought property in Watkins and built a small frame church there. Membership was very small. As the Parish grew, a resident pastor was appointed in 1912. He was the Rev. Alfred P. Meyer. Father Meyer built a residence immediately. While it was being built, Father Meyer stayed with the Brannons. W.H. Wheeler built the church.
In 1914 Father Meyer organized a new parish in Newhall where he conducted services every Sunday as an out mission of Watkins. He did this for 18 years. In 1918 the Watkins church seating capacity had to be doubled, so an addition was built on the back part of the church.
Altar & Rosary Society was started in 1924. Mrs. John Boddicker was the first President and Mrs. Henry Schmuecker was the first secretary and treasurer. Mrs. J. D. Delaney was the first organist.
Father Meyer was assigned to Tama in 1930 so had to leave Watkins after 18 years of steady improvement and success. Father Meyer was elevated to Monsignor in 1945. He died in 1952 at the age of 72 years at St. Thomas Mercy Hospital, Marshalltown, IA. He is buried at Marshalltown.
Father Nicholas U. Keffeler succeeded Father Meyer. He was also Pastor of St. Paul's, Newhall. He continued the work in the same wonderful way as his predecessor. Father Keffeler was able to remain in Watkins until his death in 1948. He was 67. The last three years of his life he had to have help with his duties. From 1945 to 1946 Father Joseph Sullivan was his assistant. From 1946 to 1948 Father Nestor Goedken was his assistant. After Father Keffeler's death, Newhall was no longer an out mission.
Father Patrick J. Behan came to Watkins. He served his parish remarkably well for six years. He died in 1954 and his funeral was at Watkins.
A very learned priest was then sent to Watkins. He was Father Maurice Tracy. He studied in Rome and was ordained there with his first mass in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome in 1931. He was in Watkins until 1963. He conducted some most enjoyable classes in Bible history. His knowledge of the subjet was beyond reproach. He was a challenge to the members of his parish. He taught at Mt. Mercy from 1936 to 1947. A scholar and a teacher, he moved on to St. Francis of Assisi in Fayette.
In 1948 the basement of the church was enlarged and finished as a parish hall. In 1949 Father Elwood Voss celebrated his first Mass at Watkins. In 1956 Father Tracey celebrated his silver jubilee with a grand affair. In 1962 the rectory that was built in 1912 got new siding.
In 1963 Father Dorrance Noonan was appointed to the parish. The parish has had many imporvements since Father Noonan came. New carpeting was installed throughout. The old beautiful altar still stands but a new one has been brought to the front.
The rectory has also had a face lift. The hinges on the front door are still as beautiful as the day they were made by hand by the local blacksmith, Conrad Schallau, 67 years ago.
Father Noonan was born in Dubuque in 1900. He was a graduate of Loras and completed his theological training at the Catholic University of Washington, D.C., in 1926. He was ordained at St. Raphael's, Dubuque, IA.
In 1963, the church served 118 families from the beginning of five families. Father Noonan has served his people in Watkins very well and they wish him many years at this wonderful location.
Here is a list of all the priests at St. Patrick, Watkins, since 1963.
1963–1975 Dorrance T. Noonan
1975–1978 Albert J. Hoffmann
1978–1986 Everett J. Frese
1986–1987 Vincent J. Hatt
1986–1989 William C. Michael
1989–1993 Richard J. Ament
1993–1994 James L. Miller
1993-2003 Walter J. Kleinfehn
2003-2005 Paul C. Baldwin
2005-2007 Keith L. Birch
2007-2010 Jack H. McClure, C.PP.S.
2010-2012 Brian Dellaert
2012-2023 Craig E. Steimel
2023- Jacob Dunne
One man from St. Patrick’s has been ordained in the Diocese of Davenport.
Since our church is named after St. Patrick, Father Richard Ament who was pastor at that time, thought we needed a statue of our patron saint. Father Ament and his father went to Dyersville to a man named Jack Becker who was known for his carvings and ordered a statue. The statue has been at St. Patrick's since 1991. The shelf that supports the statue as made by Ron Ballard. He sets above the organ.
In 2010, St. Patrick serves 72 families and 138 people surrounding the community of Watkins. They have an active Altar & Rosary Society which plans different activities throughout the year (such as their Spring Card Party and Fall Card Party). Irene Kahle has lead the Altar and Rosary Society as President off and on again since 1969.
Every year around March 17, they have a special mass in honor of St. Patrick and a pot-luck meal following. They have regular weekend mass every other weekend, opposite of St. John, Blairstown. To find out the next mass, please check the calendar.