ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin



A Church Built on the Rock


The 150-Year History of

St. Henry’s Catholic Church,

Watertown, Wisconsin






372 page book is now available

Internet orders can be placed through the webmaster.

Price is $30 plus $5 for shipping and handling ($35 total)


Index portion of book:   Part A     Part B




In the beginning, before there was a congregation along the Rock River known as St. Henry’s, before there was a city designated as Watertown, or even a state given the name of Wisconsin, there was a territory that held much promise for those seeking it.


More so, there was in the area from which Watertown would blossom and thrive, a potential.  A potential that would fulfill promise, but only when the earth of this abundant land was conquered and nurtured by those daring souls fleeing desperate conditions from distant shores.  These pioneers, ancestors of the author and perhaps also of yours, would conquer their fears and uncertainties, as well as their new land, by means of faith in oneself, faith in each other, and faith in their Creator and God.


Upon this land and upon the shoulders of its God-loving and God-fearing inhabitants, Watertown was established and would flourish, St. Henry’s was founded 150 years ago, and the children of God lived their lives and grew in their faith through the short time that was granted to them within creation in this small area of earth.  And God saw that it was good.


(Introductory paragraphs of this history, Book of Genesis section)





The only previous history of St. Henry’s Catholic Church of Watertown was written in German in 1903, at the time of the 50th anniversary of the congregation.  One hundred years later, a new and comprehensive history of the congregation has been written to coincide with the 150th anniversary of St. Henry’s.  The product of over two years of research, this updated history documents and adds perspective to the significant achievement of the one and one-half centuries of the church itself and also of the faith and devotion of its members over the years.


Making lighthearted use of names of books of the Bible to organize the content of this history, the author covers all aspects of the history of St. Henry’s:  the church, school, parish center, rectory, and cemetery; the societies and organizations; the varied religious services; the few absolute commands of Christ and the many rules of the Church; the devotions that nurtured one’s religious life and also the events that tested one’s faith. 


Particular emphasis is placed on the early decades of the 150 year history.




A Church Built On The Rock,

The 150 Year History of St. Henry's Catholic Church,

Watertown, Wisconsin 1853-2003

Kenneth M. Riedl, 361 Pages, $30.00


A new church history has just been published entitled “A Church Built on the Rock, The 150 Year History of St. Henry's Catholic Church, Watertown, Wisconsin 1853-2003” by our own Ken Riedl. I have read this book and can honestly say that this is a history by which all other church histories should be and very likely will be measured. Not since the late Charles J. Wallman penned his mammoth “Built On Irish Faith,” which was a history of St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Watertown, has a church history covered so much ground in so entertaining a fashion. Mr. Riedl's book has raised the bar considerably for other church historians. His slavish attention to detail and his obvious love of his subject is made abundantly clear from the first page to the last.


In just over 360 pages Ken manages to tell the history of a church that has been part of the city of Watertown's landscape for 150 years. This is even more remarkable when one realizes that no previous history of the church had been written since a small pamphlet in 1903 which was written in German. The wealth of detail is amazing! Every priest, nun, or memorable person or event is enumerated within this book. Highlights of the work include a capsule history of Catholicism in Wisconsin from the time of Fathers Marquette and Joliet to the more recent scandals which have rocked the church. And speaking of that, it should be mentioned here that the book does not shy away from sensitive subjects, but rather, Mr. Riedl manages to present them in their proper historical context and he does so in plain, simple language without unnecessary editorializing or hyperbole.


It is very easy for a work such as this to become dull and limited in its scope, but the author manages to keep his text lively and interesting by weaving historical anecdotes into the work. By doing this, the book not only serves as a record of the history of a congregation, but it also becomes a fine historical reference tool. And as an added bonus for we who work in the family history field, the book is extensively and thoroughly indexed! This is a book which should be a part of anyone's library who is not only a member of St. Henry's Church, but who is also interested in good historical research. It is, to use the vernacular, “A darn fine book!”


If there is anything to complain about this book, it is the opening passage in which the author makes reference to valuable guidance and encouragement from a so-called local historian. Bosh! Stuff and nonsense! To think that anyone needed to spur this gifted author on to his intended and destined work is patently ridiculous! In this reviewer's opinion, this is an entirely superfluous passage that he would do well to excise in future editions. Still, he did manage to spell my name right in that passage.


Reviewed by W.F. Jannke III, President of Watertown Historical Society and Dodge/Jefferson Counties Genealogical Society

Review appeared in D/JCGS newsletter, “Out On a Limb,” August, 2003 issue





I. BOOK OF GENESIS - Verses 1600’s-1847                             1


During the span of the 1600’s - 1847, before there was a congregation along the Rock River known as St. Henry’s, before there was a city designated as Watertown, or even a state given the name of Wisconsin, there was a territory that held much promise for those seeking it.


The territory was first explored by missionaries.  Immigrants followed their footsteps to the land of milk and honey, leaving behind much of what they had, looking forward to all that was promised.


Watertown was founded.  A diocese is formed and its first charismatic bishop addresses the spiritual needs of the new settlers.


II. BOOK OF GENESIS - Verses 1847-1850                             13


The Watertown-area German Catholics are ministered to by the Norbertine missionaries and the initial organizational steps for their own house of worship taken.


III. BOOK OF EXODUS – Verses 1848-1852                             23


The mass exodus of people who shared a common determination to better themselves, with God’s help, begin the journey of their lifetimes.  The migration is unique in that many families and relations from the homeland become reunited in the new settlements.


IV. CAIN AND ABEL - German versus Irish                            35


Two nationalities in the new world and of one religion yet, in many ways, each unto themselves.  It is not unexpected that some antagonism did occur; what is difficult to understand is the extent to which it was tolerated.


V. GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. HENRY - Verses 1850-1853                43


The beginnings of the German Catholic community in the Watertown area.  Saint Henry is chosen as its patron to support the pioneering efforts of establishing and maintaining a new congregation.


VI. GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. HENRY - Verses 1853-1903               49


The first 50 years of existence.  A time of building, materially and spiritually, while being tested by scandal and events very much out-of-the-ordinary.


VII. GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. HENRY - Verses 1903-1953              91


The second 50 years.  A time of maturing and better defining the mission of the local church, best evidenced by the formation of parish social and religious groups and the service of dedicated priests.


VIII. GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. HENRY - Verses 1953-2003             151


The third 50-year period.  A time of building upon the foundations of the first 100 years while accommodating the revolutionary changes brought about by Vatican II and exploring the opportunities and challenges of increased participation by the laity in ministry to the church.  The latter years are set against the backdrop of a universal church experiencing unprecedented challenges.


IX. BOOK OF WISDOM                                               203


St. Henry’s School has, in good part, defined St. Henry’s Congregation.


X. BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES                                          231


St. Henry’s Rectory, Hall, Parish Center and Cemetery.  A congregation of faith and a community of social functions.  A parish priest was instrumental in the establish-ment of St. Mary’s Hospital, which served its patients in a manner somewhat similar to the church serving its members, from birth to death.


XI. BOOK OF REVELATION                                           239


St. Henry’s Cemetery is the final resting place for most of its members.


XII. BOOK OF SONGS                                               241


St. Henry’s Hall / Parish Center.  The structures that complete a thriving parish.


XIII. SONG OF SONGS                                              247


St. Henry’s Choir.


XIV. ACTS                                                        253


Plays, Players, Picnics.  A good time and camaraderie were not to be denied.


XV. FIRST BOOK OF CHRONICLES                                     259


Special services and shared devotions unite the members into a parish.


XVI. SECOND BOOK OF CHRONICLES                                    273


Societies, support and outreach.


XVII. BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS                                       291


An exorcism.  Not every parish has one.  Even less would want one.  It is documented that such an extraordinary event did occur at St. Henry’s.


XVIII. BOOK OF NUMBERS                                           301


Timelines and inventory.


BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                     330


INDEX                                                           333




Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin