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St. Peter School, Ashton, celebrates 150 years Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Jun. 30, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
ashton 150th anniversary
The St. Peter School in Ashton graduating class of 1930. (Contributed photo)

ASHTON -- In this age of instant gratification and throw-away mentality, some things do stand the test of time.

As proof, St. Peter School in Ashton celebrated 150 years of continuous and successful Catholic education with a reunion on June 17.

More than 500 alumni and guests, current school families and parishioners, as well as past and current staff attended the event.

The past meets the present

Some of the former graduates were in their mid-90s and returned to the school for the first time in more than 50 years.

Some Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity from Manitowoc, whose order served the parish and taught at the school from 1906 to 1987, also returned.

Those in attendance got to see the “Wall of Graduates” with class photos since 1920 and nearly every graduate identified.

There were also historic school photos and newspaper clippings sent in by alumni.

Guests could also take a tour of the church -- which is more than 100 years old -- and the school building.

History of St. Peter Parish and School

St. Peter Parish began in 1861.

The first German Catholics, however, settled in the Ashton area about 1854.

The earliest parish records of sacraments administered to Catholics in the area go back to 1856.

Very likely, priests administered them from the neighboring parishes of Roxbury, Martinsville, and Cross Plains who said Mass in the homes of the Ashton families.

Today, the parish is still referred to as the Ashton church.

When the first St. Peter Church was built in 1866, it was situated one mile west of State Hwy. 12 on the south side of CR K in what is now known as Ashton.

This church building served the parishioners for 40 years.

From 1861 to 1900, the Ashton congregation grew from 20 to 70 families.

The original church could no longer hold the worshippers on Sunday mornings.

Plans for the new and present church building were made when Fr. Francis Ruhmann was appointed pastor.

The site selected for the new church was the same as that of the old church, which was moved back to the cemetery while the new church was under construction.

The new church, completely furnished, cost $24,000.

When the church was officially dedicated in 1902, it was paid for in full, and $1,000 remained in the parish treasury toward the purchase of an organ.

Need for a school

Once the new church was built, the German Catholic parishioners were anxious to build a new parochial school.

Because of the language barrier in America, German Catholics felt that bilingual parochial schools were needed where their children could be properly instructed in the Catholic faith in German and English.

It was the only way, German parents believed, they could be certain that they were fulfilling their responsibility of transmitting their religious faith to their children.

They asked for and received permission from the archbishop to build a rectory and a combination school and convent at the same time.

In the fall of 1905, the rectory was built under the direction of the pastor, Fr. Joseph Heyde, and during the summer of 1906 the combination school and convent was built.

From 1906 to 1987, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, whose motherhouse is in Manitowoc, taught in St. Peter School.

The school building served the parish for 61 years.

The great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents of today’s children went to school in this building and in the one-room stone building across the road.

In 1966, the parish built a new brick, four-room school for eight grades.

The parishioners themselves did much of the work on the new school, as is the tradition in Ashton.

In 1987, the old convent/school building west of the church was removed to provide additional parking.

Today, St. Peter Parish has 273 families.

Updated from 2001 church directory introduction written by Msgr. Andrew Breines, former pastor.

 
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