SAINT AUGUSTINE'S CHURCH.
This Church, at Napoleon, Henry county, has been for nearly half
a century a center of spiritual inspiration and helpfulness. In
1856 Bishop Rappe, finding eight families of
devout and faithful Catholics among the settlers at that point,
encouraged them to build a small church in which regular
services might be held. The people were all poor, most of them
having emigrated but a few years before from humble homes in
Baden, Germany, and as they had large families to support they
could do but little for the cause of religion.
However, there was among the settlers a liberal-hearted
Frenchman, Augustine Pilliod by name, who was at
that time unmarried and, being successful in his business of
milling, he took the matter in hand and erected a small frame
building, 24x40, with the assistance of James Brennan,
together with such aid as could be obtained from the other
Catholics and some generous outsiders. Owing to the scarcity of
funds the church was not plastered until 1858, and when
completed it was found that the cost had been about five hundred
dollars. Augustine Pilliod named the parish after
his patron saint, and for some time the services were conducted
at stated periods by priests from Defiance, Rev. F.
Westerholt being the first. From 1859 to 1861 Rev. A. G.
Hoeffel officiated, and then the care of the little parish
was given to the priests of Providence, Ohio, regular visits
being paid by Rev. James P. Molony until July, 1863, and
by Rev. John Martin Pütz
from that date until September, 1864. By this time the
congregation had so increased that Rev. J. P. Carroll was
appointed as resident pastor, and under his administration an
addition, 24x25 feet, was made to the church, and a tower
erected in front, the latter being paid for by John H. Vocke.
Later a small frame school house, 26x36, was built, and in 1865
Father Carroll organized a parochial school which
he placed under the care of his sister, Miss Ellen Carroll,
now a member of a religious order. From that time to the present
the town has not been without a Catholic school. In November,
1868, Father Carroll was succeeded by Rev. N. A. Moes,
under whose administration the congregations of Napoleon and
Providence, which had been attended by one priest for nine
years, were separated, each receiving a resident pastor.
On October 18, 1870, the present pastor, Rev.
Michael Pütz, took
charge of the Napoleon church, which has steadily grown in
usefulness and prosperity under his able and judicious
management. He found it encumbered with a debt of one thousand
one hundred dollars—about two-thirds of the real value of all
its property—but he succeeded in clearing off all obligations
and in raising about a thousand dollars more for furniture for
the church. Later he determined to secure a better site for the
church, and on December 21, 1875, a beautiful lot, 165 feet
square, in the central part of the town, was purchased for the
sum of four thousand dollars. It took the congregation three
years to pay for it, and, as by that time the school was in need
of better accommodations, it was decided to build a new school
house on the lot before erecting a new church edifice. This was
accordingly done in 1878, and at the same time the school, which
had been previously conducted by lay teachers, was given into
the charge of the Sisters of Notre Dame, at Cleveland, Ohio, and
a house was built for them upon the same lot. As the
congregation had still considerable each on hand, a new church
was begun in the following year, the old building being sadly
out of repair and in an inconvenient location, which was the
more noticeable after the transfer of the school to the new lot.
A handsome Gothic structure, 50x117 feet, was erected at a cost
of twenty-two thousand dollars, and on June 19, 1883, was
dedicated to the service of God by Right Rev. Bishop R.
Gilmour, of Cleveland. These outward signs of prosperity
are but an indication of a gratifying spiritual growth under
which many have been added to the church, the congregation
comprising about eighty-five families at the present time.
Rev. Michael Pütz,
the beloved pastor whose labors have resulted in such signal
benefit to the church, is a native of Gilsdorf, Grand Duchy of
Luxemburg, Germany, where he first saw the light December 29,
1845. He studied the classics in Luxemburg, and then, coming to
America, took a course in philosophy and theology in St. Mary's
Seminary, at Cleveland, Ohio. On March 7, 1869, he was ordained
by the Right Rev. Bishop A. Rappe, of that city, and his
first charge was at Fostoria, Ohio. Later he officiated for some
time in the parishes of Findlay and Millersville, Ohio, until
his transfer in 1870 to the church at Napoleon, the appointment
being made by the Very Rev. Edward Hannin, then
administrator of the diocese of Cleveland.