St. James Catholic Parish celebrates 100th anniversary

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  • THE ST. JAMES Catholic Church Congregation in front of the 100 year-old building. (John Dowd/Clark Fork Valley Press)

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    AN ORIGINAL photograph of the church when it was constructed in 1919. (John Dowd/Clark Fork Valley Press)

  • THE ST. JAMES Catholic Church Congregation in front of the 100 year-old building. (John Dowd/Clark Fork Valley Press)

  • 1

    AN ORIGINAL photograph of the church when it was constructed in 1919. (John Dowd/Clark Fork Valley Press)

The first Catholic family, of one Neptune Lynch Sr., came to the Plains area in 1870.

Not much time passed before the Russells moved in, followed by a family by the name of Haas.

Eventually the railroad moved in and the town of Plains became what we know today. Several Catholic churches were built around the year 1911 in a few towns including Paradise, Hot Springs, and in Plains by a man named the Rev. Maurice Casey who preferred to travel between the churches rather than to rely solely on the local pastors.

The inception of the St. James Catholic Church in Plains began 135 years ago, in 1884, when Father Van Gorf, of the St. Ignatius mission, came from the reservation to the valley to aid the sick.

In the home of Joseph Boyer, the first mass was held in the area by Rev. Van Gorf. Since then services were not held again until 1888 where a saloon building was used as the chapel. Van Gorf again said this mass. Services were held several places throughout the town until eventually a building was put up in 1889.

Services were held here nearly once a month by the fathers from the St. Ignatius Mission. This church was used until another was constructed in 1919 to replace it. This is the same church that the congregation uses today, and with only a few changes since its original construction.

Last Saturday, a special mass was held to celebrate the church building reaching 100 years of use. The pews were packed, and dinner was served afterward.

Before dinner, grace was given and Rev. Jeff Benusa blessed a small donation from a member of the congregation. It was a miniature replica of the inside of the church and was made to scale in painstaking detail. This took her many months to create.

Many of the locals of town can trace their lineage back to a time when the St. James Church was constructed, when the area was being settled by some of the first pioneers. Some of them even had family who helped to construct the church, and to build the foundation that has remained for 100 years.

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