That a magnificent church building one day would grace the town named for Pope Leo XIII should be no surprise.
Early settler Joe Boeger suggested the name, and the parish organized in 1885 was named for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined in 1854.
Precious Blood priests based in nearby New Almelo were the first to minister to the first settlers, celebrating Mass in residents’ homes.
With the donation of 10 acres of land in 1885, residents began building a tiny church, just 18- by 20-feet. They ran out of money, however, and it stood incomplete until Joseph Dempewolf drove his team of horses to Oberlin and mortgaged them to purchase the needed lumber to finish the construction.
They completed a rectory the next year, and in 1890, the church was enlarged to accommodate the growing parish.
A new brick church was dedicated in 1915. During Mass on Nov. 12 1922, smoke began pouring into the church, and fire was discovered spreading from the basement coal bin. High winds prevented parishioners from putting out the flames, and the building was destroyed.
The parish moved quickly to rebuild. At one point, more than 100 men, including Father Martin Schmitt, worked 22 straight hours to pour a new concrete foundation. During recess at school, boys cleaned bricks salvaged from the old church, and the girls stacked them.
The completed church cost $118,000 and had a capacity of 750 people. The twin towers rise 97 feet, and 10 large stained-glass windows depict a story in the life of Christ. Bishop Francis Tief dedicated it on Nov. 23, 1923, a year and 15 days after the fire.
School first was taught in sod buildings. The first parish school was built in 1890, and a larger school was built in 1911. A high school was organized in 1918 and a new building constructed in 1925. A new grade school was built in 1950.
The high school closed in 1969, and the grade school closed in 1976. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia taught at the schools for 65 years.
The copper domes of the church towers were restored in 1983.
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