St. Stephens Church

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By kkeps @ 2008-11-26 15:56:20
The Old St. Louis Church records show a French missionary named Fr. Hennessey visited the area in the early 1830s. Father Peter Paul Lefevere, a French missionary priest, organized the St. Stephen Parish on February 12, 1833 although a log church had been built much earlier, possibly as early as 1825. Five acres of ground was donated for the site of the church by Stephen A. Yates whose decendents remain parisoners to this day. It was in his honor the parish was given the name St. Stephen. The first log church was replaced by a brick structure in 1833.

The town of Indian Creek was founded by Charles T. Augustine Swenkee. In many histories his name is inaccurately reported as John Swinkey. John being his son, and Swinkey the local venacular for Swenkee. August Swenkee married Elizabeh Hardesty and started a store near the present day store site, just north of the church. Swenkee laid out the town in 1835 and entered the name in the courthouse records as Elizabethtown in honor of his wife. The name was never really used as local inhabitants called the town Swinkey. The name was officially changed to Indian Creek with the establishment of a post office, but the name Swinkey has remained as an endearing nick name for the small community.

The church building was destroyed by a cyclone in 1873. This tornado descended upon Indian Creek and practically destroyed the town of 350 inhabitants and several stores. Only five of 15-20 homes were left standing, four persons were killed and many were injured. The Monroe City News in the March 16, 1876 issue stated, "St Stephens Church, a substantial brick edifice and finest church building in the county was crushed like an eggshell." The church was rebuilt immediately at a cost of $7000, but the new building was destroyed in 1907 by a fire reported to have been started by lightning. The current church was dedicated on October 18, 1907 and was rebuilt on the existing foundation of the burnt building. The original building was expanded and remodeled in 1915.

The St. Stephen Cemetery adjoins the church and still contains the grave stones of the first settlers. The first death recorded was in 1837 and was that of Benedict J. Buckman. Evidence of a cholrea epidemic can be seen in the many gravestones of 1850. The Asiatic Cholera took many lives including seven children in the Yager family.

Today Indian Creek is a tiny town of five homes, one of which is the church rectory, home of Father Bill Flanagan, a recently retired Catholic priest. An old store building stands abandoned. The Church constructed in 1907 remains and the Parish consists of approximately 50 families from the surrounding area. Approximately 39 priests have the served the parish in its 169 years of existence. It is the oldest parish in the Jefferson City diocese.
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