About PetersPioneersSt. Mary's Church, Grand Rapids

By Peter Biggins

Brother Thomas Smith, O.F.M., Father Dennis Morrow, Ellen McRae, and Dorothy Kant and her genealogy volunteers at St. Mary's Church contributed to this page.

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St. Mary's Church, 1857
St. Mary's Church, 1857. A frame church, 75 feet long and 30 feet wide, was built at the corner of First and Broadway Streets. Source: History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., 1907.
In 1857, St. Mary's Parish, now at 423 First Street NW in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was carved out of St. Andrew's Parish to meet the spiritual needs of the German population.

A number of families whose histories are included in PetersPioneers, ancestors of William Francis and Rose Smith Drueke, were active in the founding of St. Mary's and in its development over the years. Father Dick Host, the pastor since 1994, is related to us. His ancestors also were founders of the parish. He is a great great great grandchild of Eberhard and Theresa Berles Cordes. Theresa is the sister of Franz Berles, our great great grandfather. Father Host is our fourth cousin, once removed. Eberhard Cordes and Franz Berles were among the founders of St. Mary's Church.

In 1857, Grand Rapids was part of the Diocese of Detroit, which encompassed the State of Michigan. In 1882, Grand Rapids became a separate diocese.

In 1857, there were 31 states in the Union, the last to be admitted being California in 1851. James Buchanan was President of the United States. Kinsley S. Bingham was governor of Michigan. The population of Grand Rapids was 2,686 in 1850 and 8,085 in 1860. In 1857, the area of the city of Grand Rapids was 10.5 square miles.

In August 2006, several of us visited St. Mary's Church, as well as St. Andrew's and Mount Calvary cemeteries. Volunteers at St. Mary's Church gave us a brochure and a fact sheet describing the history of St. Mary's Church and referred us to the History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.< /a>, which was published on the occasion of the Church's golden jubilee in 1907. It is written in German, followed by an English translation.

Our cousin Paul Drueke has a copy of the 1907 History. The Grand Rapids Public Library has two copies. I obtained a copy from Ellen McRae of Battle Creek, Michigan, in 2012.

The 1907 History, which lists the families who played active roles in the founding of St. Mary's Church, is written in both German and English. The title page, however, is written mostly in German:

German Title PageEnglish Translation
Geschicte der St. Marien-Gemeinde in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Herausgegehen bei Gelegenheit des goldenen Jubiläums, 1907
Gedenkblätter zum Jubiläum der St. Marien-Gemeinde
Grand Rapids, Mich. 1857-1907
History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Released on the Occasion of Its Golden Jubilee, 1907
Golden Jubilee Memories of St. Mary's Church
Grand Rapids, Mich. 1857-1907

Below are tables summarizing the histories of the founding families related to William Francis and Rose Smith Drueke. Following the tables are comments on our ancestors who were involved in the later development of St. Mary's Church.

Franz and Regina Green Berles, grandparents of William Francis Drueke
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
Franz Berles, grocer (former harness maker)29Dorlar, Westphalia, Prussia1844 to Detroit, then 1853 to Grand Rapids1851, DetroitPlayed active role in founding the church (91)
First secretary of church committee (93)
Founder and first president of St. Joseph's Mutual Aid Society (143)
Photo (80)
Regina Green Berles26Schönholthausen, Westphalia, Prussia1846 to Detroit with parents John and Anna Maria Spiekermann Green, then 1853 to Grand Rapids1851, DetroitFirst vice president of Married Ladies Sodality (133)
Frank Berles5Detroit1853 to Grand RapidsRaised funds for confessional for new church in 1879 (103)
John Berles1Grand Rapids
Daughter Elizabeth Berles, born in 1858, raised funds for sanctuary chairs for new church in 1879 (103). Elizabeth married William Peter Drueke at St. Mary's Church in 1882, and they were the parents of William Francis Drueke.

The 1881 History of Kent County contains a biography of Franz Berles. The 1891 History of Grand Rapids states that the first member of the parish buried in Mt. Calvary cemetery was Franz Berles in 1884.
Eberhard Cordes
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
Eberhard Cordes, farmer, married in 1858 Theresa Berles, sister of Franz Berles30Helden, Westphalia, Prussia1836 to Westphalia, Michigan, then 1844 to Alpine, 10 miles north of Grand Rapids1853 Elizabeth Schlick, who died in 1857Loyal German Catholic from Alpine who came regularly, either on foot or with ox-teams, to the Sunday Mass and took an active part in the establishment of the congregation (92)
Joseph Peter Cordes2Alpine
Father Dick Host, pastor of St. Mary's Church since 1994, is a great great great grandson of Eberhard and Theresa Berles Cordes. Brother Thomas Smith, O.F.M., who contributed to this page, is a great great grandson of Eberhard and Elizabeth Schlick Cordes.
John and Anna Maria Spiekermann Green, great grandparents of William Francis Drueke
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
John Green, grocer58Schönholthausen, Westphalia, Prussia1846 to Detroit, then 1853 to Grand Rapids1825, SchönholthausenPlayed active role in founding the church (91)
Donated first bell for new church in 1873 (101)
Anna Maria Spiekermann Green56Schoenholthausen, Westphalia, Prussia1846 to Detroit, then 1853 to Grand Rapids1825, Schönholthausen
John Green13Schönholthausen, Westphalia, Prussia1846 to Detroit, then 1853 to Grand Rapids
Daughter Regina Green, born in 1831, married Franz Berles in Detroit in 1851, and they were the grandparents of William Francis Drueke.
William and Theresa Fassnacht Koch, grandparents of Rose Smith Drueke
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
William Koch, ropemaker (undertaker after 1872)30Andelfingen, Württemberg1853 to Grand Rapids1858, St. Mary's Church, Grand RapidsPlayed active role in founding the church (92)
Second wife, Elizabeth Lavo, donated the Pieta with Father Ehrenstrasser in 1879 (103)
Theresa Fassnacht Koch33Königheim, Baden1853 to Grand Rapids1858, St. Mary's Church, Grand RapidsNephew, Alexander F. Zugelder, was the fourth priest to be ordained from St. Mary's, in 1893 (127)
William Koch1Grand Rapids
Daughter Christine Koch, born in 1860, married Cris J. Smith at St. Mary's Church in 1880, and they were the parents of Rose Smith Drueke.
John Adam and Maria Eva Schumm Schickell, great grandparents of Rose Smith Drueke
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
John Adam Schickell, musician62Kassel, Bavaria (now Hesse)1834 to Tiffin, Ohio, then 1853 to Grand Rapids1820, KasselOne of six men who met to plan for the new church (91)
Maria Eva Schumm Schickell57Kassel, Bavaria (now Hesse)1834 to Tiffin, Ohio, then 1853 to Grand Rapids1820, Kassel
Mary Appolonia Schickell22Tiffin, Ohio1853 to Grand Rapids
Joseph Schickell17Tiffin, Ohio1853 to Grand Rapids
Daughter Mary Augusta Schickell, born in 1828, married John Schmitt in Tiffin, Ohio, in 1847, and they were the grandparents of Rose Smith Drueke.
John and Mary Augusta Schickell Schmitt, grandparents of Rose Smith Drueke
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
John Schmitt, saloon keeper37Kassel, Bavaria (now Hesse)1838 to Tiffin, Ohio, then 1851 to Grand Rapids1847, Tiffin
Mary Augusta Schickell Schmitt29Kassel, Bavaria (now Hesse)1834 to Tiffin, Ohio, then 1851 to Grand Rapids1847, TiffinFather, John Adam Schickell, was one of six men who met to plan for the new church in 1857 (91)
Mary Appolonia Smith8Tiffin, Ohio1851 to Grand Rapids
Cris J. Smith, husband of Christine Koch, parents of Rose Smith Drueke5Grand Rapids
Rose Wilhelmina Smith, wife of Charles Hauser (below), adoptive parents of Rose Smith Drueke3Grand Rapids
Hubert and Mary Bohr Hauser, adoptive grandparents of Rose Smith Drueke
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
Hubert Hauser, mason27Rottweil, WürttembergWürttemberg to Detroit, Michigan, then 1855 to Grand Rapids1852, Detroit, MichiganOne of six men who met to plan for the new church (91)
Masonry contractor for 1873 Church (101)
Photo (90)
Mary Ann Bohr Hauser24Langenfeld, Prussia1846 to Westphalia, Michigan, then 1855 to Grand Rapids1852, Detroit, Michigan
Charles Hauser, husband of Rose Wilhelmina Smith (above), adoptive parents of Rose Smith Drueke2Westphalia, Michigan
Charles and Rose Wilhelmina Smith Hauser raised Rose Viola Smith after her mother Christine Koch Smith died in 1887. Charles Hauser was a founder of a construction company that continues in existence today under the name Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.. The 1926 History of Kent County contains a biography of Charles Hauser.
William and Anna Schittler Hake
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
William Hake, wholesale liquor dealer, first employer of William Peter Drueke29Westphalia, PrussiaWestphalia to Detroit, Michigan, then 1853 to Grand Rapids1857, Grand RapidsPlayed active role in founding the church (92)
Presented ciborium and chalice for 1873 Church (102)
Purchased pipe organ for 1873 Church (102)
Photo (90)
Anna M. Schittler Hake21Württemberg1857, Grand Rapids
The 1881 History of Kent County contains a biography of William Hake. Son Paul J. Hake, born in 1874, married Appolonia "Abbie" Berles, daughter of Franz and Regina Green Berles. The 1926 History of Kent County contains a biography of Paul J. Hake.
Caspar and Christina Wurzburg
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
Caspar Wurzburg, tailor, future brother-in-law of William Peter Drueke 38Helden, Westphalia, Prussia1847 to Grand RapidsHeldenPlayed active role in founding the church (92)
Christina Wurzburg32Helden, Westphalia, Prussia1847 to Grand RapidsHelden
Frank Wurzburg12Helden, Westphalia, Prussia
Louisa Wurzburg9Grand Rapids
Adolph Wurzburg5Grand Rapids
Rosina Wurzburg3Grand Rapids
Teresa Wurzburg2Grand Rapids
Son Clemens, born in 1859, printed the 1907 History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. (168). He was a proprietor, with Louis Martin, of Martin & Wurzburg, which published The Germania, a German, Republican weekly from 1882 to 1916, and Der Sonntagsbote, a German literary weekly from 1887 to 1916.
Peter and Rosina Dureant Wurzburg
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
Peter Wurzburg, shoemaker, future brother-in-law of William Peter Drueke 34Helden, Westphalia, Prussia1847 to Grand Rapids1849, Grand RapidsPlayed active role in founding the church (92)
First vice president of church committee (93)
Founder and first director of sick of St. Joseph's Mutual Aid Society (142)
Rosina Dureant Wurzburg34Prussia1849, Grand RapidsFirst treasurer of Married Ladies Sodality (133)
Frank Wurzburg6Grand Rapids
Adolph Wurzburg, future partner in Berles grocery store5Grand Rapids
Rosina Wurzburg2Grand Rapids
Frank and Wilhelmina Buker Wurzburg
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
Frank Wurzburg, tailor, future brother-in-law of William Peter Drueke32Helden, Westphalia, Prussia1855 to Grand RapidsHeldenPlayed active role in founding the church (92)
Wilhelmina Buker Wurzburg29Helden, Westphalia, Prussia1855 to Grand RapidsHelden
Joseph Wurzburg5Helden, Westphalia, Prussia1855 to Grand Rapids
Frederick Wurzburg3Helden, Westphalia, Prussia1855 to Grand Rapids
Frank Wurzburg1Grand Rapids
Eberhard Drueke
Parish MemberAge in 1857Birth PlaceImmigrationMarriageMention in 1907 Parish History
Everhard Drueke, brother of William Peter Drueke22Helden, Westphalia, Prussia1857 to Grand Rapids Played active role in founding the church (91)

St. Mary's Church, 1907
St. Mary's Church in 1907. Source: History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., 1907.
In 1873, the original St. Mary's Church building was replaced by the current building, a Gothic-style structure. It was built by Father John George Ehrenstrasser, who became pastor in 1870. In 1891, a new school was built.

There are several ancestors in PetersPioneers who were not present at the founding of St. Mary's Church, but played a role in the continuing development of the parish and are mentioned in the History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. published on the occasion of the Church's golden jubilee in 1907.

William Peter Drueke. William Peter Drueke, the father of William Francis Drueke, was a four-year-old child in Helden, Germany when St. Mary's Church was founded in 1857. He came to Grand Rapids in 1873 with his sister Anna and her new husband, Frederick W. Wurzburg, who founded the department store bearing his name. Frederick W. Wurzburg's older brothers, Caspar, Peter, and Frank, were founding members of St. Mary's Church (91). Although William Peter was not a founding member, he was active in St. Mary's and is mentioned in the 1907 History. He was on a five-man committee that built a new school for St. Mary's on Turner Street in 1891 (121). He was one of the marshals of the procession of Catholic societies that celebrated the dedication of the new school February 22, 1892 (121). William Peter was president of the St. Joseph's Mutual Aid Society in 1894-95 (143).

Elizabeth Lavo Koch. Elizabeth Lavo, together with Father Ehrenstrasser, pastor of St. Mary's Church, donated a Pieta to the new Church in 1879 (103). Elizabeth Lavo became the second wife of William Koch in 1889. Prior to that, Elizabeth was a servant and housekeeper for the Schenkelberg family. Clemens Schenkelberg and his wife Theresa were grocers, along with Clemens' brother Caspar. Their address was 27 Turner Street. Clemens and Caspar Schenkelberg played an active role in the founding of St. Mary's Parish (91). Clemens and Theresa Schenkelberg's son Caspar was ordained a priest in 1883 and was the second priest to say his first Mass in St. Mary's Church (126).

Father Zugelder. Father Alexander F. Zugelder was the fourth priest to be ordained from St. Mary's. He said his first Mass at St. Mary's Church on July 8, 1894 (127). His photo is included in the 1907 History with seven other priests who had said their first Mass at St. Mary's Church (40). Father Zugelder served as subdeacon at the solemn consecration of St. Mary's Church by Bishop H. J. Richter prior to the Jubilee celebration in 1907 (159). Father Zugelder was the nephew of Theresa Fassnacht Koch and first cousin of Rose Smith Drueke.

Father Hubert Vogt. Father Hubert Vogt was the sixth priest to be ordained from St. Mary's Church. He was a first cousin of William Francis Drueke and a grandson of Wilhelm and Bernardina Heller Drüeke. He came to America from Helden, Germany, at age 9 in 1883 with his parents Joseph and Charlotte Drueke Vogt. He attended St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and finished his theological studies at the University of Innsbruck in Tyrol, Austria, where he was ordained in 1897. He celebrated his first Mass in Helden and eventually was an assistant at St. Mary's Church in West Bay City (now Bay City) from 1901 to 1904. He died February 16, 1904, of typhoid fever.

Monsignor Felix J. Vogt. Felix Vogt was a seminarian in 1907 at the Grand Seminary of Montreal when the history of St. Mary's was written. He was a first cousin of William Francis Drueke and a grandson of Wilhelm and Bernardina Heller Drüeke. He came to America from Helden at age 11 months in 1883 with his parents Joseph and Charlotte Drueke Vogt. He was the younger brother of Father Hubert Vogt. He attended St. Gregory's seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, before going to Montreal. Fr. Vogt was ordained June 24, 1909, at St. Andrew's Cathedral by Bishop Henry J. Richter. From 1909 to 1914, he was an assistant at St. Simon’s Church in Ludington, Michigan. In May 1914, he became pastor of St. Philip Neri Church in Reed City. In November 1914, Fr. Vogt baptized Jane Marie Drueke at St. Mary’s Church in Grand Rapids. In 1921, he became pastor of St. Mary's Church in Cheboygan (now St. Mary-St. Charles. From 1923 to 1926, he was State Chaplain, Knights of Columbus. In 1935, Fr. Vogt became pastor of St. Mary's Church in Saginaw. In 1938, the Saginaw Diocese was carved out of the Grand Rapids Diocese by Pope Pius XI, St. Mary's Church became the Cathedral, William F. Murphy became the Bishop, and Fr. Vogt became the Dean of the Cathedral. He was made a Monsignor in 1945 by Pope Pius XII. In 1955, Fr. Vogt became Pastor emeritus of St. Mary's Cathedral. He died July 1, 1958, at St. Mary's Hospital in Saginaw. He is buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Saginaw.

St. Mary's window
Expressions of Faith Through Glass: The Stained Glass Windows of St. Mary's Church, Grand Rapids. Hardcover book for sale through the parish office (phone 616-459-7390). Photo: Randall Photography.
Franz Berles
Franz Berles. Source: History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., 1907 (80).
Martin & Wurzburg
Martin & Wurzburg. Source: History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., 1907 (168).
1890 Grand Rapids Directory
Pieta donated in 1879 by Father Ehrenstrasser and Elizabeth Lavo.
Father Zugelder
Rev. Alexander Zugelder. Source: History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., 1907 (40).
Hubert Hauser
Hubert Hauser. Source: History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., 1907 (90).
William Hake
William Hake. Source: History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., 1907 (90).

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