Generations, Brick by Brick

So today’s post is about a field trip to family history.

All Saints, formerly St Joseph's Catholic Church
the impressive entry and steeple

We hopped in my new car and headed up to Logansport, IN. There’s a Catholic church there, now called All Saints since it blended with two other local churches, but it used to be known as St. Joseph’s. It was built in the 1880s, and my great-great-grandfather and his sons handmade each of the 650,000 bricks to construct it.

The building has since been covered with stone, but we aren’t sure why — wear on the bricks? Updated look? A new facade to match additional construction? We haven’t found an answer.

Logansport was a very German area, full of immigrants, and so most of the names recorded in the church walls and windows are Germanic. Including my great-grandfather’s:

Felix B. Bauer, on the right
Felix B. Bauer, on the right

My great-great-grandfather Felix died during construction — it took two years to build St. Joseph’s — and his sons finished. It is Felix the younger, my great-great uncle, whose name is in the window.

Now the area is primarily Hispanic and bi-lingual services are offered.

I often enjoy the decor of Catholic churches; as a non-denominational Christian who grew up in a fairly plain building, I find highly-aesthetic churches intriguing. I particularly liked the stained glass image of young Jesus learning carpentry from his earthly father Joseph.

While the brick has been covered, All Saints is undergoing some new construction and renovation, and there was a high corner of the original brick exposed.

original handmade bricks

The mud for the bricks was taken from an island in the river, probably because it takes a lot of mud for 650,000 bricks and you don’t really want to make that hole in your riverbank. As it happened, we stumbled across a strawberry shortcake fair in Logansport and found a historical society booth with an old map.

the river island in Logansport from which the brick mud was taken
historical map of Logansport, IN

It’s also a lot of bricks to count, so lots of bricks were numbered to keep track. And one of the church women was kind enough to let Mom take a brick removed during renovation, etched with my great-great-grandfather’s hand:

numbered, handmade brick
numbered, handmade brick

Pretty cool, huh?

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  1. Elizabeth Martin

    That’s amazing! How incredible to have such a fun family story and now an example of the craftmanship!

  2. That is awesome! A brick with your great-great-grandfather’s numbers on it is an amazing piece of family history. I also wonder how much smaller that island is than before they took the mud. ;)

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