Albion Historical Notebook



The history of St. John’s Church in Albion begins with the arrival of Thomas Slowey and family in 1845, followed shortly by the Doran, Roberts, Lynch, and Cashen families. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was first observed in the Lynch home, now the residence of William McAuliffe on S. Ionia St. At that time, Ann Arbor was the western terminus of the Michigan Central railroad and, from that place, Rev. Father James Cullen made his way along the old Indian Trail and Territorial Road to Jackson, Albion, Marshall, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo. The first railroad train passed through Albion on July 4, 1845. As the number of Catholics gradually increased, the work became too arduous for Father Cullen’s failing strength and his territory was divided. Father Hennessy was given charge over the western part, with headquarters at Marshall. He was succeeded in 1855 by Rev. Father Peter Koopmans.

As the number of members grew, the house became too small to accommodate the worshippers and, in 1866 the property now occupied by the Church and Rectory on the corner of Huron and Cass Streets, was purchased from William H. Brockway, a Methodist clergyman and real estate dealer. But as the Rt. Rev. Casper Borgess, Bishop of the Diocese of Detroit, would not allow a debt to be contracted, the work of building was delayed until 1873, when it was undertaken under the direction of Rev. Father D. Callaert, ably assisted by John Fanning. The farmers hauled the materials and the honor of delivering the first load of bricks went to John McAuliffe. The cornerstone was donated by Mrs. John Lynch. The young men donated the altar. The windows were donated by those whose names they bear. The organ was presented by Mrs. John Bergeron, Mary Dolan, and Kittie Welsh. Mary Fanning was the first organist.

In 1883, Rev. Father Peter Baart, S. T. L., was appointed pastor of Marshall and its missions, where he labored faithfully for 26 years. During that time, he was assisted by Fathers O’Hare, Beancheau, Sadlier, and Fleming. In 1890, the Marshall territory was divided and Albion became a mission of Hillsdale, from which place it was attended in turn by the Rev. Fathers P. J. Slane, Dan McLaughlin, and C. M. Korst.

In 1898, St. John’s Church became a separate parish, with Rev. Father Henry Sullivan as the first pastor. Father Sullivan built the first rectory. He was succeeded in 1903 by Rev. Joseph Marx who guided the destinies of the parish for twelve years. In 1918 Fr. John Crowe became pastor and erected the beautiful brick rectory which stands as a memorial of his two years’ pastorate. He was succeeded in 1918 by Rev. Joseph V. Coyle, the present incumbent. The church building has become too small to accommodate the rapidly increasing numbers and a new and more spacious house of worship is being planned.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present an 1894 photograph of the original church erected in 1873, 150 years ago. It was demolished in 1933 to make room for a new building which was erected on the site and was in use until the move was made to their present Irwin Avenue location.