In the years following the Civil War, when many of Wisconsin’s Ojibwe (Chippewa) people moved to the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, the St. Croix Band remained scattered along the St. Croix River. Largely isolated from European American encroachment, they did not sign treaties ceding their lands and received no annuities. Even after European American loggers moved into the area, the members of this band continued to hunt and fish here. This church attests to Catholic missionary efforts among the Ojibwes. Franciscan friar Chrysostom Verwyst, who preached in the Ojibwe language, confirmed some seventy Ojibwes, mostly adults, at the building’s dedication. The church remains intact, but the settlement of native people dwindled, replaced only by transient loggers. Verwyst and Father Casimir Vogt oversaw the creation of a simple vernacular church. It overlooks the Chippewa River near its confluence with the Flambeau River, and its reflection in the water multiplies its charm. The plain, clapboard building has simple wooden trim, wooden pews (extant in the balcony), and six-over-six windows. The small six-light sashes below the windows reverse the usual transom pattern. Local carpenter Thomas Orthman constructed the building, as well as an addition in 1884, which was recently replaced. In 1903, Gust Dakota added the two-stage bell tower, ornamenting it with a wheel window and crowning it with a conical-roofed belfry. The clipped gable ends below the cone add complexity to the otherwise simple design. Inside, Dakota probably added the decorative wooden balcony above the entrance. The cemetery east of the church contains stone markers on the graves of dozens of early parishioners, along with the wooden crosses designating Ojibwe converts.
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St. Francis of Assisi Mission Church (Flambeau Mission Church)
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