-Collison, Lois and Clarence Keele and Ila Cartmell, Blencoe Centenial 1871-1971 (found at the Onawa Public Library – 977.7, Ble, Iowa)
-pg. 37 - A Roman Catholic church was organized under the influence of Rev. Father Daly, and work on the building in which they worship was commenced in the spring of the same year, and completed about the 1st of August following, William Marsh having charge of the work. This building is the neat one, and is 22 X 32 feet in size. Rev. Father Griffin, of Salix has charge of the church at the present writing. The first mass celebrated in the town was at the house of Peter Reily, by the Rev. Father McLaughlin, a missionary priest in 1866.
-pg. 60-62- Iowa was admitted to the Union in 1846, and the first settlement in Monona County made in the summer of 1851.
The first Catholic families to settle in Franklin Township, later to become a part of the Blencoe parish arrived in 1855.
Peter and Patrick Reily came to Sherman Township in March, 1865, from Webster City and were the first known Catholic settlers in Blencoe. In the 1880s and 90s the family names of Kelsey, Brown, Bassett, Bruen, Quinn, Peck, Kerwin, McKenna, Torticill, Duffy, Mickolson, Nealis, Marley, McShane, Kennedy and Henry were found in the Catholic registry.
Mass was offered in the farm homes of Issac Davis, M.A. Marley, and Thomas Duffy, and the first recorded Mass within the limits of the town of Blencoe as a parish in 1866 by Father McLaulin, a missionary priest.
Father M.C. Daly of Salix was responsible for the organization of Blencoe as a parish in 1866. A school house purchased from J.J. Reynolds was moved to a lot north of the present Blencoe Bank. This building, measuring 22 X 32 was renovated and furnished as a church. Services were held for the first time August 29, 1866. The ladies sponsoring a Thanksgiving festival to climax the fund raising project.
In 1903, to accommodate a growing congregation, a new and larger church was planned and the contract awarded to Peterson and Son Const. of Council Bluffs. This building, 50 X32 with a 44 foot steeple was completed at the cost of $3,000 and located near the west edge of town. Formal dedication of the church, to be known as St. Bernard’s was held Oct. 20, 1903, with Bishop Garrigan and Father T.D. Smith officiating.
Over fifty people from the parish were confirmed on this day, amongst them Rose McCarville, Leo Torticil, Harry Torticill, Michael Torticill, Sr., and Julie Bassett.
The first recorded baptism was that of Addison Davis Oliver, son of Mr. and Mrs. Cyrus Oliver. The first wedding was that of Francis Davis and John H. Shea.
Since the coming of a resident pastor in 1900, the priests had made their home with various parishioners or rented living quarters. In 1909, Father Zimmerman purchased four lots from the Morrison estate in Onawa and the residence became the first rectory.
The early 1930s found many diligent, religious Bohemian families from Saunders County, Nebraska, being added to the rolls of St. Bernards. These families and other new members once again taxed the capacity of the church. Fr. P.P. Gearen, pastor since 1930, undertook the task of procuring funds for the new church.
One of the initial donations, $2,000 from the estate of John Marley, a pillar of the parish and recently deceased, started the building fund. This was soon followed by bequests from estates of Julia Bassett, the Bruen families, and Tone Molle. A God’s acre plan was also established.
In September 1940, Father Gearen was transferred to a larger parish at Early and Father B.V. Greteman continued and completed the undertaking.
The new pastor with lay directors, Mahlon Davis and Michael Marley secured the services of Hilgers of Sioux City and plans for the new building were drawn.
The new site, an acre in area, a block east of the old church had been donated by Mr. and Mrs. Neville Gray in memory of his parents Mr. and Mrs. Angus Gray.
The laying and blessing of the cornerstone took place June 15, 1941, and Armistice Day, Nov. 13, 1941, tow masses were offered – one for Thanksgiving and the other for peace thus marking the completion of the new edifice.
Dedication took place Aug. 20, 1942, with many church dignitaries and parishioners present.
The last of the indebtedness on St. Bernard’s Church was paid on December 8, 1940, and the following year the church was decorated, a new main altar, stained glass windows and permanent rubber tile was completed the building project.
Holy Week, 1952, found the Missouri River on the rampage, flood waters invading the base ment area of the church, the six foot of water damaging the heating system and furnishings.
Catechetical instructions were originally provided by the pastors, later assisted by lay volunteers. Seminarians conducted the religious vacation schools. Since 1940, the Servants of Mary, Salix, have assisted in the Saturday classes for the grade school children. The Thursday night C.Y.O. classes are instructed by the pastor and lay volunteers.
After the appointment of a permanent pastor the ladies of the parish were organized, Mrs. W. H. Bassett as its leader and known as the Altar Society, later changed to Rosary Society. Meetings were held in their homes, later in public meeting places. Card parties, dinners, dances and other activities have been sponsored by them, the receipts being used for many necessary church expenses.
All active member have served as officers and leaders at various times.
The liturgical prayers of the church have been furthered by the work of the choir, the organist and its leaders. Through the years Margaret Davis, Bertha Loomis, Inez Marley, Teresa Marley, Verla Heisterkamp, Evelyn Bigelow, Leo Framke, Connie Jirovsky, and Patricia Kelley have given of their time and talents.
The Knights of Columbus, the men’s social group, organized in 1953, as an affiliate of Missouri Valley Council 999 has now been reorganized under its new charter, Onawa-Blencoe-6249.
Lay directors have assisted the pastor since the incorporation of the parish in 1912. Serving since that time, Thomas Bruen, Mahlon Davis, John Marley, Charles Kelsey, Michael Marley, Joseph Stanislav, and the present, Milo Stanislav and John M. Hubert.
Retaining a nameless position, Ford and Evelyn Bigelow have since 1937 contributed countless hours of time and labor to the welfare of St. Bernard Parish.
Since May 1962, Father Thomas Molloy has faithfully rendered himself to the parishioners and the community. Pastors of St. Bernard’s Church:
D.K. Hurley 1900-2 (first resident)
Joseph Murtagh 1902
Terrence Smith 1902-5
Francis McNeill 1905-8
Edward Neppl 1908-9
John Ryan 1909-10 & 1911-15
A.E. Zimmerman 1909-11
F. Borman 1910-11
V.D. Heyden 1911
J.L. Clear 1915
Linus Lynch 1915
Fidelus Barry 1915
M.J. Hetherington 1916
Edmund Casey 1916-8
T.M. Coglan 1918
Wm. Humphries 1918-9
Edward Smith 1919-22
Louis Savage 1923-30
P.P. Gearen 1930-40
B.V. Greteman 1940-62
T.K. Molloy 1962