There are many churches across St. Joseph with different denominations, some dating back to the founding of the town.
Prior to St. Joseph’s founding in 1843, Roman Catholicism had made it to the area.
“The first congregations or services were for the Catholic Church and they were by missionary priests,” says Sarah Elder, curator of collections at St. Joseph Museums.
Some of those services were held for Joseph Robidoux in 1838 before the town was officially formed.
“One of the first ones was Father De Smet. He was on his way up the Missouri River and he stopped, met with Joseph Robidoux and they had some services in his house. That was right when the county was formed. It was a good five or six years before St. Joseph was formed,” Elder says.
Presbyterianism also made its way into St. Joseph very early on.
“Later on, Rev. T.S. Reeves was Presbyterian and he came and held the first Presbyterian services in 1845,” Elder says.
In 1843, Methodism also became one of the town’s earliest denominations.
“The Methodists had their first services, but they didn’t necessarily have permanent structures until a few years later,” Elder says.
The Baptists were another one of the early denominations.
“Interestingly enough, the First Baptist Church ... the current building is still standing and has been standing since. They started construction in 1897, moved in and used the basement while construction continued,” Elder says.
Elder believes the diversity of denominations may be due to the fact that St. Joseph was a central point for immigrants.
“We have so many denominations because of, I think, the immigration and the immigrants that came here in the 1800s either intending to go further west or specifically coming to St. Joseph because they realized the economic potential,” she says.
The denominations that arrived early in St. Joseph still are thriving today, with congregations such as Cathedral of St. Joseph (built in 1869), First Presbyterian Church (built in 1872), Francis Street First (built in 1846) and St. Francis Xavier Church (organized in 1890) being among the city’s oldest.
For more information on the history of local churches or denominations, visit the St. Joseph Museums website at stjosephmuseum.org.