Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Callahan Catholic Church

The Callahan Catholic Church


         In the early 1850’s there were no churches in the Callahan-Sawyers Bar area, so the good fathers or “traveling missionaries” as they were called, came into the area to perform their necessary services to the outlying areas.  Two such missionaries were Father Thomas Cody and Father James Cassian.  They would make the long and sometimes hazardous journey by mule over Etna Mountain and stop for a rest at the Mathias Callahan ranch.  It was here that the first Catholic mass in Callahan was offered.
            About this same time a young girl, along with her family, came to the area.  Miss Mary Lowe, being a very religious young lady, saw the need for a church.  She went around to all the miners and collected enough money from them to build a church.  She also managed to persuade Mr. Masterson to donate the lumber and Mr. Michael Fay to haul it to the site.
            In 1858 the Callahan Catholic Church was completed and the first mass was offered by Father Croke.   On July 4th of that year, Father Florian Schwenninger performed the first baptism, and on February 13, 1866, Miss Lowe became Mrs. John McBride and moved to the McBride Ranch near Etna.  As a farewell celebration to his ministry in Siskiyou County, Father O’Kane had a great high mass on December 25, 1873, in the Little Mission Church.  He was a rather flamboyant character and his mass was not soon forgotten by the local townfolk.  When there wasn’t enough money in the collection, the priest would let the people know it.  One time after the collection was taken up, the priest said, “What? No gold?!”  A man held up his hand, “I put some gold in there, Father.”  “Pat, where’s the gold?”  Pat seemed to shrink right down.  He got to searching his pocket and came up with two and a half pieces of gold.  He said, “Jesus, Father, she must have slipped through me fingers.”

  Until 1821 Etna, Callahan and Sawyers Bar were included in the Yreka Parish and were on the “visit” list of the traveling missionaries.  In April of that year Father O’Sullivan became the first pastor of Fort Jones and continued to offer mass to the smaller communities.  However, as the trails turned into roads and travel became easier, people began to go to Fort Jones for regular mass.  Only on special occasions did people return to the little mission in Callahan.  Priests from Yreka said the masses in Callahan until 1921 when Fort Jones was made a parish and then priests from Fort Jones took over saying the masses for the faithful.

            In 1952 the Eschscholtzia Parlor 112 (Etna) of the Native Daughters of the Golden West erected a marker in front of the church.  The stone used to make the marker was brought from the south fork of the Scott River.  The marker says, “Church of Saints John & Paul, Callahan, Siskiyou
Co. California, erected about 1858.  Father James Croke, a missionary priest held first services here.  First Catholic Church in Scott Valley.  Dedicated by Eschscholtzia Parlor, No. 112 N.D.G.W. 1952.”
            The last mass at the Callahan Catholic Church was celebrated in 1971 by Father Anthony Gurnell.  In 1974 the church building was put up for bid and was sold to Steve Farrington who had plans to tear it down.
            This little church building in the Outdoor Museum is a replica of the original  Callahan Catholic Church, also known as Saints John and Paul Catholic Church.  The altar, railing, window frames, doors and main ceiling beams are the only original parts of the church remaining.  These materials were donated by Stephen Farrington to the Historical Society.  The Knights of Columbus, Siskiyou Council 2454, erected the church here in 1979.  It is about 2/3 the size of the original.

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