This past weekend, we hosted the Historical Marker Ceremony for St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. We congregated at the location where the church once stood. Although, all that remains of the church is the concrete slab where the stairs began. The rest of the area is a sandy field with stumps of grass. The church was closed by the Archdiocese in 1981. The structure burned down on Dec. 15, 1983. Sheriff David Soward has told me about the night the church burned down. He was a young Patrol Deputy Sheriff at the time and he says he recalls seeing the fire from miles away.
Nevertheless, the absence of a building or any tangible remains did not stop the multitude present last Saturday from sharing stories and reminiscing. My favorite moment was after the ceremony when random people approached the old granite marker and the new official marker to share their stories. As the former parishioners approached the marker, they would point to their ancestors’ name and tell their moment in Atascosa County History.
Mr. Joe A. Huizar spent a few minutes with me and it was great to see his face light up as he spoke of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church being the host for his baptism, first communion and his marriage. Mr. Huizar gave me a rare glimpse of what life was like with an upbringing near Las Gallinas Creek.
Our speakers for the event were no novices when it came to St. Joseph’s history. Mr. Roger Gillespie and his nephew County Commissioner, Precinct 1 Mark Gillespie were guest speakers and each of them provided a first-hand recollection of church activities of the past. Mrs. Kathy Beard was also a guest speaker. Mrs. Beard has conducted extensive research of the genealogy and the area of Las Gallinas and beyond. She spoke of the Polish influence at St. Joseph’s and Las Gallinas Community. Barbara Westbrook was the lead researcher on this project before she retired. She returned to present and unveil the marker one last time.
Mr. Bill Slomchinksi identified three ancestor names on the marker; Slomchinski, Salzman and Toudouze. It’s safe to say Bill’s roots are deep in this project. I hope to talk history with Mr. Slomchinski soon, I think his family history has a lot more to offer.
Y’all be safe and healthy, and keep our history alive!
Until next time.
MARTIN GONZALES is the Atascosa County Historical Commission Chairman. If you have history to share, you may contact him at 830-480-2741.