Many German farmers had settled the area known as Dutchtown in the southern area of the city. To meet the needs of these immigrants, Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick decided to establish a parish midway between Sts. Peter & Paul in Soulard and St. Boniface in Carondelet.
The Archbishop needed to find German-speaking priests, and as early as August 1861, he appealed to the Franciscan Friars in Southern Illinois. These friars had arrived in 1858 from Saxony, Germany. Franciscan friar Fr. Servace Altmicks, OSF and three other friars were sent to establish the new parish of St. Anthony of Padua.
Sketch of St. Anthony of Padua Church. An initial registration of Catholics in the Dutchtown neighborhood turned up 70 German-speaking families, 25 English-speaking families, and 117 Catholic children of school age. They would gather for Sunday Mass at The House of Refuge, a local orphans home (on the site of today’s Marquette Park). However, the Union Army confiscated the building in 1863 to use for additional hospital space during the Civil War. Parishioner Mr. John Whitnell donated a small frame house which then became a temporary church and residence for the parish and the friars. It was a happy and thankful little group that attended the newly formed parish’s first Mass on Feb. 5, 1863!