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History of St. Joseph Catholic Church

Flames Raze Church at W. Liberty (1946)

A spectacular blaze which resulted in one of West Liberty's heaviest fire losses in recent years completely destroyed the St. Joseph Catholic Church here Thursday night.

The church, a frame structure which had served worshippers of this community for 60 years, burned to the ground after blazing for several hours with a fierceness that forestalled the efforts of firemen to to quell it.

No definite figure could be placed on the loss, but it was estimated that it would amount to approximately $25,000. The building was covered by insurance.

Contents Burn

Contents of the edifice were also a complete loss, including pews, the alter and ornaments.

Origin of the fire was undetermined today. But the conflagration evidently started in the basement and worked its way into the main floor where it had made considerable headway before it was first noticed about 8:20 p.m..

Firemen from both the West Liberty City and Farm Departments responded to the alarms, but by the time they arrived the interior of the church was a mass of flame, and it was impossible to bring the fire under control.

Firemen from the Nichols department also responded to a call for assistance, making the hazardous trip over icy roads to aid the West Liberty firemen in preventing the blaze from spreading to the rectory which is immediately adjacent to the church.

The tall steeple atop the church remained standing for almost an hour after the blaze was first discovered, then toppled into the blazing ruins of the building with a roar.

Spectacular Blaze

Attracted by the spectacular fire which was visible for miles around, a large crowd gathered at the scene and some remained until almost after midnight before all vestiges of the flames had been extinguished.

The Rev. Raymond McGrath, Pastor of St. Joseph's, said this morning that the church had just been cleared of its last outstanding indebtedness, and approximately $2,000 had just been spent on repairs.

He said that several offers had been received from local lodges and organizations, offering buildings for temporary use as a church, but added that plans for services Sunday and in succeeding weeks were as yet indefinite. Appreciation was expressed for the efforts of firemen from both West Liberty departments and from Nichols, in fighting the blaze.