History of the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Pearl River, Louisiana

As you may have noticed by now, we live in a church; the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church to be exact. Not everybody gets to live in a building like ours and therefore we set out to research as much of its history as possible. Here are the results of our research since 1995.

Pearl River is a small town approximately 40 miles northeast of New Orleans. Despite the overall strong Catholic influence in Louisiana, Catholicism had not been particularly strong during the 19th century in this area. A newspaper article states that the first Catholic service in the town history was held in a private home on July 5, 1903 ("Pearl River Dots", Saint Tammany Farmer, July 19, 1903).

During the fall of 1903, local Catholics summoned enough supporters and started the construction of a wooden church. The selected construction site was in the village of Guthrie, not Pearl River. Today, Guthrie is a small settlement in unincorporated Saint Tammany parish, approximately 0.5 mile southwest from Pearl River along highway LA 1090. James H. Guthrie donated the original building site to the Archdiocese of New Orleans on March 16, 1904 for the purpose of constructing a church and/or school with a stipulation that the property would revert to the original landowner if the property ceases to be used as a church or school (St. Tammany Land Records).

Pear River church in 1904
Pear River church in 1904

Construction began in the Summer of 1903. Materials and labor for the construction of the church were donated. Construction was completed in the spring of 1904. Originally, the building did not have a bell tower. The church was dedicated on June 5, 1904 ("Church Dedicated", Saint Tammany Farmer, June 11, 1904, and "Pearl River Catholic Church" The Daily Picayune, June 5, 1904). It was given the name "Saints Peter and Paul Church". As a mission church, the church did not have a full-time. Instead, priests would commute to Pearl River once a month by train from Saint Joseph's Abbey north of Covington, LA. See "Archdiocese of New Orleans - Annual Reports" later in this page for original accounts.

The bell tower was added in 1906 (personal communication with eyewitnesses). The bell was made by The Henry Stuckstede Bell Foundry Co. in Saint Louis, and donated to the church by Elisabeth Boimann. We acquired in the bell in an auction in August 2017, and the bell is displayed on a pedestal on our property.

Original church bell from 1906
Original church bell from 1906

The inscription on the bell reads:

NO LA FEB 1906"

Inscription on the bell
Inscription on the bell

The Henry Stuckstede Bell Foundry Co. was one of many bell foundries that operated in St. Louis between the mid-1800 until the Depression. Their company name was often abbreviated as "THE HY STUCKSTEDE BELL FDY CO" on the largest bells or "B F CO" on smaller bells. The company was founded by Henry Stuckstede, a German immigrant and the son of Johann Henry Stuckstede and Maria Catarina Strootmann. He had 7 children and a younger brother John (source: Find A Grave). The company was apparently incorporated in 1888. Henry ran the family bell and brass business until retirement, upon which time John G. Stuckstede took over as CEO. The company changed names over time from "Henry Stuckstede & Co." to "The Henry Stuckstede Bell Foundry Company".

Period news sources indicate that the Catholic population of Pearl River grew immediately following the opening of the Sts. Peter and Paul Church. However, in the years immediately preceding World War I, the Catholic population in Pearl River decreased significantly and the church was closed ("Saints Peter and Paul's Church at Pearl River", Saint Tammany Farmer, September 4, 1926). No mention of the church in Pearl River is in the January annual reports located in the Archdiocese records from January 1915 through January 1921. The January 1922 annual report lists the church as a mission church of the Our Lady of Lourdes church in Slidell. We therefore assume that the church was closed between 1914 and 1921.

On June 4, 1921, the Archdiocese of New Orleans purchased a small lot for one dollar from Hans W. Nelson on the southeast corner of the Town of Pearl River in Section 42, Township 8 South, Range 14 East. (St. Tammany Parish Land Records). It was decided to relocate the church building from its original site in Village Guthrie to that location. A sufficiently wide path approximately 0.5 mile long was cleared through the woods. The church building was placed on logs and moved using oxen (personal communication with an eyewitness). The church was reopened in 1921 in the new location and regular masses given by priests from Saint Joseph's Abbey resumed on a monthly basis.

Despite moving the church building to a prominent location near a state highway, Catholic population or Pearl Rover remained low. In their annual reports, priests have frequently complained about too few and poor parishioners.

Sometime after the church was relocated to its new location, it started to be informally called by the locals "The Old Green Church" - a nickname it has retained until present day.

The church continued to serve local Catholics until 1958. The old church building was decommissioned when a new Saints Peter and Paul church was built in the town of Pearl River. The old building continued to serve the community not as a church but as a venue serving various charitable purposes such as reselling donated clothing, books, etc.

In late 1970s, the building was abandoned, its windows covered with boards. Widespread decay started. Homeless people used it on occasion as a place to sleep or stay warm. A homeless man who came to our door in early 1997 told us about a sign that used to exist in the nearby train tracks that read "Church - safe place to sleep." Evidence of at least three internal fires was found when we started construction. These fires probably occurred while the building served as a self-declared homeless shelter. In the middle of what is our living room, there was a large burned hole in the floor, evidence of a campfire having been started there. In addition to fire damage, storms have damaged the roof and large amounts of rainwater started to pour inside. The building was near death.

The building was still owned by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. However, it was considered to be beyond repair and thus of no use. The lot was below the minimum-size regulation, therefore it could not be rebuilt on. Deteriorating steadily, the property was finally placed on the market in 1991. Lisa successfully bidded in the sale and acquired it and the land for several thousand dollars!

A new roof was immediately put on, preventing further rain damage to the structure. In December 1995, acting as our own general contractor, hired carpenters, electricians, plumbers, dry wall installers, painters, air conditioning and heating technicians, bricklayers and started remodeling the Old Green Church into our home. Construction started in December 1995. On Labor Day 1996 we moved in.

However, in the middle of construction, we found ourselves in the middle of a strange lawsuit with an crazy neighbor who erroneously assumed she regained ownership of the building after it had been abandoned. In the middle of construction we suddenly had to worry about lawers, litigation and legal fees!

Despite the years of neglect, the structure turned out to be in a remarkably good condition. One large horizontal beam supporting the front of the building had to be replaced due to rain damage caused by water entering the building through the bell tower. Only a few exterior siding boards had to be replaced. Otherwise, the structural integrity of the building was good. In the first stages if the interior construction, a loft was built in the front portion of the building. The attic space was cleared out and converted to a third floor bedroom. Anticipating significant additional load the building would have to bear, the foundation -- originally consisting of pilings spaced 15 feet and supporting three large beams running the length of the building -- was improved by spacing additional pilings at 7.5 foot intervals and adding two more beams.

The building had some rudimentary electrical wiring, probably dating back to the 1950s. There was no running water, except an old well in the front of the church. Butane was used to heat the old church prior to 1953 when natural gas was provided to Pearl River in the early 1950s. The church had a heater that was suspended between the two bell tower supports above the entrance hall. All this had to go. The old electrical wiring that was probably installed in the 1940s or 50s was removed. New, safe wiring for 110V and 220V appliances was installed, as were five telephone lines, 100 megabit per second Cat 4 cables for our home computer network, Monster cables for speakers, a digital satellite system, and a custom-built 1500-Watt home theater on the 3rd floor. Because the satellite dish provides us with both television as well as broadband internet access, we call it out "high-speed digital link to Heaven". Heating and air-conditioning needs are covered by two natural-gas furnaces and two electric air conditioning systems with a peak output of 90000 BTU/hr (7.5 tons). Hot water is provided by two one hundred gallon (380 liter) water heaters. The kitchen is equipped with a computer-controlled electric convection oven, a gas stove with a steam-removing downdraft vent, refrigerator, wine cooler, and a quiet dishwasher. Finally, every good church needs to have a jacuzzi hot tub. We put one in the downstairs bedroom.

Hurricane Katrina did very little damage to the house. We replaced the roof because it had pre-existing damage sustained during Hurriance George in 1998. While at it, we built two dormers to bring in more daylight into our 3rd floor, but otherwise kept the appearance of the building unchanged.


The following section is a comprehensive compilation of all information we were able to find about the history of the Saints Peter and Paul church in Pearl River. In our research we used two periodicals (the Saint Tammany Farmer and The Times-Picayune) and records from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Details about researching these sources are contained in the individual sections below.

Earlier in the 20th century, more records may have been kept at the Saint Joseph's Abbey in St. Benedict, LA. However, a fire that occurred there in 1907 destroyed all of them.

Our research presented on this page is organized into 5 sections:

  1. Newspaper Articles
  2. Archdiocese of New Orleans - Catholic Directories
  3. Archdiocese of New Orleans - Annual Reports
  4. Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Slidell - Correspondence 1910-1934
  5. Pastor Salaries

Clicking on individual links will take you there. There is a "Back to Contents" link at the end of each section that will return you back here.

External internet links relevant to Pearl River and The Old Green Church (open in a new window):


Newspaper Articles

Here are verbatim transcripts of newspaper articles from the first decades of the 20th century. This research was conducted during 1995 and 1996.

We found 10 articles with pertinent information in the "Saint Tammany Farmer". This was a local weekly newspaper published during that period. Most of the information is from a column called "Pearl River Dots", later renamed "Pearl River Items".The Saint Tammany Farmer was the only newspaper published in Saint Tammany Parish during the 1900s and 1910s. We also found one article in "The Daily Picayune," a major New Orleans daily known today as "The Times-Picayune".

Issues of the Saint Tammany Farmer used in this project are stored on microfilm and microfiche at the Saint Tammany Parish Public Library in Covington, Louisiana (310 W. 21st Avenue, Covington, LA 70433). Issues of The Daily Picayune are stored on microfilm at the New Orleans Public Library (219 Loyola Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70112-2044).

Our research covered every issue of the Saint Tammany Farmer from the earliest issues available at the library (cca. 1890) to the early 1930s. The articles we found range in dates from 1903 to 1926. We did not find any information about the church after 1926.

July 19, 1903
"On Sunday, July 5, the first Catholic religious service in the history of Pearl River was held. Mass was said by the Mission Father, in the residence of one of the prominent Catholics of this place, as there is no other house of worship at present. What the future holds in the way of erecting a Catholic Church in Pearl River is hard to tell, but it is to be hoped that something will be done towards erecting a church in the near future. We hope, when the Catholics of this place try to raise funds to erect a place of worship, that their friends of other denominations will lend a generous hand towards building a Catholic Church in Pearl River an assured fact.
Best wishes to the editor. A.M.D.G."
(Pearl River Dots, Saint Tammany Farmer)


July 25, 1903
"We hope our Catholic friends here will be successful in building their church."
(Pearl River Dots, Saint Tammany Farmer)


November 29, 1903
"The new Catholic church is progressing finely."
(Pearl River Items, Saint Tammany Farmer)


December 19, 1903
The Catholic Church is rising up fast."
(Pearl River Items, Saint Tammany Farmer)


January 9, 1904
"The Catholic church is about completed. It will be a fine edifice."
(Pearl River Items, Saint Tammany Farmer)


March 5, 1904
"Pearl River is getting to be a thriving little village with lots of good people in it. It now comprises two general stores, one fine high grade school, one good fruit and vegetable stand, one Palace Saloon, three big lumber and shingle mills, one spoke factory, one fine hotel and other enterprises too numerous to mention. Come and see us."
(Pearl River Items, Saint Tammany Farmer)


June 5, 1904
Pearl River Catholic Church To Be Dedicated To-Day With Many Witnessing the Ceremonies.
Pear River church in 1904
Sts. Peter and Paul Church on June 5,1904

"This morning, at 9 o'clock, the pretty new church which has been erected by the Catholics around Pearl River, La., will be dedicated with imposing ceremonies. Right Rev. Abbot Paul Schauble, O.S.B., the head of the Benedictine Order in Louisiana, will officiate. The church has been built through the efforts of his distinguished Benedictine, who is conducting the College of the Order at Covington, La. Abbot Paul has had confided to him and his brethren a wide and growing territory, which includes Pearl River section. The number of Catholics in this district has increased greatly of late, and as ther was no church between Pearl River and Florenville, this handsome new edifice was erected to accommodate the large congregation scattered between those two points, and who found it difficult, in bad weather especially, to go to either place, in which for many years the Church has been doing great and good work.

The new building will be dedicated under the name of Sts. Peter and Paul's Church. It is a pretty frame structure, and the people around Pearl River are very proud of their success in responding so quickly to the popular demand for another house of worship between Florenville and that point. While completely finished interiorily and exteriorily, the church as yet has no altar, and for a while, till some generous donor comes forward or till there will be sufficient funds in the hands of Abbot Paul where with to erect an altar for the holy sacrifice.

Abbot Paul will be assisted in the dedication by several of the fathers from the Benedictine Monastery in Covington. Rev. Father McLeod, C.SS.R., will preach the dedication train from New Orleans, which is due at Pearl River at 9 a.m. The train will leave New Orleans from the Northeastern Depot at 7:30 a.m., and will stop at Guthrie, near the church.Parties from New Orleans will be able to procure luncheon and refreshments on the grounds pending the arrival of the return excursion train. It is hoped that a large body of friends for this city will attend the ceremonies, and thus encourage their brethren in the outlying sections in their efforts to promote the cause of religion and education."
(The Daily Picayune)


June 11, 1904
Church Dedicated
"The new Catholic Church at Pearl River, La., was dedicated last Sunday morning amid impressive religious services. The services were performed by the Right Rev. Abbott Paul Schaenble, superior of the Benedictine Order of Louisiana, in the presence of a large number of parishioners of the new church and invited guests. The Rev. Father P. Dobyns, O.S.B. assisted Father Paul in the ceremonies. The dedication sermon was preached by the Rev. Father CA. McLeod, C.S.R., of St. Alphonsus Church, in New Orleans."
(Saint Tammany Farmer)


July 30, 1904
"The social and dance for the benefit of St. Peter and St. Paul Church, at the schoolhouse last Monday night was a success."
(Pearl River Items, Saint Tammany Farmer)


August 6, 1904
"Monday evening, July 25, the schoolhouse was the scene of a Tombola, the proceeds of which are to be used to help furnish the new Catholic Church, dedicated about two months ago. The affair was quite a success. The spacious school hall was prettily decorated with flags and lanterns.
The programme was as follows:
  1. The Gondelier, piano, Mr. Wm. Steaklum.
  2. The Message of the Violet, Miss Sarah G. Egan.
  3. The Charity Mite, Recitation, Miss Lillian Holiday.
  4. Hiawatha, Violin duet, by Miss A. Nicholl and Master W. Nelson, accompanied on the piano by Mrs. H. J. Schneider.
  5. Violets So Blue, vocal selection, Mr. Hugh Nelson.
  6. I'm Wearing My Heart Away For You, vocal solo Miss Annie Nicholl.
  7. Congo Love Song, Ragtime Selection, Mr. Hugh Nelson.
  8. The Girl You Love, Miss Sarah G. Egan.
  9. Dancing.
The music was furnished by Mrs. H.J. Schneider, Messrs, W. Steaklum and Albert Rosenmter. The refreshment tables were in charge of Mrs. J.H. Guthrie Sr., assisted by Mrs. Aug. Heitkemp and Miss Adel Heitkemp. Misses Ella Egan and Helen Nelson had charge of the Mystery Box Booth. The candy store was run by Mrs. B.T. Crawford. Messrs. J.H. Guthrie, Sr., B.T. Crawford and Wm. Cobb rendered valuable service during the evening. With best wishes to the FARMER."
(Pearl River Items, Saint Tammany Farmer)


March 25, 1905
"Pearl River (Guthrie)
Benedictine Father, mass every first Sunday at 9 a.m."
(Church Directory, Saint Tammany Farmer)


September 4, 1926
"Saints Peter and Paul's Church at Pearl River
The Catholic Church at Pearl River, known as St. Peter and St. Paul's, was erected and dedicated in 1903. [This is an error.] For several years prior to that time masses were said in private homes. The few Catholic families at Pearl River raised the funds to build the church, and received donations and contributions from friends everywhere. The church was built in the woods, and priests were sent from Covington for the masses.

Several years after the church was completed, the Catholic population of Pearl River dwindled to such an extent that the church was closed. Four years ago it was re-opened and moved to a better location in the town limits. The expense of moving the church was paid with funds raised by Father Martinez, of Slidell. There is no resident pastor."
(Saint Tammany Farmer)


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Archdiocese Of New Orleans - Catholic Directories

The research in this section was done in the Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans (531 Ursulines Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116).

The first mention of a Catholic priest conducting a mass in Pearl River in the directory printed in 1905. The directory is typically created in January of the year noted. Therefore, the first note in 1905 is an indication that a priest attended Pearl River from St. Joseph's Abbey (Saint Benedict, Louisiana) in 1904. Also, a priest that may be listed in the year of 1905, for example, may have come to the parish during the year of 1904.

Diocese was created on April 25, 1793;
Archdiocese was created on July 19, 1850.
Placide Louis Chapelle, D.D.

Masses held:


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Archdiocese Of New Orleans - Annual Reports

Researched at the Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans (531 Ursulines Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116).

Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1906

"This is an account of Slidell, which is attended for our monastery every Sunday. Revenues for us there are hardly any as you may see by account. Good luck that we have 1/2 fare on the N.O.& G.N.R.R., otherwise, it would be a loss to this mission in regard to pecuniary affairs. But even so it costs 65c to go one way from our place to Slidell, $1.30 for each trip. Deduct this from the income and you will see that there is hardly anything left for us. The $15.00 of improvements were made up by fairs, etc."
Respectfully, St. Joseph's Abbey F. J.A.S.B.


Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1907

"Pearl River (Church of Sts. Peter and Paul) is a station attended. Services once every month."


P. Anselm Maenner O.S.B., 1908-1911 - No mention of the Pearl River mission church in this annual report.

Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1912

"Pearl River- no baptisms, no funerals, no marriages"


Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1922

"I go to the mission of Pearl River every second Sunday of the month."
Rev J. Martinez


Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1923

"Pearl River - once a month."


Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1924

"I attend the little mission of Pearl River. There are only seven Catholic families. I go to say Mass once a month, but with the good gravel road, they come to Slidell when they want."
Rev J. Martinez


1925 - No mention of the Pearl River mission church in this annual report under "Missions."

Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1926

"Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Pearl River, La. Every II Sunday of the month"
M. Gallus


Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1927

"Sts. Peter and Paul Chapel Mass II Sunday of the month now supplied by St. Joseph's Abbey."
M. Gallus


Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1928

"Sts. Peter and Paul Chapel Mass II Sunday every month from St. Joseph's Abbey."


Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1929

"Pearl River - once a month in summer."
"Very hard for me to stand with my missions. People are very poor. Slidell - many people move - families are poor. More people are going to church. 95 children for catechism. My debts for my school worry me."
Rev. Francis Balay


Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1930

"Pearl River - once a month in summer."
Rev. Francis Balay


1931-1932 - No mention of the Pearl River mission church in this annual report under "Missions."

Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Tammany Ph., La., January 1, 1933

"P.R. 1st sunday"
Rv. Francis Balay


No annual reports from the years after 1933 were available at the time of this search at the Archdiocese of New Orleans.


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Church Of Our Lady Of Lourdes, Slidell - Correspondence 1910-1934

Researched at the Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans (531 Ursulines Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116).

September 26, 1927

Parish Limits of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Slidell, La.
On the North 23 miles to the town limits of Talisheek; on the East to Pearl River; on the South Lake Ponchatrain; on the West to Colored Church Bayou Vincent, (exclusive Colored people between Church and Bayou Vincent Budge) and railroad crossing of Covington Highway some three miles from Slidell.

Approved M.Gallus - Pastor
J.W.Shaw Rev. Francis Balay
New Orleans Pastor - Bonfouca


October 19, 1927 These boundaries were officially promulgated by a formal decree by Archbishop J.W.Shaw.


November 1907

Burning of St. Joseph's Monastery
Early morning of Feast of St. Andrews on November 30, 1907, the entire St. Joseph's monastery was destroyed by fire, including a most valuable library containing more than 10,000 manuscripts and volumes, some of which were very rare specimens and could not be replaced.


St. Tammany Churches & Schools,
Sister Philippine Research Notes, 1
Box 5, #26


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Pastor Salaries

Researched at the Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans (531 Ursulines Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116).


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