A History of St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish
The First School
The first beginnings of St. John’s school were indeed humble. Father Benedict was interested in the education of youth from the very start. He early joined with Dr. Putnam in organizing a little school consisting of seven or eight boys who were taught English. Father Benedict was the first teacher in the budding St. John’s Parochial School together with Miss Katherine Wade, the first lay teacher. Classes were first held in the back room of the rectory.
For a number of years, it was not possible to have even eight years of common school, because when pupils reached the age of eleven or twelve they were constrained to seek work and could no longer attend school. In the first years, the number of pupils hardly equaled thirty-five.
The progress of the school was very rapid. The first new school consisted of a four room frame building and a Sisters’ home. They were erected in 1900; and the next year, October, 10th, the school opened with seventy-five pupils. The new teachers were Sisters of Providence from St. Mary’s of the Woods in Terre Haute. By 1908-09, the number of students was 278. Two years later the number grew to 363 and by 1918, it had mounted to 685.
The old school is shown here in the photo on the right, inside the old church, below.
By the time the First World War began (1914), the church had to be enlarged to make room for the growing parish. An extension, all brick, was built in the front. A side entrance was built for the choir loft along with a shrine to our Lady of Lourdes. Facilities, including the Sisters’ home, had to be sold in order to construct new buildings to fit the growing Parish’s needs.
During this period and into the ‘20’s, Father Benedict sought help from other priests in ministering to the vast needs of the parish. In 1921, Fr. Benedict’s first assistant was formally appointed, the Rev. Michael Kosko who was Slovak by birth. Fr. Kosko was at St. John’s until 1923 and was instrumental in the formation of Immaculate Conception, another one of the beautiful Parishes of our cluster.