History of 

St. Joseph Catholic Church


It has been recorded that the initial settlement of Crescent City was in 1852 and in just two years the population numbered over eight hundred inhabitants.  As of 1854, Fr. James Croke, who first visited our little town in 1853 had “not yet discovered many Catholics” but wrote to the Archbishop of his plans to build a church in Jacksonville OR.  This church, he wrote, would serve “all mining districts for sixty to seventy miles around.”  In the years to follow, Fr. Croke would periodically offer Mass while on his way to an Oregon mission.  In fact, during the first decade of settlement, several priests passed through town and offered Mass either in the old courthouse or in private homes.  During the early to mid 1860’s, Fr. Thomas Crinnian, pastor in Eureka, would make the three day trip on mule-back to offer Mass once a month and then return to his parish.  By November 1868 , Fr. Maurice Hickey, the new pastor in Eureka, along with Catholic pioneer Maurice Wenger, purchased an abandoned Methodist Church and in 1869, Crescent City had its first Catholic Church.   By October, Fr. Leon Haupts became the first resident pastor of the new parish and, along with Fr. Rooney, Fr. Haupts conducted regular services in Trinidad and Smith River.


             1869 the first Catholic Church in Crescent City
              ( we bought an old Methodist Church)


In November 1873, Fr. Michael Walwrath replaced the old church with a new and larger one that provided enough room in the back for school classes, with included education for the poor and Native American children.  Fr. Walwrath was so devoted that he became known as the “Indian Missionary”.  


Crescent City Waterfront with view of St. Joseph Catholic Church early 1900


Interior of  St. Joseph Church  in 1915



 St. Joseph's third church also burned down.                                                  Main altar of St. Joseph's third church


By 1915, when Fr. Nolan arrived, the church burned down and another was soon built, however, in April 1932 that church burned down as well.  April 27, 1935 the fourth Catholic church was dedicated by Bishop Armstrong.  When Fr. Nolan passed away in August 1944, Monsignor P.L. O’Loughlin was sent as a replacement.  Monsignor was no stranger to the area:  in 1941 he began the construction of Sts. Robert and Anne in Klamath.    



                                                        The fourth St. Joseph Catholic Church



                            The fourth St. Joseph Catholic Church                                   Front of the church



When Fr. James White was appointed to St. Joseph Catholic Church in 1952, he was determined to establish a Catholic school in his parish.  Numerous requests and prayers for Sisters to staff the school were finally answered in the form of the Franciscan Sisters of Dubuque Iowa.  St. Joseph’s Catholic School opened in September, 1954 with one hundred fifty –six eager students.    In June 1958, under Fr. John P. Farrell, it was discovered that the school required considerable structural repairs.   


The church building was also checked and it too revealed termites and dry rot.  Since it was decided that the church should be abandoned, services were held in the school.   However, February 14,  1959, Assistant Pastor John Mahoney came to the school to say Mass only to find that the roof of the school had been blown off during a typical Crescent City downpour.  It was then decided to erect a multi-purpose building for use as a temporary Church and future use as a school gymnasium and parish hall.  Construction of our present and fifth church for Crescent City commenced in November 1960 and was dedicated in July 1961.

Temporary church and future gym in 1959                                April of 1961 the present church is almost complete.


(Crescent City American newspaper)

The Dedication of the present St. Joseph Catholic Church July 16, 1961


At the outset of dedication ceremonies at St. Joseph's beautiful Catholic Church, Bishop Joseph T. McGucken sprinkled the outside of the building with blessed water.  This is done to wrest the Church from Satan's influence and prepare it for the dedication of God.




Hundreds of devout Catholics from Del Norte county and   
surrounding area gathered at the corner of Fourth and E St.
Sunday afternoon to observe and take part in ceremonies
officially dedicating the new St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Sanctification of the new church started at 4 p.m. as His
Excellency Bishop McGucken of the Sacramento Diocese
blessed the exterior of the new church and then led the
congregation inside.   The Bishop was aided by two
assistants to the Bishop, priests from Scotia and Arcata,
shown here at his side.  Father John Farrell of St. Joseph's
Church is shown preceding the group toward the front door.

Altar boys from St. Joseph Church process in with the holy water.

The inside, as well as the outside of the new church, was sprinkled with blessed water, until the altar was prepared for the First Holy Sacrifice to be offered in the blessed church.  Psalms were chanted as the Bishop sprinkled the interior walls preparatory to the Mass.

The parishioners stand during a phase of the dedication ceremonies.  The Bishop intones the antiphon and the Priests continue the Psalm.  These were the gradual or "traveling" prayers of the Jews, expressing intense love and longing for their temple.  



Priests in attendance at the dedication of St. Joseph's new Catholic Church were as follows:  front row, left to right, Monsignor P.L. O'Loughlin, Bishop Joseph T. Mcgucken, Father John P. Farrell, and Father Charles Malakauskas, second row, Father John Healy and Father Bernard Harris, and, back row, Father James Harris, Father Louis Moore and Monsignor Patrick Donelly.



March 1964





The 1964 tsunami brought debris to the doorstep of St. Joseph Church, 
leaving the new church intact and untouched.



 Another view of the tsunami destruction just feet
from St. Joseph Church whose rear roof peak (sky light is visible)  is seen in the bottom of photo.

Historical film footage of Crescent City after the tsunami.




The first faculty of St. Joseph School

The first graduating class of St. Joseph School.

Second order of sisters to teach at St. Joseph School



Fr. Diogo Baptista 1989 - 1998


Fr. Jose Luis Contreras  1998 - 2000

Fr. George Risden  2000-2007

Fr. Frank Epperson  2007 - 2010

Fr. Abel Mena  2010 - 2012

Adam Kotas 2012 - 2015

Fr. Gregory Villaescusa 2015 - present