The Reverend F. Xavier Griessmeier
Pastor Sacred Heart Church:   1872-1875;   1891-1896
Died:   May 18,
1898 in Germany
A NEW BEGINNING
War had made them weary.     Oppression had made them strong.     Countless conquests and invasions over the
fertile and vulnerable Alsace - Lorraine, across Hanover and Austria and Bohemia had forged in numerous Catholic families
a resolve to seek freedom and sustenance in a new land.     The policies of Bismarck and Prussia were not their policies.
In Poland religious oppression had tempered a resolve to establish lives free of restraints.
And so, in the l860’s, banded in family groups, these immigrants joined the unfolding chapters of American democracy,
a number finding their way to the Ohio Valley and Cincinnati.     There they found freedom, but no market for their
The story of the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, is a story of these people.
It is a story of people who left a Europe struggling with the rising tides of nationalism in those last decades of the nineteenth
century, emigrating to an America coping with the bitter adjustments and economic realities of depression following the Civil
They brought with them not only hard working and thrifty ways but also the practiced skills of artisans and mechanics.
Among them were carpenters and joiners, painters, harness makers, cigar manufacturers, blacksmiths, bricklayers, tailors and
shoe makers.   Few were experienced in farming.
“In the late sixties,” writes Father Joseph Busse of the Precious Blood Order, “a society of craftsmen convened
in Cincinnati to discuss the labor situation, and take definite action for the redistribution and replacement of labor, urging
many of its members to devote their efforts to agriculture pursuits.
Accordingly it was decided that officers should be elected to purchase large tracts of land, to portion these into small farms
and to distribute the same by lottery.   This was the beginning of the Cincinnati Homestead Society.”
Lawrence County, Tennessee, where land could be bought for a nominal sum was chosen as site for the settlement.   The
Reverend Hueser, D.D., pastor of a church in the Cincinnati area and member of the search committee, came to Lawrenceburg
to purchase land and a parish community.   The necessary purchases were made in the winter of 1869-70.
A plat drawn in 1870-71, now in the Lawrence County Register’s office, shows the property north and west of the
then boundaries of Lawrenceburg divided into lots and lands, totaling approximately 25,000 acres.   The farm lands were
located in various areas of the county.
Soon Catholic families began arriving.   Some came by wagon from the Cincinnati area, from Wisconsin, Indiana, and from
Kentucky, taking weeks to make the journey.   Others traveled by train to Pulaski, Tennessee, and then by buggy or wagon
to Lawrence County.   The John Boulie family from Iowa, having read an advertisement about the new Catholic settlement,
traveled in boats to Shoals, Alabama, continuing by wagon to their goal.   Prior to their arrival a Catholic, Thomas Dunn,
a native of Ireland, had settled here in 1865.
Father Hueser said his first Mass in Lawrenceburg in a two-story house owned by William Simonton located on the street later
known as Fain Court.
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A small house at the intersection of Buffalo Road and Groh Street which formerly had been used as a store was converted into
the first Joseph’s Church with Father Hueser as pastor.
This post card with a picture of the Sacred Heart Church in Lawrenceburg is in the scrapbook of Anna Feldhaus Sutter.
I'm not sure, but I believe the second building is the church building that was built in 1872 and replaced by the new church
building in 1898.
A rectory for the Priest was built in 1898 on the other side of the church and that leads me to believe that this
picture is older than 1898. In 1911-12 a two story brick school building was built where the second building appears
in this photo.
THE SACRED EDIFICE
Though modest in size, the imposing church edifice described here was dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on May 3,
1887; its bell tower being completed in 1889.   A singularly unique landmark of the Lawrence County community, this building
is located in what has come to be known as the ‘German Development’ in Lawrenceburg, just north of the historic
Those who are familiar with architecture and design recognize this church as one of the better examples of a Gothic Revival
structure; carrying all the features native to this style.   of church design.
The construction of Sacred Heart Church began in 1887.   The bricks used were hand formed and kiln-dried on the very property
where the building stands.   The lumber for the structure was taken from a near—by forest, hand—hewn there
and then transported to the building site.   The following description highlights some main features of this church building
which in every sense speaks of the loving and dedicated industry, indeed the talent of those who erected it.
The structure is of load-bearing brick walls with buttresses and wood trusses supporting the roof.   The overall design
is that of a rectangle enhanced with a five sided octagonal apse facing north, and a dominant bell tower housing the entrance
to the church facing south.   The reddish—brown brick walls and buttresses rest on a sturdy four foot width stone
foundation.   The brick are laid in an American bond pattern with a header bond every sixth course.   Five lancet—
arched stain glass windows grace both the east and west walls with the center window in the tower containing a “Rose”.
The entrance, also a lancet arch, stands under this central window.   The original wooden doors have been replaced for
more functional and durable ones.   When the exterior walls reach the roof the brick corbel out to form a cornice, which
also occurs at the eaves on each end.   At one time slate, then asphalt, the roofing is currently of copper, held in place
by the hand-hewn wood trusses.
The interior of the building features vaulted plastered ceilings in both nave and apse.   The entry, bell tower, and spire
(steeple) are of the same brick and wood truss construction.   The spire mounts a copper clad cross.   The tower houses
four bronze bells, all of which remain in use today.   The tower with its central window and entry center is the main
axis of the church.   On the interior three beautifully handmade reredos with attached altar highlight the sanctuary area.
The major reredos is centered within the five sided octagonal north section of the apse; the remaining two on each adjacent
side of this major structure.   All three share the same triple spire design.
Among the final points worthy of mention here concern the balcony and pipe organ.   Enlarged in 1957 to accomodate the
growing congregation the church has always had a balcony extending from the rear of the church.   The original pump organ
was replaced in 1948 and reworked as well as enlarged first in 1967 and again in 1984; today a true musical asset to the southeast.
All of these physical aspects of the church provide a structural landmark for the area, one that in every sense is worthy
to be counted among all the buildings which comprise our architectural American Heritage.
Bennie Anthony Held first rung one of the four bells of the Sacred Heart Church on 11 November, 1918 when Father Louis Kemphues
gave instructions that the four bells should be rung out to tell all of Lawrenceburg that World War One had ended. He was
joined by a Holvemeier, a Brink, and a Rohling. From that time on, Bennie was responsible for ringing the church bells.
Bennie walked to the church every day at 6:00 a.m., then at 12:00 Noon, and again at 6:00 p.m., each time to ring the Angelus
prayer. He also rang the bells thirty minutes prior to each church service, and then, as a reminder, once again five minutes
before the ‘loud ringing’ which announced the beginning of Mass.
Each day he would walk to the train depot to set his watch by the station master’s accurate train clock. This good and
reliable man saw many pastors come and go, but never once did he seek a replacement for the work he considered his special
calling; his vocation as ‘Ringer of Bells’.
These very bells rang for Bennie on December 23, 1969 accompanying him to his final resting place in Calvary Cemetery. In
the parish register of Faithful Departed, Father Christopher Murray has entered for posterity by Bennie’s name, “custodian
and bell ringer.” We add, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Although Benny was crippled, he not only rang the church bells, but also worked daily cutting lawns and raking leaves and
doing other handy work.