St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church


From various sources
written by Ellen M. Rohr

St. Wenceslaus was the oldest Bohemian formed church in the county. Today all that remains to mark the area in the town of Cooperstown in an area called Greenstreet, is the cemetery and a tavern.

Greenstreet got its name from a man named Zeleney, the neighborhood’s first tavern-keeper. Zeleney was a Bohemian, Zeleney means green, hence Zeleney’s street or Greenstreet.

In 1852 fifteen Bohemian families settled at that village, -originally all Catholics.

This is taken from a handwritten history of St. Joseph’s Parish in Kellnersville. The Original 10 page history is kept in the Archives at the Green Bay Catholic Diocese Offices. It is not dated nor is there any idea of who wrote it. It was copied word for word…

St. Wenceslaus Congregation & Greenstreet

This bit of history also came from the Catholic Diocese Archives in Green Bay…the author is unknown. In 1852, about fifteen Bohemian families settled in and about present day Kellnersville. The enthusiastic accounts of new opportunities sent back to friends and relatives in the old country prompted an immigration of from six to eight hundred Bohemian families to the new land during the years 1852-1862.

The land these settlers took up was land newly logged, but with hemlock, smaller pine, cedar and deciduous trees covering the ground not occupied by pine tree-tops and slashings. Much of the land was acquired by purchase of tax title, the original owners, who received a patent from the Federal Government for but a few cents per acre logged of the finest pine and let the land revert to the government by their failure to pay taxes. The new settlers were pitiably poor, the only tool possessed by all being an iron, steel-bitted, axe. The man having a saw was accounted rich. Adding to the hardships of the auling new settlers were the hard times of 1856-1860 when hard cash became so scarce that a settler hauling hand-made shakes or staves to Manitowoc could only pay the toll over the plank-road from Four Corners to Manitowoc only with a bar of soap in lieu of the five cent fee.

However, hardly had the pioneers thrown up a shelter for themselves and their beasts, when their thoughts were occupied with the establishment of the desirable institutions of the Old Country–a church and a school. The first church to be built in this “Bohemian Settlement” (not including Francis Creek) was St. Wenceslaus of Greenstreet in about the year 1856. Nothing pretentious was this House of God and the priest house was but a shelter from the elements. Merely building of squared logs were these structures with nothing but the roughest furniture. But the people were poor and while experience made good broad-ax men of every settler, finished lumber was scarce and expensive. It is safe to say that the only tools used in the erection of those buildings were the axe, the saw, the drawshave and hammer.

Father Maly of French Creek made regular visits to Greenstreet (later also to St. Augustine’s, Reefs Mills) to care for the spiritual wants of the people. After him, Father August Lang became their pastor. The first schools were private schools conducted by a man learned in the art of reading and writing. These men conducted a school for such who could pay the tuition, during the winter months. It was in these schools that most of the old timers learned their letters.

About 1854, Simon Zaruba donated an acre of land for the church and Frank Simbersky donated an acre to be used for the cemetery. It took a long time to build the log church. The wanted a steeple like those in their homeland. St. Wenceslaus was the only church in the county with an onion steeple (dome shaped like an onion). The church was completed in 1858-1859. For six years the congregation was attended by Rev. Joseph Maly of Francis Creek.

Greenstreet Catholic Church

In the 1860s, a number of unfavorable events occurred and a dispute arose over the property and the church. The church divided and several parishioners withdrew. In 1879, Reverend A. Cipin of Carlton finally was able to bring peace to the area . Relationships mended and a new church was founded. The parish was divided and St. Wenceslaus became a mission of St. Joseph’s Kellnersville. Two St. Wenceslaus parishioners donated land for a cemetery and new church, a few miles south (in Kellnersville) of St. Wenceslaus and dedicated it to St. Joseph.

Father Joseph MALY was the first pastor of the St. Wencelaus congregation. Father Adelbert CIPIN, an artist and talented musician, was pastor of St. Wenceslaus from 1908-1922.

On October 12, 1910 the church celebrated its Golden Jubilee. The history of the parish says:

The day was one of great rejoicing and festivity. In memory of the celebration a new cemetery cross of stone purchased from Mike KETTENHOVEN of Manitowoc, was erected. This beautiful cross still stand at Greenstreet cemetery. The morning Mass was offered by Father CIPIN for all deceased members of the parish…Twenty-three persons, all descendents of the original founders were present. They wore special badges and were given places of honor in church.

In 1914, there was talk of renovating the buildings. But nothing was ever done. Shortly after WWI it was decided to discontinue the parish.

In 1946, the church building was put up for sale. It was sold at auction for $678.00. (see St. Joseph’s/St. Wenceslaus further down for more info on St. Wenceslaus)


St. Wenceslaus To Be Sold

The following article is reprinted from the Herald Times, an early 1946 edition, with permission from the Herald Times Reporter.

Greenstreet Catholic Church Soon to be Nostalgic Memory

Log-Structure Built in 1859 To Be Sold

A spot dear to the childhood of many a man and woman in the area two miles north of Kellnersville will soon be nothing but a nostalgic memory when the little, once-brown church of Greenstreet is sold to the highest bidder. Constructed in 1859 of logs cut from adjacent land by nearby settlers who gave immediate thought to a place of worship, the 47 foot by 25 foot building has stood unused for the past 17 years since the erection of the large St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kellnersville. Greenstreet residents now must travel those two miles for their masses and confessions and a few of the oldtimers sadly recall the days when it was necessary only to walk across the street in the center of the tiny community for their religious services. By-passed in a world that moves swiftly to ever bigger things, the Greenstreet church will finally succumb completely to the trend toward consolidation, its end hurried a little by the shortage of building materials and present high prices for all structures.

Signs of Use Visible

Sealed bids on the worshipping place of three generations will be accepted by the board of directors of St. Joseph’s until March 1, when the board will make a choice of purchaser and the old building probably will be torn down and the logs and lumber hauled away. It is estimated that the original logs alone could be sawed into enough good lumber to build a fair-sized structure. Added to these large timbers will be the white siding with which the whole church was covered when parishioners, thought bare logs were not fit attire for a house of God. Although deserted since 1929, the building shows signs of many years’ wear. A half-dozen paintings of Christ depicting the way of the cross still hang where they have hung since the last stations were said. One of two tiny confessional booths in the rear of the single room contains an old-fashioned, long-handled offering basket and a-large, black cross. Only one pew remains in the church but three rows of kneelers, about four inches off the floor, are still intact.

Inside of Greenstreet Church

Bell Sent to Mission

The pulpit, a small turrent-like structure,. is built into the wall at the left front of the church and the altar, propped up by homemade supports, still stands in the front of the building. There was no evidence of an organ stand although music may have been provided from a tiny choir loft extending across the rear of the church. On the inside of the front door, the only entrance, is a lock and latch that would make an interesting addition to any antique collection or museum. The bell that tolled rural residents to worship was taken down several years ago by church members and presented to a mission in the west. Greenstreet, church and village, were named after one of the first settlers, according to a resident who recalled much of the almost-forgotten history. It was a man named Zeleney, the neighborhood’s first tavern-keeper, whose memory was preserved for posterity. Zeleney was a Bohemian, Zeleney means green, hence Zeleney’s street or Greenstreet.

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