St. Michael's Catholic Church Complex


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 In 1880, St. Michael's, the first Polish Catholic Parish still operating, was established, with a rude church and a cemetery. The bell from the church is now in the Bell Tower in Pawnee Park in Columbus, Nebraska.

The land on which the complex stands was donated by Frank and Sophia Paprocki, immigrants from Tarnov, Poland.

In December of 1899, Father A. Czech, O.F.M. realized the parish had to have a larger church. A meeting was held and with the $1800 Father had saved, a new church was planned. Excavating began on the next day. It was built in the Gothic Revival architecture, designed by Brother Leonard Dorschied, O.F.M.. The church was started in 1900 and completed in 1901 at a cost of $17,000. The rectory, school-convent, and chicken house were built in 1910 to 1911.

The Gothic theme is carried throughout the church and school. A characteristic of Gothic design is the pointed arches and spires.

The cost was held down because of the unskilled labor furnished by the people of the parish at no charge. Used brick and lumber was bought from the Omaha Trans-Mississippi Exposition which had just closed. It was transported by rail to Tarnov. Farmers transported sand from the Loup River, which is 20 miles to the south, for mortar and also fill sand with horses and wagons.

The church has a 24" thick limestone rock foundation set on a cement footing which is in a trench dug deep enough to enable placement on solid ground. The cut limestone was transported from a quarry near Florence, Kansas. The unfinished basement is 10' deep and lies under the west half of the church.

Memorial Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes

For many years, Fr. Knute had the idea to erect a grotto in honor of the ex-soldiers of World War I. The Tarnov area sent 16 of her sons to war. Andrew Matya paid the supreme sacrifice for his country. Andrew Jarosz, who served overseas, visited the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and was impressed by it. Upon his return, he and Fr. Knute decided to build the Grotto. The ex-soldiers collected the money and helped build it.

The Grotto was built in a scaled down size to portray the location where the Blessed Virgin appeared at Lourdes, France in the Pyrenees Mountains.

Our front is a fish pond with a fountain spray in the center. A lamp atop a rock column completes the peaceful setting. Services are held on special occasions. Many come to pray and ask for favors to be granted.

State of Significance

The pride of the Catholic parishioners is reflected in the way the complex has been well preserved. The building and structures range from seventy to one hundred years old. One would not believe they are this old, but being of excellent construction and being well maintained, they appear the same today as when first built.

Because of the agricultural background of the majority of the parishioners, the landscape of the rural complex is significant in the beauty of its grounds. Being situated in a rural area made it necessary to be self-supporting. The church made religion available, the school-convent provided education and a place for educators to live. The rectory provided the pastor of the church with a domestic residence. The Ave Maria Grotto and St.Michael statue reflect an outward sign of their religious devotion. The chicken house provided self-supporting means for the residents of the complex.

Due to the numerous amount of school children and a lack of great water supply, an outhouse was built. A large wooden wheel windmill provided the complex with a water supply in the earlier years. A large cistern held the water supply. There was a rain water cistern to hold water in case of fire. The water supply is now furnished by an electric sump pump. Electricity was supplied by a gas engine generator with storage batteries.

The cemetery is the burial place four our departed parishioners. All of these buildings and structures complement each other because they are essential to one another's needs.

After establishing the first church in 1880, the town of Tarnov was plotted because the railroad needed a place to put a depot in this area. The town soon grew in size. After the closing of he school, some businesses followed because of lack of people coming into town to get their school children. One can see the effect this complex has on the growth of the community.

The complex, in its rural spacious area, sits on top of a hill with a commanding view of the rolling hill countryside. Fields on three sides and a small country village on the east side makes the setting complete. The spacious landscape is well maintained. Many scotch pine trees were planted, and the fruit trees are still producing even though the were planted around 1920. Large peony flower beds are near the rectory. Brick walkways connect the school, cemetery, rectory, and grotto.

On October 5, 1990, the Nebraska Historical Society Committee viewed and listened to a presentation by Mrs. Jodi Guilderson on St. Michael's Complex. They voted to accept our nomination and forwarded it to the Department of the Interior for acceptance into the National Register. On November 28, 1990, the Complex was placed in the National Register of Historical Places worthy of preservation.

St. Michael's Historical Society

St. Michael's Historical Society has been organized into a non-profit, tax-free corporation, for the preservation and upkeep of this historical complex in Tarnov. That is why we are asking for your help. The upkeep of the buildings and grounds has become a large task for our small parish. We would appreciate any contribution you may give. All money will stay in the Historical Society Repair Fund. It will be spent wisely.

You can also join the Historical Society. The dues are $5 per year, starting July 1 to July 1. You can come to the meetings if you wish, however, it is not mandatory. Please state that it is for membership. You will be notified as to time and place of meetings.

St. Michael's Historical Society
Rt. 1 Box 255
Tarnov, NE 68642-9712

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