The Territory of Minnesota was organized in 1849. The land was mostly wilderness. Very little, if any, settlement was made in Scott County until 1852. In Sand Creek Township the first settler on record was William Holmes who built a sawmill at Jordan and opened a tavern. The name of the town of Jordan was originally Holmes Mill. Early in the Spring of 1854 new settlers arrived, and in a very short time 15 Catholic families were found in the circuit of a few miles about Holmes Mill. They were casually attended by priests who followed the trails of the newcomers and were anxious to care for their spiritual needs. Far from their homeland and perhaps yearning for something familiar that would uplift their spirits as they labored to clear fields, build homes, and build businesses. The 15 Catholic families who lived in their neighborhood of Jordan, then called Holmes Mill, joined together to form the first parish here. The first official meeting of the group was held in the log cabin of William Nachbar in the Fall of 1855. The main purpose of the gathering was to discuss the possibility of building a church for worship. The men apparently agreed to construct a log cabin church similar to that which Marystown had already built. The site for the church was to be on the William Nachbar homestead on a spot where the Indians had set a big stone, painted it red, and assembled there on each changing of the moon. Disagreement about the site for the log cabin church apparently erupted, and a second meeting was held shortly after the first meeting. No decision was made, so a third meeting was called. At the third meeting a new member appeared, Nicholas Lenorths, and he offered a site on his homestead in the area where St. Benedict Catholic Church is now located in St. Benedict, approximately 5 miles south of present day Jordan. The construction of a 30 x 60 foot log church began. However, winter came too suddenly and the building was not completed.
The Parish Forms
During 1858 the Benedictine Fathers, who had their rectory in Shakopee, came once a month to Jordan to celebrate Mass. As more and more families moved into the neighborhood of Jordan, some people expressed their dissatisfaction with the site of the yet uncompleted log cabin church located five miles from their homes. In a meeting held during 1858, one part of the people decided to build a different church at Holmes Mill, now called the City of Jordan. This resulted in two parishes being formed (now known as St. Benedict and St. John the Baptist). A Benedictine priest continued to visit homes in both communities to offer Mass once a month until the church was constructed.
The First Church is Built
The first church in the town of Jordan proper was built in 1858. The building was a frame structure on a firm foundation. The dimensions were 46 x 26 feet and 10 feet in height. There were six square windows, and the interior was well plastered. The church, which was located high up on the hill on property donated by Thomas Holmes, was dedicated in honor of St. John the Baptist. Early parishioners had to climb the stairway cut in sod and covered with flattened logs to reach what was described as the “romantic summit” where the church was located. Following construction of the log church, members continued to be added to the parish. The baptismal records at Jordan were started with dependability in 1860. Before 1860, the records were kept at St. Mark’s Church in Shakopee. The first baptism at St. John the Baptist was that of William Norbert Schwingler, son of Anthony Schwingler and Sibylla Esser, born on June 6, 1859 and baptized June 24, 1860 by Rev. Bruno Riss, O.S.B.
The Second Church is Built
By 1866, the town of Jordan had added more people to its population. A meeting was held at St. John the Baptist parish to decide if stone should be quarried for the construction of a new church to replace the log cabin church on the hill. The parish voted by a majority of one not to go ahead with the project, but a committee of six men was chosen to study the possibility of the construction project. The committee apparently decided that a stone church was needed, and they must have swayed enough parishioners to get the approval of the parish members. In 1867 a new 30 x 80 foot church was planned and built for $9,000.00, all of which was paid for by the time the church was completed at the end of that year. The new stone church was constructed on two lots between the old church on top of the hill and Highway 21 (Broadway Street). The new located was much preferred in order to avoid the steep climb up the hill.
The Franciscans Arrive
In 1875, St. John the Baptist parish was put under the direction of the Franciscan Fathers. Bishop Grace was one of the generous prelates who opened their diocese to those Franciscans who had been driven out of Germany by reason of the Kulturkampf. On the last Sunday of July 1875, four Franciscan Fathers and four Franciscan Brothers arrived in Jordan to staff St. John the Baptist as well as the Catholic churches of Belle Plaine, Union Hill, St. Benedict, St. Joseph and Marystown. When the Franciscans arrived, the parish already had grown to 110 families. A new brick school was built in 1877. It was two stories high with property adjacent to it for a convent for the Sisters. The School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived in 1879.
The Construction of the Present Church
In 1879, Rev. Guido Knepper, O.F.M. was appointed pastor of our parish. The stone church had become too small to accommodate the many worshippers. Rev. Knepper collected $16,000 for a new church, but he was transferred from the parish in 1887 before the current church was built. Our present day church was constructed under Rev. Benignus Schuetz. The corner stone was laid on April 22, 1889. Work was immediately begun on the monastery connected to the Church.
Parish Life Today
Today, St. John’s is a vibrant parish community with over 580 registered households. We offer many ministries and areas for volunteering and getting involved in the parish. The Liturgy is at the core of our faith. Parishioners are encouraged to participate in ministry areas as greeters, ushers, servers, lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, and Children’s Liturgy of the Word leaders. There are several options for music ministry as well. We have over 100 volunteers each week in our Perpetual Adoration Chapel.
Our parish school is attached to our Church. There are over 100 students from pre-school through 6th grade. St. John the Baptist Catholic School strives to be a Christ-centered community fostering spiritual growth, academic excellence and commitment to justice in the name of Jesus.
Come to St. John’s and check us out. As you get to know the wonderful people and community, we hope you will be convinced that St. John’s is the place you can call “home.”