St. Nazianz's Community Web Site

St. Nazianz, Wisconsin

ST. NAZIANZ — A Catholic priest who sought refuge for his colony of religious followers carved St. Nazianz, located just south of Valders, of the wilderness.

To this day, there are reminders of the presence of the Rev Ambrose Oschwald. These include the former Salvatorian Seminary and his burial place near the Loretto Shrine that overlooks the burial places of his brother priests.

Oschwald, who is credited with breathing life into the community of St. Nazianz, was born March 14, 1801, in Baden, Germany, and ordained a Catholic priest in 1833. He arrived in America in 1854 along with 114 followers from Baden. Each had a strong religious fervor and a robust work ethic.

Upon arrival in Wisconsin, Oschwald purchased a house, while his followers purchased 3,850 acres of land at $3.50 per acre, according to the "History of Manitowoc County," by Louis Falge.

The first house of worship was built in October 1854 and the community grew as new people arrived from all areas to live near Oschwald’s colony in St. Nazianz.

The colony added both a convent and a Franciscan monastery to the site.

By 1864, the colony, which eventually became the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians), had grown to 56 members, in addition to 48 families who were not members of the colony.

A short-lived orphan asylum for girls and a hospital were built, but no longer existed by the turn of the century.

Oschwald died Feb. 27, 1873, and was originally laid to rest in a sepulcher under the sanctuary of the old Ambrosius Church before being moved to the sepulcher near the Loretto Shrine.

The Rev. Joseph Fessler was the first member of the St. Nazianz Colony to be ordained a priest. He celebrated his first Mass on Nov. 19, 1865, in St. Nazianz. During the first year of his priesthood, Fessler founded the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters. They reside at Holy Family Convent in Alverno, according to a written account of Fessler’s activities.

On Aug. 15, 1896, Archbishop Frederick Katzer of Milwaukee came to St. Nazianz and opened a cloister for the purpose of founding a home for the Salvatorian Fathers, a society that had been founded in 1881 in Rome.

The golden jubilee of the founding of St. Nazianz was observed in September 1904.

In 1907, a new monastery was blessed by Bishop J.J. Fox of Green Bay.

In 1909, the college was opened with nine students. This operated as a college and minor seminary for the Salvatorian order until the mid-1960s when it was closed.

In the 1970s, the school reopened as JFK Prep Academy, earning recognition when Mickey Crowe, an outstanding basketball player coached by his father, Marty, was at the school.

By the early 1980s, the school ceased to operate and continues to stand, privately owned but virtually abandoned. Police and private activity to prevent vandals from desecrating the buildings have failed. This has accentuated the appearance of the once stately buildings that have fallen into disrepair.

While the community may be known nationally as the former home of the Salvatorian Order, it also is well known in the Midwest for two others things — Miller Implement, a farm implement distribution firm, and the great wind storm of May 2000. The storm did millions of dollars of damage to the area.

In the early history of the community, the Kaltenbrun

Company gained national recognition for the production of blowers and feed cutters, while three farm equipment sales concerns -- Backhaus, Lulloff and Miller -- controlled franchises for machinery sales.

John Miller founded Miller Implement in 1899. The business began as a hardware and implement store. In 1907, Miller signed a contract to sell Deering (now International) equipment.

The John Miller Supply Company was formed in 1947 to provide better distribution of products.

In 1966, The Miller Foundation was formed to aid in educational, religious and charitable activities.

The first St. Nazianz fire department was formed in 1921 as a result of an April 5, 1918, fire that destroyed 18 buildings in the community. The loss was set at $100,000, a fortune in 1918 dollars, according to a history compiled by Chief Fritz Koeppen and former chief Rembert Broeckert, among others.

Earlier, the community had been served by a volunteer department.

While the department can credit itself with saving many buildings during its time, one of the most memorable saves was made on May 2, 1955, when a fire in the steeple of St. Gregory Church threatened to destroy the building.

With the help of departments from Kiel and Valders, the church was saved, although the steeple was lost.
Provided as a community service by St. Nazianz Growth, Inc., with financial support from our advertisers.
The original St. Nazianz "storm site" has moved to as of January 10, 2004 please visit us there!

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Copyright 2004-2006.   Pages within this site were last updated October 4, 2006.