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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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9/25/2010 9:50:00 PM
Days Past: The history of Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Prescott:Part I
Courtesy/Sharlot Hall MuseumFather Alfred Quetu, circa 1895, came to Prescott in 1889 and was the priest of Sacred Heart Parish at the time the church was built on North Marina Street.
Courtesy/Sharlot Hall Museum
Father Alfred Quetu, circa 1895, came to Prescott in 1889 and was the priest of Sacred Heart Parish at the time the church was built on North Marina Street.
Days Past is a weekly feature in the Courier, supplied by Sharlot Hall

Museum volunteers, chronicling historic events in Prescott.

By Parker Anderson

It is believed that the first Catholic priest to pass through the area that later became Prescott was Father Francisco Garces, of the San Xavier del Bac Mission in Tucson, circa 1776, on his way to minister to the Hopi Indians. Nearly 100 years later, in 1863, tradition holds that Santa Fe Archbishop Lamy celebrated a Christmas Eve Mass with the regiments at Fort Whipple.

The first governor's party arrived in early1864 to set up the capital of the new Territory of Arizona on the banks of Granite Creek. By May of that year, the new little village was named Prescott, after the famed historian from Massachusetts, William Hickling Prescott. John N. Goodwin was the first governor of the Territory.

Existing records show that the first Catholic Mass ever celebrated in the new village of Prescott proper occurred on Jan. 22, 1871. Visiting priest, Father J. M. Chaucot from La Paz, performed the Mass in a store owned by Manuel Ravenna, which was located at the corner of Goodwin and Montezuma streets.

In subsequent years, other priests visited Prescott to hold Mass for the growing Catholic population. By 1877, Archbishop Salpointe of Tucson sent Father Michael Murphy, a native of Ireland, to Prescott to officially establish a Catholic Church. Father Murphy arrived in October of 1877, reportedly suffering from consumption at the age of 37. He celebrated Mass a few times, but passed away two months later, on Dec. 6, 1877. He is buried in Citizen's Cemetery.

Bishop Salpointe then appointed Father F.C. Becker to succeed Father Murphy in establishing a Catholic church in Prescott, and he was soon followed by two nuns, including Lady Superior Sister Mary Berchman, who died the following year. While in Prescott, Father Becker attended to the spiritual matters of murderer James Malone before his execution.

In the ensuing years, a number of other priests came and went, attending the Prescott flock. It is believed that Mass was in a building at 227 N. Marina St., roughly across the street from where the first Sacred Heart Church would later be built. Among these priests was Father F.X. Gubitosi, who counseled the murderers Frank Wilson and Martin Duran before they were hanged. He also performed the marriage of William 0. "Buckey" O'Neill to Pauline Schindler in April of 1886.

In 1889, Father Alfred Quetu, a priest of French extraction, came to Prescott to take over Sacred Heart Parish. This would become a turning point for the church in Prescott, as Father Quetu did more to strengthen the local church than any of his predecessors had done. He set out to build a new church on North Marina Street, which still stands today. It would have a substantial brick structure in Gothic style, decorative brickwork and two colors of tuff stone for trim and foundation. It would have a steeple 115-feet tall, an impressive addition to the little town of Prescott.

Next week we will see the accomplishments of Father Quetu in his nearly 20 years as Prescott's parish priest as well as the history of the old church since his departure from Prescott.

This and other Days Past articles are available on and via RSS e-mail subscription.

The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Please contact Scott Anderson at Sharlot Hall Museum Archives at 445-3122 for information.

Related Stories:
• Days Past: Arizona Territory's gambling prohibition experiment - Part I
• Days Past: The history of Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Prescott - Part II

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, October 03, 2010
Article comment by: Yukon Jack

Fort Whipple is still where it has been it's at the site of the VA hospital. Many of the Officer's Housing and a small museum are still there and (the museum) and open to the public.BR>Contrary to public perception, western "forts" were not built anything like the stockades seen on TV. They were large, open and had parade grounds. They didn't need walls simply because anyone would realize that you don't attack them because that's where all the soldiers were.

Posted: Friday, October 01, 2010
Article comment by: history aficionado

Want to know something about Prescott? Dr. Kenneth Kimsey was the director of the Sharlot Hall Museum and he still lives around here. No one really knows about him. He is a quiet man but he is full of knowledge. I saw him at the museum the other day, he was showing his family around and I followed to hear all the things he was saying!

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010
Article comment by: Jaded Mile

Where exactly was Fort Whipple located? In most of my readings of Yavapai County history, Fort Whipple is mentioned, but I have no idea where it was located? Anybody know?

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010
Article comment by: matt lewis

Very interesting article and did some research at wikipedia and sharlot hall but could not find where it was the first territorial capitol? Still very interesting stuff..

Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2010
Article comment by: Bobbi Wicks

Why do Prescottonians ignore and omit the fact that the first Territorial capital of the AZ territory was at Del Rio Springs? It was NOT provisional.........

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