Father Valentine Sommereisen

Father Valentine Sommereisen (HM1ERB)

Location: New Ulm, MN 56073 Brown County
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Country: United States of America
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N 44° 16.133', W 94° 27.168'

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Pioneer Missionary Priest

Valentine Sommereisen was the first resident Catholic priest in three large areas of the American West: southwestern Minnesota, the Dakota Territory, and western Kansas. Born 28 May 1829 in Rouffach, Alsace, a German-speaking part of eastern France, he was one of seven theology students who followed the great missionary, Fr. Augustin Ravoux, to Minnesota in 1854.Sommereisen was ordained by Bishop Joseph Cretin 8 March 1856 in the second Cathedral of St. Paul. His first assignment was to SS. Peter & Paul in Mankato. From there he ministered to 36 communities in 14 counties in southwest Minnesota. Many area families can trace ancestors' baptisms, marriages, and funerals to his signature on parish records.

This is the site of St. Joseph Church, the first Catholic church in Brown County, completed in 1861. Fr. Sommereisen celebrated the first Mass. He ministered to Catholics in nearby Leavenworth, Sleepy Eye, St. George, and St. Peter. During the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, he joined Doctor W.W. Mayo in New Ulm 21-25 August caring for the defenders and their families. Fr. Sommereisen accompanied Fr. Ravoux, baptizing and consoling 33 of the 38 Dakota Sioux who were hanged in Mankato on 26 December 1862.

Fr. Sommereisen moved west in 1871 to Yankton, then the capital of Dakota Territory. From there he visited various forts and stations along the Missouri River. On one occasion in 1873, he provided services as chaplain to general George Armstrong Custer on his Yellowstone Expedition.

In 1876 Father Sommereisen was appointed pastor at Hays, Kansas, with the care of six nearby Volga-German settlements and various railroad towns along the Kansas Pacific. After another appointment at Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, 1878-79, he retired to a homestead near Hays, where he was a successful farmer, orchardman, and vintner. Briefly, during a period of drought, he worked as a section hand on the railroad. He died 25 January 1897 at age 67, and is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Hays.

Dedicated by Bishop John M. Levoir and composed by Bishop Cretin Assembly of The Knights of Columbus, Fr. Eugene Hackert, & George L. Glotzbach
Year Placed2011
Placed ByThe Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus Bishop Cretin Assembly, with research done by Fr. Eugene Hackert and George L. Glotzbach
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, September 12th, 2014 at 9:39am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15T E 384050 N 4902764
Decimal Degrees44.26888333, -94.45280000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 44° 16.133', W 94° 27.168'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds44° 16' 7.98" N, 94° 27' 10.08" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)507
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 13262 Co Rd 25, New Ulm MN 56073, US
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