St. Martin's (Loucky) Catholic Church
Listed in: THE NATIONAL REGISTRY OF HISTORICAL PLACES.
The original parishioners of St. Martin's Church came to this part of
Clay County in the 1880's from Moravia, a part of Austria-Hungary at
the time of Czar Franz Joseph. They came from the villages of upper and
lower Loucky, thus naming the community where they settled "Loucky"
The first Masses were held in sod houses and dugouts with a Czech
priest coming once or twice a year from Iowa to have Holy Mass and serve
In 1888 a priest from St. Stephen's near Lawrence, NE
made occasional visits. In the early 1890's a priest from Milligan, NE
would come every 3 months. By the latter half of the 1890's, a German
priest from st. Stephen's who spoke fairly good Czech came once a month
on a Saturday. He would drive his horse and buggy 12 miles to Loucky,
where he had Holy Mass and other services including instructions for the
children in a public school house, District 27 Blue River School, which
sat just east of the present church site. Only the foundation of the
school remains today.
With a congregation of more than 100 parishioners a larger church was
needed and construction began in the fall of 1907. On December 23, 1907,
the main structure was completed up to the plate, when a strong wind
blew everything down. Construction began again in the spring of 1908 and
was finished in the fall of that year with labor donated by the men of
the parish. It is believed that the first Holy Mass was said in the
church on Christmas Day 1908. About 40 families, all of Czech
nationality, started the congregation, donated to the building fund and
furnished the interior of the church. The Mass was always said in the
Czech language until the 1940's when the English Gospel was read and an
occasional English sermon was given.
On January 6, 1909, on the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Wisemen's
Day, five men went from farm to farm in subzero weather to collect money
to buy a church bell. When they entered a home, the men would sing a
song about the Three Wise Men and then ask for a donation to the bell
fund. Each and every one they contacted donated money according to his
means. Before they left the house they wrote with white chalk the
letters K-M-B for Kaspar, Melichar and Baltazar. The collection that day
yielded more than the price of the bell. The cost of the bell was $105.
It was cast in solid bronze by Stuckstede and Brothers of St. Louis MO.
Names of the Three Wise Men, the two drivers and the resident priest
are engraved on the bell.
St. Martin's became a mission of the Assumption Church and remained
so for 62 years.
Due to the dwindling number of parishioners, St.
Martin's Church was closed after Sunday Mass on July 1, 1973.
On August 7, 1973 lightning struck the cross on the tall steeple,
starting a fire which destroyed the steeple and bell tower. The
lightning followed the wiring across the length of the roof and blew
boards out of the gable on the opposite end of the church. The double
plate under the bell and the interior walls of embossed tin saved the
church sanctuary from the fire. The bell was salvaged but had cracked
from the cold water used to fight the fire.
At the request of the
parishioners, the St. Martin's Church was deeded to the Clay County
Historical Society for restoration and historical preservation in
November 1973. Restoration of the bell tower was the first project to be
undertaken, copying the original tower as closely as possible. A
stainless steel cross was placed at the top of the steeple.
On March 23, 1977, the new 20' steeple, weighing 3200 pounds was
placed atop the church. Generous donations totaling $2300 from former
parishioners and friends made the restoration possible.
On August 7, 1985, the St. Martin's (Loucky) Church was accepted for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
Each year numerous requests to tour the church are received. St.
Martin's Church stands today as a historical landmark and a monument to
the sacrifices and the faith of early Clay County pioneers.