History of St. Michael's Church
 

Early History of Catholicism in Boulder Creek

In the 1890’s the Catholics of Boulder Creek, California, met in homes with Reverend Father Michael A. McKey, S.J., who resided in Santa Clara, CA.  On weekends, Fr. McKey would travel by train to Boulder Creek to celebrate Mass and provide Sacraments in the homes of the early congregation before the first Catholic Church was built in Boulder Creek.

The property where the church stands today was originally owned by Samuel H. Rambo, logger, businessman, Santa Cruz County Supervisor, State Senator, and the Head of Big Basin Park, before it was to become the first California State Park. In 1897, two adjacent property lots were donated by a prominent Boulder Creek businessman, Henry Lewis Middleton, to provide the site for St. Michael’s Catholic Church.  According to Boulder Creek’s early newspaper, The Mountain Echo, dated December 25, 1897,

Lots upon which to build a new Catholic Church have been donated by one of our leading business men and the work of building the same will probably begin some time next month. The new church will be located on the hill in the vicinity of the school house. Some $1,200 has been subscribed towards its erection.”

In May of 1899, it was decided that the new Catholic Church in Boulder Creek would be called “St. Michael’s” after the Archangel Michael, the guardian of the Catholic Church and the supreme enemy of Satan and his minions of fallen angels.

The Building of St. Michael’s Church

 

In mid-November of 1899, work was commenced by a carpenter, Mr. Potts, building the new church structure just south of S. H. Rambo’s brother-in-law’s residence.

“…located on the west side of Pine Street on a lot one hundred feet square adjoining and next south of A.H. Stagg’s residence on “Knob Hill”. It is to be of Gothia (sic) style of architecture and will be a handsome structure.  About thirty thousand feet of lumber will be used in its construction and its total cost complete will be about $2,500.00.” - The Mountain Echo, November 18, 1899

By the second week, the foundations and floor joists were laid and the nave measured 28 by 55 feet with a sacristy in the rear measuring 16 by 18 feet. By February of 1900, G. E. Fail and Frank D. Fumagelli of Los Gatos began painting the new church building. St. Michael’s Church was officially dedicated in 1901 with Most Reverend William Riordan, the second Archbishop of San Francisco officiating. In 1904, H. L. Middleton donated an altar to the new church.

  Early Years of St. Michael’s Church

 

On April 14, 1906, the Mountain Echo reported that two new statues were acquired for the new sanctuary,

   
 
   

 

 
  “Two new statues have been presented to St. Michael’s Church of this place by Mr. & Mrs. Andrew P. Welch of San Francisco.  They are beautiful works of art recently imported from Munich, Germany, and are expected to be in place in the Church tomorrow during the Easter service.”  
   
 

St. Michael’s Church congregation, later in 1906, dedicated a bell which stands today and can be found behind the current parish rectory.

 

 

The 1906 bell tower as it is in 2008. No longer used, it still serves as a reminder of the early days of St. Michael's in Boulder Creek. The manufacturer of the bell was the Andrew Meneely & Sons, Agents and company, from West Troy (now Watervliet), New York. The bell weighs 612 pound. The inscription on the bell reads something to the affect of:

[Meneely Bell] Co. West Troy, NY 1906
+
Who is like unto God.
St. Michael's Church
Boulder Creek
[unreadable]

 
 

The first parish rectory was the home of Fred Moody which was purchased a few years later to provide a residence for parish priests.

During this period, 1906-1908, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was very active, trying to close down the large number of saloons in Boulder Creek. Once, passions were so inflamed among the angry saloon patrons when the Temperance Union succeeded the closing of every saloon in town, the patrons went out and had set the local Methodist and Presbyterian churches on fire. St. Michael’s escaped the wrath of the anti-Temperance residents.

St. Michael's also became one of the centers of social life in Boulder Creek. One of the first of many benefits for St. Michael’s Church was held August 11, 1907, titled “Entertainment for St. Michael’s Church” which featured:

“ … a high class musical, vocal and instrumental entertainment will be given under the direction of Mrs. Morris J. Gates, the vocal teacher of Santa Cruz, in Firemen’s Hall, Saturday evening, August 11th, for the benefit if St. Michael’s Church, Boulder Creek.  The affair will conclude with a social dance.  Mrs. Gates is a vocalist of more than ordinary ability and has …. “ The Mountain Echo, August 3, 1907

During this early era, 1907-08, St. Michael's parish started to provide Catholic catechism to parishioners. Upon request by Fr. McKey, a chapter of the Sisters of the Holy Family in San Jose, would begin their mission to teach catechism to a few children of St. Michael’s on the weekends in Boulder Creek. They would travel the relatively long distance from San Jose to Boulder Creek through a long and mountainous trip by train.

“Hurrying back from the 6 o’clock Mass at St. Joseph’s, the Sisters took a hasty breakfast, then caught the 7:20 train, reached Boulder Creek at 10 o’clock, and did not reach home until 6 P.M.” - The Holy Family Sisters, by D.J. Kavamagh, 1922 

   
 
An early aerial photograph of Boulder Creek (top, left side) with old St. Michael's Church in the bottom left. The bell tower (right side photo), built in 1906, can be seen to the right of the church. The old church was approximately located where today's Parish Hall and Rectory is now located.

In September of 1908, a number of young adults were administered the Sacrament of Confirmation. As reported by The Mountain Echo, dated September 26, 1908,

A large number of people attended the confirmation Wednesday at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Boulder Creek where at one o’clock the Most Rev. J.H.F. daSilva administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to a large number (14). Sponsors were William Cahill for the boys and Mrs. Charles Newman for the girls. The officiating prelate was assisted by the Rev. Father McKey of San Jose and Father Prendiville. The “Veni Creator” and other hymns were sung before and during the solemn service; music and singing were very good.” 

 

Old St Michael's Church, circa 1920's - photo courtesy of San Lorenzo Valley Museum in Boulder Creek.
   
 

Father Michael McKey continued to be associated with St. Michaels, traveling by train to Boulder Creek in order to celebrate Mass at the church. In April 1909, Fr. McKey traveled again from San Jose to celebrate two Easter Sunday Masses that was attended by an unusual large number of members and their friends. The Mountain Echo noted, on April 17, 1909, that the “… decorations were beautiful as is always the case at this church.” However by August of 1909, Fr. McKey was reassigned to serve elsewhere in the church,

“Rev. Father McKey, who has been priest in charge of the local Catholic Church for a number of years held services here for the last time Sunday August 22, have been called to another field. We regret to lose gentle, kindly Father McKey and our best wishes go with him wherever he may be sent.” - The Mountain Echo, August 28, 1909

   
The Recent History of St. Michael’s Church

 

Rev. Thomas O’Brien, was appointed first Pastor, in 1921 by the Most Reverend Edward J. Hanna, the third Archbishop of San Francisco. The Diocese of Monterey accepted the responsibility of the parish in 1922.

 

As the Catholic community in Boulder Creek and surrounding area grew in size, doubling by 1950, a new rectory and church was required to support the growing congregation. The old first church was razed and the current parish hall was constructed as the new church.

George Rice, John Rice (11yr), Raymond Kelleher, Margaret Rice (9 yr) and Marie (14 yr). July 1954 Monsignor Michael Stack with John Rice (11 yr), July 1954
   
 

Boulder Creek, California - The Catholic Church is a beautiful and modern building set among the redwoods in this Santa Cruz Mountain center.

St. Michael's Catholic Church - circa 1960's postcard (now the Parish Hall)

 
 

Father Jimmy Kelly, former pastor of St. Michael's Church (1973-1987), with his sister, Sr. Kelly. (date unknown)

   
  Mass was celebrated in the old church until 1967 when Msgr. Eamon Mac Mahon built the new redwood church on the corner lot. Ground-breaking was in 1968. The current church building was completed and consecrated in 1969 by Bishop Harry Clinch.  With the consecration of the new church, the old church was then converted to be the new Parish Hall.
   
 
 

Father Bob and Monsignor Eamon MacMahon look over the sanctuary. Msgr Emon was responsible for building St Michael's current church.
   
 

The current church of St. Michaels was built in 1968.

   
 

List of St. Michael’s Church Pastors


 
Rev. Michael A. McKey 1890’s-1909
Rev. Thomas O’Brien 1921-1926
Rev. Patrick M. O’Flynn 1926-1928
Rev. A.R. Munro 1929-1942
Rev. H.S. Goodwin   1942-1951
Rt. Rev. Michael J. Stack 1951-1963
Msgr. Eamon Mac Mahon 1963-1973
Rev. James Kelly      1973-1987
Rev. Martin McDonald 1987-1999
Rev. Paul Valdez 1999-2005
Rev. Robert Murrin    2005- current
     
  Researched and compiled by Marie Puccinelli
 

 

          

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13005 Pine Street, Boulder Creek, CA 95006
Phone: (831) 338-6112, Fax: (831) 338-7522
Email: st.michaelschurch@sbcglobal.net

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