Rev. Lucien Gaultier, a French priest from Prairie du Chien visited the Seneca/Eastman area known then as "the Garvey Settlement". He said mass in the Robert Garvey loghouse as early as November, 1855 prior to the town of Seneca being organized in 1857.
With the growth of the congregation, a meeting to organize a mission parish which took place in the Robert Garvey home. The stone foundation of the Robert Garvey home can still be seen. A "few years later" in 1866, a frame building was built in the Garvey Settlement, in the Southwest Quarter Section 27 ; Town 9 ; Range 5 West on the ground of what later became the Thomas Kneeland farm.
The church was named St. Peter. It was also often refered to as "the little frame church".
In 1870, Thomas Kneeland donated 3 acres of land adjacent to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee . The donation was specific in that the donated land was to be used as a cemetery. The donation was recorded in Crawford County.
When the Diocese of LaCrosse was formed, in February 1872, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee deeded the 3 acre cemetery to the Diocese of Lacfosse. Crawford County record Vol. 27 page 124.
Cemetery headstones that remain indicate Kneeland Cemetery burials on the 3 acres date from as early as 1862 to as late as 1884. Research has determined there are also unmarked and undated graves.
No written records of burials at Kneeland Cemetery has been found. As a result, the only information on burials and dates is based on remaining headstones.
Newspaper accounts at the time, suggest some graves were "moved" from Kneeland Cemetery to St. Patrick Parish Cemetery when St. Patrick Cemetery was opened in 1874. No record of remains/graves/headstones moved has been located.
After St. Patrick Parish and Cemetery opened in 1874, Kneeland Cemetery and "the little frame church aka St. Peter" was only used occasionally.
The April 11, 1901 Kickapoo Chief newspaper states..."the little catholic church in which services were held years ago was sold at auction. Fred Wall being the purchaser."
The cemetery was originally surrounded by large evergreen trees. Over the years, the cemetery had become overgrown. At varous times, the cemetery was cleaned and cleared. Interviews with residents shared that the cemetery had become a favorite rabbit hunting area.
At some point, in the past(approx. 1925 ?) , barbed wire was installed around a small .57 acre portion of the 3 acre cemetery. Residents of the area shared that this was done many decades ago to pasture hogs.That resulted in the damage of many headstones.
In the 1950's, highway work on "E" apparently cutoff direct access to the cemetery. An easment to the cemetery was created as an alternative access.
A professionall survey and title search in 2018/2019 verified the ownership (Dioces of Lacrosse) and size (3 acre) of the cemetery. The perimeter of the cemtery was marked by the survey company.
The cemetery is maintained by St. Patrick Parish.
Assisting and contributing to the history project being worked on include :
-The Garvey Family -Wisconsin Historical Society -Southwest Room at the University of Wisconsin Platteville
-Scanlan papers at UW Platteville -Archeaology Depatment at the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse
-History books from Madison, Prairie du Chein and Seneca Public library's -St. Patrick Parish documents and history
-Kickapoo Chief newspaper -Kneeland Cemetery area residents -Crawford County Courthouse Records
-Crawford County Highway Department -The archives at the Diocese of Lacrosse -The US GenWeb record
-Mohn Survey Company -David Abstract and Title Company
To Christ’s Faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse: On the Christian Burial of the Dead
"Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The care with which we bury the dead expresses our faith in the victory over everlasting death which Our Lord Jesus Christ has won in our human nature by His own Death and Resurrection. We bury the dead in the sure hope of the resurrection of the body, when their mortal bodies will share fully in the glory of the Risen Christ.
The Christian gives up his spirit in death with hope in the resurrection of the body when body and soul will be united once again in the glory which is without end. We bring the body of the deceased Christian to reverent burial in anticipation of the resurrection of the body in glory on the Last Day.
Because of the important place which the Christian burial of the dead has in the life of faith and because of many questions which are raised today about Christian burial, I offer you the following reflections and directives, so that the manner of burying our deceased brothers and sisters in the Church may express with integrity the truth of our Catholic faith.
"...Although the place of burial evokes sadness at parting with the earthly company of a brother or sister in the Christian community, it is also a symbol of hope in God and in His promise to raise our bodies in glory like the Risen Body of His Son seated at His right hand.
The place of burial is sacred, for it receives the human body which has been a temple of the Holy Spirit, the instrument by which the Christian soul expressed itself in the world. (Cf. OCF, Nos. 19 and 411- 412) What is more, the body received by the grave or tomb in burial is destined for resurrection on the Last Day. After the celebration of the Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy with the body of the deceased present, the body is interred or entombed in expectation of its resurrection on the Last Day. Burial of the body of the deceased is done in imitation of the burial of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the sure hope of sharing in His Resurrection.
Because of the central place which care for the burial of the dead has in the life of faith, burying the dead is one of the corporal works of mercy. (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2447) The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about respect for the body of the dead:
The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection.
The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.
The Catholic cemetery is arranged and adorned in a way which expresses the truth about death and the resurrection of the body. The direct care of the cemetery by the Church permits a strong witness to the Christian belief regarding death and provides the opportunity for the Church to carry out, to the fullest extent possible, her responsibilities toward the dead. The Catholic cemetery offers a permanent invitation to reflect upon death as the gateway to eternal life.
The Diocese of La Crosse is required to have its own norms regarding Catholic cemeteries, "especially with regard to protecting and fostering their sacred character." (Can. 1243) The Acts of the Fourth Diocesan Synod have provided such norms, as will the Acts of the Fifth Diocesan Synod which was celebrated from June 11 to 14 of this year. (Cf. The Bishop with His People: Fourth Synod of the Diocese of La Crosse, Celebrated April 28-May 1, 1986, pp. 208-212) Diocesan law is to be followed in the establishment and care of every Catholic cemetery in the Diocese...."
Bishop of La Crosse
"The LITTLE FRAME CHURCH and Kneeland Cemetery”
1) SCANLAN PAPERS p. 4
“The Garvey Settlement was visited (by a priest) and mass was said in a log house in 1855. A few years later a frame church was erected on an adjoining farm and near it a small cemetery of about an acre is fenced, and all around it a row of large evergreen trees. When Seneca built St. Patrick’s Church on the edge of the village and started a new cemetery, the church in the Garvey Settlement was torn down.”
2) SCANLAN PAPERS p. 4
“There were two centers in town (Seneca).
The little log church and burial place near the Lawler farm, known as Copper Creek Church;
the other located near Pine Creek close to the Robert Garvey home in sight of which is seen God’s acre enclosed with large evergreen trees. Near the cemetery stood a frame church until it was removed after St. Patrick’s church was built in 1874 in the village of Seneca. It was to this church Bishop Heiss brought confirmation the very year Lacrosse became a diocese. The Garvey Settlement known also as St. Mark’s attracted Irish settlers.”
3) CEMETERIES IN SENECA TOWNSHIP p.4
“The Kneeland Cemetery is located in Section 27; Town 9; Range 5 west. Records taken from the Register of deeds show that Thomas Kneeland deeded the land in Section 27,;Town 9; Range 5 to Milwaukee Diocese of the Catholic Church in 1870; and they in turn deeded the land to Lacrosse Diocese in 1872.
Apparently the cemetery and church site was in existence before 1862. As recorded on the tombstones still standing in the cemetery there were burials from 1863 to as late as1884. Many burials were reinterred in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Seneca. Names appearing on the stones in this cemetery are Flanigan, Crowley, Smith, Mullaney, Kneeland, Lenehan and Brady.
There is apparently no perpetual care on the approximatey 20 burials and the site might well receive some attention. “
4) KICKAPOO CHIEF NEWSPAPER APRIL 11, 1901
“The little Catholic church in which services were held years ago was sold at auction. Fred Wall being the purchaser.
5) HISTORY OF CRAWFORD COUNTY BOOK p. 717
“There are, at the present time, (1884), six cemeteries within the town of Seneca; all of these, however, are not used now to much extent.
The principal burying places now are these:
-One situated on Section16; town 9;Range 5 West
-one on Section 13, Town 9; Range 6 West
The other cemeteries spoken of above , are described as follows:
-one on Section 27, near the “little frame church,”
-and another just across the line on Section 28.
-Also, one near Mr. Russell’s place on Section 18; Town 9, Range 5 West, and one on Section 6, Town 9, Range 5, near the log church.”
6) FIND-A-GRAVE-ST. PATRICK CEMETERY SENECA, WI ROBERT GARVEY PAGE
“Robert Garvey Home-Mass said here from 1855 to 1866.”
7) HISTORY OF ST. PATRICK’S CATHOLIC CHURCH p. 25
“The first catholic services held within the township of Seneca were in the home of Robert Garvey in November 1855 by the Rev. Lucien Gaultier, a French priest from Prairie du Chien. (Mary, daughter of Robert Garvey, was a housekeeper for Father Galtier.
A meeting to organize a Mission parish took place in the Robert Garvey home. A part of the stone foundation of the home can still be seen from County Trunk “E”, on the Mike Heisz farm.
In the same year another congregation was formed in Copper Creek where Services were held in the home of Thomas Dagnon, conducted by the same priest. A log church was built in this community during the year 1859. The site is in Section 31; Town 10; Range 5 West. The remains of a cemetery can still be seen. The land for the site was donated by Lawrence Bird from part of his farmland. This church was known as “St. Mark’s.”
In 1866 a frame building was built in the Garvey Settlement, on the ground now part of the Lawrence Kneeland farm. The site can still be pointed out by Mr. Kneeland, who is the great-grandson of Thomas Kneeland the donor of the three acres of ground for the church and the cemetery, southwest of southwest Section 27, Town 9 north;, Range 5 West. Part of the burial ground is still there. This church was called St. Peter’s.
8) HISTORY OF CRAWFORD COUNTY 1881: SENECA
“There are two church organizations in this town-the Roman Catholic and the Methodist Episcopal.
The first Catholic services were held within the limits of the town were held a the house of Robert Garvey, on Section 34, Town 9, Range 5 West in November, 1855, by the Rev. L. Gaultier, a French priest from Prairie du Chien. A congregation was organized and a mission was established at that date.
In the fall of the same year, another congregation was formed on Copper Creek, where services were held at the house of Thomas Degnan, conducted by the pries above mentioned. In 1859 this congregation erected a log house, in which they assembled for services. The building stood on section 31, Town 10, Range 5 West, on the farm of Lawrence Bird, who donated the land.
In 1866 a frame building was erected on the southwest quarter of Section 27, Town 9, Range 5.
Catholic services were held at both of these churches, till the erection of the church edifice near the village of Seneca, which was in 1875.
At this date the old log church was a abandoned, and the congregation united in attending the more central location; though services are still held occasionally at the “little Frame Church.”’
The Church at Seneca is known as St. Patrick’s Church, and the other as St. Peter’s. These two churches number 120 families.”
9) CRAWFORD COUNTY WI ARCHIVES CHURCH RECORDS...ST GABRIELS PARISH
From 1853 to 1856, Father Galtier made monthly visit to St. John the Baptist mission at Mifflin, Iowa County. Meanwhile (1855), at Utica, Crawford County, he was engaged in constricting a chapel. The same year, the home of a Mr. Finnegan at Risen Sun was given the privilege of being seen of the first mass offered in that locality. Later, a log house served for the chapel until1870, when Father O’Connor established his residence there and built the present church of St. James. Similarly, at Seneca, in 1855, Mass was said in the home of a Robert Garvey. A frame churchwas built later on the site, and a cemetery-part of the present Kneeland farm-was subsequently added. The church has since been removed and the cemetery abandoned. Perhaps, as early as 1859, on Lawler Ridge, in the western part of Seneca, a log chapel, known as the “Lost Church of Copper Creek” was erected. The cemetery-the only relic left to indicate the site of the lost church- contains but one lone marker. The Copper Creek and Garvey settlements were united in 1872, when Father Verwyst became pastor of Seneca.”
10) St PATRICK PARISH SENECA, WI. CENTENNIAL BOOK 1872-1972
“On May 10, 1872, the Most Reverend Michael Heiss, Bishop of Lacrosse, issued the decree that brought into existence the Saint Patrick parish of Seneca.
Almost twenty years before that time, the Catholic Church began to function throughout the immediate area. Father Lucien Galthier of Prairie du Chien preside at the first mass known to have e been celebrated within the township of Seneca, and the site was the home of Robert Garvey in November of 1855. (Mary Garvey, daughter of Robert, kept house for Father Galtier.)
Some time later, a meeting to organize a Mission Parish took place in the same Robert Garvey home. A part of the stone foundation can still be seen from County trunk E on the Mike Heiss farm.
Also in 1855, another congregation was formed in Copper Creek, where services were held in the home of Thomas Dagnon, again conducted by Father Galthier. A log church was built in this community during the year 1859 in section 31, Township 10, Range 5 West. The remains of the cemetery can still be seen. The property was donated by Lawrence Bird from part of his farmland, and the church was known as St. Mark’s.
In 1866 [a frame] building was built on the Garvey settlement, on ground now part of the Lawrence Kneeland farm. The site can still be pointed out by Lawrence who is the great grandson of Thomas Kneeland, donor of the three acres for the church and cemetery. The location is Southwest of Southwest Section 27, Township 9 North, Range 5 West. Efforts to restore this cemetery were begun in the fall of 1971. This church was known as St. Peter’s.
Though efforts of Father Galtier and other Missionary priest who resided at Prairie du Chien from time to time, the spiritual needs of these people were cared for. Ina addition, father Flasch, Father Peter O’Connor and Father Patrick Murphy of Rising Sun also served the Catholics of the community.
In the meantime, plans were being made for the present church building, and it is said the Father Murphy was active in the plans for a new church. The southern portion of the present parish [St. Patrick, Seneca] was purchased by Bishop Heiss from Michael and Mary Huard, and the date of the transaction was November 4, 1867. However, work on the proposed new church was delayed because of Father Murphy’s poor health. Father Murphy died in Milwaukee on October 16, 1874, and, according to his wishes he was buried here in St. Patrick Cemetery.
Burials at Kneeland Cemetery date back to as far back as 1862. 1862 burials included Mary (Keefe) Crowley, Elizabeth Crowley and Catherine Kneeland.
Neither St. Patrick Parish, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee nor the Archdiocese of Lacrosse has been able to locate burial records of the Kneeland Cemetery. Consequently, the remaining stones, if legible, are the only source of names/dates of Kneeland interments. A number of the remaining stones on graves and other in a stone pile contain information beyond names and dates. Many stones contain information on the county in Ireland where the deceased were born or lived. Some stones contain interesting poems or sayings. The remaining stones are of a marble or granite type stone that survives much longer than limestone or similar. Most of the stones are in various states of disrepair and significant deterioration.
The only record of burials know at Kneeland Cemetery is the list compiled by “Coberly” in February 10, 1999 for the USGenWeb. The 23 name list was compiled based on the names on headstones in the cemetery in 1999. The names on the list were burials from 1862 to 1886. The outstanding and dedicated work of Burdette Coberly of the USGenWeb Project organization has been very helpful.
The family names interred at Kneeland, based on the list, includes 6 (six) Crowley’s, 1 (one ) Donahue, 5 (five) Flanagan’s, 2 (two) Kneeland’s, 1 (one ) Lennahan, 1(one) Mathews, 2 (two) Mullaney’s, 1(one) Peasley and 4 (four) Smith’s. Approximately 12 of the burials (nearly ½) are children age 15 or younger.
The Kneeland Cemetery is in Eastman, Wisconsin off Wisconsin “E” just a mile or so east of Wisconsin Highway 27. The Norman Rose family property currently ais adjacent to the west side of the cemetery. To reach the cemetery off “E” by car, one must travel on the county designated cemetery easement through the Rose property. The cemetery can be reached by foot walking north from “E”.
1939 aerial photography shows cemetery access from “E” prior to “E” being paved.
Kneeland cemetery is located near Seneca, Wisconsin.
The town of Seneca was organized April 7, 1857. Changes were made in its boundaries from time to time; its present limits were fixed by the addition of Lynxville in 1868. The first town meeting of Seneca was held April 7, 1857, at the house of Samuel Langdon. Joseph U. Searle was elected chairman of the town board; Ansel C. Russell and Daniel L. Smethurst, supervisors; James Smethurst, clerk; D. Tichenor, George F. Millet, Oliver Langdon and Lemuel Green, justices of the peace; Elihu Daggett, treasurer; George D. Clark, constable.
The few landowners there were had obtained their property from the government Homestead Act or through government programs of value land pricing designed to encourage settlement and development.
The Kneeland family owned land adjacent to the little frame church named St. Peter. Kneeland’s had selected an area of their property for burials. As time went on, neighbors asked the Kneeland’s for burial space for their loved ones.
The first Catholic services held within the limits of the town were held at the house of Robert Garvey, on section 34, town 9, range 5 west, in November, 1855, by the Rev. L. Gaultier, a French priest from Prairie du Chien. A congregation was organized and a mission was established at that date. In the fall of the same year, another congregation was formed on Copper creek, where services were held at the house of Thomas Degnan, conducted by the priest above mentioned. After the community, outgrew the Robert Garvey log house, catholic services were held at the ”the little frame church” called St. Peter until the erection of the St. Patrick Church edifice near the village of Seneca, which was in 1875. St. Peter was built near the Robert Garvey home and adjacent to the Thomas Kneeland property. The church was located on a path near what today is County Highway E” that lead from Stueben to what is now Highway 27 near Seneca town. Soon after the church was built, Thomas Kneeland donated land for a cemetery from the churches north side up through his property, an area of 3 acres.
Thomas Kneeland donated 3 acres to Bishop John Martin Henni of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1857 to be used as a cemetery.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee was the owner of the cemetery until the Archdiocese of Milwaukee deeded the property to Bishop Michael Heiss of the Archdiocese of Lacrosse on February 29, 1872 for the sum of $1.
The transfer is recorded as a “Quit Claim Deed” in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. J. Callaway, Recorder and W.L. Cleaver, Notary Public, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. The “Received for Record” date as April 24th, 1872. The legal description of the cemetery property is recorded in Crawford county Vol. 27, p.12
Owners of the property adjacent to the cemetery and through whose property the cemetery is accessed have included the family names of Kneeland, Foley, Borne, Boebel.
Recorded documents detail the original Kneeland Cemetery to be a total of 3 acres. The cemetery is recorded in Vol.27 p. 124. Of the county records.
The cemetery shows on virtually all maps of the area dating back to the earliest of maps. The cemetery is depicted by a “+” on the maps. On some maps, “line art’ of a church structure shows next to the “+”.
While no record exists of the official name of the cemetery from the 1800’s, the cemetery became known as the Kneeland Cemetery (based on the land donation from Thomas Kneeland).
Records and research seem to suggest the cemetery was known originally as being part of “The Garvey Settlement”. This assumption is based on individual burial records of some of the individuals interred at Kneeland. These burial records at the Diocese of Lacrosse Archives note he/she is being buried at the catholic cemetery at “Garvey Settlement”.
The cemetery became known as the Kneeland cemetery in later years. The state of Wisconsin Historical Society has the cemetery recorded as Kneeland Cemetery.
In the mid 1850’s, Robert Garvey owned the property adjacent to the Thomas Kneeland property. The 1st catholic mass service in the area was held at the Robert Garvey log house.
A “little frame church” know as St. Peters was subsequently built on, or very near the foundation of the original Robert Garvey house. The Garvey property was directly adjacent and south of the property Thomas Kneeland donated to the church to be used a cemetery.
Some burials on the cemeterty property are unmarked.
When St. Patrick’s Church in Seneca was opened in 1875, the “little frame church” was closed, but not torn down, and continued to be used on "special occasions". The church structure was sold in an auction to area resident Fred Wall who moved the structure to his property.
When St. Patrick’s Parish church and its adjoining cemetery was opened, Kneeland Cemetery was “abandoned” and subsequently fell into a state of disrepair.
In the 1930’s and again in the 1950’s, local Kneeland Cemetery area neighbors and residents “cleared” the Kneeland Cemetery of brush and trees. Stories suggest the fenced of the cemetery was at times used for livestock. It is also told; the cemetery area was a well-known rabbit hunting area due to growth of hazel-brush. That hunting and pasturing use, in addition to a lack of security and maintenance, likely resulted in headstones being removed and damaged.
There appears to be no documentation of exactly who was buried in the Kneeland cemetery or which burial graves had tombstones. What tombstones remain, most probably only represent a sampling of the stones that were originally in the cemetery.
A relatively few monument stones remain as of 2016. Virtually all of these are in various states of disrepair and deterioration. Many are virtually illegible. Some of the stones are gathered in stone piles that may or may not be directly above the actual grave. The monuments of the family names include Crowley, Brady, Flanagan, Kneeland, Lennahan, Mathews, Mullaney, Peasley, and Smith.
The oldest stone dates back to 1862. The stone monument marks the burial location of Mary (O'Keefe) Crowley who passed away Dec. 23, 1862. Her granddaughter Elizabeth passed away August 10, 1862 and was buried in adjacent to her grandmother Mary Crowley.
Another 1862 burial was that of Catherine Donahue who passed away on October 4, 1862.
The last burial, based on tombstone dates, is that of Michael Peasley who passed away on May 22, 1878.
Virtually all of the tombstones that remain are individuals of Irish descent. Many of the tombstones detail where in Ireland the deceased resided prior to coming to Crawford County. Tombstones note County Kerry and County Clare. Mary Crowley was from County Waterford.
Some references to Kneeland Cemetery and “the little frame church” in historical documents include :
From St. Gabriel’s Parish History:
…..Father Galtier….made regular visits…Similarly, at Seneca, in 1855, Mass was said in the home of a Robert Garvey. A frame church was built later on the site, and a cemetery-part of the present Kneeland farm-was subsequently added. The church has since been removed and the cemetery abandoned.”
From the St. Patrick, Seneca Centennial Booklet 1872-1972:
“In 1866, (a frame) building was built on the Garvey settlement, on ground now part of the Lawrence Kneeland farm. The site can still be pointed out by Lawrence who is the great grandson of Thomas Kneeland, donor of the three acres for the church and cemetery. The location is SW of SW Section 27, Township 9 north, Range 5 West. Efforts to restore the cemetery were begun in the fall of 1971. This church was known as St. Peter’s.”
“There are, at the present time (1884) six cemeteries…..one on Section 27, near the little frame church”…”
From the History of Crawford County Book:
“The Kneeland Cemetery is located in Section 27, Town 9, range 5 west. Records taken from the Register of deeds show that Thomas Kneeland deed the land in section 27, Town 9, Range 5 West to Milwaukee Diocese of the catholic church in 1870; and they in turn deeded the land to the Lacrosse Diocese in 1872. Apparently the cemetery and church site was in existence before 1862. As recorded on the tombstones still standing in the cemetery, there were burials from 1862 to as late as 1884. Many burials were reinterred in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Seneca.. names appearing on stones in this cemetery are Flanigan, Crowley, Smith. Mullaney, Kneeland, Lennahan and Brady. There is apparently no perpetual care on the 20 odd burials and the site might well receive some attention.”
“…the other(church) located near Pine creek close to the Robert Garvey home in sight of which is seen God’s acre enclosed with large evergreen trees. Near the cemetery stood a frame church until it was removed after St. Patrick’s church was built in 1874 in the village of Seneca. It was to this church Bishop Heiss brought confirmation the very year Lacrosse became a diocese. The Garvey settlement known also as St. Mark’s attracted the Irish settlers.”
From the Doctor Scanlan papers at the UW-Platteville:
“The Garvey Settlement was visited and mass was said in a log house in 1855. A few years alter a frame church was erected on an adjoining farm and near it a small cemetery of about an acre is fence, and all around it a row of large evergreen trees. When Seneca built St. Patrick’s Church on the edge of the village and started a new cemetery, the church in the Garvey settlement was torn down..”
NOTE; Newspaper accounts of this differ from Dr. Scanlan’s writing as the Kickapoo Chief newspaper reports the building was auctioned and sold to Fred Wall who moved the church structure to his farm.
From the writing by Father James E. Noonan in march 5, 1956:
“St. Patrick’s Parish is located in the southwestern section of Crawford County. The first mass said in the area was offered by Father Lucien Galtier of prairie du Chien in November 1855. The home of Robert Garvey was the site of the mass. It was also the scene where the parish-organizing meeting took place.
In the same year, another mission was established in the Copper Creek area, and mass was said in the home of Thomas Degnan. During the next three years, two log churches were built. The church near the Garvey home was called St. peter’s, and that of Copper creek was named St. Marl\k’s. The land for the latter church was donated by Lawrence Bird, from part of his own farming land.
…some 10 years later, the year 1869, Father Patrick Murphy of Rising Sun met with the Catholics of the community to plan for the present (St. Patrick’s) church building. The site was chosen, but nothing further was done about it. Owing to ill health, Father Murphy, has to resign within a short time. He died in St. Mary’s Hospital, Milwaukee, October 16,1874. His last request was that his mortal remains be placed in some part of the cemetery of St. Patrick’s parish. This request was fulfilled.”
Research has now determined there are unmarked graves in the cemetery as well as approximately 22 headstones with the names of 27 burials. Virtually all of the stones are in poor condition, broken, moved and somewhat illegible. It is possible that graves were around the St. Peter structure and on the grounds from the site of the church structure to where the remaining headstones are today.
The area where the headstones remain is at the far north of the 3 acre cemetery. Some graves on that part of the cemetery pre-date ”the little frame church”.
Descendants of pioneer settlers were interviewed about the cemetery and reported that the barbed wire fencing was installed sometime in the 1920’ or 30’s for the purpose of fencing in pigs. That use of the cemetery was most certainly not approved by the owners of the cemetery, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. But, since the cemetery was “abandoned” in the 1870’s, there was likely little oversight or knowledge of what was done which resulted in no pushback by the church or civil authorities. When the fenced area was no longer used for pastuing, it became overgrown. It was known by area residents as a great place for rabbit hunting. In the 1950’s , community volunteers lead cleared the cemetery.
Highway work done on County Highway E may have impacted the southern end of the cemetery. “the little frame church” was just to the south of “E” which, when the church was built, was a dirt path from Stueben to Crowley Ridge and then west toward Seneca and the Mississippi River towns. The highway work appears to have resulted in a steep bank at the south end of the cemetery . Doing so, cut off direct access from where the church was, just south of “E”, to the cemetery.
St. Peter , as the ” little frame church” was known, was the catholic community center until St. Patrick Church in Seneca was built in 1874. The cemetery around St. Patrick Church also opened that time. After the opening of St. Patrick Cemetery, there were only a few burials at Kneeland. The Kickapoo chief newspaper of the time, reported that some graves had been moved from Kneeland cemetery to St. Patrick cemetery. Soon, the Kneeland cemetery was “abandoned” and became overgrown. The St. Peter structure remained and was occasionally used for special services after St. Patrick opened, the local Kickapoo newspaper had an article that the St. Peter structure was sold at auction to Fred Wall who rhen moved the church structure.
A newspaper article of the time states, that the remains in some of the graves in Kneeland Cemetery were "moved "to the cemetery at St. Patrick’s Church in Seneca when the St. Patrick’s cemetery was opened in 1875.
The distance between Kneeland Cemetery and St. Patrick Cemetery is approximately 2 miles. The graves would have been hand dug, remains exhumed and transported by horse and wagon. Of course, it is not known, what the definition of a “moving a grave” was in the mid to late 1870’s. “Moving a grave” could have ranged from transporting a representative shovel of dirt and the headstone to a full exhumation and movement of a headstone. Or perhaps, “moving’ could have been only the moving of the headstone.
No record of the names of the actual remains that were moved can be located in either the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and/or the Archdiocese of Lacrosse. No record of the names of the actual remains that were not moved can be located in either the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and/or the Archdiocese of Lacrosse. Consequently, it is not definite what remains, if any, are still interred at Kneeland Cemetery. At this time in history, it is unclear who would have had the authority to allow exhumations at Kneeland and subsequent re-interment at St. Patrick’s cemetery
To try to establish grave numbers and locations at Kneeland, a Ground Penetrating Radar” (GPR) project was done in the Spring of 2016. The project was limited to the south side of the fenced area of the cemetery.
The project was managed by an experienced Professor from a University in Wisconsin. The results showed unmarked (no headstone) graves. The results also suggest that there were no graves “moved” in the area of the study as the radar showed no soil disturbance other than the soil disturbance from the original excavation.
Subsequent to the ground study, an Archeologist of the University of Wisconsin toured the Kneeland Cemetery property. The archeologist noted there were many additional grave areas likely in addition to the area where the GPR identified burial based on obvious soil depressions in the cemetery area.
In 2019, a professional survey and a professional title search were done to verify the size and legal owner of the cemetery. The results clearly showed the cemetery was 3 acres and the owner is the Archdiocese of Lacrosse. The fenced area of the cemetery is only a part of the 3 acre cemetery.
St. Patrick’s Parish manages the Kneeland Cemetery maintenance. The primary maintenance is mowing.
In the winter of 2016/2017, the Archdiocese Cemetery Director was informed of the study and other cemetery research. In January 2017, the archivist of the Archdiocese was also informed of the study and research.
It was brought to the attention of the archdiocese that while the cemetery fenced area was less than an acre, the archdiocese did own 3 acres.
Other than the barbed wire fence surrounding approximately .57 acres of the cemetery, no signage or other perimeter was in place until signage at the cemetery and on Highway “E” was added in 2019. There is an opening in the fenced area that allows freedom to enter and exit the cemetery.
When the survey was done in 2019 2’ iron rods were planted at the 4 corners of the cemetery.
Much of the history of SW Wisconsin and the Seneca/Eastman areas of Crawford county has its beginning in Ireland in the mid 1800’s. So does the history of Kneeland Cemetery and “the little frame church” called St. Peter which became St. Patrick Parish.
The Irish that settled in the Eastman/Seneca were devout Catholics. They found themselves in a new country with no church and no priest. Soon they secured a visiting priest and held services at the Robert Garvey log house until they outgrew the house and built a small “little frame church” named St. Peter.
No history of Crawford County and SW Wisconsin is complete without the including the history of “the little frame church” and Kneeland Cemetery. Kneeland Cemetery and the “little frame church” represent some of the earliest days of settlers and settlement in Crawford County. Both are history and deserve preservation in history writing and in the area land preservation and designation.
When the little frame church and Kneeland Cemetery began, the area was a perfect wilderness, with abundant wild game of all kinds. Access to the are was limited and pioneer settlers were few. As land was cleared, corn, potato, grains farming and domestic animal farms grew. The timber that was harvested provided logs for house, fuel for heat and the sale of timer generated cash for living and farming expenses.
The growth in population, prosperity and the advent of the railroads lead to the development of towns like Seneca, Eastman, Stueben, and more. Continued growth and development lead to the establishment of schools and multiple church parishes.
Maps from the 1800’s that showed the Kneeland Cemetery and "the little frame church "adjacent to each other.
There are mentions of the cemetery in various history books, St. Patrick historical publications and in period newspapers. The cemetery was referenced in documents as the " Catholic Cemetery", "Garvey Settlement" and the "cemetery near the little frame church".
The “Scanlan Papers” at the University of Wisconsin Platteville were particularly helpful as they were written by Dr. Scanlan who had personal knowledge of the area. With the building of St. Patrick Church structure, St. Peter church structure was abandoned. The congregation’s services were still held occasionally at the "little frame church." St. Peter Church structure was materially improved by Father J. J. Burns, who was their priest in 1884. The first resident pastor of this Church was Rev. Father Christian A. Verweyst, who was succeeded by the Rev. John G. Collins, and he by the Rev. J. J. Burns in 1880.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of Wisconsin- Platteville
University of Wisconsin- Lacrosse
University of Wisconsin Historical Society
Lower Wisconsin Historical Society
St. Patrick Parish
Crawford County Recorder
Crawford County Highway department
Prairie du Chien Library
The Archdiocese of Lacrosse
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee
The Archdiocese of Lacrosse Archives
The Kickapoo Chief newspaper
The Scanlan papers
The History of Crawford County book
The St. Patrick Parish centennial Publication
The History of Stueben and Eastman Publication
University of Wisconsin Archeologist
.........and other local residents and organizations