By Teresa Mottet
A group of Polish immigrants settled south of Brighton, Iowa, in the 1800s. There was a Catholic church at nearby Germanville which was the church of the German settlers. The Polish people could not understand the sermons and other announcements because they did not know the German language. So they decided they needed a church where their language was used.
Twenty-eight Polish families branched off from the Germanville church to start a Polish church. They sought and received approval from Bishop John Hennessey of Dubuque, Iowa. At that time (1880), the Diocese of Dubuque included all of Iowa. In 1881, it divided in two, a northern half and a southern half, and that was the beginning of the Diocese of Davenport.
These Polish pioneers, under the leadership of Father Shulak of Chicago, bought three acres of land for $25 per acre as a location for the church. They chose that spot (10 miles northeast of Fairfield) because it reminded them so much of their native Poland. A few years later they bought three more acres across the road for a cemetery, again paying $25 per acre.
In the winter of 1880 the members quarried and hauled stone for the foundation. The stone and four main sills for the church were donated by Mrs. Parks, a Protestant lady. The native timbers to build the church were sawed locally and donated by members. In the fall of 1881 the foundation was laid and the church building was started. Thomas Linn and Walter Edwards of Pleasant Plain built the church building for $550. The steeple was 70 feet high, and the cross on top could be seen for miles. The title of the church was St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception.
The first Mass was celebrated in October 1882. A parish house was built in 1890, and resident priests were there until 1930. After that it was served as a mission parish by priests from East Pleasant Plain. Time and intermarriage broke up the ethnic community. Regular worship there ended in 1945.
Weather and vandals took a toll on the church after that. Many of the interior furnishings were removed and taken home by remaining ex-members at the time to keep them from being vandalized.
Those items are now in the museum in the Polishville Community Center. The church and parish house burned to the ground on July 15, 1971. Cause of the fire was never determined.
The community evolved into the present Polishville Association which was formed in 1978 to provide upkeep for the cemetery, as it had fallen into neglect. A building was erected at the location in 1988 and enlarged twice, in 1991 and 1995. Dances are held there twice a month with average attendance of 100 to 140 dancers. Other activities include a yearly bazaar and dinner in August, wedding anniversary celebration and bingo. Polishville is once again a thriving community.
(Teresa Mottet is a member of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield. Her grandparents were part of the Polishville community. Both sets of grandparents are buried in the Polishville Cemetery).