Historical Stories - 1905

Fr._EummelenSundbyes_StorefrontThe earliest reference to a Catholic service celebrated in Huntington Beach was in 1905.  It was a Requiem Funeral Mass for John Bushard and was held in the family home.  The area at that time was served by St. Joseph’s Parish in Santa Ana.  Shortly after the funeral, a priest, most likely Fr. Henry Eummelen, the Pastor of St. Joseph’s, started coming down from the mother Church to say Mass, more or less regularly in Sundbye’s department store on Main Street.   As a result, in 1905, Bishop Thomas Conaty of the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles established a church in Huntington Beach as a mission of St. Joseph’s Parish in Santa Ana.  The Mission Church was named St. Mary’s in honor of Mary Bushard’s patroness, St. Mary.

Most of the families who settled in Western Orange County were from farming communities in Europe.  When they immigrated to the United States in the 1890s and early 1900s, they brought with them the knowledge and expertise to start their own farms in Orange County, some settling in Anaheim, others in Santa Ana and Irvine, and a few in Huntington Beach.  The majority of the Catholic families
attended Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Santa Ana, one of only three Catholic churches in Orange County at the time.  The other churches were the Mission church in San Juan Capistrano, and St. Boniface in Anaheim, the oldest church in the Diocese of Orange.

Fertile soil and cool breezes eventually drew more families toward the ocean and to Huntington Beach.  These early settlers included the families of John Bushard, Joseph Holtz, Rene Callen, Robert Gisler and the Lecrivains.  All or some of these families were parishioners at one time or another, and were instrumental in the establishment and growth of the small Mission Church.  The families remained active in the church and community for many years to come, and most still have a presence in the community today.  Andrew Holtz, the son of Joseph, was on the parish council in the 1960s, when the school and present church building were erected.  His widow, Catherine, now lives in Santa Maria, California. She will be 90 in November 2011.

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