GUERILLAS BURNED HAMBURG CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CIVIL WAR
In the early 40s, possibly about 1842, a small band of Catholics and homeseekers left the Tywappity bottoms, where the first church of the Catholic denomination was founded in Scott County in 1839, because of the low lands and ill health and struck for the hilly country, settling near what is now New Hamburg. In the company of Ludwig Pfefferkorn and wife, John Hartin and wife, Martin Bisher and wife, John Glaus and wife. These people sent work back to the old country and soon thereafter there arrived Adam Dirnbreger, John Firsch, Andrew Schoen, John and Mike Leible, and Conrad Schoen. Katrine Dirnberger, a daughter of Adam, later married Vincent Heisserer. These last arrivals from the old world landed at New Orleans and were on their way up the Mississippi, headed for St. Louis, then quite a prosperous trading post. When they got to Commerce the ice in the river stopped their trip and while waiting for a chance to resume their water voyage, they wandered to New Hamburg and decided to make that town their home.
The place was first called Hamburg, but when the people learned there was already a Hamburg in Missouri, they put New in front of it.
The first church was built in 1847 and it still stands in the yard a short distance from the fine rock structure that was erected later. The first burial was that of Mrs. Donatus Scherer, who died October 5, 1847.
The parish of St. Lawrence the Maryr was organized in 1848, when three acres of land were deeded to Bishop Kendrick for the use of the Catholics of the vicinity. In 1851 Father James Stehle removed to New Hamburg, but in the following year left the parish and the care of the little congregation devolved on Father Leo of Benton and his successors, Boetzkes and Tuerk.
In 1857 work was started on the massive stone church that towers high above the hilles of the parish. The building is 60x120 and the walls of a portion of the structure are the same that were built in 1858-62. It was necessary to have lime for the construction of the stone work, so a kiln was started on a farm that was later owned by Wm. Legrand, three miles from the church. Rocks were hauled in ox carts from quarries for five or six miles distant.
The church was nearing completion, the walls were up, it was under roof and flooring and other material was stacked inside and within a few weeks the parish would be a possessor of a church that would be their joy and pride. But the Civil War was on and New Hamburg was on the border line between North and South and property was confiscated and people had to flee for safety.
One morning in 1862 the town was stirred by the cry of "fire." The citizens rushed out of their homes and found that the work of four years of toil and sacrifice was being destroyed, the Guerillas having set fire to the splendid structure. The building was gutted by fire, but the walls were solid and unharmed, and there was no debt on the church, they looked forward to the time when they could rebuild. And the work of reconstruction was soon started.
The beautifully ___ rock church in New Hamburg is the oldest church in Scott County, if not in Southeast Missouri, that is being used.
Scott County Democrat. "Neighbor Day" Issue, September 1936
Editor's Note: According to "History of St. Lawrence Catholic Church" by Rev. Hubert J. Eggeman, the land for the church as donated by Wendolin Bucher and the present church is a replica of the church at Schirrhein, France (home village of the Alsation settlement, except for the inside. Also, Mrs. Donatus (Sophia Stuppy) Scherer was the second buried in the cemetery; Mrs. Mary Han being the first. She died May 14, 1847.