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By Joseph Dempsey spacer St. Boniface in the Boondocks

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The first service in the Saint Boniface Catholic Church of the New Dixie community in central Arkansas, as you see it here, was held in September of 1906. The beginnings of the parish pre-date that service by some 27 years, back to 1879, when immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland formed the fledgling parish.

Corporate generosity of the day provided real estate Honor Roll for the church. The Choctaw Railroad, now known as the Rock Island Line, donated 40 acres there in the New Dixie Community. Eventually a church, school, rectory, and a Sisters’ house for the nuns who taught at the school dotted the landscape of the small but vibrant community.

Early in 1906, the Sisters’ house caught fire during mass. When the flames were extinguished, the Sisters’ house and the church were destroyed. But not all was lost. Several bold parishioners braved the flames and managed to save the altar, which had been imported from Germany by a parish member.

Subsequently, parishioner Oswald Joseph Miller was commissioned to design and erect a new church. Timber from the property was felled for construction. In nearby Bigelow, Arkansas, the Fourche (foosh) River Lumber Company milled the logs into lumber.


Rebuilding with an Eye to Tradition: Oswald Joseph Miller, a Saint Boniface parishioner, was commissioned to design and build the new church. He carved the spiral work on the side altars to match the original high altar, which was saved from the blaze that destroyed the rest of the church.

The Saint Boniface steeple is 95-feet tall, which translates to about the height of a nine-story building. The original bells in the steeple belfry are still rung by hand ropes to call parishioners to worship every Sunday.

We met the rector as he was departing the premises to minister to yet another small parish. It appears that in rural areas, circuit riding preachers still ply their divinely appointed profession. The hop is faster these days since a shiny black sedan is substantially faster than a horse and buggy.

Saint Boniface is alive and well in 2010 and is doing a good job of keeping 1906 traditions the same. Ain’t life grand!

A couple of other Choctaw RR links:

N O T E S:  
Nikon D300 / Tripod mounted; Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 EX DC HSM, ISO 200. All shots composited. Base exposure on exterior shot, 1/500 @ f11. On this one I used the bed of the pickup for a platform and the tripod was fully extended. Post processed with Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended and Genuine Fractals Print Pro. Base on interior shot 1/40 @ f4.

divider beautiful But wait, there’s more. Down the road a piece at Houston there’s another old church. Further down the road is Bigelow, a crooked house, and still yet further a moon over Lake Maumelle. See it all on our blog, Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind. Click here to go there. 

Click the jump wings
to see the previous
Photo of the Week.
Click the camera
for an index to every
Photo of the Week.
weekly grist

Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog.  — J. D.


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