Our Parish Beginnings ... The Historical Church

Catholic churches in this part of the San Joaquin Valley were few and far between during the early 1900's. Until November 15, 1906, local Catholics had to travel to either: Fresno, Hanford, or Visalia for Mass, and their transportation was by train or horse-drawn wagons and buggies.

Bishop T.F. Conaty of the Monterey/Los Angeles Diocese organized the Reedley parish in 1906 which extended from the boundaries of the Fresno parish on the north, Hanford to the south and west, and Visalia parish to the south and east. It also included Dunlap and other mountain settlements to the Nevada border. The Rev. George P. Seubert of Los Angeles was appointed the church's first priest. This first baptism recorded in the parish was that of Mark Parenti on December 6, 1906.

Ten lots on the corner of F and 11tth Streets were purchased from Dr. Day, and plans were made for building the present church. Until the church was ready, Sunday Mass was held first in a theatre and later at the Jensen Opera House. Dinners, dances and bazaars were held to raise funds for the church.

In the spring of 1907, excavation for the church was begun under the direction of Father Seubert. Field stones were hauled from the Smith by the parishioners. Each family agreed to haul 60 tons of rock, and those who did not have teams to haul the rock, paid others to do their share. Those furnishings teams were Pete Kullman, Alex Trembley, Patrick Segrue, Conrad Fortier, William Rayburn, Frank Long, William Gilliland, and Joseph Vetter. Stone masons were: William Crowe, Isack Porter, and Leon LaBaza.

On November 24, 1907, the cornerstone to the church was laid. Father Seubert named the new parish St. Margaret's Catholic Church, in honor of the patron saint of his mother. However, in 1909, at her request, the name of the church was changed to St. Anthony of Padua to honor the patron of his father.

Parishioners who assisted putting the rafters and roof in 1909-1910 were Jacob Linzmeier, Manuel Enos, William and Emery Trembley, Emile Cyrier, and the teamsters already mentioned. Horses were used to raise the timber beams while men worked aloft to place them in order. The granite cross, weighing 1,565 pounds, was given to the church by Manuel Enos, and the large stained glass windows over the front door were given to the church by Andrew Winter. Windows in the tower and glass over the side doors were gifts from Andrew Olson, Amelia Linzmeier, Daniel Manning, John and Agnes Walsh, and Elizabeth Curtis. Andrew Winter also presented the baptismal font his son, Edward, was the first child to be baptized in the new church on February 11, 1911.

Dedication of St. Anthony's was on Sunday, May 21, 1911 at 9:00 am, when Most Rev. Conaty consecrated the new church building. In the impressive ceremony, the bishop was assisted by Monsignor McCarth, Father James Reardon and the pastor of the church, Father Seubert. Father Thomas Fahey accompanied the bishop to the ceremony when they arrived in Reedley by train from Monterey.

"A great many Indian people lived in the mountain area in the early days of St. Anthony's parish. Father Seubert faithfully visited the settlements in Dunlap and Squaw Vallley for Sunday Mass. Before World War I, the Indians came to Reedley on horseback and in wagons. Whole families set up camp in the church yard, cooked their meals over open fire and stayed for several days. During this time, Father Seubert offered Mass, performed marriages and baptized children."

An excerpt from the Reedley Exponent

St. Anthony's has continued to grow and flourish by the grace of God and leadership of these dedicated preists
Rev. G.P. Seubert 1906-1923
Rev. Michael J. Stack 1923-1924
Rev. P. Gerald Gay 1924-1926
Rev. John F. Harnett 1926-1927
Rev. P.O. Hassett 1927-1929
Rev. William McLoughlin 1929-1937
Rev. John Walsh 1937-1945
Rev. E.H. Huebbers 1945-1949
Very Rev. Patrick Hannon 1949-1968
Rev. Msgr. Herbert Elmlinger 1968-1972
Rev. Bruno Brzezinski 1972-1973
Rev. Robert R. Vanoncini 1973-1983
Rev. Msgr. Francis G. Tasy 1983-2006
Rev. Jose de Jesus Reynaga 2006-2007
Rev. Msgr. John Esquivel 2007-2020
Rev. Denny Joseph, R.C.J. 2020-Present