St. Sebastian Catholic Church, Byron Center
In the year of 1852, a small group of pioneers from Germany and northern Ohio, who had settled in the wood 18 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, built a little log church on property donated by John Jacob Wolf.
Services were held as regularly as possible by Priests journeying from Grand Rapids and Wright, 25 miles north.
Definite and personal records of those years, a century ago, are not available, but the naems of some of the hardy souls who left their imprint on the life of this territory were: John Jacob Wolf's sons, Peter, Jacob and Baitas; John, Sebastian and Peter Homrich families; John and Matthias Miller families; Phillip Young, Fritz Endres, Thomas Debri, John Frantz, Peter Budinger, Peter Steffes, Peter Debri and Joseph Simon, among many others.
The log church was used until about 1890, when it became unsafe and the members of the Byron Parish united with , St. Mary's Church at North Dorr for the next six years. But St. Mary's was truck by lightning in 1896 and burned to the ground. The north Allegan County line being the dividing line between the Detroit and Grand Rapids Dioceses, Bishop Richter of Grand Rapids with the aid of Father Egge of Wright, reorganized the Byron Parish, and services and school were held in a hall near the location of the former log church, until 1901.
Rev. F. H. Ruessmann was the first resident pastor and under his direction, the rectory was built in 1899, at a cash outlay of $1,003.00, with local material and labor. In 1901, Father Ruessmann was succeeded by Father Anthony Eikelman, during whose time the present church was built.
In March, 1908, Rev. William Hasenberg took charge, and it was during his pastorship that a building that was once a hotel at North Dorr was moved and placed beside St. Sebastian Church and converted into a school and living quarters for the teaching Dominican sisters.
Father Hasenberg was transferred to West Branch in 1915 and Rev. Anthony Bosler, assistant at St. Mary's Grand Rapids, was sent to take his place.
At Christmas time in 1917, the North Dorr and Byron parishes were again united under the pastorship of Father Bosler, each parish having its own church, school and organization.
In September, 1921, the pastor, Rev. Ernest J. Walters was placed in charge of the Byron and North Dorr Parishes.
Little clearings in the woods of a century ago have steadily developed into a substantial farming district, and a flourishing rural parish of 200 families. Rev. E. J. Walters has been pastor of this parish since 1921.
Created: 18 January 2014