History

Churchgoers of 1857 originally worshipped in a log cabin about a mile from the current site, yet still in the strong French community that came to be known as Dayton, Minnesota.  St. John the Baptist Parish was established in 1856, and in 1866 a 50 ft x 70 ft wooden church was erected just north of the current church, which served until 1904.  It was then used as a banquet hall.  With a strong French base, confessions continued in French until the 1950's!

On Thanksgiving Day 1904, the current brick building was dedicated, with Fr. Pettigrew as Pastor.  The main church area is 30 ft x 80 ft, with the transepts measuring 54 ft x 54 ft each.  The architectural style is Gothic, as evidenced by the pointed arches and exterior buttresses throughout.  The footprint of the church is in the shape of a cross, or "Cruciform" in style.  The bell tower stands 150 ft., with a 13 ft. cross.  The secondary belfry reaching 96 ft. and has an approximately 7 ft. cross.

When originally built, the sanctuary was located on the far north end, the current social hall.  The sanctuary was moved forward to make room for St. John the Baptist Catholic School, which was operational from 1948 to 1969, under the Pastorate of Fr. Guillemette.  At this time the stained glass windows in the transepts were removed, to create a classroom setting.  The School Sisters of Notre Dame taught the students, and lived on site in the convent (built in 1949), now converted to the Parish Education Center.

The altar area was again remodeled in the Pastorate of Fr. Schnitzius (1989-83), to meet the liturgical standards of Vatican II.  At this time the classrooms were also turned over to a Social Hall, as the church does not have a basement.

Our St. Therese chapel was originally the sacristy and confessional area for the church, but vacated when the school was started.  After the school closed, the area was used as a workshop for the intense repairs to the stained glass windows throughout the church. This project spanned from 1989-97, and was under the Pastorate of Fr. Remmerswaal OSC.  The Chapel was then created in honor of St. Therese, and is used for daily Mass.

As would be expected, the church structure has seen major repairs.  In 1937-38, much work was done to the fieldstone foundation, the walls, roof and the heating system.  The roof was again repaired in 2003.  Steeple repairs were done in 1965, and again from 1997-99.  For the later repairs, the bell tower was actually removed and the 17 ton steeple was set back in place on July 28, 2000.

St. John's has two cemeteries:  A one-acre cemetery is located off site, on land that was donated in 1862.  The primary cemetery was purchased in 1886, to be near the new church and is located behind the rectory.  A portion of this cemetery is currently serving as an orchard for parish use.  Significant renovations and updates to the cemetery have been made in 1943, in 1975, to clean and repair.

Permission was granted in 1890 to build the rectory, which was completed in 1895.  This too has seen much change, such as significant repairs to the foundation, removal of the cupola and porches, and the windmill.  Horse stalls have given way to a new garage as well.

For a more complete history of the Dayton area, and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, (and for great recipes!) be sure to purchase one of our Historical Cookbooks!