Even though St. Lawrence Church wasn’t formally established until 1842, the roots of our church can be traced back to 1840 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. During the first few years, masses and other services were held in the founding families' homes. Priests from neighboring parishes would come to Lawrenceburg to offer Mass. The practice of priests visiting St. Lawrence to say Mass would last until 1866. In 1842 a plot of land, just across Walnut Street from today's existing church, was deeded to the Bishop. On this plot of land the first Catholic church in Lawrenceburg was built. Construction of our first church was completed in 1847. It was a stone structure measuring 60 feet long by 40 feet wide, and served the needs of our early parishioners until 1867.
Reverend Clement Scheve became St. Lawrence's first resident pastor in 1866. He immediately saw the need for a larger church. Father Scheve purchased the land and the construction on our present day church started. St. Lawrence was completed in the spring of 1867. The bell from the original church was hung in the steeple. Later that summer, the original bell was retired because a new bell weighing 3500 lbs was purchased. During the 1990s the original bell was found, still in the steeple. It was restored and now its ring calls our parishioners to church on special occasions.
The History of Our Parish
The church has withstood five deadly floods:
First Flood-1882 The levee broke near Hardinsburg at about midnight on February 21, 1882. This was Lawrenceburg’s first serious flood since 1832. The water reached a stage of 58.7 feet and came within eight inches of the church floor. Since the flood came rather unexpectedly, it did much damage to property.
Second Flood-1883 On February 15, 1883 the levee again broke near Hardinsburg. The water reached a stage of 66.4 feet and stood six feet on the church floor. There was much damage to the altars, communion rail, confessionals, pews, floor and interior decorations of the church.
Third Flood-1884 On February 14, 1884 the Ohio River reached a stage of 71.75 feet. Damage to the church, school and rectory was very great. Almost all members of the parish suffered heavy losses. Many of the parishioners became greatly impoverished.
Fourth Flood-1913 The year 1913 was again a fatal one for Lawrenceburg. The levee which had protected the city for many years could not withstand the rush of water in March, 1913. The levee broke at the lower section on March 29, 1913, and the break having occurred so close to town, the damage to property was greater than in any of the previous floods. Many houses were torn from their foundations and swept away. The water reached a stage of 69.6 feet and did much damage to the church property.
Fifth Flood-1937 On January 21, 1937 a most devastating flood inundated Lawrenceburg. St Lawrence property suffered heavily. All parish buildings were severely damaged. The terrible havoc wrought had a discouraging and disheartening effect upon all concerned. But again, St. Lawrence set to work and repaired the damage. With indomitable courage and a firm trust in Divine Providence pastor and parishioners set to work once more to make the necessary repairs. Their splendid cooperation brought results and satisfaction for the work accomplished.
In the early part of the 20th century, Father William Kreis took the initiative to build St. Lawrence a modern school. After nine years of fund raising, planning and construction, the school and convent for the Franciscan nun, who would teach the students, opened in the fall of 1927. Over the years the school has been added on to several times, most recently being in 2003 with the addition of four classrooms and the Father Jack Hartzer multi-purpose room.
In February 1882, the first serious flood in 50 years struck the Lawrenceburg area. The Ohio River floodwaters crested six inches beneath the floor of the church. Though the inside of the church was spared, there was much property damage. Waters from the Ohio would reach our church four more times with the Ohio river cresting inside of the church each time. The floods were in 1883, 1884, 1913, and 1937 with the most serious being the flood of 1937 when the water crested 26 feet deep inside of church. With each flood the parishioners pulled together giving of their time, talent, and treasure to restore St. Lawrence to its original splendor. Lawrenceburg has since been protected by the creation of a levee, keeping the Ohio River waters at bay.