1850-1867 – Early History
The Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Imlay City was organized by a group of Irish settlers who came to this area in the early 1850s. The first mass was said by Father Vallandingham of Mt. Clemens at the Martin Heenan home in 1852. This Heenan home was located near the junction of south VanDyke and Hunters Creek Road. The next priest to visit the area was Father Theophilus Buyse of Swan Creek, who said mass at Peter Hannan Sr.’s home on South Blacks Corners Road in 1854. During this time plans were made by the thirty Catholic families to build a church and this was completed in 1867.
1867-1894 – The First Church
This first church was a small wooden structure, painted white and located on Blacks Corners Road at the site of the present Mt. Calvary Cemetery. Land was donated for the church from the farm of George Quirk, Sr. and Mr. Morris of Pontiac donated the timber off the Hulsart farm for its construction. Men of the parish did the actual construction. A board fence enclosed the churchyard and hitching posts were provided for the horses and oxen with their lumber wagons and carriages. Priest came once a month from Lapeer.
The interior of the little church was mostly white as the walls were white plaster, and the pews were natural unfinished wood. There was no sacristy – the sanctuary was the entire width of the building. The confessional was enclosed in red curtains and was back of the communion rail on the left side of the church. A few chairs inside the railing were for the alter boys, Tom Hughes, Jim McKinney, Joe O’Neil, Bob MacGillis, and Ted Hannan. An L-shaped round oak stove provided the heat. The one altar was painted white and often was decorated with flowers of the field and woods brought by children. On special occasions an organ was borrowed from the Patrick O’Neil family and an organist came from Lapeer. Later an organ was purchased. At this time the cemetery was in back of the church. In 1893 Bishop Foley named Father Francis C. Kelley pastor in Lapeer and plans were made to erect a new church in the village of Imlay City.
1894 -1970 – Sacred Heart Church
In 1894, at a cost of $7,500, a new church was erected on Main Street in the village of Imlay City. It was of brick and fieldstone, with a spire and stained glass windows. The “miter stone” on the front surface of the church was found in the field stone brought in by farmers. In 1927 Father Ording was serving Imlay City, when a rectory was built adjacent to the Main Street church. He was the first pastor to live in it. Until 1927 the pastors came from Lapeer to serve this parish.
In 1924 the church was partially destroyed by fire and re-built.
On December 2, 1972, the present church was built and the Main Street structure demolished. The new church was attached to the existing parish hall. This new sanctuary could accommodate 500 people. Nearby is the house that was originally the home of the Victory Noll Sisters who taught religion in several neighboring parishes as well as Imlay City. A new rectory was constructed in 1974. The parish is proud of its part in donating land for the construction of the beautiful Sanctuary at Maple Vista, a residence for ambulatory seniors of any denomination.
(Courtesy of the Imlay City Downtown Development Authority Website)