Local Preservation Corps Works Life Back into Historic Log Church

Northland Uncovered: Sts. Mary and Joseph Church

SAWYER, Minn. – A church in Sawyer on the Minnesota Registry of Historic Places has been under construction for about a year as a preservation corps puts life into the structure.

Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps members are working to restore the Saints Mary and Joseph Church which was built in 1884.

The goal was to provide a place of worship for Franciscans and local Native Americans.

“We are preserving history and once history is gone, it is gone,” said Deacon Bryan Bassa.

The church has sat empty since the 1960s when a new building was created next door.

Last December the church received a $128,000 grant from the Black and Indian Mission Office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to get the work done.

“It was in pretty bad shape, it was to the point where you either let it cave in or do something about it,” said parishioner and resident carpenter Don Berthiaume.

This grant is providing the preservation corps with a big task.

“They’ve done chinking and dobbing for the log building, to rebuilding a stone chimney on the building and now we’ve been doing the roofing,” said Laurel Eaton, the Development Director for the Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps.

The floor has also been removed and altar restored.

This is giving parishioners hope for the future.

“We can use it for small occasions, small weddings, small anniversaries, even if somebody wants a funeral in here,” explained Barb Omar, a member of the Log Church Restoration Committee.

Omar was baptized in this church and performed her first communion and solemn communion in this church.

It has a lot of meaning to me and to many of my generation,” said Omar.

Berthiaume also grew up in the church, “when my dad was a kid he was in here being an altar boy and stuff and I was an altar boy for a little while.”

These are stories being shared with the workers.

“They’ve really got to have that one–on–one connection to this site and the history that’s there,” said Eaton.

If you’d like to donate to this project, head to stkaterisawyer.com.

Your donations can also be made by sending a check made out to “SMJ Log Church Project” to:

Log Church Project
509 Sunrise Drive
Carlton, Minnesota 55728

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