Chippewa City Church Open - Noon to 2 p.m.

The historic Chippewa City Church (St. Francis Xavier) will be open Sunday, Noon to 2pm for tours. Please stop by and see this wonderful treasure of local history.


The following excerpt was researched and written by Staci Drouillard:

The St. Francis Xavier Catholic parish was built under the direction of Father Specht in the spring and summer of 1895 on land donated by community members Antoine and Antoinette Fillison. The church was best known as the "Chippewa Church" by parishioners. 

The bulk of funds for the construction of the church were raised through basket socials. The baskets were hand-made of birch bark by community members and filled with homemade baked goods. Most of the contributions came from area lumberjacks, who were often far away from home and usually had plenty of money to spend.

The building was designed in the French style of architecture and built by Ojibwe carpenter Frank Wishkop of hand-hewn, dovetailed timber. Its dimensions are 25 x 30 feet, with a lean-to of 8 x 14 feet. The Church grounds also included other lean-to sheds that at one time were used to house the sled dogs used by the priests, and for storing firewood for fuel. A 225-pound bell and pews were added in 1896, with the sacristy added by Fr. LaMarche, SJ. in 1903.

St. Francis Xavier served as the only Catholic parish in the Grand Marais from the summer of 1895 through 1916, when a second Catholic church was built in the village of Grand Marais. Mass continued on at the Chippewa Church after 1916, but as the population at Chippewa City gradually declined, the Church was used less and less until the final mass was conducted on Christmas, 1936 by Father Boniface Axtman.

The church stood vacant for many years until 1958, when the lion's Club cooperated with the Catholic Church in a clean-up project. It was at this time that the building was declared a historic site by the Cook County Historical Society. In 1970, the church was rededicated for its 75th Anniversary, and in 1985, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church remained in the care of the Diocese of Duluth and St. John's Catholic Church until 1998, when the Chippewa City Church was donated to the Cook County Historical Society.

Major grants from the Minnesota Historical Society and the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa have helped in restoration efforts. All donations go directly to building restoration.

CONTACT: Cook County Historical Society
PHONE: 218-387-2883
DATE: 08/16/2014 05:10pm