Rural Missouri Magazine

A postcard from a German village

by Jeff Joiner

Few people driving along Highway 63 in central Missouri are not impressed with picturesque Westphalia situated on a high hill above the surrounding valleys and the Maries River.

The scene is dominated by the towering steeple of St. Joseph Catholic Church. The steeple was added to the 1848 church 35 years later.

The church became known as the Pearl of Osage County after a poem was written about its beauty.

New Westphalia was founded by Father Ferdinand Helias who came to central Missouri in 1838 and subsequently founded several churches in the area to serve a large population of German settlers.

The settlers came to Missouri from a district in northern German known as Westphalia. Later the “New” was dropped from the name to shorten it.

The Pearl of Osage County was remodeled in 1905, according to the church’s history, when parishioners realized the ceiling of their church was lower than the ceiling of the church built by the Bavarian parish at nearby Rich Fountain.

Ceilings were raised by adding a framework of wood covered with sheet metal and a second balcony was added.

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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