History and Today . . .
First brick building built in Jasper is
now the Dubois County Museum.
Jasper’s earliest local settlers were English
American Protestants mostly from the
Kentucky-Tennessee area. The Patoka River,
as an open waterway, was important to
Jasper’s early settlement as transportation
and water power for a grist mill.
The Enlow families came from Kentucky to
Jasper; and, here they purchased a mill
previously built by Andrew Evans. The
Enlows had been neighbors with the Lincoln
family in Kentucky. Mrs. Enlow was
reported to be the midwife at Abraham
Lincoln’s birth. The village was known as
“Enlow’s Hill” until 1830 when the county
seat was moved from Portersville. Eighty
acres were donated by the Enlows for the
town site. The town name, “Jasper” was
selected from a passage from the Bible
(Revelations 21:19) “and the foundations of
the wall of the city were adorned with all
manner of precious stones . . . the first
foundation was of Jasper.
Before Fr. Joseph Kundek came in 1838, Jasper was a mission parish with only five Catholic families and a total
population of about sixty people. The first log church was built at Sixth and Newton Streets, with services held once a
month. Joseph Gramelspacher and Sophie Friedman were the first Catholic couple married in Jasper in the home of
Dr. Aaron McCrillus, a Presbyterian. Dr. McCrillus spoke French and German and served as a translator between the
French speaking visiting priest and the German couple.
Fr. Kundek was the first resident Catholic Priest. He was a missionary born in Croatia. As he could speak German
when he came to the Vincennes Diocese, Fr. Kundek was assigned to Jasper. Immediately he began to encourage
German immigrants to settle in this parish. The local population began to grow, many coming from previous
immigration to Cincinnati and from the Black Forest area and small German, Baden villages such as Pfaffenweiler,
Reute, and from Bavaria. Many emigrated to the New World due to hard years of bad harvests hoping for a better life
for them and their families. The German population increased. Because of a cultural and language gap between the
Germans and the English speaking people, many of the earliest settlers moved on to other areas.
Because of the increasing population, Fr. Kundek started the parishioners clearing land, processing timber and other
needed materials, and the first St. Joseph Church, built in brick, was started by 1840. All the work was done by the
parishioners. Fr. Kundek also started many of the surrounding parishes and towns and was instrumental in founding St.
When the first log court house burned in 1839, Fr. Kundek undertook the responsibility of building a brick
courthouse. He became a member of the Democratic Party (the first political party in Jasper was the Whig party) and
persuaded many to become Democrats also. Fr. Kundek died on December 4, 1857 and is buried in St. Joseph
Cemetery which was also started in 1840.
Following Fr. Kundek’s death, Fr. Bede O’Connor, O.S.B. was appointed as St. Joseph’s priest in 1858. He began to
keep organized sacramental and financial records for the parish. In 1860, Fr. Ulrich Christen, O.S.B. became the third
pastor. Fr. Fidelis Maute, O.S.B. (1865-1897) became the fourth priest and was responsible for today’s beautiful St.
Joseph Church. Fr. Fidelis served as architect, contractor, foreman, laborer, fund raiser, and pastor. The church was
started in 1867 and completed in 1880. The 14 columns supporting the roof are 67 feet high, each a single giant timber
of yellow poplar cut from nearby forests and covered with plaster. The church totals 82’5” by 193’5”, the walls from 4 to
6 feet thick. The church saw many additions over the years, adding to the majestic beauty such as the Italian altars, onyx
and brass communion railings and stained glass windows imported from Austria.
Today we are reaping many of the rewards of the
ethnic contributions made by our German ancestors.
When they came they brought stability, permanence,
hard work, good management and excellent
Because many of Jasper and Dubois County roots
were traced from Pfaffenweiler, Baden; Pfaffenweiler
was chosen as Jasper’s sister city. Today’s local family
names such as Bachman, Barth, Bauer, Beck, Conrad,
Cramer, Daschle, Dick, Dilger, Eckerle, Eckert, Fry,
Fuhrman, Gutgsell and others can also be found in the
phone books at Pfaffenweiler. Pfaffenweiler is a small
town in south western Germany, about eight miles south of
Freiburg. It is at the eastern edge of the Black Forest, about 30 miles north of Switzerland and about 10 east of the Rhine river and France. It is located in the
wine producing area of Germany called Markgraeflerland with vineyards
surrounding the entire town. Pfaffenweiler is also
noted for its stone work.
Many German visitors come to Jasper to visit.
Exchange students from the Pfaffenweiler area come
for lengthy visits at Jasper homes and learn the
American ways. In return, many Jasper residents visit
Pfaffenweiler to locate ancestors and find their roots.