HERE ARE PHOTOS of Saint Joseph Church, in Tiff, Missouri. This charming church was built in the late 1930s, and can be found, with much difficulty, in the unicorporated community of Tiff, a former mining settlement which has now mostly reverted to wilderness. Located about 63 road miles southwest of downtown Saint Louis, the church is in Washington County, in the Old Lead Belt mining district.
According to a history of the church:
In the early 1900's before a church was erected at Tiff, Missouri Father Luke Kernan, pastor of St. Joachim Old Mines, would come to Tiff to offer Mass in the home of Frank (Toksoe) Boyer, a two room log structure. The early community at Tiff was begun early in the century when a man from Buffalo, New York, by the name of John Campbell, came and organized a Corporation under the laws of the state of New York called the South East Missouri Barytes Company. He sold shares to the local land owners and built the earliest barite (tiff) washer at Tiff, Missouri. He also bought mineral land and constructed homes, approximately forty in number, for the miners. He built a bungalow for himself across the road from the present St. Joseph's School building and a Company store adjacent to the present Sitzes store. The tiff washer was located somewhere in the same general area. He operated the store on a pattern after the plantation stores of the South. Miners took their pay for ore in merchandise. After this Company store was built, Mass was offered and the sacraments were administered in the hall above it until the first church was built.A priest, designing and building a church? That almost seems inconceivable today. However, if we put the most important things first, this is believable. The church itself is more important than any other part of a parish campus; and the altar and tabernacle are the most important parts of a church. If a parish priest concentrates on these first, and places the most importance on these, then the rest will naturally follow.
On June 10, 1905 Archbishop John Joseph Glennon acquired the property consisting of thirty-two hundreths of an acre from the South East Missouri Barytes Company for the erection of a church at Tiff. Father Kernan was still pastor at St. Joachim at this time and it was under his direction that the first church was built. It was a structure of plain rectangular design made of wood with bell tower and the sacristy extending out from the building approached from the outside by a stairway. The front was entered at ground level. The altar was plain. The body was filled with bench type seats. It was heated in winter by a wood stove in the rear. It was dedicated to St. Joseph. The man who built the church was "Coot" Cole. Reverend Tim Dempsey of St. Patrick's Church in St. Louis donated the necessary vessels and vestments. Father Kernan and sometimes a Redemptorist priest from Mt. St. Clements College in DeSoto came to minister to the mission parish. They would spend the night at John Campbell's...
In 1935, on a Friday evening in Lent, following the Stations of the Cross, the frame church caught on fire and burned to the ground. All was lost, including records. Soon afterwards, Father Cook set out to build a new stone church.
On Sunday, August 9, 1936, the cornerstone was laid for the new church. The Most Reverend Christian Winkleman of St. Louis officiated at the ceremony. Ten visiting priests also attended and listened attentively as the Bishop congratulated Father Cook for his work and his efforts at St. Joseph's. Following the ceremony a picnic was held and ladies of the parish served dinner to the large crowd which attended the ceremonies. Much planning and work went into the new church. Father Cook was his own architect, contractor, and did much of the work with his own hands. He obtained a stone cutter from DeSoto, John Norris, who taught Mr. Henry Bourisaw how to cut stone and Andrew Aubuchon who worked with Mr. Bourisaw. The stone was gotten in Washington County near Washington State Park. The carpenter, Earl Bohn, also came from DeSoto. Men of the parish worked under him. Among them were Lucian Aubuchon, Harry Aubuchon, Steve Boyer, Charley Boyer, Elmer Boyer, Edward Boyer, Wallace Boyer, and Tom Daugherty. They mixed and poured the concrete by hand. The stone church cost the parish about $6000.00....
For photos of the interior, see an article in View from the Back Pew.
Saint Joseph, foster-father of Our Lord, and chaste spouse of the Virgin. He is represented here with lilies in his hand, symbolizing purity. Saint Joseph the Worker is a fitting patron for a mining settlement.
According to the maps, this parish has a cemetery, but I was unable to locate it during my brief visit.
The town of Tiff is named after an ore of barium, better known as the mineral barite or baryte, which was once mined here.
The former school. Notice that there are new windows and doors in this structure.
Another view of the church, showing the nicely-designed chimney, as well as Our Lady and the children of Fatima.
Maps incorrectly place the church at what is actually a bridge of the Missouri Pacific Railroad over the Shibboleth Branch; the actual location is 900 feet to the northwest. Click here for the correct location on the map. Be aware that routing software and GPS devices may not be able to produce a good route to the church; several of the roads here are blocked off.