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Nancy Semin Lingo

ST. MARTIN’S CHURCH. St. Martin’s Church is a historic structure located in the hamlet of Warrenton in Fayette County, Texas. Services are held once a year rendering this one of the smallest active Catholic churches in America. This 1915 building was made with reclaimed materials from the original St. Martin’s Church, constructed in 1888, and is an excellent example of folk vernacular construction of the early twentieth century. In years following the Civil War, Fayette County was largely a rural farming region with a population consisting mostly of Czech, German and Polish farmers of various faiths. By the 1880s the county had approximately sixty-five Catholic families, but no formal church building existed. Mass was typically held in private homes by a visiting priest who came on horseback from St. John the Baptist Church, in nearby Fayetteville. By 1888 the Catholic population grew to about 100 Catholic families, so St. John’s decided to erect a permanent church to accommodate this growth. For the sum of forty-five dollars, one acre of land was purchased from Friederick and Helena Spies. A single frame church approximately 68 x 36 feet was constructed. It had a front gable roof and a steeple. Father Joseph Chromcik served as its first priest to this mostly Czech congregation. However, by 1915, most of the Czech families had relocated to larger nearby towns, and all that remained in Warrenton were mostly German Lutherans. 

The diocese of St. John’s decided their shrinking Catholic community would be better served by the construction of a new school. As World War I was approaching, building materials were scarce, so it was decided to tear down St. Martin’s and use its materials for a two-story school in nearby Fayetteville. Upon completion of the school, parishioners requested that a smaller church be built at the old church site with left-over lumber and other building materials. The current church is rectangular-shaped, measuring approximately 18 x 14 feet. All four facades have white board-and-batten siding. Exposed brace frames support the church walls, with a queen post support system at the rear of the church which supports the church steeple. The roof includes metal trim on the ridge cresting that consists of punched tin shamrock shapes.  Two finials are present at the end of the ridge cresting. The building is notable for an absence of hardware. There are no locks on the windows or door. In 1915 the original church bell was relocated from the 1888 construction to the steeple of the new church. The altar, statues, and tabernacle are original features of the 1888 church. 


Austin American-Statesman, November 3, 1999. Austin Chronicle, May 14, 2004. Fayette County Record (La Grange, Texas) March 4, 1986. Ray E. Grasshoff, “Little Church on the Big Prairie,” Texas Highways, February 1980. Norman C. Krischke, St. Martin’s Church (Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives, 1997). St. Martin Catholic Church & Cemetery, Warrenton, Fayette County, Texas (http://www.fayettecountyhistory.org/stmartin_cemetery.htm), accessed September 8, 2015. Vertical Files, Fayette County Museum and Archives.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Nancy Semin Lingo, "ST. MARTIN'S CHURCH," accessed July 10, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ics19.

Uploaded on September 16, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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