Immaculate Conception Church

in Sutter Creek

"It was not until 1851 that quartz vein was uncovered in Sutter Creek, a part of what is now known as the Mother Lode. The village grew rapidly. Though the pioneer wandered into the west in search of adventure he did not forget his faith. His thoughts now turned to the spiritual.

As the town grew and prospered some of the prominent citizens realizing the need of spiritual instruction and guidance resolved to have a church. The funds were raised by subscription. The Mahoney brothers, of whom there were five, were very active in giving financial support. The first load of lumber for the building was donated by Mr. Jerry Mahoney.


The church was built in 1860-1861. Father Burns was the first pastor. The outside missions were Volcano, Jackson, Mokelumne Hill, Michigan Bar, Ione, Amador, Plymouth and Live Oak. Imagine the journey from Sutter Creek to Mokelumne Hill or Live Oak on horseback over almost impassable roads. We certainly owe much to the indomitable energy and foresight of the pioneer priests who in spite of difficulties and hardships fearlessly carried on the religion of Christ. Much of the church property was donated. The lot upon which the Stibley house now stands was given to the church by Dan Mahoney. This was sold about twenty years ago. A school was built on this lot and here the Catholic children were taught. Before the school was completed, sessions were held I the church. The teachers in turn were Miss Hodges, a sister of Father Hodges, Miss Barry, Miss O’Connell, and Miss Nellie Mahoney who afterwards became Mrs. Joseph Fontenrose. It was the intention at that time to build a convent on this property but the plan did not materialize.


Father Cotter succeeded Father Burns and in 1864 Father Hodges was appointed. He died in 1865 and Father Walsh took charge.

The first couple married in the church was Bob McClelland and Miss Duke, a sister of Mrs Fagan. Mr McClelland was the contractor who had charge of the building of the church.


From the time of its dedication until 1884 the church was known as St Mary’s but was then changed to Immaculate Conception. The new cemetery was bought from George Allen in 1888. The rock walls around both cemeteries and the wall in front of the parochial residence were built by the late Father Moloney and remains a lasting monument to his memory. Father Moloney was in charge of the parish for seventeen years, this being the longest period of time for any one priest.


In 1904 Father James Dermody was appointed as pastor. He was with us but a short time when he was sent to Goldfield. He was succeeded by his brother, Father Thomas Dermody. It was during his pastorate that the lot adjoining the residence was purchased from the Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It is quite an addition to the property.

Father Azevedo took charge of the affairs of the parish in 1908 and remained about a year when Bishop Grace called him to Sacramento where he became pastor of a Portuguese church. Father Taverna was then assigned to the parish community and served for nine years. Under his leadership the church was remodeled and now has an attractive appearance once again."

This was written by Miss Rose Lawlor, printed in the May 15, 1919 issue of the Daily Fair News, Sutter Creek. Read whole article here.