Saint Margaret of Scotland was originally a mission church founded by St. Benedict’s Church of Blue Island sometime between 1861 and 1874. The original church was located at 95th and Ada Streets. This parish covered the area bounded by 87th Street to 119th Street, and from State Street west to Worth and Oak Lawn townships. Over the years, the following parishes, in whole or in part, were created from the original territory of St. Margaret of Scotland Church: St. Catherine of Genoa (1894); St. Kilian (1905); St. Barnabas (1924); St. Ethelreda (1926); St. Christina (1926); St. Cajetan (1927); Christ the King (1936); Holy Name of Mary (1940); and St. Helena of the Cross (1946). By contrast, St. Margaret of Scotland currently serves families who live in the following area: 91st Street from the Penn Central railroad tracks at Beverly Avenue to Halsted Street; Halsted Street south to the Dan Ryan Expressway at 99th Street; 99th Street west to Peoria Street; Peoria Street south to 103rd Street; 103rd Street west to Sangamon Street; Sangamon Street south to 107th Street; 107th Street west to the east side of Prospect Avenue; and Prospect Avenue northwest to 91st Street.
In the early years, the Benedictine Order continued to serve the parish. The first pastor, Father Bruno Riess, O.S.B., was born in Augsburg, Bavaria, in 1829. He served as pastor of St. Margaret from 1874 to 1876. In 1876, Father Utto Huber, O.S.B., was named pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland, a post he held until 1892. Father Huber’s background gives some indication of the ties between European and American Catholics and the difficulties that existed at that time.
Father Huber was born in Mittbach, Bavaria, on July 4, 1819. While in Munich, Bavaria, he read the published letters of Father Boniface Wimmer, who had gone to America. Upon reading these letters, the young candidate for the priesthood decided to go to the New World. On January 22, 1847, he set sail from LeHavre, France, and, after a voyage of 68 days, found himself in New York City. He proceeded to the St. Vincent Archabbey at Latrobe, Pennsylvania, only to be told that he could not be received into the Benedictine Order since there were no lodgings. It seems the lay-brothers were just beginning work on their first building. Mr. Huber then went back to New York, then westward as far as Louisville, applying to different bishops for admission into their dioceses, but without success. In Cincinnati, he met a recruiting officer of the many, who persuaded him to enlist for service in Mexico. He was sent to the front as a member of the 7th Regiment, Company G, which was part of the first reinforcements sent to General Scott at Vera Cruz, and he served to the end of the war. Returning to Saint Vincent in 1849, he was this time received with welcomes. In 1850, he made his vows, and, in 1851, he was ordained a priest and served various capacities until his appointment as pastor of St. Margaret’s.
The founding of St. Margaret’s in 1874 coincided with the incorporation of the village of Washington Heights, which took in not only the area of St. Margaret of Scotland and the Academy of Our Lady, but most of what is now called Beverly. St. Margaret was surrounded by farms, prairie, and mud. The surrounding area was offered for extensive development by the Blue Island Land and Building Company in 1872. In 1874, 25 foot lots were being sold from $200 to $300 each. On November 1, 1874, the School Sisters of Notre Dame opened a parish school in conjunction with their boarding school for girls at Longwood.
The majority of the original members of St. Margaret of Scotland hailed from Prussia, Westphalia, Luxembourg, and Bavaria. Mixed in with these Germanic places of origin are a sprinkling of parents who listed their birth as “Hibernia,” a forecast of the large number of Irish who helped build up the parish in its formative year.
In 1890, Washington Heights was annexed to the City of Chicago. In 1891, Rev. William M. Foley, an assistant at Holy Rosary Church, established a mission at 102nd and Parnell Avenue in Fernwood. Reverend Stewart P. McDonnell, a Diocesan priest, was named pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart on April 28, 1892. On June 18, 1893, Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan confirmed children of this parish and dedicated the frame church which had been built in Fernwood. Father McDonnell changed the parish name from Sacred Heart to St. Margaret, and had charge of this mission and also the church of the Sacred Heart at Longwood. The church at Fernwood was a handsome frame building, with a seating capacity of about three hundred.
Although early records are scanty, it is apparent that Father McDonnell was energetic and a good administrator. Sometime during the 1890s, a roundhouse had been built at 103rd and Eggleston by the Easter Illinois Railroad, bringing a number of German and Irish Catholic families into the area. The pleas of the people in this district, separated as it was from other Catholic centers by prairies, resulted in the creation of a mission church at 101st and Union, led by the priests of Holy Rosary Church in Roseland. When the railroad shops in Fernwood closed, Catholic families relocated in Washington Heights. The building of a roundhouse and the development of Washington Heights changed the location and nature of St. Margaret. The Singler Family donated the present site at 99th and Throop and Father McDonnell had the frame building at 101st and Union rolled across the prairies to this site to serve the parishioners of St. Margaret.
When Father McDonnell was ready to build a combination school and church structure, the frame building from 101stand Union was again put on wheels and moved to the present site of St. Margaret’s School, where it was used as a hall, and later on as two classrooms for the primary grades. It was torn down in 1928. In 1916, Fr. McDonnell built the present rectory. Father McDonnell resigned his post in 1917, and he died on Oct. 21, 1937 at the age of 80.
On June 8, 1917, Rev. Timothy J. Hurley was named pastor of St. Margaret Church. He came to Washington Heights from Wilton Center, IL, where he had been pastor of St. Patrick Church (now in the Joliet diocese). The Catholic population in nearby Beverly Hills and Morgan Park had grown to such an extent that in 1924 Father Hurley was appointed to organize St. Barnabas Church at 101st Place and Longwood Drive.
In September 1924, Reverend Henry W. McGuire, an assistant at Holy Cross Church in Woodlawn, was named pastor. He coordinated plans for the golden jubilee of St. Margaret of Scotland parish, which was celebrated on November 23, 1924. According to The New World, dated October 31, 1924, a three night social and bazaar was to be held prior to the jubilee celebration. The Masses on two of the jubilee days were to be celebrated by the former pastors of the parish. Parishioners also arranged for the meeting of the old settlers as well as new parishioners. At the time of the golden jubilee, the school had about 600 students taught by 10 School Sisters of Notre Dame.
To meet the needs of this fast-growing parish, plans were drawn up for a new church. In 1927, the old combination church-school building was moved east of the corner lot (it was torn down in 1931), and ground was broken at the northeast corner of 99th and Throop Street for the present St. Margaret Church. The church is Gothic style, cruciform in plan, and has a seating capacity of 1,004. Built at a cost of $250,000, it was dedicated by Cardinal Mundelein on June 3, 1928. See Church Building for more information about our beautiful church.
The present school was built in 1930, just as the Great Depression was settling in. Between 1940 and 1950, Washington Heights reached “residential maturity,” a term used by students of urban growth to indicate most available land had been built on.
Father McGuire was named a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor in 1946. He died on October 21, 1948 at the age of 67. In December 1948, Reverend Henry J. Walsh, former pastor of St. Mary Church in Riverside, Illinois, began his tenure as pastor. Under his leadership, a school addition was built and the present modern convent was constructed in 1951 at 1209 West 98th Street. Father Walsh died on May 11, 1958 at the age of 61.
In January 1959, Reverend Paul A. Traut was named pastor. Prior to this assignment, he had served as pastor of St. Patrick Church in Lemont, Illinois. In addition to supporting cultural and athletic activities, Father Traut worked to make the parish school one of the finest in the city. He was also a booster of the school band which was started during his tenure. Father Traut was named pastor emeritus in 1971.
Enrollment in St. Margaret of Scotland school peaked at around 1,600 students in 1961. For the period 1953 through 1969, enrollment averaged almost 1,300 students.
Reverend Robert S. Brodfuehrer served as administrator of the parish from January 1971 until September 23, 1971, when he was appointed pastor. In December 1976, he was named pastor of St. Francis Borgia Church on the far northwest side of Chicago.
Reverend Daniel J. Mallette, a former pastor of Visitation Church, was pastor from 1977 until his retirement in 2009. After Father Mallette’s retirement, the parish had three administrators, Reverend James Flynn, Bishop Joseph Perry, and Reverend Michael Pfleger. Reverend William O’Donnell is the current pastor, having served since July 2012. Father O’Donnell is a Precious Blood Missionary from Ohio, where most recently he was pastor of Precious Blood Church in Dayton.
Our thanks to the following who helped supply the material on which the preceding history is based: A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago (Volume 1), Chicago, IL: Catholic Bishops of Chicago, pgs. 560-563; Catholic Information Service of the Archdiocese of Chicago; The New World Library; Ridge Historical Society; Municipal Reference Library; St. Vincent Archabbey and College Archives, Latrobe, PA; Academy of Our Lady; St. Benedict’s, Blue Island; and Mrs. Julie Driscoll.