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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.
NEW MELLERAY MONASTERY
NEW MELLERAY MONASTERY. Faced with rapidly depleted soil and political turmoil in Ireland, Dom Bruno Fitzpatrick, the Abbot of Mount Melleray Abbey, County Waterford, Ireland, looked to America in 1848 as a site for a new monastery. Brother Macarius Keegan had traveled to America previously and had, since 1845, been making appeals for funds. During Keegan's visit to Dubuque, Bishop Mathias LORAS offered land and financial aid to the monks. Responding to the offer, Brother Ambrose Byrne left for Dubuque on May 14, 1849. After visiting eastern Iowa, he wrote to his superior describing in glowing terms the shady valley, "verdant rolling prairies," and "lovely creek."
Dom Bruno, after deciding to investigate the Iowa region personally with several companions, arrived in Dubuque in June. Agreeing quickly with Brother Ambrose, Dom Bruno rapidly began the efforts to complete the deal with Bishop Loras fearing that land speculators would purchase the land in hopes of making a quick profit.
The first frame building used by the monks, a structure 15 feet square, was found on the land when it was purchased. Brother Ambrose and Dom Bruno drew plans for a building 60 x 12 feet and the cornerstone was laid on July 16, 1849. Father Clement SMYTH served as the prior of the new monastery from July 16, 1849 until August 18, 1849, when he left New Melleray to become the second bishop of the diocese of Dubuque.
Before Dom Bruno left New Melleray, he wrote to Prior Francis Walsh in Ireland asking that three choir brothers and eleven lay brothers be sent to the new monastery. Dom Bruno also named the new monastery "Our Lady of New Melleray."CIVIL WAR, the present stone structure was constructed from plans drawn by John Mullany, a prominent Dubuque architect. The monastery was built in a 13th Century GOTHIC REVIVAL ARCHITECTURE style.
Since the founding of the monastery in 1849, the monks have served the religious needs of the surrounding region. When the pioneers living in the area felt the need to build their own parish church, the monks provided pastors to the parish. In 1889, the present parish church was dedicated, and named Holy Family.WORLD WAR II saw an increase in the number of monks from twenty to over one hundred.
The Abbey has begun rebuilding the infirmary for the elderly and sick monks. The Abbey did build an infirmary in the 1950s, but it has since become outdated.
Pratt, LeRoy G. Discovering Historic Iowa, Iowa Department of Public Instruction, 1975