Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Saint Mary of the Oaks

My husband, enjoying the view of Indian Lake

One of the reasons we chose Indian Lake County Park for our hike was that there is a small historic chapel there. This is what the Dane County Historical Society marker near the parking lot says:

St. Mary of the Oaks

On the brow of a hill, one-half mile east overlooking Indian Lake, rests a tiny stone chapel. The structure was built in 1857 by John Endres in fulfillment of a religious vow he made in return for protecting the lives of his family during a diphtheria epidemic.

Aided by his son Peter, Enres hauled several tons of stone to the hilltop with an ox team.

The building has been much venerated by local families for several generations. Family names identified with the care of the chapel are Endres, Ballweg, and Marx.

The chapel was formally dedicated by Archbishop Messmer in 1926

The county built wide wooden steps up the hill to the overlook and chapel, and I was surprised to find the building unlocked. This photo shows the interior. Perhaps four people could stand comfortably inside.

According to a plaque at the top of the hill the chapel is a typical German style, made from stones 18 inches thick. The door, roof, and old wooden cross have been replaced. In 1975 Dane County purchased the land and the chapel and agreed to maintain it for its historical value.

It was a lovely ramble through the fall woods, and the uphill climb made me feel less guilty about not working out at the athletic club. Good for body and soul.

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