St. Joseph - Clayton

Near Centerton Park in Olivette is the former site of St. Martin’s Church, predecessor to St. Joseph’s Church in Clayton, part of an 80 acre tract of land acquired through a land patent issued by President John Quincy Adams in 1828. The early parishioners of St. Martin’s were predominantly French and Irish.

Under the provisions of a new state constitution in 1875, the City of St. Louis was authorized to frame a charter for its separated government. The first step towards the move of St. Martin’s to Clayton was made when the County of St. Louis, in May 1881, donated the property located at the southwest corner of Maryland Avenue and Meramec. A 200-seat frame church was built on the site, and St. Martin’s parish moved from Centerton to Clayton, now as the parish of St. Joseph’s. The corner stone for the church was laid August 15, 1885 and dedicated in 1886.

In 1912, a larger brick church was erected at a cost of $30,000.00. The corner stone was laid on June 25 and Archbishop John J. Glennon, later Cardinal, dedicated the church on December 15.

On Sunday afternoon, March 1, 1925, a disastrous fire occurred in the church, likely due to a fallen candle from one of the two side altars. According to one newspaper account, the damage caused by the fire, smoke and water was estimated to be as high as $50,000.00 or more. In addition to damage to the structure, imported vestments, the pipe organ, three altars, stained glass windows, and furniture and records were ruined. The church was rebuilt with the help of the Clayton community.

St. Joseph, with a long-standing tradition as “mother church” to some 18 parishes, has a community of 644 families and serves as a Catholic worship center for Clayton, the county seat of St. Louis County.

The Joseph Challenge Pilgrimage has used St. Joseph in Clayton every year as the sleepover location.

**Abridged from