Campion College of the Sacred Heart was founded at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin in the year 1880, under the auspices of the Jesuits of the Buffalo N.Y. Mission of the German Province of the Society of Jesus and was established on property previously offered in 1869 and later accepted in 1880 from John Lawler and wife Catherine. Lawler was an influential business and real estate man, prominent in railroading and steamboating and the construction of the Prairie du Chien Railroad Pontoon Bridge across the Mississippi River, a first of its kind. He was especially active in the founding, promotion and supporting education and religion in the city of Prairie du Chien and adjoining areas and states including helping form and establish Catholic colonies of settlers in Nebraska and Minnesota.
The Jesuits took possession of the property on June 14, 1880 with Holy Mass being said the next morning in the building later named Lawler Hall. The Rector of the newly founded institution was Rev. Wm. Becker, S.J. who was well qualified for his new position for he was one of the founders and later the President of St. Peter's Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. and at the time of his appointment to Prairie du Chien was on the Mission Band and living at St. John's Jesuit Church in Burlington, Iowa,- (A Jesuit Church and Parish from 1877 to 1890) from where he had recently come to conduct a Mission at St. Gabriel's Church in Prairie du Chien.
The School opened in September 1880 with 61 students in the large frame building located at the intersection of Minnesota and Milwaukee Streets (later Campion Blvd.). The building was named Lawler Hall. It had been erected in 1857-58 as a hotel on Lots 6, 7, 8 and 9 of Block 187 of the Prairie du Chien Lower Addition by a small group of Prairie du Chien peop1e and a large number of Milwaukee investors. The company president was Edward Holton. The building 150' x 180' - three stories and basement was erected by the Babcock Brothers (Walter, Simeon and Steven) for the sum of $57,000. The hotel was called the "Brisbois House" and was one of seven hotels then in Prairie du Chien. The hotel remained in operation until 1863 and closed.
The State of Wisconsin granted the School its Charter on August 20, 1881 to
"The College of the Sacred Heart and University with the power to confer the
usual degrees and academic honors."
The College continued to grow, but the Jesuits needed the buildings for a house of formation, as a Novitiate and a Philosophate from 1888-1898. It was known as the Sacred Heart Novitiate. It remained thus for ten years or until 1898 when its doors were opened once more to the public as a high school and college. The Philosophate continued at the college for several years longer or until 1903-06. It was during the time the school was a Novitiate that a Villa was purchased in 1892 which later became well known as the "Ski Hill". Except for the original hall itself this piece of land was owned the longest by Campion, from 1892 until 1974.
Both the high school and the college grew rapidly and excelled in the academic, cultural, religious and athletic fields of endeavor.
In 1907 the College came under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus. The German Mission was disbanded, its members dispersing to the Missouri, Buffalo, and Eastern Provinces and some returned to Germany. The future of the College was debated and then determined to be continued with the Campion hall being started in a very short time. After this occured however, the school changed its name from Sacred Heart College to Campion College of the Sacred Heart in 1913 taking as its patron the martyr, Blessed Edmund Campion, S.J.
The first structure of any importance to be erected on the college grounds was that of the observatory, to use in the observation of the stars and heavenly objects. It was a small structure built in 1882 and demolished in 1918. During its time Fr. John Hagen, S.J. later to be associated with the Vatican Observatory in Rome did some outstanding work during his tenure at the College.
The first large building to be erected was Kostka Hall in 1892-94 containing class rooms, a large theatre, dormitories and living rooms and study halls. In 1909, Campion Hall was constructed. This building was put up with great speed. A huge but not very attractive building it was started in mid March 1909 and was finished by October of 1909. Over 108 men worked on the building. Its hugeness was in evidence in its 96 man dorms among smaller ones, as well as the battery of over 340 wash sinks up and down the corridor, as well as the battery of fourteen or more bath tubs in the basement. The building cost $100,000 at that time. In 1911 a large annex was added to Kostka Hall with a big gym, class rooms, study hall and living quarters. It was in this area that the Tertian Fathers were housed many years later when the Tertianship near Cleveland was destroyed (April 1926). In 1915 Marquette Residence Hall for the college students was erected. Here during World War I the building played an important part, and it was in Room 106 that Joyce Kilmer the Poet stayed when he visited Campion. In 1921 the Infirmary was purchased and enlarged. In 1922 the central heating plant was built. In 1922-24 Our Lady of the Angels Student Chapel became a reality. This beautiful edifice was put up with great sacrifices being made to complete it between 1922 and 1946. The beautiful stained glass windows, products of Austria and Germany were designed and installed by the Frei Company of St. Louis and the Ludwig Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. The large transcept windows being especially attractive and devotional.
Due to the lack of space the College division of the educational operation was phased out and closed in June 1925. From this time forward the school was known as Campion High School. Campion High for many years was known and noted for its high academic standards and attainment, its firm discipline of both the students and the faculty, religious dedication and performance, dramatics, musical excellence, military science attainment and athletic prowess and ability in all areas of sports. In 1911-12 Campion was known as the "School with the million dollar faculty" - the teachers being known far and wide for their academic ability and activities. Campion was accredited during the Presidency of the school of Fr. Albert Fox, S.J. who later became President of Marquette University. In the field of sports the college played the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago White Sox and the University of Hawaii among others. The high schools sports record was exceptional especially during the student days of George Ireland and others like him, Rex Faber for another example.
The physical plant continued to grow to meet the expanding enfollment and the consequent extra auxillary needs. The following building history gives some idea of the activity in this area from 1936 forward:
Campion was a Summer Villa for the Missouri Province of this period in time for the Jesuits, especially for Jesuit Scholastics and for a month of Summer School. Many Jesuit Fathers and Brothers spent their vacation or made their Retreat at Campion. Because of the fact that it was a Villa an extra story of rooms had been added to the new Lawler Jesuit Residence Hall (only two had been planned). The residence construction was a reflection of the reasoning of the time and was built upon the supposition "old Lawler lasted 100 years and we will build this one to last 200 years." But all plans went astray with the coming of the vast internal and Liturgical changes brought about by Vatican Two and 31st General Cong. The thirteen altars were rarely used at any given time as Concelebration masses took over. The entire building was used to capacity only at certain times.
In the United States it was Campion College and High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and the Manresa Retreat House in the eastern United States that began the First Closed Retreats for American laymen, this was in the year 1909 and it then spread quickly across the nation (such retreats had been in existence in Europe for over 30 years before starting in the U.S.). Hundreds of laymen made Retreats at Campion throughout the years beginning with the Infirmary area with the then beautiful Retreat Park, as a beautiful and devotional setting. Later the whole beautiful campus was used for retreats.
Fr. Eugene Murphy, S.J., founder of the Sacred Heart Program, was from La Crosse, Wisconsin and as a Scholastic taught Latin, English and French and Debate at Campion from 1926 to 1929. The Sacred Heart Program was vigorously promoted by a Jesuit Scholastic at Campion at the time and its Sacred Heart Booster Club was considered the pacesetter in high schools and colleges in the nation in the years prior to 1950.
Fr. James Hannan, S.J. who lived many years at Campion was one of the nations Shrine builders in honor of the Mother of God, having built over fifty in his lifetime.
Shrines and various other stone work were done at Campion by this priest who also gave Retreats.
Campion had a Summer Camp for youth from 9 to 13 for three years, this was followed by "Camp Prep a summer camp for one month for 100 to 150 young lads and girls from the inner city or depressed areas, predominantly minority groups from Milwaukee. These camps started in 1968 and continued through 1971.
Another Summer Program was Basketball Camps which each year trained young men and girls in the art and science of basketball. Each year about 800 would participate beginning in the year 1966 thru 1977.
Certainly Campion was a reflection of the turmoil of race integration mirrored across the nation. Perhaps no Catholic Residential High School had a higher percentage of its student body enrollment consist of Black minority students as a part of a' boarding and educational program. The percentage grew each year. Campion employed its first Black teacher during this period.
During World War I (1917-18) many Campion Alumni answered the call of their country and six or more made the supreme sacrifice. During this time the Student Training Army Corp used the buildings and facilities at Campion for training purposes with most of the military housed in Marquette Hall. The S.A.T.C. as it was called was the forerunner of the later R.O.T.C. R.O.T.C. started at Campion in 1919 and Campion was among the first schools in the nation to inaugurate the program. It continued to be an important part of the Campion scene until 1971 when it was discontinued.
A special friend of Campion's, Joyce Kilmer the poet, was killed in France on July 30, 1918 during World War I. He visited Campion often and gave the 1917 Graduation address. He is best remembered to the rank and file as the author of "Trees". He was a close friend of Campion's own poet, Father James Daly, S.J.
During World War II hundreds of Alumni of Campion answered the call to defend their country. Over fifty Campion men died in World War II. Among them being the first Military Chaplain, Fr. Aloys Schmitt of Dubuque, Iowa, who was killed on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. Campion's own Rector William Bowdern, S.J. became one of the first Chaplains early in the conflict. Many Alumni served during the Korean War, the Cold War and the Viet Nam Conflict. Many mothers of Campion's Alumni became Gold Star Mothers during these various and painful conflicts.
From its very beginnings the College and High School of the Sacred Heart and later Campion Jesuit High School fostered many vocations to the Church, not only as Jesuit Priests and Jesuit Brothers but also the Diocesan Clergy and to many religious congregations. During its existence a total of 472 vocations came from Campion and of this number five were to become Bishops -
From 1880 until 1975 twenty Jesuit priests served the college and high school as Rectors-Presidents of the institution as follows:
Some of the more serious epidemics were in 1910 - small pox, 1916 - diptheria, 1917-18, the Spanish Flu which caused the death of millions in the World. At Campion four students died but none of the Class of 1921, all remained alive and in Thanksgiving to the Blessed Mother purchased a beautiful Statue of her and around her neck placed a beautiful locket of jewelry with the names of the Class of 1921 inscribed thereon. It is still in existence. In 1918 there was another diptheria problem. In 1935 scarlet fever and the German measles. In 1939 influenza and again in 1941 scarlet fever. In 1957 it was influenza again and this time two students succumbed. In 1945 flu about 90 cases in December, School closed early for Christmas vacation.
Considering the fact that medical knowledge had not yet advanced any where near its later efficiency the care given by the dedicated doctors and nurses at the infirmary at the School and the area hospitals was outstanding. In spite of such dedication yet some did succumb from pneumonia, heart trouble or other ailments. One young student shocked the entire student body and faculty by dying of an apparent heart attack on his way to one of the first exercises of the annual student retreat in the Student Chapel. A popular student his death was a spiritual exercise in itself.
The school after 1921 had a large Infirmary with two nurses on duty and visits by the doctor each day. But before this a special house was set aside as an isolation ward for students and employees with contagious diseases. It was a pleasant enough looking house having once housed Colonel Lockwood, but the Campion students did not wait long to coin their own name for it - "the Pest House" and it retained this title until it was demolished in 1932.
Sudden death especially by accident lingers long in the memories of many and there was no exception to this as decades later it was recalled how on February 6, 1918 Bro. Joseph Keyback, S.J. fell four stories to his death from the roof of Campion Hall where he had been working to clear a snow and ice jam off the roof. He died in a couple of hours.
Edward Beecher a Senior student while attempting an athletic gymnastic type of activity of trying to step from the window of his room to the window in the room next to his on the fourth floor of Campion Hall. This time he did not make it and fell four stories to his death. He was killed in the fall on October 1~-, 1920. On the other hand another student fell down a four story stair well while attempting to stay on the bannister he wanted to slide down. He was not injured at all causing some amazement at the local hospital. Or again the fun loving student, Jack Weadock, who grabbed the back of a passing railroad train while in motion, slipped, fell and had both his feet cut off. He cheerfully accepted his handicap, overcame the same and was soon back in school.
The Mississippi River nearby was a real attraction and the college students were allowed to swim in it. Occasionally one would drown. Once the dams were built on the river in the mid 1930's the river was much deeper and swinming was no longer tolerated for students.
It was February 1888, Sidney Bock, a student at Campion College had contracted Black Diptheria. He was not expected to live. The student body began a Novena to the three Saints who had just been canonized by Pope Leo the Thirteenth - St. Peter Claver, S.J., St. John Berchmans, S.J. and St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J. the Jesuit Brother. The Brother Infirmarian taking care of the student came into the boys room about nine o'clock in the morning and noticed his gazing at something with a fixed look at the foot of his bed. "Without moving his eyes he motioned to me to move over a little as if to make room for some one. I did so." After a time the sick boy asked, "Brother, who were the three men who visited me just now?" The Infirmarian replied, "I did not see anybody, there was nobody here, you must have been dreaming." "No, Brother, I was not dreaming, three men visited me." I asked him whether he could describe them in a general way. He replied, "The one at the left was a venerable old man with white hair and beard, the one in the middle was a middle aged man looking like a priest, the one at the right was a handsome young man." I understood. Our Superiors had pictures printed of the three Saints for their canonization. I went to my room to get my three pictures. Without saying a word to the sick boy I handed him the three pictures. He looked at them carefully and exclaimed, "Oh, Brother, these were my three visitors." Then he added, "At 9:30 sharp, they will be here again and take me along with them. I answered, "How can this be done, since you are quarantined in this room and are not allowed to leave the house." "Oh, he said we shall go right out through the window. Now please, Brother, prepare me for their return. Soon it will be 9:30 o'clock. Dress me from head to foot; new underwear, white shirt and collar, necktie, gold pin, my good suit, shoes everything."
I did as the dying boy desired me to do. He was resting on his bed. He asked for a drink of water. While I was pouring the water in the glass I heard a shuffling of feet as if some one were getting on his feet. I glanced through the open door and saw that the boy got up from his bed and was standing on his feet and leaning forward about to fall. I rushed in to his aid and laid him on his bed and saw at a glance that his soul had departed without the least struggle, it was exactly 9:30 a.m.
From 1880 to 1975 a total of 1,132 individual Jesuits and lay persons engaged in teaching and administration at Campion as follows:
The academic teaching phase of the operation was almost totally Jesuit up into the 1950's when the lay faculty began to increase. Music professors, coaches and some college professors were employed however from the School's very beginning. Outstanding were some of its music professors such as Professors Mayrhofer, Kragel, Maganec, Minnaert and Sidney de Ranitz, among its coaches William Hoffman, who was at Campion for almost sixty years and Don Gosz its last coach.
The Jesuit Brothers were in charge of many of the supporting operations of the house, supported and assisted by many fine and loyal employees from Prairie du Chien and area. Some whose tenure ranged as high as fourty and fifty years. Rudy Bouzek was one of the fifty year men, but such men as John Novey, Frank Bouzek, Arnold White, Mike Selch, Irene Johnson and many other ladies and men were noted for their loyalty. Such secretaries as Emma Bouzek, Marge Peckham and Marlene Steiner left their mark on the fine records kept. In retrospect some of the Jesuit Brothers tasks marked their period in time at Caxnpion such as the title "Lighter of the Lamps."
Enrollment at the College and High School continued to grow through the years. It reached its zenith in 1964-65 school year when the enrollment reached 598 during the Presidency of Fr. Howard Kalb, S.J.
During the Schools existence it helped to educate over 15,000 young men from most of the States and several foreign countries. Its capacity ranged from 61 in 1880 to 600 in 1964-65 to 258 in 1975.
The Jesuit personnel labored at Campion for tenures covering a range of one to sixty years and more. Some of their accomplishments in all grades were outstanding. Many Jesuits ended their labors and life of commitment in Prairie du Chien, a total of fifty-six are buried in St. Gabriel's Cemetery, including 31 Priests, 21 Brothers and 4 Scholastics. Two Campion Jesuits are buried elsewhere, thus Fr. Dehazza Radlitz, S.J. is buried in the Benedictine Cemetery at Collegeville, Minnesota and Brother William Stritch, S.J. is buried in Edinburgh, Scotland. Of the Jesuits buried at St. Gabriels, three were associated with St. Gabriels Parish: Br. John Weiland, S.J., Fr. Max Karlstoetter, S.J. and Bro. John Studer, S.J.
Campion closed its doors to further secondary education on May 24, 1975, and was sold on August 15, 1978 to the Wisconsin Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, for the sum of two million eight hundred thousand dollars.
The last Jesuits to live at Campion were Fr. John Scott, S.J. (Superior), Brother Sylvester Staber, S.J. (Supt. of Bldgs. and Grounds). Both had been at Campion for a period of thirty continuous years. In addition Fathers: Joseph Poeckes, Leo Burns, Floyd Brey, Arnold Salchert and Larry Edwards departed for new destinations after living for some time in the Campion Community.
The School closed for a number of reasons, among them being the falling enrollment, and the lact of Jesuit manpower due to lack of vocations to the Society of Jesus. Thus in the Wisconsin Province in 1965 it had 25 new Novices, 11 in 1970, ll in 1972, 6 in 1973, 4 in 1974, 11 in 1975 and 7 in 1978. Jesuit schools do not need all Jesuit personnel to continue to exist. While the above reasons were the main contributing reasons for closing much was due to other factors also. The disunity manifested in the philosophy of living, embracing a lessening of discipline and tolerating an increase in permissiveness. The philosophy of loose educational ideas and experimental performance. Diverse Theological reasoning and sometimes contradictory interpretations of or about the same matter. Liturgical experimentation and practice with the seeming lack of the consent of the Universal Church for such. All of this and more discussed and rediscussed, agonized overignored or observed. All the confusion seemed to come to a traumatic climax and polarity upon the publication of what became to be designated as "The Poem." It triggered a crisis indeed. Thus December 1969 was a time of agony for the Campion Community. It could be in retrospect termed the time a mortal wound was inflicted by forces unleashed with the freedoms experienced beginning with the period of Vatican Two, and the Thirty First General Congregation, forward forces that seemed to have gotten out of control even from those who had initiated them.
After 1969 the school continued to maintain its sense of purpose, learned to live with a plurality of decisions and conclusions on the same subjects or about the same matters. But it seemed the school and its personnel were sometimes working at cross purposes. It took the heart out of the motivating force that moves individuals to great effort, sacrifice and accomplishments. In spite of such contradictions Campion had several outstanding Jesuits and lay teachers and staff members up to the very end of its existence. Generally speaking they were not the ones who were making the decisions. This working at cross purposes had a number of manifestations within and without the school, but the following example will give an adequate idea of what working at cross purposes really meant. For example: concerning Campion's participation in the Tri- Centenary celebration in 1973 of the Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet historic journey, entrance into and exploration of the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien, with its confluence with the Wisconsin River which occured in 1673 and the Tri-Centennial celebrated in 1973. Thus:
All remaining land holdings at Prairie du Chien consisting of the large Campion Island in the Mississippi River, the Boat House and dock area, the College farm area and several choice buildings lots were also sold after the main sale. Thus nothing remains of the once extensive Campion presence in Prairie du Chien, but the 56 Jesuits buried in St. Gabriel's Parish Cemetery and the fine Carrara marble statue of St. Edmund Campion, S.J. which was moved from the Campion campus and erected on the St. Gabriel Jesuit Church grounds. The statue is an appropriate memorial. In 1948 at the request of Father Augustine Guinta then Rector of Campion, the Italian sculptor, Domenico Mastrioianni of Massa, Italy carved the statue of Edmund Campion out of white Carrara marble, weighing 3,969 pounds and paid for by 262 donors it was unveiled and blessed on October 15, 1951 at the entrance of the then Campion Jesuit High School main entrance. It was moved to the grounds of St. Gabriel's on August 1, 1978. (The exterior statue of St. Joseph also went to St. Gabriels, while the statue of Our Lady of Grace and that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus went to St. John's Church grounds in Prairie du Chien)
The proceeds from the sale of Campion were invested. A board appointed. A Campion Endowment Fund was set up and the interest from the principle is to be divided each year among the three Jesuit High Schools in the Wisconsin Province to add to their own endowment funds or used according to set directives. In a manner of speaking "one school died to help others to continue to live."
The passing of time has a way of mellowing sad experiences and romanticizing happy ones. Which in the nature of human experience seems to help preserve history and cherished traditions. What will be the fate of Campion's history? As of 1979 it remains a question mark to be left or to be erased by generations still to come.