by Jim Wisnewski
Children, playing in their yards, called to their parents “Mommy, daddy come and see the horsies!” Bicyclists on the White Pine Trail stopped to let the horse and wagon roll through on Rogue River Road and people gathered in their yards to wave and take pictures. It isn’t often that you see a horse-drawn wagon carrying a stained glass window and two nuns and two octogenarians sitting on a church pew atop a wagon. In fact it’s probably been about one hundred years since an event like this took place.
It was part of a year-long celebration of the Centennial of Assumption BVM Catholic church in Belmont. The original wooden church building was given to the Catholic farmers living in the Belmont area, by the members of St. Adalbert’s Parish in Grand Rapids on August 10th, 1913. Subsequently, the farmers disassembled the church and hauled it piece-by-piece along the rutted dirt road they called West River on their wagons. In spite of the fact that none of the roads were paved and the wagon wheels were wood with iron rims, the farmers miraculously managed to get all the stained glass windows out to Belmont without breaking a single pane of glass.
Sister Angela Brocca MC and Sister Felicia Bertaina MC, Consolata Sisters, whose order has been involved in the school and parish for
over fifty years, were the two nuns who road on the wagon. Mrs. Aggie Zemke and Mr. Louis Gryka, life-long parishioners of the church were the other two passengers. Louis was particularly excited about making this journey because his father was one of the founding members of the church. “My pa had a wagon just like this and he probably traveled this exact route in helping to bring the church to Belmont.” he said with a nostalgic look in his eye. “I was baptized 84 years ago in the very font that stands in the ‘new’ church which was moved over from the old, when it was built 26 years ago.”
The two Belgian horses named Emily and Holly pulled the wagon driven by Jeff Dufort of Dufort Farm of Sparta, followed by a truck displaying a sign with the Assumption BVM centennial logo on it. This small procession moved along Rogue River and Belmont Roads crossing the White Pine Trail three times and stopping to rest the horses at the Belmont post office which stands almost on the spot where the original post office stood in a room in the corner of Belmont Dickson’s Hotel near the depot for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Line.
When they arrived at church, the horses were unhitched and the riders and all the onlookers went into church to celebrate the Mass led by their pastor, Fr. Peter Vu and later descend to the Family Life Center where about 260 parishioners enjoyed a delicious ham dinner cooked by the Knights of Columbus with au gratin and scalloped potatoes, vegetables, cole slaw and a scrumptious blueberry cobbler with ice cream dessert. They also took time to see items in the mini-centennial museum set up there which displayed church and school-related artifacts of the last one hundred years.