MASON CITY | Mason City's first Catholic priest, Rev. Carolan, may have died in 1917, but his story lived on during the Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery History Walk on Saturday.

"Jesus was about that age when he did some pretty important stuff," Carolan explained about being ordained at age 33.

Wearing a clergy robe and standing next to Carolan's grave, Michael Byrne portrayed St. Joseph's Catholic Church's first priest.

He explained different aspects about Carolan's life and history of the church, such as when he came to Mason City there were 26 Catholic families and when he died there were more than 300 families. He also spoke about building a school, only to have it burn down a few years later. St. Joe's eventually raised enough money to rebuild.

"It's just interesting," said Sharon Egbert, Mason City, who was attending the walk for the third year. "I like hearing the history of the people that have lived in Mason City. I didn't grow up in Iowa, so this is a good way to learn."

The walk featured actors portraying other prominent Mason City citizens including John McMillin, the first settler in Mason City; Josephine Maben, former county recorder and only woman to have an office in the new 1902 courthouse; Matilda Russell, an early settler; Joseph Stork, a Clear Lake farmer and Mary Owen, who was the longest living Mason City resident at the time of her death in 1944.

Stork was played by Jerry O'Neill, his great-great-grandson.

"It was a hard life; winters were fierce," he explained.

He also explained that Stork came to the Clear Lake area around 1867 after learning that 160 acres could be purchased for $5 per acre.

"Try doing that today," he said to the chuckles of audience members.

Stork died in 1917 at age 90. He had 16 children between his first and second wives, O'Neill said.

The youngest character and actor was Mary Owen, played by Natasha Orton, an eighth-grader at John Adam's Middle School. She had never attended or acted in the History Walk before.

"It's fun because I get to learn about different things that happened in history through my script," Orton said.

She learned about the part through her father who heard about it at the Mason City Fire Department where he works.

"I decided it would be a lot of fun," said Orton, who also does Steben's Children's Theater.

Sharon and Ken Campbell, Mason City, were impressed with the walk. Sharon said she was finally able to attend this year since she's now retired.

"I really like it," she said. "It's very interesting, and I'm learning a lot."

The History Walk is an annual fundraiser for the cemetery. It also included a chili supper and evening stroll featuring Mason City's more notorious citizens, such as murderers.


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