In 1837, a mail route was established from Chicago to John Dixon’s residence on the Rock River, and this route crossed the southern end of DeKalb County. A log hut was built for a station at the crossing of Somonauk Creek and given the name of Somonauk. The early traveling missionaries made it a regular stopping place. When, in 1853, the railroad was built through this region, a village sprang up, into which moved several Catholic families.
Most of the pioneers of Somonauk were from Alsace Lorraine. Among other early Catholic settlers in Somonauk, besides the French, were the Germans and some Irish families.
Mass was offered in the town’s hotel or in pioneer homes at irregular intervals until 1863 when Catholics purchased Turner Hall for use as a church. It was moved across LaSalle Street to the present parish property at LaSalle and Depot Streets.
An unusual aspect of the Somonauk parish is the role that order priests have played in its development and current history. The parish organization began with the assistance of a Jesuit and was served for many years by priests of the Norbertine Order.
Parish records date to 1865, with the earliest ones being signed by Father Dominic Niederkorn, S.J., who attended the area from Chicago.
Turner Hall did not last long as a church. It was quickly inadequate for the size of the congregation and was replaced with a $6,000 frame building and given the name of St. John the Baptist. The second church didn’t last long either, for in May, 1868, this building was destroyed by fire. Immediate plans were made for the building of a brick church when a resident pastor was sent to Somonauk. The first resident pastor was Father Casper J. Huth (1869-1884), who arrived February 14, 1869.
During the fifteen years of his pastorate, Father Huth set about building and completing the church. Father Lawrence A. Ehrhard (1884-1903) became pastor in 1884 and built churches in Plano and Bristol.
Father Peter J. Weber (1906-1910) built a rectory that was used until a new one was constructed in 1975.
Father Cornelius Kirkfleet, O.Praem. (1928-1947), became pastor of St. John the Baptist on July 26, 1928. His first step was to remodel the church completely. In 1935, he purchased the site of a burned-out store in the business section of town. Under the direction of a contractor, a group of men, Catholic and non-Catholic, built a social hall. This he named Feehan Hall, after Archbishop Feehan of Chicago. The hall was paid for out of community funds and was regarded as a community hall, although it belonged to the parish and was used primarily as a parish hall. Similarly, tennis courts were built on two lots near the church for the use of the community, although they were property of the church. Also during the pastorate of Father Kirkfleet, the first Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner was held in 1938, and has been an annual tradition for all these years.
Remodeling and/or redecorating of the parish buildings continued through the years. The more significant projects were in 1953 under the supervision of Father Maurice J. Windt, O.Praem. (1953-1963), from 1972-1974 during the pastorate of Father Michael J. Shanahan (1972-1974), and in 1975 during the pastorate of Father Charles E. Sherman (1974-1996). A Mass of Thanksgiving for the current parish center was celebrated by Bishop Arthur J. O’Neill in October of 1980.
Under the supervision of Father Donald D. DeSalvo, pastor, the church was repaired and redecorated. A new baptistery was also added. The rite of rededication took place on August 17, 2003. Bishop Thomas G. Doran celebrated the Mass.