The Alexian Brothers Novitiate
A Short History
Once sitting on some 232 acres of land along the Red River in Shawano
Co., WI. the Alexian Brothers Novitiate was acquired as a gift.
Originally built in 1939 by Mrs. Jennie Peters as a home for her invalid
daughter, Jane, who died before the residence was completed.
Following her late husbands request, Mrs. Peters had designed the
structure to make it easily convertible into a facility for the Alexian
Mrs. Peters lived in the house until 1948, in 1950 Brother Nicholas
Barteleme arrived as the first Rector. In 1954 a $1,500,000 addition was
added that would be connected to the original house.
The Alexian Brothers Novitiate served as a traditional Novitiate for 17
years, where new recruits came to test their vocation and to prepare
themselves for a future of service for others. It was here they received
spiritual formation, pursued their studies, and developed a sense of
responsibility under the direction of the older members of the community.
The Novitiate was structured so that the occupants were self-supporting.
It provided all the necessary facilities such as a farm, butchering area,
laundry rooms, barber shop, and printing building.
In 1968 the Novitiate program was moved to Chicago, but the facility
was still maintained by a resident caretaker, the estate which was
appraised at $3.5 million was put up for sale in 1969. In 1972 the
remaining Brothers left and a caretaker was put in charge to oversee the
grounds and buildings.
Wild Indians And Firearms
The Indian Takeover of 1974
Some may better know of the Novitiate from when it was taken over by a
group indians for 34 days in 1974.
On January 1, 1974, a group of about 45 armed indians calling
themselves the Menominee Warrior Society stormed abandoned
Novitiate, seizing the property and taking the caretaker and his family
hostage, saying that they would hold the facility until the Alexian
Brothers turned it over to them. The group wanted the property, including
the 84-room mansion and two other buildings.
The property was then sealed off by County, State, and Federal officers,
the Governor even called in the National Guard.
Throughout the negotiations the Alexian Brothers maintained,
(1) The Warrior Society must vacate the property peacefully & speedily.
(2) They would not give the property to anyone.
(3) They would sell the property at a reasonable price to a person or a
legitimately organized group of persons.
(4) They would assist by supportive efforts & expertise in establishing
quality programs for the persons the facility would serve.
After 34 days of chanting "DEED or DEATH" the indians evacuated the
monastery as part of the agreement signed by the Alexian Brothers and
the Warriors, selling the deed to the Menominee Tribe for $1.
Due to lack of funds they were forced to relinquish all ownership of the
In the end around 39 of the militants were taken in handcuffs to the
Shawano Co. jail, with charges of armed burglary, armed robbery, and
false imprisonment. Bonds were set up to $50,000 and 8 years prison
time for the main leaders.
Going, Going, Gone
After the indian takeover the property saw a wave of vandalism,
including a fire that gutted the three-story mansion in October of 1975.
The Novitiate changed hands several times, in November of 1975 the
Novitiate was deeded to Crossroads Academy of Milwaukee. 56 acres of
Red River frontage was deeded to the town of Richmond for use as a park
The property was eventually sold to a Texas savings and loan association
for $1.4 million. In 1992 the property sold for about $40,000.
It was put up for sale by a local real estate firm for $879,000 and was
bought by Whitewater Gresham Estates in 2002 for $500,000.
In 2003 demolition of the 183,000 square foot building was underway,
with the possibility of becoming the future site of a housing development.
An environmental enforcement lawsuit was filed by the state related to the
firm's handling of asbestos-contaminated materials. Whitewater Gresham
Estates was ordered to pay $150,000 in fines, penalties, and assessments
for mishandling the contaminated materials.
The Exploration ?
Talk about a kick in the nuts, I knew about this place for a while, but by
the time I went to check the place out it was already being torn down.
The only buildings that were standing was the mansion and the cottage.
The mansion was completely gutted from the fire, the only thing inside
was a bunch of holes in the floor. You could still see in some sections by
the main staircase and by the side doors, where the fire was.
There wasn't much to the cottage just an old tv and a few chairs.
Such interesting buildings and so much to explore, I dont know how I do
it. The trip may have been a bust in the exploration department, but I did
find another Chevelle to add to my collection so I walked away happy.
Copyright © 2005 Johnny Bravo/JMK