In the late 1800's this stone building was erected for the Grayson - Hyde outfit as the general store. John Pierson, a Swede, and Jim Kelly, who was considered the best stonemason in the area, did the work. The workmen were paid three dollars for a ten-hour day. The men also built a saloon across the road. Mike Hyde was an early-day cattleman who had a ranch in Bruneau in partnership with his brother, Dave. They settled there in 1888. Mike sent his daughter to St. Theresa's Academy in Boise where she became a Catholic and subsequently entered the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Her religious name was Sister Mary Rhoda. Sister M. Rhoda died in 1968.
A story has been told about the time when only the walls were finished. Word was received that the Indians were on the warpath and headed toward Oreana. All the people in the area took refuge behind the stone walls expecting a momentary attack. Luckily the militia from Fort Boise arrived first and the Indians veered away from the town, sparing the settlers a fight.
In the early 1900's, Ben Hyde, another brother of Mike ran the store, and later the building changed hands several times. The building was no longer in use and only the stone walls and roof were still standing in 1961 when Albert Black, the owner of the ranch at that time, donated the building for a church. The Rev. Herbert S. Merzbach, S. M., supervised the work and with many volunteer workers from St. Paul's Catholic Church in Nampa and elsewhere cleaned out the interior and started to remodel the building. The generosity of the people at Oreana, the Nampa parishioners and Extension Society made possible the beautiful church it is today. The interior is paneled in tough apa-tone wood from Japan and the floor is made of native stone just like the two-foot thick walls. The roof has been replaced with wooden shingles and is braced inside with decorative black wrought iron posts that also support filigree globes for a soft-light effect. Fixtures recessed in the copper-toned ceiling and spots over the altar and Crucifix provide further light.
The sandstone slab altar rests on three steps of black slate with three tall candleholders of black iron on either side. Behind the altar, on a sandblasted juniper tree, hangs a Crucifix modeled after a Dutch metal cast by Adolf Heinzeller, famous wood carver of Oberammagau, the Bavarian village famed for its Passion play. Above the cross is a wooden slab inscribed in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew by Father Merzbach, who endeavored to reproduce as exactly as possible the typographical style at the time of the Crucifixion
In a niche to the right of the sanctuary hangs a Pieta in semi-relief, which came from the Dolomites. Beside the altar stands a statue of the Blessed Mother, holding the Christ Child, carved from lindenwood and imported from the Italian Tyrol Mountain area. At the rear of the church is a corner enclosed by a sandstone railing where the copper and stone baptismal font is located. The pews were made at the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lafayette, Oregon, and are a memorial to the Joyce family who came to Owyhee County in 1864.
A small belfry was built over the front entrance to house the bell that originally hung in the church, Our Lady of Tears in Silver City. Father Dempsey of Nampa, then pastor of the mission church in that mining town purchased the bell around 1904. Father was guest speaker at a gathering at the newly-built Dewey Palace Hotel and he told the crowd that while traveling by stagecoach to Silver City he had been wondering how to get a bell for the church there. Two of the passengers, a Jewish whiskey drummer and a Mormon bishop gave him $25 each toward buying a bell. Father Dempsey's eloquent speech moved the audience to take up a collection on the spot. And enough money was given to purchase a good bell with pure tone.
After the county seat was removed from Silver City and the population declined, vandals broke into the church so often, the statues, bell, etc. were removed to the Joyce ranch for storage by Rev. Charles Tracy, the pastor. When the Sinker Creek dam burst in 1943, everything was lost but the Bell which, was found with only part of the wheel broken. Father Merzbach had the wheel repaired and hung the bell in the church where it now rings every Sunday to announce Divine services.
By Helen Nettleton, 1977
(editors note: due to population and lack of priests, Mass is scheduled once a month.)