History of St. Anthony Parish
The early years
A mission since 1901, a parish since 1905, St. Anthony Church has been around for a long time. It is one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese. Let's take a look at the history of our parish church.
Our history would not be complete without a look at the early history of the settlement in the area. The area was known in earliest times as "Three Forks", referring to the three types of travel that led to Seattle: boat, rail, and horseback along an army trail that wandered over and around the Skyway hill down to the Duwamish River. It was also called "Black Bridge" before it was named in honor of Captain William Renton, a founder, not of the town but of the Renton Coal Company.
There was a native population of Indians living on the flatlands along the Cedar River before the development of the town. One group settled in what is now Liberty Park, another between the Cedar and Black Rivers, and a third on the land later occupied by Erasmus M. Smithers, one of Renton's founding fathers.
The first white settlers found the place densely wooded. In 1853 Henry H. Tobin, who was joined later by his wife Diana, settled on a donation claim along the banks of the Cedar and Black Rivers. Tobin died soon afterwards, and in November of 1857, his widow was married to Erasmus Smithers. Through this marriage, Smithers acquired an interest in nearly 400 acres and later bought an additional 80 acres. Smithers had the town platted, named it after William Renton, and began to sell lots, all done in association with two other prominent citizens, T. B. Morris and C. B. Shattuck. Renton was incorporated on September 6, 1901. Our present church stands on land that belonged to Smithers.
The first Catholic Church building was not begun until 1906. Prior to this, the Catholic population had to travel to Gilman (now Issaquah) where Fr. Van Holderbeck came occasionally for Mass from his parish in Snohomish. In 1901, to better meet the needs of the people, an elderly priest, Fr. Winters, began to come occasionally from his parish in Newcastle to offer Mass in the homes of some of the early settlers. Following Fr. Winters' death, Fr. Patrick Ryan took up the occasional service of Renton from his parish in the White River Valley. Regular services were not available until 1905, when another elderly priest, Fr. Victor, retired to live with his niece in what is now Kennydale and began to offer Mass regularly in the homes of Thomas Nelligan, John Sedlacek and Dan Hogan.
The first Baptism of record August 10, 1901: Henry Moses, an Indian, was baptized by Fr. Winters at the home of John Sedlacek.
As the population increased in Renton, so too did the Catholic community. Services were moved to more spacious surroundings in the upstairs of the Tonkin Building at Third and Wells Avenue South. With the growth it became apparent that more permanent quarters were needed.