The following is extracted from:
GERMAN COAST FAMILIES: EUROPEAN ORIGINS AND SETTLEMENT IN COLONIAL LOUISIANA (GEN LA 929.3763 ROB) by Albert J. Robichaux, Jr. [Library of Congress: 96-78542]
The Little Red Church has 2 meanings when referred to:
1. The physical church itself which was constructed between 1770on the East Bank near present Desterhan and burned down in 1920
2. The records [registers] of the present St. Charles Parish Catholic Church beginning in 1723 to present day.
THE FIRST CHURCH (the chapel: 1723-1740)
The First German Coast on the west bank built a chapel for the missionary priests and is referred to in the 1724 census as follows:
"No. 45. The chapel at the far end of a yard surrounded by pickets and about 15 toises square; a house; a kitchen at the end of the yard; a garden; a garden; a cemetery containing in all an arpent and a halfÂ…."
At this time a resident priest was not possible due to the inability of the inhabitants to financially support him and a shortage of priests in the colony. The chapel was served by the church based in New Orleans and curates listed for the church of the Germans were curates on paper only until the construction of a new church on the west bank about 1740.
NAMING THE PARISH
One mention of the parish of St. Pierre is made by Father Prosper in 1743, and a reference to the parish of St. Pierre des Allemands is made in 1744 in the parish registers of St. Francis of Natchitoches. Excluding the 2 references above, the surviving register does not contain any other mention of the name of the church of the German Coast; the priest signs in other entries as "Cure of the post of the Germans," "Cure of the Germans," and "Cure of the parish of the Germans."
Beginning in 1748 entries are signed consistently by the Cure of the parish of St. Charles indicating the dedication of the name at that time.
THE SECOND CHURCH (St. Charles of the Germans: 1740-1770)
Fathers Prosper and Pierre maintained the church register from 1739 to 1755 and are believed to have been in residence. After 1755, no records exist for St. Charles parish until the late 1800's. The reasons for the lack of additional registers as well as the circumstances of how one register survived have been the subject of much discussion.
THE THIRD CHURCH (the Little Red Church: 1770 - 1920)
By 1770, the increase in population caused the relocation of the parish church of St. Charles to the east bank to the present day location of St. Charles Borromeo in Desterhan, and the creation of the parish of St. John the Baptist on the west bank. This new St. Charles on the east bank was generally referred to as "The Little Red Church".
When the former parish church of St. Charles on the west bank was closed in 1770 and divided into the church parishes of St. Charles on the east bank and St. John the Baptist parish on the west bank a dispute over possession of the old church bells erupted which was settled by Commandant Belille at the order of the Governor by dividing the bells. Of no less import was the claim of St. John parish that the parish of St. Charles had "six books for church affairs" that were found in duplicate, and that they claimed three of them. Belille left all the books in the possession of St. Charles parish stating "Â…it is of no consequence to meÂ…".
During the period after the pastorate of Father Moni (1818-1823), the congregation of St. Charles was thrown into controversy with the bishop over the pastorate of Father Segura. Upon his arrival from France in Louisiana, Father Segura went to the bishop and asked for a pastorate in a rural parish. As he could not provide papers from his diocese in France, the bishop stated he must first obtain them before he could act on his request. Unknowing to the bishop, Father Segura went to the church wardens of St. Charles and assumed the pastorate, and was supported by the church wardens. The wardens criticized the bishop in advertisements in New Orleans newspapers. A committee, chaired by Father Antonio de Sedella, decided in favor of the bishop's position and Father Segura was removed.
In 1877 the rectory burned down as described in the following excerpt from the newspaper The Morning Star and Catholic Messenger:
"During the night of the 30th of May, the parochial residence of the church of St. Charles, commonly known as the Red Church, was completely destroyed by a fire, which was, in all probability, the effect of design. The Rev. Father Suriray, Pastor of St. Charles, awakened by the fire, barely had time to save any of the contents of his residence."
It is in this fire that the registers of St. Charles are presumed to have been lost.
The church of St. Charles continued to suffer through neglect and lack of funds.
In the 1890's the first references to "St. Charles Borremeo" are documented. From the time of his arrival in Louisiana in 1890, Father Leander Roth had administered to the predominantly Italian Parishes of Amite, Hammond, Ponchatoula, and Kenner. In 1893, Father Roth was appointed pastor of St. Mary's at Kenner, and, in 1896, St. Charles, still without a resident priest since 1877, became a mission of Kenner. Because of his ministry to largely Italian congregations, Father Roth decided to add "Borromeo" after St. Charles, and thus, a parish established by Germans since 1723 was named for an Italian Saint, St. Charles Borromeo. After 1897, the name St. Charles Borromeo did not appear again until 1920 followed again in 1925, 1927 and 1928. In 1930, the name, St. Charles Borromeo appeared for the first time in the catholic directory for the Archdioceses of New Orleans, having been listed before as Red Church or St. Charles' Red Church.
The wardens of the church again were at odds with the bishop after the rectory was destroyed by fire in 1877. This dispute centered around the lack of the church wardens in obtaining a new charter. During the period from 1909 until 1918, the parish was under an interdict by the bishop, which prohibited the use of the church for the administration of the sacraments.
In 1918, the matter of the charter was resolved, and Father John Basty was appointed as pastor. In his first report to the bishop, on January 1, 1919, Father Basty described his parish as "old and dilapidated."
THE FOURTH CHURCH (St. Charles Borromeo)
The church burned about 1920 and the present church of St. Charles Borremeo was built in 1921 at the site. With the construction and dedication of a new church (the present one) and the arrival and increasing importance of the oil industry in St. Charles Parish, the Catholic church parish of St. Charles Borromeo has stabilized, grown, and prospered.
THE MISSING REGISTERS
Of the registers of the church of the Germans, later St. Charles of the Germans, only one register of baptisms, marriages and deaths covering the period from February 6, 1739 to March 29, 1755 has survived.
During the controversy with the bishop over Father Segura, the church registers were removed from the rectory. After the removal of Father Segura, an assistant priest from St. John the Baptist church at Edgard, Louisiana, Father Francois Savine, was appointed as pastor of the church of St. Charles. Unfortunately, Father Savine's ministry was short lived, as he died during the night of May 9/10, 1832 at the rectory. At the inventory of personal effects, the appraisers found a trunk which contained "the registers of the parish."
The registers are documented to still exist and be in the care of Judge Jean Louis Labranche in July of 1832.
There are many accounts of what may have come of the missing registers, and why one still exists. Theories aside, documents are the only definitive answers. Thus far, the letter of Archbishop Perche states that "books" were destroyed in 1877. After the death of Father Savine, the registers were placed by church wardens in the custody of Judge Jean Louis Labranche. Most likely, after the appointment of Father Auguste de Angelis in approximately 1834, Judge Labranche returned the registers to the new pastor. If the latter occurred, then the registers were in the rectory on May 30, 1877, and were burned. As to how the one register from 1739 to 1755 survived, that mystery remains unsolved.