Contact Us

Frozen in Time: Origin of Saint John’s University [VIDEO]

Subscribe to AM 1240 WJON on


COLLEGEVILLE – Saint John’s University is one of the most historic schools in Minnesota with its origins being traced back to the mid-1800’s.

It all started with Boniface Wimmer, a German monk, who established the first Benedictine monastery – St. Vincent’s in Pennsylvania in 1846. He later accepted an invitation of the Bishop of St. Paul, Joseph Cretin, to send priests to the northern part of the St. Paul diocese and to found a house in the area.

In 1856 a group of five monks were sent west from the monastery by steamboat.

Saint John’s archivist Peggy Roske says it was from here that the group of monks settled in Central Minnesota.

“Monks made their way to St. Cloud-they were offered a piece of land to use on the banks of the Mississippi,” Roske says.

The group of monks began exploring and settling in the area. Between 1856 and 1864, the group moved back and forth from St. Cloud to St. Joseph due to land disputes.

“They left Germany in 1846 and came to St. Cloud in 1856….in 1858 because of the litigation of land, they moved to St. Joe and lived here for a few years,” Roske says.

Eventually, in 1864, the group settled in the Collegeville area.

“They decided that things looked a lot rosier up the hill where Lake Sagatagan is-where we are today,” Roske says.

The school started out as an educational institution for training monks and teachers.

The first buildings of the school were described as a “frail shed built of boards”-a log building about 12 x 20 and another one 14 x 20. The second building had an attic, with a kitchen, studio and a spare room.

There was only one professor at the time (Cornelius Wittmann) and there was room for an occasional guest.

Complete early chronology (Information from Archivist Peggy Roske):

  • 1846: Boniface Wimmer leaves Metten, Germany for Pennsylvania, founds St. Vincent’s.
  • 1856: Monks leave Pennsylvania; arrive in St. Cloud.
  • 1858: Monks move to St. Joseph because of St. Cloud land litigation.
  • 1861: Civil War breaks out.
  • 1862: Indian uprising
  • 1864: St. Cloud land litigation goes against St. John’s; Monks move to Indian Bush (Collegeville Station).
  • 1866: Monks move to the shores of Lake Sagatagan.

Oops! We could not locate your form.


Saint John’s University Archives

Best of WJON

Recommended For You

Best of the Web

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to using your original account information.

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Not a member? Sign up here

Sign up for The WJON VIP Club quickly by connecting your Facebook account. It's just as secure and no password to remember!

Sign up to have exclusive The WJON VIP Club contests, events, coupons, presales, and much more delivered to you for FREE.