Rev. J. P. Van Treeck is the popular and accomplished pastor of St. Peter Claver church, located on the corner of Clara avenue and South Eleventh street. The splendid structure which shelters St. Peter's congregation, with its furnishings and equipment, is wholly due to the continued efforts and services rendered by Rev. Father Van Treeck in the interest of the cause to which he has consecrated his life.
Father Van Treeck is a native son of Wisconsin and Sheboygan county, his birth having occurred in the township of Wilson, March 9, 1855. He is the son of Peter J. and Josephine (Ott) Van Treeck. His father was a native of Geldern, Rhine Province, Prussia, and emigrated from that country to America in 1849, settling in the township of Wilson in this county at a time when the entire western shore of Lake Michigan was an unbroken wilderness from Port Washington to Green Bay and far beyond grew the primeval forests of majestic pine.
The land upon which Mr. Van Treeck established his home was densely covered with hardwood timber, forest undergrowth and bramble. In order that he might have a suitable field upon which to raise his crops it became necessary at first to clear this land from virgin timber and redeem it from its long undisturbed wilderness. This was indeed a forbidding task but nevertheless it was eventually accomplished and Mr. Van Treeck lived to realize the reward of his early labors by being the possessor of a highly cultivated, beautiful farm. During the years of the war he supplied for that service a substitute which showed his loyalty to his adopted flag and country. His wife, Mrs. Josephine (Ott) Van Treeck, reached the end of her earthly journey in the year 1890, being at that time sixty-one years of age, and he closed his earthly career in May, 1900, at the age of eighty-two. Both Mr. and Mrs. Van Treeck were buried at St. George cemetery in the town of Wilson in this county.
Rev. J. P. Van Treeck was reared in his father's home and received his early education in the district schools of Wilson township, completing the usual common-school course in his fourteenth year. At the age of fifteen he became a pupil of St. Francis Seminary of Milwaukee and while in attendance at that institution was ordained to the priesthood in June, 1880. Immediately following his ordination he represented Father Hamm at Dacada, Wisconsin, for four months and later became the rector of St. Wendel's church in Manitowoc county, where he succeeded in building a parochial school during the term of his pastorate, which extended over a period of two years. He was thereafter transferred to Theresa, Dodge county, Wisconsin, as pastor, also conducting services at Lomira, and in this relation he continued for two years and nine months. He was called from his pastorate in Dodge county to Silver Lake, Manitowoc county, where he took charge of St. Joseph's congregation and the mother house of the Sisters of St. Francis. While he was engaged in the pastorate of the St. Joseph's congregation he made very considerable and necessary additions to the community house of St. Francis. His work at this place was very successful and helped to qualify him for the duties awaiting him at Sheboygan. In 1888, being entirely without funds with which to start in the work of establishing a new congregation in a strange city, he came to Sheboygan and gathered together a congregation of fifty-six families as charter members of St. Peter Claver church. His first venture in building consisted in the construction of a combination church and school property. This having been accomplished, he redoubled his energies, looking forward to the day when some more complete and serviceable building could be provided for the home of his rapidly increasing flock.
The first school of St. Peter's, organized by Father Van Treeck in 1888, consisted of thirty-four pupils and has since grown to be an important educational factor in Sheboygan, carrying on its rolls at present three hundred and forty-six pupils, while the staff consists of eight teachers. The church edifice to which Father Van Treeck has given so much care and so many years of devoted service has long since been completed and is one of the handsome and commodious edifices of that character in the city. In addition to the building itself; the furnishings of the church are elaborate and costly and the windows are said to be among the most beautiful among the many beautiful churches now throughout northeastern Wisconsin.
Rev. J. P. Van Treeck is a man highly esteemed and dearly loved not only by the members of his congregation but by the people at large. His life among his people has been an open book from his boyhood throughout his years of successful service as a priest and pastor. He is genial and a ready, helpful and efficient agent in the advancement of any measure of public character seeking the betterment of the people in the community where his work has been so successful.
Information gathered and adapted from History of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Past and Present
Carl Zillier, Editor
Pubished by The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912, Chicago, IL