Thomas Nolan, after whom this settlement was named, was a farmer democrat residing on section one in Graham township of Johnson county. He was born in Tipperary county, Ireland in 1828, and came to America in 1835. Landing in New York and living there 5 years, he finally settled in Graham township.
It was Father William Edmonds, pioneer priest of St. Mary’s of Iowa City, who first made the arduous trip in a bobsled, or wagon, once a month to say mass in the log cabins of the settlers before 1860. He is remembered for having named the parish. Father Edmonds hailed Mr. Nolan, who dwelt in the woods, heedless of his religion, and reprimanded him for not practicing his faith. To coax him, Father Edmonds said, “Now, Mr. Nolan, if you help with the other 4 families to erect a little church for the honor of God, we shall name the place of settlement, Nolan Settlement.” Thus, Mr. Nolan, Horty, Leonard, Peters, Mahoney, Wall and Sullivan formed or rather constituted the primary makeup of St. Bridget’s parish, Nolan Settlement in 1859.
Forty acres was then purchased for $250, and in 1863 the first frame structure was erected in what is now the cemetery. Although it was but 20×30 feet, it served also as the only schoolhouse for miles around. Here the children of early settlers received their education during the long winter months.
In 1868 the church became too small and was replaced by a larger wooden structure at a cost of $1,800 (without seating).
In 1894 the present brick structure was built by Father Mahoney from the same plans as was St. Wenceslaus of Iowa City, to accommodate a parish of 80 families. The foundation for the building of approximately 80×40 feet, was laid in May 1894.
When the first mass was said on Christmas Day of the same year by Father Mahoney, only $17 of the sum of $17,000 remained to be paid on the church. Donations of various amounts were made by the 100 families of the parish. The side altars, windows and stations were all donated. The young men of the parish gave one dollar each toward the triple front window in the steeple. The large stone platform was donated by Maher brothers and was purchased at Cedar Valley. Money for the bell was collected.
The bell was tolled the first time for the funeral of Elizabeth Brennan. The bell cost $300 and weighed 1900 pounds alone, 2,200 pounds with the frame. The church steeple is 102 feet high with a cross 6 feet high mounted at the top.
The present rectory was built in 1911, with extensive remodeling in the 1960’s.
On March 28, 1996 Bishop William E. Franklin of Davenport announced the closing of St. Bridget’s along with four other parishes. St. Bridget’s had about 45 families active when the closing of the church was announced in March.
St. Bridget’s last mass took place on June 30, 1996 with over 200 worshipers attending. Father Lou Leonhardt, church priest, told parishioners that tears would be shed over a “new birth.” “It is a new birth we are looking for,” he said.
Information from: “History of St. Bridget’s Church of Nolan Settlement” written by Dorothy Worrell Platteter of Solon.