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St. Anne’s Chapel In Knowles: An Interesting History

St. Joachim’s Church; 401 West 5th Street; Madera, California 93637; August 4, 1987

Dear Parishioners,
Nestled among the rolling foothills of the Sierra, a church and community was established, St. Anne’s Chapel. The seed was planted in 1962 by the then Community under the spiritual direction of the Pastor Father Mario Buttini, OSJ, to complete a dream which Father Donimic Albertelli, OSJ, had planned a few years earlier. This seed became a sapling in the seventies and now in the eighties it is fast becoming a tree with full grown branches of faith reaching into the areas of Knowles, Raymond, Yosemite Lakes and Coarsegold. May St. Anne’s protection and intercessory prayer be with us as we close this Silver Jubilee and enter our Golden.

-Rev. James Catalano, OSJ, PastorThe letter celebrates the Silver Jubilee of St. Anne’s Chapel, 1962 to 1987. In the foothills of the Sierra, 25 miles northeast of Madera, CA, is the formerly busy community of Knowles, where a traveler can find a very unusual Catholic Mission Chapel. While all churches have some unusual features, St. Anne’s, which is a part of St. Joachim’s Parish in Madera, seems unique. The people of St. Anne’s, without readily available finances, undertook the task of converting an old, abandoned schoolhouse into a chapel. They simply stepped out with faith and trust in God, and through the years the Chapel has never been in debt. The Lord always provided for their needs with generous benefactors, Catholic and non-Catholic, from the local area and beyond.


The information above was written by the Editors of a small “Silver Jubilee” booklet, Bob and Rosemary Warnert and Jim and Julie Draska. They dedicated the book to Herb and Elsie Buchenau who donated the property and the building for [the] Chapel, and to John Alexander who had the wisdom and foresight to establish this Chapel…and his wife Rose, for their generosity which made the continuance of this Chapel possible through the years.”

Some history regarding the town of Knowles, site of the granite quarry: In the late 1800s and early 1900s Knowles was a busy and thriving community because of the granite quarries in the area. They were the major industrial employers in this cattle ranching area, and one quarry still operates today. A short distance to the west is the community of Raymond which at one time was “The Gateway to Yosemite.”

By 1918 the existing school was too small to accommodate the growing student population, thus a larger school was required. The Raymond Granite Company, whose President at the time was Fred E. Knowles, the founder of the town, donated 4.3 acres of land for the school. Native granite donated by the company was used to build the school in 1920. During the 1930s there were approximately 60 students in the first through eighth grades. In 1942, the Raymond and Knowles School Districts consolidated and the Knowles School was closed.

Through the years thereafter, the building became a “bat haven.” The windows and doors were broken and boarded up, the roof deteriorated and leaked, and it looked like an old “haunted” building.

For seventeen years the building stood empty subject to the elements. In January 1959 John Alexander, President of the Cold Springs Granite Company of Minnesota and of the Raymond Granite Company, came to Knowles on a business trip. He remarked to one of his employees that the old school building across the road from the quarry would make a good church for the community [there was none]. **The seed was planted and continued to sprout**

Should you, the reader, wish to view the school, it is on Road 606. Also, as you travel the road, stop at The Hills Pride Inn, a business holding the second oldest liquor license in California! A true museum!

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