1849: Founded by Dom Bruno Fitzpatrick on 16 July.
Toward the end of the 1840’s Dom Bruno Fitzpatrick was deeply concerned about the survival of Mt.Melleray due to the potato famine. New Melleray was founded as a house of refuge in case the monks of Mt.Melleray had to re-locate because of the food shortage. Dom Bruno and a little band of monks set out to the new world to look at various properties offered to them. The land outside Dubuque, Iowa was considered the best for farming so it was chosen as the site of New Melleray. When Dom Bruno returned to Ireland he sent out 16 monks to augment the few monks already there. These monks journed for 77days and only 10 of the original 16 arrived in Dubuque. A plague of cholera broke out on the steamer the group took up the Mississippi river from New Orleans, and in a one-week period in November 1849 six monks died. They are buried along the banks of the Mississippi River. After much struggle to establish this American foundation New Melleray became an abbey in 1863.
1857, May, 1857: Sending of colony to Wexford, Iowa.
1858 Summer: Return of colony from Wexford.
1867 -1870: Construction of east and north wings of abbey.
1928, 28 October: Blessing of new guesthouse and chapel.
1946, 25 March: Blessing of ground for south wing of abbey.
The community grew rapidly after the Second World War and peaked in 1961 with 160 monks.
The 19th c. abbey church occupied the upper floor of a long wing. In the 1970’s, to bring the church into conformity with the reforms in the Catholic Church and in our Order, the wing was completely renovated. Under the guidance of designer Frank Kacmarcik the division between the two stories was eliminated, and the plaster covering the walls was removed to reveal the Iowa limestone underneath. The new church won a national prize for architecture in 1977. It was dedicated on 16 July 1976.
From 1849 to 1999 New Melleray was a farming community (3400 acres [1376 hectares] of land). The rich Iowa soil supported the monastery. In the 1990’s agriculture took a bad turn and the community was forced to look at an alternate source of income. With 1100 acres of woodlands we decided to make wooden coffins for sale to the general public. This business has become our main source of income.