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The Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) encompasses the communities and counties along the historic 97-mile Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. The Heritage Corridor spans from the Chicago Portage Area just southwest of Chicago to LaSalle-Peru including the counties of Will, Grundy, LaSalle and Putnam. The region conveniently located along I-55 from Chicago to Joliet along I-80 west to LaSalle-Peru.

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The Lost City of Sag Bridge with Father Thomas Koys

Welcome back to another Around the Corridor with Mariah. This week, we have traveled to a beautifully secluded area in Lemont, IL where the trees stand tall, the air smells fresh and the water isn’t too far away. 

Being a city girl, I don’t get a chance to surround myself with nature as much, without hearing the hustle and bustle of morning and after work traffic, horns blowing and people everywhere. So, visiting St. James at Sag Bridge Catholic Church was very peaceful and calming. All I could hear was the trees dancing in the wind while the birds were singing. 

As I made my way to the church, I pulled into what it appeared to be a tiny village. There were these big iron gates that are left open for you to drive inside.

I noticed there were a few properties on the land that were spaced out from one another. One sat on this big hill looking over everything, and that’s where Father Thomas Koys stays. 

While we didn’t meet inside of his home, we remained toward the bottom of the hill at the first building you see once you come in. It was warm and beautiful that day so we chatted outside in their newly built outside space to enjoy the breeze.

St James at Sag Bridge is known to be the oldest working Catholic church in Northern Illinois. Built in 33 AD, the Catholic church was put together. A few 1800 years later, St. James Church was formed.

The location has been significant for centuries because it was used as a lookout. It was first inhabited by Indians, then later a French Fort was located at the site. 

In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet traveled along the Des Plaines River, passing the site of the future St. James Church on three different occasions. 

As I talked more with Father Koys, I was able to learn more about him and how he has joined the church. He let me know that he was assigned to this church 6 years ago to become the pastor. 

He has been able to share more than just his knowlege with his community, but also his creative talents. He starred in two different plays that were put on by the church, as well as creating beautiful paintings that now hang on the walls. 

I was so surprised when I found out that Father Koys painted some of the paintings. Some of his paintings actually tell the story of the history of the church.  One that stood out to me was the painting that shows the “Lost City of Sag Bridge.” This isn’t the formal name for it, however it expresses what once use to be. 

Going back to the house on the hill where Father Koys currently lives. The house was purposely build on the hill in order to see over the entire Sag Bridge city that lied right underneath it. This hill gave them the opportunity to see everything that was going on, as well as anyone who was heading their way at a distance. 

What used to be Sag Bridge, is now where Archer Ave, Kingery Highway and 107th street intersects. 

Although I talked about all the history and beauty that comes with this parish, there’s a little bit of a haunted side to this location. During the Halloween season, they open their gates to their graveyard for a haunted tour. The coolest part about the haunted tour is the fact that they have one of their oldest tombstones still visible. Due to age, the words are now hard to read, so we can’t say who that person once was and what year they were born and died. If that doesn’t seem creepy enough for you, then come by and see for yourself. 

As you can tell, there is so much to cover here at the St. James at Sag Bridge Catholic Church. The conversation can go on and on because it’s so much interesting history that lies behind the gates. 

So, if you’re just as interested as I was, come plan your visit and get a chance to meet Father Koys himself and his beautiful property. 

You can contact the church at 630-257-7000 or visit their website at www.historicstjames.org