St. James Parish was established in 1900 by then Bishop M.F Burke to serve the people of South St. Joseph. Rev. James O'Reilly was appointed its first pastor. He performed the first baptism in the parish on April 9, 1900 and recorded the first funeral on September 16, 1900. The first recorded marriage was actually entered on September 6, 1899. Holy Mass at that time was celebrated in a vacant room above a store on the northwest corner of King Hill and Missouri Avenues. Father O'Reilly began work immediately to have a church built on parish property on the corner of King Hill and Michigan Street where the church still stands. A two story structure was erected with the first floor serving as the Church. Reverend James O'Donnell was appointed pastor in 1910 and opened a school as his first project. A teaching staff was provided by the Sisters of St. Benedict from Atchison, Kansas. (The Benedictines helped staff the school until 1997.) When the present church building was dedicated in 1913, the old church was then converted into classrooms. In 1954, a new school was built and it is currently in use. In 1997, the old Convent was converted into use as a Preschool.
The next major building project occurred in 1998 when the Parish Center was constructed with offices, gym and meeting rooms. In 2000, our centennial year, the church was renovated to bring the interior back to a style more in tune with its original Romanesque design.
A large wooden altar was obtained from Conception Abby and housed the tabernacle, which was obtained from St. John's Center in Kansas City. A beautiful reliquary in the altar houses several important relics.
Pastors at St. James were:
- Father James O'Reilly: (1900-1910)
- Father Jeremiah D. O'Donnell: (1910-1926)
- Very Reverend Maurice F. Connor: (1926-1951)
- Rt. Reverend Monsignor John (Sean) James Moriarty: (1951-1976)
- Father Richard Ducate: (1976-1988)
- Father William Caldwell: (1988-1993)
- Father Francis Scheule: (1993-1996)
- Father Vincent Rogers: (1996-2006)
- Father Joseph Totton: (2006-2012)
- Father Evan Patrick Harkins (2012-present)