He knew how to do that because he was one of two men who did practically all of the construction work on the Church of St. Charles Borromeo in Grand Coteau. The other was Cornelius Otten, a native of Holland. Both men were Jesuit brothers.
Otten was some 20 years older than Brinkhaus and we first find him in south Louisiana in 1868, when he worked on the church in Royville (Youngsville today). In 1871, Brother Otten built at least part of a chapel in Mermentau, then built chapels in Rayne and Iota in 1877. It was natural for a Jesuit Brother to be involved in those churches because Jesuit priests assigned to Grand Coteau ministered to practically all of south Louisiana in those missionary days.
Brinkhaus was born in Grand Coteau on June 22, 1859, within sight of St. Charles College, where the Jesuits taught. As things worked out, he spent practically all of his life not only in the town of his birth but at St. Charles College. He attended school there as an adolescent and began training there when he was 16 years old to become a Brother of the Society of Jesus.
Building a new St. Charles church was one of his first jobs after a becoming a member of the order. He was 20 years old in March 1879 when the cornerstone for the church was put down. He and Brother Otten then worked for more than a year, following plans drawn by New Orleans architect James Feret.
There were a few trials along the way. On June 20, the two Jesuits rode to Vermilionville to look for helpers. According to their construction journal: "Voyage useless."
Midway through the construction, a 20-foot-high scaffold gave way. Brother Otten fell to the ground but, miraculously, was not hurt in the least. A steam engine's boiler exploded, this time with worse effect. Two workers were killed.
But the work went on and the Brothers were finally able to put the cross on the church steeple on Sept. 18, 1879.
Three days before Christmas 1879 wagons came lumbering into the church yard carrying the altars. They'd been shipped by steamboat to Barre's Landing (Port Barre) and hauled by wagon from there. That's the way much of the construction material got to the site.
The organ for the new church arrived via Barre's Landing in March 1880. A specialist came with it to install it but the builders weren't pleased with his work. They withheld some of his pay until he did the job right.
Finally all was in readiness in July 1880 and the new church was opened to the congregation. According to the custom of the day, the pews were auctioned to local families. That raised more than $1,000 a lot of money in 1880.
After the church was built, Brother Brinkhaus became a master of many jobs as he helped to take care of the sprawling St. Charles College campus. He managed the Jesuit sugar mill at Grand Coteau for a while, then became widely known as an agricultural expert as manager of the Jesuit farms.
He's buried in the Jesuit graveyard behind the church that he helped to build within sight of the home where he was reared, the building where he studied, and the lands that he nurtured and managed.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.