It was a humble beginning when Mass was first celebrated for local Catholics in the St. George Indian Mission. The old Catholic mission supported by the Catholic Indian Bureau dated back over 125 years to the time of Father Peter Francis Hylebos, for whom the local waterways are named. Funded by Katherine Drexel and established in 1888, at one time the mission was surrounded by approximately 250 acres and drew native children from Canada, Washington and Oregon to attend the eight primary grades taught by the nuns and lay staff. The church there was built in 1904. Due to a lack of funds the mission suspended operation in 1936. The last priest to reside there was Father Gavert.
After World War II, housing was badly needed and the building was then converted to the St. George Apartments which were in use for 36 years. Some of our early parishioners made their first homes in those apartments. In 1971, the apartments were razed and the area is now the Catholic Gethsemane Cemetery where many of our parishioners are buried. The closing of the church at the mission center meant local parishioners attended services at Holy Rosary in Tacoma or All Saints in Puyallup.
Father William Quick's superiors directed him from the Archdiocese in Seattle to All Saints parish in Puyallup, where he was a parish priest from 1940 to 1942. One of his duties was to prepare a parish in Fife.
The first St. Martin of Tours parish Mass was celebrated on May 3, 1942 in what was known as the Japanese school house. (Before relocation of the Japanese at the outbreak of WWII, Japanese farmers in Fife sent children here after their public school day to learn about their language and culture. As Japanese were sent to internment camps, the school was confiscated and unused.) Most of the furnishings were transferred from the disused St. George Indian Mission church to the church location. St. Martin of Tours parish received its name from the Catholic church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Fr. Quick attended before his ordination. The pews in the little church were handmade and nailed together with old fashioned square nails, laboriously manufactured one by one by the priests and workers of St. George.
When Father Quick first came to the community, 25 to 50 families attended the first services. Since that time the number increased rapidly, eventually reaching over 400 families. Fr. Quick worked tirelessly for the betterment of St. Martin of Tours parish and the members of his congregation. The continual growth of the number of families in this community soon made the tiny chapel inadequate and Father Quick made it his goal to provide more permanent quarters, resulting in the present St. Martin of Tours parish church. The church was humble compared to the present church. The rectory, shrine of Our Lady of Fatima and school were built at a cost of $100,000.
Ground for the new buildings was broken on June 29, 1947 and the cornerstone laid on 14 July 1947. The dedication services for the new St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church were led by Monsignor William J. Noonan on Sunday, February 22, 1948 after the last Mass in the Old Japanese school building. Celebrant for the first Mass was Father Quick and Master of Ceremonies was Assistant Pastor, Father George McLean. The senior choir under the direction of John Burke sang the Mass of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in honor of St. Martin of Tours, patron protector of the parish.
Father Quick transferred to the Mt. Vernon Parish in 1952 and the new pastor was Father Cornelius Harrington, who served until 1964. During his administration the present school building was built as a religious education center and the original shrine shelter was dismantled with a brick wall built in its place.
In 1964 Father Harrington moved to Vancouver, Washington and Father Maximillian Murray became pastor. He worked diligently and during his administration to repay debt on all the parish buildings.
Father Patrick O'Brien replaced Father Murray in 1976. Father O'Brien was born in Waterford, Ireland and was ordained in Ireland in 1946. He came to the United States by boat and arrived in New York and made his way to Washington State. He wanted to be a pastor in a state that was as "green" and rainy as Ireland.
In 1989, the school building was repurposed as the local campus of All Saints School (whose main campus is in Puyallup). It opened with 43 students in three classes: Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grades. There were three teachers and a secretary on campus and a principal shared with the Puyallup campus. Fr. O’Brien was delighted to see the building put to good use stating, “I’d love to see the children here!” Today there are 132 students in 5 levels: with Preschool, Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grades. The Fife campus faculty numbers 18 staff positions, including 7 teachers.
In 2004 Fr. Gary Weisenberger came from Gig Harbor to become pastor of St. Martin of Tours. He retired in 2015 and Fr. Michael Radermacher assumed pastoral leadership. Fr. Michael currently leads as pastor of St. Martin of Tours Parish and All Saints Parish in Puyallup.