St. Joseph can trace its roots back to the pioneer settlement days of Edina. By 1837, Roman Catholics began to settle in Knox county. In June of 1843, Fr. Thomas Cusack, who served the churches in New London, St. Paul, Indian Creek, Brush Creek, Hunnewell, and St. Patrick, made a visit to Edina to celebrate the rirst recorded Mass here. The Mass was celebrated in the family home of James A. Reed, a United States Postal official, in a room called the "post office room." Their home was located in what is now the northeast corner of the courthouse square.
As more Catholics arrived in the area, their pastoral needs grew as well. Through the donation of land and material by Peter Early, the first church was built in 1844. This church is often called the "log church." Fr. Dennis Byrne became the first pastor of the new St. Joseph Church in the spring of 1845. Fr. Byrne shared his time between Edina and St. Patrick until 1852, when he became St. Joseph Church's first resident pastor. In 1857, having outgrown the "log church," a larger brick church was built.
Once the Civil War was over, the westward expansion was in full swing. In April of 1864, Fr. Bernard McManomy requested that the Sisters of Loretto come to Edina to teach in a school that was to be established. The Sisters arrived in May of 1865 to begin teaching at St. Joseph Academy, which later came to be St. Joseph School. The first day of school at St. Joseph Academy was September 1, 1865.
In the late 19th century, the whole area saw a great increase in population. The number of Roman Catholic residents grew as well, partly due to the promotional efforts of Fr. John Fitzgerald and William Clancy, who wrote open letters to Catholic newspapers in Cincinnati, Boston, and other areas of the Eastern United States. They promoted Edina and this area as a good place to live and raise a family. Knox County and the whole area swelled in population. It became obvious that the parish's relatively new brick church was too small to meet the needs of such a rapidly growing parish.
The building of the present church began in 1872. The plan was to build a church that would be large enough to accommodate the needs of the parish into the future. The church, built under the direction of Louis Weishar, was dedicated by Bishop Ryan on October 10, 1875. Several notable additions to the church came in the following years. In 1885, a pipe organ which is said to have been produced for a centennial celebration of the United States was purchased and arrived in Edina on three train cars. At the time, this organ was said to be the largest pipe organ west of the Mississippi River. In 1890, the church steeple was completed, and three bells were added to it in 1900. More additions came in 1920 when seventeen more stained glass windows, the marble sanctuary floor and communion rail, and the steeple clock were installed.
St. Joseph School, from its beginning in 1865, had been staffed by the Sisters of Loretto, but on June 13, 1892 this would change. Financial hard times necessitated that the Sisters of Loretto withdraw for a while from the school. In the Sisters' absence, the school was staffed by lay teachers. The Sisters returned in 1899 at the request of Fr. Christopher E. Byrne. A new convent was built for the Sisters in 1902, with its chapel being dedicated on August 22, 1902. Another component of St. Joseph Church's educational ministry was St. Joseph college, which opened in 1883 and was in existence for a number of years. The college was known for its school band.
In 1918 the parish celebrated with a former pastor, Fr. Christopher E. Byrne, when he was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Galveston, Texas.
During the early part of the 20th century, St. Joseph Church flourished. Student enrollment in St. Joseph Elementary and High School were at their peak around the 1920's, the high school having opened in 1899.
In 1954, the high school closed. Decreasing enrollment, increasing cost, and the presence of a quality public school in Edina, all made it less feasible to keep the high school open. More changes came to St. Joseph School in 1974, when the Sisters of Loretto withdrew permanently from the school.
With the Second Vatican Council calling for various reforms of the liturgy, the interior of St. Joseph church was renovated according to these new liturgical norms. In 1965, the renovations began. The sanctuary of the church was redecorated with new marble altars and new furnishings all around. The whole interior of the church was repainted and remodeled as well. With the inside having been redecorated the outside of the church was attended to as well. Work on the outside of church was completed with a new copper roof being installed in 1972, the copper replacing the original slate roof.
In 1904 a Knights of Columbus Council was established at St. Joseph Parish -- Council 846. Then, in 1971 the Knights built a hall on the corner of North Main Street and North Street. the hall serves as a meeting place for the Knights, as well as a social hall for the Knights and the parish.
The 1990's brought several celebrations of mixed emotions to the parish. On June 13, 1993, Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe came to celebrate the sesquicentennial of St. Joseph church. This was a celebration of great joy and gladness. the mood was a bit different though on May 18 and 19, 1996 as the parish participated in a Celebration of Thanks and Memories, on the occasion of the closing of St. Joseph School. There was sadness on seeing the school close, but parishioners had much to be thankful for, since so many people had benefitted from the school.
On June 25, 1997, Monsignor John R. Gaydos was appointed the new bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City. Bishop Gaydos was ordained at the St. Joseph Cathedral in Jefferson City on August 27, 1997. Several parishioners attended the celebration.