On August 15, 1833, a number of German immigran families arrived at Baltimore, Maryland aboard the ship, the Weser. The majority of these families had been from Grofswallstadt, Bavaria, Germany and wished to take up land together in the New World and form a new community. Among the ten or so families who formed the community of Neuwaldstadt in Highland Township, Franklin County was that of Michael Ripperger, Henry William Geis, Ignatz Ripberger, Mathias Fussner, Franz Alois Bauer, and Conrad Weiler.
Father John A Kohlman in his 1919 Directory of St. Peter Church described Neuwaldstadt: "In those days the entire region was a vast stretch of wild, virgin forest, into which, as it appeared, only a casual settler here and there found his way. However, these brave and courageous young men, undaunted and undismayed at the hazardous undertaking of attempting to establish their homes and seek their fortunes in the heart of an immense forest, where probably only beasts of prey had hitherto trodden, and where the axe of the "invader" had not yet left its marks, forthwith assumed the arduous task which a gulding Providence has outlined for them."
The new settlers, having purchases government lands, went about the task of building singel room log cabins. As these first homes were begin contructed, additional families from the Old World were already arriving to take their place along with the first Neuwaldstadters.
In the midst of this, the people of Neuwaldsttadt turned their attention to their spiritual wellbeing. Having been accustomed to the availability of both Catholic Church and priest in their Old World homes, they found the forests of Indiana in this regard severly lacking. In the Spring of 1834, two German Catholics, Mr. John Heimburger of Yorkridge and Mr. Ripperger of Neuwaldstadt were met by Father Joseph Ferneding, "The Apsotle of the Germans." It seems their meeting took place by chance as the two gentlemen were on their way to a mill on the Whitewater River. Looking across the river, the men say a man on horseback who they thought looked like a priest. Hearing the men speaking German, Father Ferneding asked if there were any Catholics in the vicinity. The men indormed him of Catholics in the surrounding areas and the noble Father promised to go back with them. The next day he celebrated Mass at the home of Mr. Heimburger with the promise that in the future he would return to the same village and also pay a visit to the Cahtolics at Neuwaldstadt.
In the meantime, the Neuwaldstadters decorated a large, hollow tree with various icons and religious emblems and fastened a large portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary within. The tree acted as sacred place where the people could gather to pray and sing. These devotions were usually directed by Michael Ripperger. In addition to this, the people also made pilgrimages to New Alsace in order to attend Mass at the church in that location.
As early as the summer of 1834, Father Ferneding visited Neuwaldstadt and said Mass in the homes of William Geis and Adam Ripberger. Father promised to return and encouraged the congregation to commence the building of a house of worship. In 1835 the erection of a simple log church had begun. Land for the church was deeded to Bishop Brute by Michael and Margaret Ripperger, Regina Ripberger and son John, and Margaret Geis and sons. On October 23, 1836, Ignatz Ripberger, one of the original founders, died. He was buried beside the church in what was to become St. Peter's Cemetery. In July, 1838, Bishop Brute blessed the completed church and dedicated it to St. Peter. The new church having been named St. Peter caused the surrounding community to be known by the same.
With the new church in place, Father Ferneding increased the regularity of his visits and came over once a month from 1839 until February 1842. After Father Ferneding left the service of the diocese, Father Michael O'Rourke of Dover assisted until 1844. Father Charles Oppermann celebrated Mass occasionally at St. Peter until Father William Engeln was appointed the first resident pastor of St. Peter in 1844. In 1852, Father began collecting funds for the bulding of a new brick church. In 1853, the present church was completed and dedicated by Bishop de Saint Palais. Upon the departure of Father Engeln in October of 1855 the church became a mission of the other local parishes. The preists which administered to St. Peter at theat time included Father Joseph Rudolph, Father Weber, Father Beerschneider, Father Henry Koring, and Father Januarius Weisenberger.
In 1859 Father Leo Osrenkar, O.F.M., was appointed as the second resident pastor. Father Leo did much to enhance the beauty of the church by purchasing two bells, a high altar, and a fresco painting. In 1875, Father provided for the educational needs of St. Peter's youngesters by building a new school house and soliciting the teaching skills of the Sisters of St. Francis at Oldenburg, Indiana. The Sisters stayed as teachers until 1971 when the school was closed. After twenty-three years as pastor of St. Peter, Father Leo died in May of 1882. He was buried in St. Peter Cemetery among the many who he shepherded.
Father William Kemper succeeded Father Leo and was responsible for building the present rectory in 1883. He remained until July 1886, when Father Ferdinand Hundt took charge. The pastorate of Father Hundt marks a turbulent time in the history of St. Peter parish. Father Hundt had a disagreement with members of the St. Peter school board and a petition was circulated asking for his removal. In response, the Bishop removed Father Hundt and officially closed St. Peter's from Easter 1889 to November 1891. During this time the parishionhers went to church at Oak Forest, St. Mary-of-the-Rock and St. Leon. The children were likewise schooled at these locations. In time, St. Peter reopened and has since been a vital parish.