WYANDOTTE COUNTY, KANSAS
Source: History of Wyandotte County, Kansas and it’s people, volume 1 pages 360-379)
CATHOLIC CHURCHES AND INSTITUTIONS
Arrival Of Father Kuhls—Catholic Families—The Town Of Wyandotte—Site For A Church—The School—A Silver Jubilee— The New Church—St. Thomas' Church—St. Anthony's Church— Blessed Sacrament Church—St. Benedict's Church—St. John's Croatian Church—St. Rose Of Lima Church—St. Joseph's Polish Church—St. Bridget's Church—St. Peter's Congregation—St. Cyril And Methodius Church—St. John's Church, Argentine—St. Patrick's Parish—Catholic Convents—Shawneetown—Eudora— Removal Of The Bishop's Residence—Reminiscences Of Father Kuhls.
The Roman Catholic churches of Wyandotte county had their start from St. Mary's parish in Kansas City, Kansas. The history of this pioneer parish, therefore, is important in the church affairs of Kansas.
In the year 1858 the Rev. Theodore Heinman was sent by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Miege from Leavenworth to hold services in Wyandotte, now Kansas City, Kansas. He stayed during the mouth of January, holding services in private houses, principally in that of Mother Warren at No. 412 Minnesota avenue.
In March of the same year came the Rev. William Fish, who built a little brick church at the southwest corner of Ninth street and Ann avenue. This building was sold to one James Hennessy, in 1866, and served as a dwelling house. Only a few years ago it was torn down.
The Rev. Father Fish stayed until the end of July, 1859, when he left for want of support and took charge of St. Joseph's in Leavenworth.
The Rev. James McGee came the same month (July, 1859) and stayed until the end of September, 1860, but for want of support, he, too, left, returning to Ireland.
In 1861, came the Rev. C. Mueller, who stayed until December of the same year. This poor priest was maltreated by some of the Catholic people who now are dead and buried. Disgusted at this conduct he left, and thirteen years after he was found in St. Catherine's Hospital, Brooklyn, New York. He was chaplain of the hospital and died there shortly after.
In the month of May, 1864, the Rev. Father Heinman again came from Leavenworth, held services and baptized some children.
The Arrival Of Father Kuhls.
The Rev. Father Anton Kuhls arrived in Wyandotte the first week in October, 1864, leaving his first parish, St. Joseph's in Leavenworth, in care of the Carmelites. This was during the so called Price's raid. Father Kuhls's first experience was when the stage driver being unable to find the little church in the timber, dumped the good priest's trunk out of the stage with a bad prayer, and left trunk and priest on the wayside. A charitable woman, Mrs. Jas. Hennessy, helped carry the trunk to the church. It was she, also, who gave him the first loan of a broom to sweep the church and sacristy, and also furnished him with a blanket to sleep under.
The church was a one story brick, twenty by forty feet, which had been built amidst untold difficulties and had yet a debt of one hundred dollars, which had been advanced by a dear old friend, Mr. Henry Deister of Parkville, Missouri. The sacristy served all possible purposes!—parlor, dining room, kitchen, dormitory and infirmary. By the kindness of a neighbor, John Kane, an Englishman, Father Kuhls was asked to report as a soldier next morning, but he got a passport of a friend Charles Glick (a brother of George W. Glick afterwards governor) who had been appointed provost marshal, to visit the camps as chaplain. The second day after his arrival Father Kuhls made a sick call to Mrs. Bright, living at the old mission house six miles west of town, afterwards the farm of Mrs. E. Burgard, at Muncie. Having no horse he made the trip on foot and met a band of militia under Captain Hall, who halted him, but by the interference of Mr. James Collins he was allowed to pass on unmolested.
The number of Catholic families in Wyandotte was about seven; the rest lived in Muncie, in all about forty families. Owing to the great poverty of the people the priest kept bachelor's hall for nearly two years, living on a very simple diet of bread and coffee. On Sundays after last mass, he used to ride out to Martin Stewart's, a gardner, who lived at what is now the corner of Tenth street and Quindaro boulevard, for a square meal.
The Town Of Wyandotte.
The town of Wyandotte at this time had about three hundred families or less, and scarcely any streets. In muddy weather the church could hardly be reached; so it was decided to sell the old place and get nearer to town. Hiram Northrup gave a deed in fee simple, so that Father Kuhls could sell the old church. He had donated the ground on condition that it should always be used for church purposes. He kindly cancelled this condition, and Father Kuhls then made a resolution never to accept a church building site, as a donation, except it should be in a place where the majority of Catholics live.
Site For A Church.
The ground for the new church, consisting of three acres, was bought of Mathias Splitlog, an Indian, for eight hundred dollars in gold, and was the first piece of his allotted land sold. The new church was commenced at the close of 1865, at the southwest corner of Fifth street and Ann avenue. At the corner stone laying, the Rev. Father Hennessy, of St. Joseph, Missouri,—who died as archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa—preached an eloquent sermon. The year after, Father Kuhls sold one of those three acres for one thousand four hundred dollars, so that the two acres now owned by the church cost nothing. In 1866, during the building of the church, and while the priest was away at Leavenworth, a thief entered the study and stole one thousand seveu hundred dollars, all of which had been collected in the east for the building of the church. Great was the priest's consternation and grief. On the following Sunday his poor congregation subscribed eight hundred dollars, and he netted one thousand dollars at a picnic held in the timber where the Fowler packing house now stands. During the meeting, at which the eight hundred dollars were subscribed, Mr. Patrick Doran, an old neighbor, headed the list with a twenty dollar gold piece, a whole month's wages, and his all at the time. The new church was dedicated in September, 1866, by the good Bishop Miege, the first bishop of Kansas and the territory east of the Rocky mountains. The Rev. Aloysius Meyer, of Eudora, preached, and the Rev. Father Linnekamp chanted high mass.
In October, one week after the dedication, Father Kuhl commenced school, putting a partition behind the altar and thus making a room for the purpose. The three rooms upstairs served as pastoral residence. He started with thirty-five pupils, and Miss Kate Dietz, of Fryburg, Pennsylvania, was the first teacher. She kept the school three years, afterwards joined the sisters at Leavenworth, and received the name of Sister Mary Aloysia. At this period four sisters came from Leavenworth to take charge of the school. They were sent by the saintly Mother Xavier. The parish priest gave them his new house, built in the meantime on the northwest corner of Fifth street and Ann avenue, and he moved into the basement of the church. Thus he had moved from garret to cellar for sixteen years, without having a permanent residence. The school flourished from the start, and a great number of Protestant children even sought it.
A Silver Jubilee.
On May 2, 1888, Father Kuhls celebrated his silver jubilee. Bishop Matz, of Denver, preached an eloquent sermon on the priesthood. The event was a joyful one. The presents were numerous and amounted to over $2,500. The cash was used to build the cottage on the south side of St. Margaret's hospital—now to be used as a doctors' home—and to help the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Missouri. During that year, Father Kuhls broke a leg when returning from a sick call at St. Margaret's Hospital late in the evening the day before Christmas. He went to California for a few months' rest, and while there sent his written resignation as rector of St. Mary's church, to Bishop Fink. The Very Rev. John J. Cunningham, vicar general, was asked to be his successor. He declined, however wisely, and the bishop returned Father Kuhls's resignation after a six weeks' consideration.
The New Church.
On the first day of March, 1890, the grading commenced for the new stone church on the northwest corner of Fifth street and Ann avenue, and the sisters' residence was torn down. On May 8th the basement was commenced. Mr. James Stanley had the contract for the mason work, and Mr. James Clark the contract for the new parsonage. The latter was ready for occupancy in September, and the church basement was dedicated and moved into on October 12, 1890. The Very Rev. John J. Cunningham, performed the ceremonies. The sermon was preached by Rev. Father Neidhart, S. S. R. There was a great crowd of people and plenty of rain throughout the day. The Blessed Sacrament was carried out from the old church in solemn procession, after nearly every member of the congregation had received Holy Communion for the last time in dear old St. Mary's. It was a sad leaving to many. Mr. Michael Gorman and Mr. James Healey, the two oldest residents, carried the old mission cross of 1870. Since then seven missions have been held at St. Mary's church by the Redemptorists.
The great St. Mary's church, as it stands today at the corner of Fifth street and Ann avenue, was completed in 1903 and dedicated on June 21st of that year with the most impressive services held on any like occasion in the city's history. The great church was crowded beyond its seating capacity, which is about 1,200. The ceremonies began about 10:30 A. M., and lasted until 2 o'clock in the afternoon.
The services began with the blessing of the exterior and interior walls by the Right Rev. Bishop Fink. Then the altars were blessed, while the Litany of the Saints was chanted. This service lasted until 11 o'clock, when pontifical high mass was celebrated by the Right Rev. Bishop Cunningham, of Concordia, Kansas, a schoolmate of Father Kuhls, with the Rev. Father Redecker, of Westphalia, as deacon; the Rev. Father Kinsella, of Leavenworth, as sub-deacon; the Rev. Father Ward, of Leavenworth as assistant priest, and the Rev. Father Jennings of Armourdale and Rev. Father Ildephonse, 0. S. B., of Leavenworth, as masters of ceremonies.
The sermon of the Right Rev. Bishop Matz, of Denver, followed the celebration of mass, and the music, an orchestra, was furnished by Carl
Bush and a choir of thirty voices. A large number of visiting priests from various parts of the country witnessed the dedication, among whom were Bishop Hogan of Kansas City, Missouri, and twenty other priests.
Bishop Matz spoke for more than an hour. His subject was "Christianity and Progress," and his text, "Be ye perfect as my Heavenly Father is perfect," was taken from Matthew iv: 48. He reviewed the entire history of Christianity, and never was a subject more ably handled from a local pulpit.
St. Mary's has the most beautiful interior of any church in either Kansas City, and not one has a more commanding exterior. The structure was under construction for twelve years, and the building represents the power and strength of its founder, the Rev. Father Kuhls. A large pipe organ that cost $2,500 was constructed at Pekin, Illinois, and with this the furnishing of the church is complete.
The dedication of the church came near being forestalled by the delay of two freight cars, containing the three altars of the church which were on their way from Louisville, Kentucky, when the floods occurred. For two weeks the cars were lost. Finally Mr. Frank Donovan located them at Randolph, Missouri, where they had been sidetracked. Mr. John Phelan and Dr. W. Z. Wright took the matter in hand and had the altars brought over to Kansas City, Kansas. In order to reach them it was necessary to move eighty other cars and this was done by special permission from Chicago. It took all night to accomplish this task. The altars arrived Saturday morning. At noon twenty-five men began the work of installing the altars, and labored incessantly until midnight Saturday, when the task was completed. This is considered one of the greatest feats ever performed in a Catholic church in Kansas, and may be in the United States. The altars are the finest that could be obtained, and are made of white oak artistically carved and trimmed in gold.
St. Thomas' Church.
The largest parish school in Kansas is that of the St. Thomas parish in Kansas City, Kansas, at No. 626 Pyle street. With one of the very best of school buildings under the direction of the Rev. A. W. Jennings, with nine Sisters of St. Joseph as teachers, the school now has an enrollment of more than five hundred pupils, teaching complete grammar and commercial courses.
The organization of the St. Thomas parish was effected in 1881. The Right Reverend Thomas C. Moore, who was administrator of the diocese of Leavenworth after the death of Bishop Fink, but at that time director from Covington, Kentucky, was the first rector. A two story building which he erected was used for church and school purposes. There were but sixteen Catholic families in the parish at that time.
Father Moore was succeeded by the Rev. John Lee, who was rector until 1895, when he was succeeded by the Very Rev. John Ward of the cathedral at Leavenworth, who is now bishop of the diocese. Under Father Lee the church grew and flourished, and it was during his pastorate that the Sisters of St. Joseph were introduced as teachers in the parish school. Father Lee built the convent for the use of the sisters, the priests' house and the basement for a fine church, which later was roofed over and used for church purposes until the flood of 1903. which carried away the roof. Church services have since been held in the auditorium of the parish school building.
The Rev. A. W. Jennings took charge of St. Thomas' parish in 1900 and is the present rector. In 1902 he began the erection of the present fine school building, which cost about $25,000 and is both model and modern in every way. It was first occupied in January, 1903. During the spring of that year came the great flood, completely covering the basement chapel and rising to the second floor of the residence, school and convent. But Father Jennings was not discouraged. He bravely stayed at his post, and already the parish has recovered from the catastrophe. The school is larger than ever, and about two hundred and seventy-five families are again numbered in the membership of the parish.
St. Anthony's Church.
Among the most beautiful and imposing church edifices in Kansas City. Kansas, is St. Anthony's, at the corner of Seventh street and Barnett avenue. This church is under charge of Father Leo Molengraft, of the order of Franciscans. It is devoted to the use of the
German Catholic residents of the city. In addition to the church the parish has a fine residence and a large school. St. Anthony's parish was organized on All Saints' day, in 1886. Father Guido was its first pastor.
Blessed Sacrament Church.
The need of a Catholic church in Chelsea Place was caused by the rapid growth in that district, and in 1899 a parish was organized there called the Blessed Sacrament, intended for the use of the residents of that little city and the farmers farther west. The Rev. B. S. Kelley, who was chancellor of the Leavenworth diocese and is now rector of the cathedral, said the first mass in the parish at the home of Frank Lyons. A vacant room was afterward rented and used for services and later a hall at Twentieth and Wells streets was secured for worship. In the spring of 1900 work was begun on a building for church purposes at Nineteenth and Wells streets.
Decoration day, 1901, the church was dedicated by Bishop Pink. Two years later a parish school was opened by Father Kelly, and in the fall of 1904 it was placed in charge of the Sisters of Charity. There are now one hundred and fifty pupils enrolled in the school and about one hundred and fifty-five families comprise the congregation of the parish. Since the building of the church, Father Kelly has purchased more ground, the parish now owning a full block. A cottage was purchased and turned over to the sisters who teach the school. When the parish was organized it had thirty families and no money, and but seven men, ten women and nine children attended the first mass. In seven years Father Kelly raised $30,000 for the building and lands mentioned, despite the fact that he had other duties, having been secretary to Bishop Fink.
The Blessed Sacrament was Father Kelly's first parish and he conducted its affairs in a manner which might well be a credit to an older and more experienced priest. In the fall of 1905 a new parochial residence was begun which today is the most substantial parish house in the diocese. The building was dedicated September 27, lj906. Father Kelly left this place October 13, 1907, to make his home with Bishop Lillis, as chancellor of the Leavenworth diocese. The Rev. Patrick Mclnerney succeeded Father Kelly as pastor. Father McInerney is a priest of exceptional ability, and was fully capable of carrying on the work which the rapid growth of this young parish demanded. He was assistant at the cathedral in Leavenworth for about two years, and for eight years pastor of a church which he built at Olathe, Kansas. Father Mclnerney is now rector of St. Peters parish church, and, as chancellor of the diocese, is directing the work of education in the St. Peters High School.
St. Benedict's Church.
St. Benedict's parish was organized in 1903 by Father Philip William, who came to Kansas City, Kansas, from the Benedictine College at Atchison, where, for six years he held the professorship of oratory. During 1902 Father William built a frame school and church on Pacific avenue, near Boeke street, and later the structure was veneered with brick. Subsequently, a church edifice was erected on Boeke street. The school started seven years ago with sixty pupils and already has increased to three hundred and fifty, an indication of the growth of that city in sparsely settled districts.
Father William was born in Leavenworth in 1869. Early in life he determined to become a member of the teaching order of Benedictines, and joined the order when he was sixteen years old. He expected to devote his life to teaching but his talents in other directions are so great that his work has been changed.
St. John's Croatian Church.
A handsome church used by. the Croatian nationality stands at Fourth street and Barnett avenue. It is called the church of St. John the Baptist and is presided over by Father M. D. Krmpotic. The church was built by this clergyman at a cost of $25,000. The architecture is of pure Gothic type, and its interior furnishings are of the finest material. The walls are decorated with paintings of Biblical scenes and characters by artists who came from Croatia for that purpose. The parish also has a $3,000 residence and maintains a school where more than one hundred Croatian children attend and receive instruction in the common branches and good citizenship. There are almost two hundred families in the parish besides about three hundred single men who are members of the congregation.
St. Rose Of Lima Church.
The parish of the St. Rose of Lima was organized October 6, 1907, by the Rev. William Michel. This new congregation is in the northeast part of the city. On account of the large population of substantial men and women a great future is prophesied for this new parish. Services were held at Flannigan's hall, Fifth street and Virginia avenue, until the new building at Eighth street and Quindaro street boulevard was erected. A new school was opened in 1907.
The Rev. William Michel has been a priest of the diocese for the past eighteen years, for ten years having been located at Frankfort, Kansas, and Irish Creek. In both these places he built new churches. Father Michel also erected one of the finest parochial residences of the diocese, which he occupied about two years. He came to Kansas City, Kansas, with the record of a hard worker and a priest devoted to his people.
St. Joseph's Polish Church.
The St. Joseph's Polish church, located at Vermont avenue and South Eighth street, may rightly be called the mother of several other churches in Kansas City, Kansas. Though organized originally for Polish people, its location causes it to be used by not only the Poles, but by the English, Slovaks, Croatians and other nationalities. As these people became more numerous, they withdrew from the St. Joseph's and built churches of their own elsewhere.
A congregation was organized by a few Poles and Slovaks in the community mentioned in 1887. The first pastor was Father Kloss. He bought four lots from Father Kuhls on which to build a church, but this was built later in the same year by Father Gajduzek. It was a frame structure and served until 1901, when it was destroyed by fire. Previous to the fire for several years the church was under tht rectorship of Father Kulisek. After the fire the other nationalities withdrew from the church, leaving only the Poles. In 1902 the Rev. Alexander Simetana, the present pastor, took charge, and, with the wise council and advice of Bishop Lillis, settled the claims of the seceding races and built the present fine church which is now used exclusively by the Polish people.
St. Bridget's Church.
St. Bridget's parish was cut off from St. Mary's in 1879, owing to the growth of the city'. Father Francis Hayden was the first pastor. About this time the Fowler Packing Company became established here and the congregation increased greatly. Owing to the encroachments of railroads and manufacturing establishments, the parish is somewhat declining at present. The church is located at Second street and Reynolds avenue, has a good parochial residence and a large school. Father B. A. Mohan is pastor of this church and is doing excellent work under somewhat discouraging conditions.
St. Peter's Congregation.
Acting on the advice of the rectors of St. Mary's and St. Benedict's congregations, Bishop Lillis decided to establish a new parish in the neighborhood of his own residence. In the fall of 1907 a block of ground was purchased at Fifteenth street and Orville avenue, half of which was paid for by the new parish. The other half was to be used for the high school that has been erected, in this central location, for both girls and boys.
The new parish, which for the present is called St. Peter's congregation, was organized Sunday, December 8, 1907, in the bishop's chapel, No. 1228 Sandusky avenue, where the first mass was celebrated in honor of the Mother Immaculate. The Rev. Bernard S. Kelly, who scored much success in the upbuilding of the Blessed Sacrament church, was its first pastor.
St. Cyril And Methodius Church.
The great influx of Slavs in Kansas City, Kansas, made it necessary to establish a parish and give them a priest who spoke their own language. The Rev. F. J. Kulisek, former pastor of St. Joseph's church, which made such rapid strides under his pastorate, is now pastor of the new parish. Father Kulisek speaks several languages, which makes him a very important priest in Kansas City, where so many foreign tongues are spoken.
The congregation has erected a two story brick building on the corner of Mill street and Ridge avenue, the first story of which is used for school rooms and the second, for a church. During the past five years improvements and property to the amount of about $18,000 have been added.
St. George's church (Servian), is at No. 37 North First street, and the Holy Family church (Slavic) is at No. 513 Ohio avenue.
St. John's Church, Argentine.
St. John's Roman Catholic church in Argentine was dedicated in September, 1907. The new church was built with money from the earnings of the laboring men of the parish, the old edifice having been destroyed by the flood of 1903. The new building is of native stone, quarried from the hills near Argentine, and cost $30,000. The dedicatory services were conducted by the Right Rev. Thomas F. Lillis, bishop of the Leavenworth diocese.
The Rev. Father L. J. Beck, who had charge of the parish, does not believe in building churches unless the money is given by the members of the parish. When the flood waters receded from Argentine the little church in which St. John's congregation had worshiped was a wreck, the roof of the church had fallen and the altar had been destroyed. The homes of more than half of the members of the congregation were also swept away. The congregation has held its services in the school building since the flood.
The Holy Name church in Rosedale, mentioned elsewhere in this volume, is the oldest church in that city. It is a beautiful structure and is the pride of the members of the parish and of all good citizens.
St. Patrick's Parish.
St. Patrick's parish in Delaware, near Horanif, was cut off from St. Mary's parish in 1885, and Rev. Thomas McCaul was made pastor. The present church and parsonage at that place were built by Father Kuhls without incurring any indebtedness, the pastor sometimes working with his own hands until twelve at night. The frame of the parsonage was blown down by a hurricane during the night but was put up again the next day, all the neighbors giving a hand. This parish was afterwards attended for some time by an assistant, the Rev. Father Loeher, and then by the Rev. Francis Hayden and his brother.
Among the Catholic institutions of Wyandotte county are these seven convents:
Benedictine Sisters, north side of Pacific avenue, near Boeke street.
Sisters of Charity, 1901 Parallel avenue, and Ann avenue, southwest corner Fifth.
Sisters of St. Benedict 611 North Seventh street.
Sisters of St. Joseph. 628 Pyle street.
Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, Vermont street, south west corner Harrison.
In 1869 the parish of Shawneetown (which place up to that date Father Kuhls had attended) built a new church with the help of a few friends, particularly the Nuniks and Wertz. It was then cut off from the St. Mary's parish and a resident pastor appointed in the person of the Rev. John Pichler. The same year the Olathe parish was cut off from Father Kuhls charge, and he was saved a great deal of horseback riding. The place was then also attended by Father Pichler. Shortly after the Rev. Father Casey was appointed pastor at Olathe.
At this period the first Catholic parish at Wichita was organized, and Father Kuhls bought a building newly erected by a Protestant congregation, for five hundred dollars. It was an entirely new building and had cost the Protestant congregation one thousand one hundred dollars. The five hundred dollars paid for the building was collected from Protestant citizens, except one hundred dollars. There were only about three Catholic families in the town. The moving of the building to the parish lots secured previously by the Rev. Father Paul, S. J., was paid for by a Mrs. Austin donating a cow worth one hundred dollars. The church was dedicated and called St. Aloysius church, by Father Kuhls. While stopping at Wichita he took meals at the county poor house, kept by a kind Irish Catholic family.
The church in Eudora was built by Father Kuhls in 1863. He attended to it from Leavenworth once a month or so. The trip, a distance of forty miles, was made on horseback and took a full day. The principal benefactors there were Messrs. Piper and Herz.
Removal Of The Bishop's Residence.
On the 15th day of November, 1891, Bishop Fink left Leavenworth and moved to Kansas City, Kansas, and since then that city has been the seat of government of the diocese. Bishop Fink lived in Kansas City, Kansas, and was admired for his executive ability, his persistent encouragement of Catholic societies and Catholic schools. After the death of the Bishop, March 17, 1904, the Very Rev. Thomas Moore, chancellor of the diocese, was administrator of the diocese until 1904, when the Right Rev. Thomas F. Lillis was appointed bishop. "Father" Lillis, as he was known and loved by many thousand of Catholics and Protestants in Missouri and Kansas, remained at the head of the diocese until February, 1911, when he was made coadjutor to Bishop Hogan in Kansas City, Missouri. The Very Rev. John Ward, rector of St. Mary's church in Kansas City, Kansas, was then made bishop, and is still at the head of the diocese.
Reminiscences Of Father Kuhls.
In 1904 Father Kuhls published a little volume of reminiscences of his forty years service in this community, which, in reality, proved to be an authentic history of Catholicism and its institutions in this section. The following is taken from the volume mentioned: "The Wyandotte City Company, which in the early days held most of the real estate, was composed of a peculiar set of people. Their faith was strong and they firmly believed that the people from all over the Union would come and buy lots, and make this city a second New York. They asked more for lots in those days than the real estate men ask today. Our property was as valuable as that of New York. Bishop Miege, the pioneer bishop of the west, stopped in Wyandotte on his way from St. Louis, intending to make the city the headquarters of the diocese. He called upon the town company to see how much land they would donate for his building. He was offered the little southwest corner of Huron place, afterwards given to a colored congregation, where now stands the Masonic Temple. The Bishop smiled and departed for Leavenworth, where he was given five acres in the most beautiful part of the city. All the grand ecclesiastical buildings of Leavenworth would be in Wyandotte, and the fate of our town would have been different today, if our land company had taken another view of this matter.
A Story Of Two Bishops.
"The frugality of the early pioneers can hardly be better illustrated than by the following example: The first year of my career in this place I had only one room and one small lounge. Two distinguished visitors came one afternoon, none less than Bishop Miege and his old friend, Bishop Lamy, of Santa Pe, New Mexico. For supper we had a cup of coffee, some cold ham and bread. I sent to the Garno house, our only hotel, for a night's lodging for my guests. They talked over their western experiences and smoked a cigar, but made no move to start for the hotel. I remonstrated with them as best I could, pointed to my shanty lounge two feet wide, as inadeqate for a man of two hundred and eighty pounds—the weight of Bishop Miege. All to no purpose. They declared they were provided for. At 10 o'clock P. M. they went to the chapel to say their prayers. When through, they came back, turned two chairs on the floor for pillows or head rests and both stretched their tired limbs on the hard wooden floor. Bishop Lamy turned a good many times, but the bishop east of the Rocky mountains stood it like a brave soldier, occasionally giving his partner a gentle digging with his elbow, telling him to be quiet for fear of waking the sick father—meaning your humble servant who was suffering with bilious fever. I heard it just the same, for such an heroic act of mortification kept me from sleeping and was the best and most impressive sermon ever preached to me on practical mortification. May God bless them both! Noble souls!
"Bishop Miege not long afterwards called at my place to go to Shawneetown for confirmation. I proposed to send to Kansas City, Missouri, for a carriage, as we had none in our town. 'Oh, no,' he remarked. 'Mr. John Waller has two mules and a lumber wagon. Put a rocking chair in it and the carriage is ready for the Bishop.'
So it had to be. The Shawneetown folks had arranged to receive the Bishop royally. Seme thirty farmers came on horseback to meet him. They passed the lumber wagon and the old gentleman with the white duster, not suspecting this to be the Bishop. On they galloped and went as far as the Kansas river without finding the Bishop. When they returned to Shawnee they saw the man in the white duster sitting outdoors smoking a cigar. He was so well pleased with this little adventure that he treated all the riders with a cigar. It was a great treat and all enjoyed it, except the man at the cannon, who was to fire the gun as soon as the Bishop came in sight. He made up for it next day, firing that cannon to his heart's content.
"Theological acumen was a drug on the market. There were many incidents in those early days of border life that find no parallel in theological works. Neither Gurry, nor Lehmkuhl, nor Sebetti, nor any of the long list of wise men, had cases fitting our surroundings. Woe to the shepherd who was wanting in common sense! There were cases I could not put on paper. Some of these would stagger a Roman doctor—especially such as I have occasionally met. Like Indian missionary life, these things read and sound poetical enough about three hundred miles away, but are embarassing when you face them.
"Our scientific attainments will be best illustrated by the fact of the first Union Pacific engine arriving here. Everyone was anxious to see it and to test its power. So she was fired up and a number of citizens—all engineers of course—tried to run the little thing. We did run it—into the Missouri river; and it took weeks to get it out again. Mr. John Cruise, our first Union Pacific agent, can tell about this great event. Having no daily paper, this furnished amusement for weeks.
The Hierarchy Of Kansas.
"This ecclesiastical sketch would not be complete without saying a word right here in this place, about the bishops of Kansas.
"The Right Rev. John B. Miege, first bishop of Kansas, was born September 18, 1815, at Chevion, Upper Savoy, in French Switzerland. He was educated by his brother Urban. Several of his family were distinguished in church and state. He joined the Jesuits, October 23, 1836. For many years he was employed as professor of philosophy and theology, having had for his own teachers some of the grandest minds of his day, such as Perrons, Patrizzi, Ballerine, etc. He was ordained a priest, in 1847, at Rome, and came to America during the European revolution in 1848. In 1849 he reached St. Louis, and became the pastor of the church at St. Charles, at which place an old dying Frenchman to show his infidelity, spit in the young priest's face and expired a minute later.
"Again he became professor of theology in Florissant, and later at the University in St. Louis. In 1850 he was appointed vicar apostolic of the territory east of the Rocky mountains. He returned the precious documents to Rome, but was compelled, under obedience, to accept the burden. He was consecrated bishop of Messina on March 25. 1851, by Archbishop R. Kenrick of St. Louis, and his territory comprised the present states of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and the Indian territory. He had mainly Indian tribes under his jurisdiction. His first headquarters were at St. Mary's mission, Kansas. In 1853 he visited Rome and made his report. At this time there were only about five thousand white Catholics in the whole territory mentioned. In August 1, 1855, Bishop Miege fixed his residence in Leavenworth, where he found seven Catholic families. From that time on Catholicity grew rapidly and in 1871 he obtained his wish in the consecration of a coadjutor, in the person of the Very Rev. Louis M. Fink, prior of the Benedictines of Atchison and vicar general of the diocese. When, in 1874, Bishop Miege was allowed to resign, he left in the state of Kansas 35,000 Catholics, 48 priests and 71 churches, including the magnificent cathedral of Leavenworth. To pay one-half the debt on said cathedral. Bishop Miege made a collecting tour of three years in South America, realizing $42,000. The second day after his return to Leavenworth, he left his beloved cathedral and city without, bidding adieu to any one, going with one brother to the depot at 4 A. M., so that no one might see him or make any demonstration. Everything that was his, even his pectoral cross and his gold watch, he left in Leavenworth, a place he never saw again on earth. It was a most heroic act on his part but it plunged the city, and especially the clergy, into such profound sadness that no language of mine can describe it. He became a simple Jesuit, a desire he expressed to the writer of this during his sojourn in Rome in 1868. He died on July 20, 1884, at Woodstock College, Maryland.
"No bishop of America was ever revered and loved like Bishop J. B. Miege—alike by priests and people—by Catholics and Protestants. He was a father to his priests. His house was the priests' home and his hospiality was endless. He had a word of encouragement for everyone. The writer was invited, as an invalid, to his house, and no mother could have treated me with more kindness. As long as memory will last, his name will be held in benediction. During all his administration there never was an unkind word between him and his priests. He never dipped his pen in acid when he wrote to his clergy.
"Bishop Louis M. Fink took full charge of the diocese in 1874. When he was consecrated in St. Joseph's church,, Chicago, Illinois, in 1871, his health was so poor and his constitution so run down from hemorrhages, that Bishop Foly, of Chicago, the consecrator, said in our hearing: 'That is wasting the holy oil.' Bishop Miege expressed the same fear when he saw his coadjutor. However, both were disappointed— both are dead and Bishop Fink was hale and hearty at seventy years, when the writer started this sketch. Such is the wonderful power of the mitre.
"The first great work of Bishop Fink was to gather money enough to pay off the remaining debt of the cathedral ($40,000). The writer and the Rev. John Cunningham, present bishop of Concordia, spent one year in Wisconsin (1873) and two years in New York (1874-5) to collect for our cathedral, leaving our parishes in the hands of strangers. The two years in New York were the most trying ones I ever experienced in my life. It was during the panic, and God and the world seemed to be against us. Cardinal McClosky, a very amiable man, positively refused permission to either of us to collect or to say mass in the city. We had gone to New York under the impression that Bishop Fink had obtained for us all necessary permission, but we were sadly disappointed. In our misery we found friends in the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, of New Jersey, who gave us board and lodging for six months, and furnished us opportunities to celebrate mass. Owing to this great act of charity I was induced years afterwards to ask them to accept St. Margaret's Hospital, of Kansas City, Kansas as their own. Father Cunningham supported my petition to Bishop Fink, and only for his influence things might have taken a different turn. Thus will God forever repay charity.
"Whilst my companion, the Rev. Father Cunningham, by the kindness of a fellow townsman of his, was collecting in New York City, he was arrested by a policeman as an imposter and marched to the next priest's house to be identified—and this amidst the taunts and cheers of about five hundred school children. When years after I assisted my companion in misery, to dress in his pontifical robes for consecration in the grand cathedral of Leavenworth, this New York scene came involuntarily before my mind and I could not help but cry in my interior 'oquae mutatio rerum!'
"Bishop Fink by his ability as a financier succeeded in paying every dollar of the cathedral debt before bidding adieu to it—his spiritual spouse—the fine cathedral of Leavenworth.
"Bishop Fink lived in Kansas City, Kansas, and was admired for his executive ability, his persistent encouragement of Catholic societies and Catholic schools, especially those directed by the religious, without whose aid and charity hardly any Catholic school would exist in Kansas today. These schools were always dear to him. He was born at Bavaria, Germany, in 1834, and died on the 17th of March, 1904, at 7:30 A. M., at his residence, No. 1228 Sandusky avenue, Kansas City, Kansas, provided with all the help of prayer and the Sacraments, retaining his mind almost to the last minute of his life. The first Requiem for his soul was celebrated in St. Mary's church a few minutes after he expired.
The Rev. J. Cunningham.
"The Very Rev. J. Cunningham, vicar general of Bishop Fink since 1875, was selected as bishop of Concordia by the special favor of Cardinal Satolli and was consecrated to that office on the 21st of September, 1898, by Archbishop J. J. Kain, of St. Louis, in the presence of eight bishops and one hundred and fifty priests. Bishop Cunningham was always a friend of the priests and a man of an unusual amount of common sense. The writer hopes and prays that he may be made bishop of Leavenworth and call this cathedral his for which he worked hard and faithfully for nearly forty years. No one in the United States is more entitled to this honor than he.
Father Kuhls's Personality.
"As to the personality of the writer, I can say I have tried to work for God and poor humanity. If I have failed, it was owing more to my head than to my heart. I have hoarded up no earthly treasures. I was born of poor but honest parents. My father's name was Joseph, and, like his patron saint, a carpenter. I have tried to live poor and I hope to die poor. I was born on September 29, 1839, in a little town, Holthime, of Westphalia, Germany; came to America in 1859, and was ordained priest on March 22, 1863, by Bishop Miege. Since 1864 I have been rector of St. Mary's parish in Kansas City, Kansas. And here I wish to state, compelled by undying gratitude, that whilst the majority of my parish were born in different lands, principally in Ireland, hailing from different climes—they received me cordially and treated me kindly and with uninterrupted confidence. During the early years of poverty and privation they never hesitated to share with me the little they possessed. There are but few congregations in America where the same 'cordial intent' has existed for the last forty years, as in our congregation. The untold hardships during the day and during the night for forty years, were rendered easy and agreeable to me by the kindness, generosity, affection and obedience of my congregation. No wonder that in all my travels, I found no place like Wyandotte, and no wonder that I resolved years ago to live and die in the midst of St. Mary's congregation.
"I was canonically appointed an immovable rector in 1878. This will be sufficient for an epitaph on my tombstone. I want no flowers, no costly coffin, no eulogy. I ask not for a long procession of carriages, but I do ask most earnestly for everyone of my friends and parishoners to have mass said for my soul, and to offer up a Holy Communion. With this request fulfilled, I implore God to bless my parishoners and all my old friends near and far, on earth or in eternity. I ask pardon of all and anyone whom I may have offended during these forty years of toil and labor.
"May God in His infinite mercy, for the love of His Divine Son and His Immaculate Mother, grant me the happiness one day to meet all of them in Heaven.
"Yours sincerely, in Christ,
Source: History of Wyandotte County, Kansas and it’s people, volume 1 pages 360-379)
back to index
Copyright © 2011 to Kansas Genealogy Trails' Wyandotte County host & all Contributors
All rights reserved