|Greenbush Day is held annually the third Sunday in September at the St. Aloysius Historical Site, Greenbush, KS. The celebration is a tribute to the history and heritage of Greenbush.|
This graceful aging church is serenely nestled on a flat stretch of prairie about seven miles west of Girard and has stood over the years as the fulfillment of the pledge made by a pioneer priest.
There is a legend connected with the building of the church. In the spring of 1869, a Jesuit missionary priest, Father Phillip Colleton, S.J., was on his way westward from Crawfordsville, to Osage Mission when he found himself caught in a furious hall and thunderstorm. He was forced to face the storm on the open prairie. The frightened priest took refuge in a clump of bushes and crawled under his saddle for protection as he feared for his life. He vowed that if his life was spared, he would build a church on this spot.
The fervent promise of a Jesuit Missionary, Father Phillip Colleton, resulted in the establishment of St. Aloysius, Greenbush. What made Father Colleton's promise unique was that there were no settlers nearby to worship at this church. Settlers were few and far between in Southeast Kansas in this period, for this was the "Neutral Strip " that had been set aside by the treaty efforts of the government for the preservation of peace with the Indians. Father Colleton had visions of a future as well as a desire to fulfill his vow.
The first Catholic church erected in Crawford County was a small wooden frame structure completed in 1871. It became the center of a Catholic settlement. An agricultural community that was settled primarily by the French, Irish and Germans in the 1860's. Located on the Historic "Mission Road".
The elements of nature appear to plague the Greenbush site, for the church that was inspired by a storm was destroyed by a storm in 1877. The parish began the erection of the second church at Greenbush. The members of the parish began quarrying stone from the fine ledge of limestone cropping out along Hickory Creek. Xavier LaFouge, a stonemason from France, helped tie in place the stones that were used to build the church. The church was completed in 1881.
The first resident pastor, Father F. M. Verdan, arrived on December 29, 1882. Father Verdan served the church in Greenbush for fifty years before he died in 1932. Father F. M. Verdan is buried in the St. Aloysius, Greenbush cemetery.
Settlements were known mostly by the name of some near by stream or hill. The first church at Greenbush was therefore called "Hickory Church" because of its nearness to Hickory Creek. The name Greenbush was given to the post office established in 1874. The name "Hickory Church" was retained until 1890, when it was changed to Greenbush. The post office was discontinued in 1901.
Around 1900 plans began to formulate for the erection of a still larger church, a building to be larger than any other church then in Crawford County. The men of Greenbush parish began again to quarry stone from the ledge on Hickory Creek. The foundation was ready for the cornerstone on September 18, 1902. The dedication took place on July 12, 1907.
The 1881 church was converted into a community building used for church gatherings and a school for a period of time. The Sister Adorers of the Blood of Christ of Wichita first began teaching in Kansas in 1893. From 1941 until 1961, the Sisters served in the catechetical center at St. Aloysius, Greenbush. Land was purchased in 1958 to build a bigger school. The Greenbush school was closed in 1975 and became the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center in 1976.
Somehow the forces of nature continued to plague the Greenbush Churches. On August 11, 1982, lightning struck the St. Aloysius Church. The third church had stood for 75 years as a landmark In Crawford County before it was destroyed by fire. The ruins remain.
Ruins of 1907 Church
But parishioners were again true to Father Colleton's promise. Because of the historical value, the 1881 church was renovated into a place of worship. Thus the second church became the fourth church for the parishioners of St. Aloysius when it was rededicated on March 9, 1986. It was a fitting tribute to the history of the people of St. Aloysius, Greenbush.
Due to the shortage of priests in the Diocese of Wichita, nine churches were closed in Southeast Kansas effective September 1, 1993. St. Aloysius was closed and the last mass was held on September 4, 1993.
The people of Greenbush were concerned about preserving their history for future generations. The churches were pioneers in education and culture as they also served the people at the most important milestones of their lives. Thus the movement to save the physical structure of the church. The St. Aloysius property was approved to the Register of Historic Kansas Places.
As all things have a beginning so they must end but with the determination of the people, St. Aloysius, Greenbush, has a new beginning
Thru the grace of God, Father Colleton's promise will continue.
Text used with permission of St. Aloysius Historical Society
Pictures by Susan Howell
|Visit the Home Page for Kansas
A service of the Kansas State Library
© Copyright 1998