History of St . Leo
Sometime after 1874, Kingman Township was
organized by William Benefiel of Bross and other
families. Bross was a town located three miles south
and two miles east of present day St. Leo.
Frank Weinschenk, a prominent real estate agent
living in Peters (Willowdale) advanced the concept
of a church-centered community. Owning land in
the Willowdale-St. Leo area, he was instrumental in
selling land and establishing Catholic churches.
Families living west of Willowdale found traveling
to church difficult, and were grateful when
Bishop Hennessey, in Wichita, granted permission
to erect a new church seven miles west of Willowdale.
The following families were involved: Anna
MacAdam, widowed with five children; the Henry
Kleins; Fred Hausers, Joe Schneiders, Frank and
Hubert Steffan families and the Joe Schmidts.
Theodore and Catherine Schinstock arrived in
The new church was constructed with financial
assistance from Frank Weinschenk and sacrifices
from the above named families. The church was
dedicated May 18, 1903. By this time fifteen
addititional families had moved into the parish. Father
Albrecht Kienhoefer, the first resident pastor,
assumed duties in 1906. He remained at St. Leo for
thirty five years and is buried in St. Leo cemetery.
In 1909 construction on a new church began, and
Bishop Hennessey dedicated it May 30, 1911. This
same modernized church is used today.
Elementary school classes were first held in the
church building, about 1906. The first teacher was
Mr. Wiederhold, followed by Annie Schmidt, Anna
Schackman and Mr. Limbach. Father Kienhoefer
gave religious instruction.
In 1914 Sister Blanche and Sister Inviolata,
Dominican nuns, arrived from Great Bend to teach
school. St. Leo School continued as a Catholic
school until the 1940's. It became a district school.
The Dominican Sisters remained as teachers in the
public school. In 1982, St. Leo parishioners voted to
maintain the school as parochial.
In 1903 Joe Young from Sedgwick County built
a store north of the church on land purchased by
Weinschenk. The first store was a two story structure
and with living quarters upstairs, a grocery
store and saloon downstairs. Successors to Joe
Young in operating the store up to 1938 were Henry
Rotridge, Mr. Morgan, John Hagle, Ray McSperritt,
Matt Theis, Frank and John Theis. A single
story structure replaced the old one sometime in the
late 1940's. Ownership continued to transfer from
Leo Spade to Joe Heimerman, to Tim Danahy, then
to Wallace Ford.
The first blacksmith was Joe Budig, who had
located his shop just east of the church. Mr. LudWig
and Mr. Swope worked there. A shop north of the
store was opened by Virgil Twyman. In 1906 Frank
Jarmer rented that shop, but in 1909 he built a new
shop south of the church. Alois Jarmer continues
there in the family trade, updated to fit present day
Farming methods have dramatically changed
over the years. However the church-centered
community of St. Leo continues to thrive.
Written by Mrs. Bill Theis,
and based on research material
compiled in 1969 by Margie Jarmer Fiickner.
Kingman County, Kansas, And Its People.
(Kingman: Kingman County Historical Society. 1984)
Used by permission
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