Michael J. Casey, St. Andrew's Catholic Church, of Independence, Kan., was born in Worcester, Mass. He completed his elementary education and then entered Holy Cross College, at Worcester, Mass., to take his preparatory work for the priesthood, as he had early decided to devote his life to the church. After some years of careful preparation and study, Father Casey graduated from Holy Cross College, in 1900, and was ordained at St. Bernard's Seminary, Rochester, N. Y. He was at once sent to Wichita, Kan., but remained there only one year before coming to Independence, where he has been doing a remarkable work in building up the parish, which has increased over a hundred in membership since he came in 1905 and now numbers over 500 souls. He has been the prime mover in the establishment of the parish school, which is in charge of five sisters of St. Joseph, with an attendance of 100 children. During the years of 1868 and 1869, soon after the Osage Diminished Reserve was opened up to white settlement, some Catholic families began to settle in Montgomery county, but their homesteads were so far apart that they saw very little of each other. About Aug. 15, 1869, Father Philip Collaton, of Osage Mission, now St. Paul's, came into the county, and learning that there were a number of good Catholics in the vicinity sent word to the pioneers that he would hold mass at the McGowan cabin on Irish creek. After that he made monthly visits to the Montgomery county settlement and held mass. He always made the trip to and from the mission on horseback, as he was a wonderful horseman. On Nov. 15, 1869, Father Shoemaker, of Osage Mission, made a visit to the little colony and urged upon the congregation the necessity of a chapel wherein to congregate and in which mass could he celebrated. A number of men responded to the call and at once began felling trees for the erection of the log chapel, and in March, 1870, the church was completed. This was the first Catholic church in Montgomery county, and almost if not the first of any denomination. It was located on a beautiful claim within a half mile of a trading post called Morgan City.
After the first church had been erected, Father Ponziglione took the place of Father Collaton. Soon after this the city of Independence was started and Morgan City ceased to exist. This left the church four miles from the town therefore, Father Ponziglione visited Independence, secured a lot, bought a small structure that had been used as a drug store, moved it to the lot, remodeled the interior, built an addition to the original building, and erected the cross over it, thus establishing the second Catholic church in Montgomery county.
Father Ponziglione was devoting much of his time to church building in the county, and Bishop Fink, of Leavenworth, sent Father Lohrer to be the first resident priest at St. Andrew's, at the same time appointing four committeemen to assist the priest in whatever he needed. For some time the parish was ministered to by this first parish priest, who was succeeded by Father Scholl, a man of wide experience, a frontiersman who had spent several years on the plains, and who soon became a great favorite with his parishioners. New settlers began to come into the county, the membership of the church increased until the building could not accommodate the congregation, and Father Scholl called the attention of the people to the necessity of erecting a new building. This was decided upon, and in time a fine stone edifice was erected, a very fine church for that period, and one that has stood the test of time. But the strain had been too much for Father Scholl, and he was forced to go to Kansas City for treatment; during his absence the parish was cared for by Father Wieter. Father Scholl returned and ministered to his flock, but the task of building had been too much, and he passed away.
For some time the parish was left without a resident priest, mass being said by priests from Osage Mission and other places until Father Curtin was placed in charge, but his health was poor and he was relieved by Father Disselknap, who improved the interior decorations and paid off a considerable part of the indebtedness before returning to the old charge he had held in the West. Father Heiman was then sent to St. Andrew's. He desired to be relieved, and in turn was succeeded by Father Casey, who entered upon his duties with enthusiasm, has built up all branches of the church and has just completed the erection of a $12,000 school, which is one of the finest of its kind in the state. Although still a young man, Father Casey is making a name among the clergy as an ardent and spirited worker who is popular and loved among the members of his flock.Pages 269-270 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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