JOHN BAPTIST MIEGE

JOHN BAPTIST MIEGE, first Catholic bishop of Kansas, was born in 1815, the youngest son of a wealthy and pious family of the parish of Chevron, Upper Savoy, France. At an early age he was committed to the care of his brother, the director of the episcopal seminary of Montiers, and completed his literary studies at the age of nineteen. After spending two more years at the seminary in the study of philosophy, on October 23, 1836, he was admitted to the Society of Jesus. The following eleven years he spent in further study, a portion of the time at Rome under eminent masters. In 1847 he was ordained priest and completed his theological training in the following year.

In the midsummer of 1849 Father Miege set sail for the Indian mission of North America, and reaching St. Louis in the fall was appointed pastor of the little church at St. Charles, Missouri, which included the mission of the Portage. Later he was removed to the house of probation at Florissant, Missouri, where he taught moral philosophy, and in 1851 was sent to St. Louis University. In the fall of that year he was appointed to the vicariate apostolic of all the territory from the Kansas River at its mouth north to the British possessions and from the Missouri River west to the Rocky Mountains, being consecrated to that office March 25, 1851, at St. Louis, under the title of Bishop of Messenia. On the 11th of the following May he arrived at St. Mary's, Territory of Kansas, where he built the first Catholic Church in the great stretch of country under his jurisdiction. It was built of hewn logs, 24 by 40 feet in size. On account of the increase of population Bishop Miege built a larger cathedral in 1857 and in 1863 erected a spacious episcopal residence. In 1858 he established a Catholic Church at Omaha, and in the following year crossed the plains to Denver, where he likewise organized a church. Bishop Miege commenced the excavation for the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Leavenworth in 1864, and it was completed four years later at a cost of $150,000. But after its dedication the prosperity and importance of Leavenworth declined in favor of Kansas City, and a large indebtedness rested on the cathedral. He lifted the debt of about $100,000 by taking a hazardous trip to South America, finally raising sufficient funds for his purpose. After thus reducing the debt, in 1874 he laid aside the bishopric and retired successively to St. Louis University and Woodstock College, Maryland. Subsequently he opened a Jesuit college at Detroit, Michigan. In 1883 the great and beloved bishop was stricken with paralysis and died on July 20th of the following year.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed by Kevin Hancock, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, September 1997.
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