Francis H. Taton

REV. FRANCIS H. TATON, pastor of the Catholic Church of St. Michael's at Axtell, Marshall County, is a native of the old Hoosier State, but has been a resident of Kansas ever since the early days of his ordination to the priesthood, a period of nearly thirty years. during which period he has performed a wonderful work in the mission fields of this state. a labor that has endeared him to the hearts of many in various portions of the state. Father Taton has been in charge of St. Michael's parish at Axtell since the summer of 1903 and has a record for faithfulness and efficiency of service rarely equaled in a western diocese. In an interview published following the celebration of the silver jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood in 1914, Father Taton said: "During my charge at Easton, Kansas, I took sick the 16th day of January, 1890, whilst in Leavenworth, and was confined to St. John's hospital there for six weeks. Otherwise I never missed a Sunday whilst in charge at Easton. Whilst in charge at Paola I was absent one Sunday. Since my appointment in Axtell I took a vacation for six weeks in 1910. during which I visited the Pacific coast from Los Angeles to Seattle, Washington. Outside of this I was absent from duty in Axtell on three Sundays. This is the extent of my being absent from duty in twenty-five years."

A sympathetic fellow priest. the Rev. T. H. Kinsella. a companion of Father Taton's seminary days, writing on that jubilee occasion and complimenting his old friend upon becoming a jubilarian, said: "The celebration of the silver jubilee of a Catholic priest is no longer an event of rare importance. Its frequent occurrence in our day has reduced it to the commonplace; yet, to the priest himself, and to all who are near and dear to him, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination must always retain its joyful aspect, its symbolism and its solemn significance. It is usually the only milestone he comes upon in his weary journey from his sacerdotal consecration to the last anointment. Few there are who live to count the golden years, and fewer still who find sympathy and affection in a generation not their own, and in a world they have outlived. Twenty-five years of struggle and self-effacement--in rain and sun and storm, in weakness of health and depression of spirit; and a loneliness on the prairies of Kansas that at times forces the mind to woo the stars and the eye to admire the kindly human face that is reflected on the moon--twenty-five years of faithful effort on the Western missions cannot but leave their traces in the brow of every faithful priest of God who has lived through them."

Though Hoosier born, Father Taton is of French descent, both his parents having been born in the beautiful Champagne country of France. He was born on a little farm well back in the woods of Perry County, in the southern part of Indiana, 3 1/2 miles from the Village of Leopold, September 15, 1861, only son of Alexander and Appoline (Duchainois) Taton, the former of whom was born in 1838 at Assigny, in the old Province of Champagne, France, and the latter of whom was born at Meziere, in that same district, in 1842. In 1849 Father Taton's parents came to this country, his father then being eleven years of age and his mother seven years of age. Their respective families immigrated from France together, being a part of a considerable colony that came over on the same vessel, and they settled in the woods of Southern Indiana, which even at that date retained much of their unbroken, primeval grandeur. Amid pioneer conditions the two grew up and in 1860 were married, making a home for themselves on a little farm in the Leopold neighborhood. In 1864 Alexander Taton and his little family left Indiana and came to Kansas, having heard much of the possibilities that awaited the homesteader in this state. He homesteaded a quarter section in Johnson County, the tract now occupied by the Town of Edgerton, and proceeded to develop the same, his son, the future priest, thus, in childhood, gaining a very distinct impression of Kansas pioneer life. Three years later, in 1867, Alexander Taton sold his homestead and returned to Indiana, where he died in 1874, leaving a widow and three children, the subject of this sketch having had two sisters, Victoria, who married Jacob Oaks and is now living at Ottawa, this state, and Mary, who died in childhood. Years later, in 1889, after her son had become an established priest at Easton, this state, the Widow Taton returned to Kansas and rejoined her son, later moving with him to Axtell, where she spent her last days, her death occurring on April 2, 1908. The beautiful, clinging affection that marked Mother Taton's devotion to her only son was often the occasion of comment. It has been written of her that from his very infancy "All her heart's love went out to him; every good influence was thrown around him, her prayers were unceasing and in the exuberance of her French nature, she gave over to 'Notre Dame' a gift like unto the one given by her on Mount Calvary. Madam Taton dedicated and in a manner consecrated her only son to the Blessed Virgin in the early days of civilization in Southern Indiana, just as had been done so often in her beloved France. A memento of that event may still be seen in the gold chain that hangs, or did hang, around the figure of the Madonna in the parish church."

It is related that an extraordinary event, twice repeated, when he was thirteen years of age, determined young Taton's vocation to the priesthood; but the means to prosecute a course of study extending over many years was entirely absent. He conceived the idea of laying his case before the abbot of St. Meinrad's Abbey, over in the neighboring County of Spencer Abbot Finton was greatly impressed by the young man's story and took him in at once free of charge, until the day that Father Isadore recommended him in glowing terms to Rt. Rev. Louis Mary Fink, O. S. B., of the Diocese of Leavenworth, as a young man of extraordinary piety, good talent and excellent health. In 1887, from Bishop McCloskey, of Louisville, Kentucky, Father Taton received minor orders. Subdeaconship and deaconship were conferred in 1888 by Bishop Chatard, of Indianapolis, and on February 24, 1889, in the cathedral at Covington, Kentucky, he was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop Maes. On March 17th, the following St. Patrick's Day, Father Taton celebrated his first mass in St. Michael's Church at Cannelton, Indiana. He then was sent to Kansas and after ten days spent at the cathedral at Leavenworth, was appointed to Easton and the outlying missions, on the first of April taking charge of that appointment, which then comprised Easton, Springdale and St. Joseph, of Mount Olivet. During that appointment Father Taton completed the church at Springdale and built the new Church of St. Joseph at Mount Olivet. He said mass frequently in private houses in out-of-the-way places, instructed the neighboring children and administered the sacraments. Though Catholics were then few and far between in the district, many converts came to the church and the mission was a great success. For six years and three months Father Taton had charge of those missions and was then transferred to the parish of Paola and missions, of which he took charge on July 17, 1895, that charge comprising Paolo, Ossawatomie, the State Asylum for the Insane at the latter place and the whole of Linn County. At that time there was not a Catholic Church in Linn County, but there were scattered Catholics throughout the county, practically all of whom, Father Taton recalls, had fallen away from the church. During his stay in Paola the Ursuline Academy was built and in 1896 was dedicated. The parochial school near the church was built in 1901, and that school Father Taton named St. Patrick's in memory of his celebration of holy mass for the first time on that day. The school opened with fifteen pupils and by the close of the school year had an enrollment of forty-four. During that time the church at Ossawatomie was remodeled from end to end and a sacristy built. For eight years and one month Father Taton was in charge at Paola and missions and on August 17, 1903, was transferred to the parish of St. Michael's at Axtell, of which he ever since has been in charge and where, in 1914, he celebrated the silver jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood, the occasion being made one of much rejoicing on the part of his friends, not only in this county, but throughout those other sections of the state where his ministrations have endeared him to many hearts.

When Father Taton was sent to Axtell the parish comprised both St. Michael's Church and Beattie as a mission, services between the two points being equally divided. In 1907 Father Taton built the parochial residence at Beattie and in the fall of that year the Beattie mission was given over to the Rev. Father Galvin, who became its pastor. On November 8, 1904, work on the new St. Michael's Church at Axtell was begun and in the spring of 1905 the cornerstone was laid. On April 24, 1906, the church was dedicated, the total cost of the same being nearly $22,000.00. In 1909 the new parish house was built, at a total cost, including appurtenances, of more than $7,000.00, Father Taton moving into the same in November of that year. In 1913 work on the new parochial school was begun, but delays, on account of crop failures during that year, put off the completion of the work until February 8, 1917, when the contract for the completion of the school was given at a cost of $9,000.00. St. Michael's Parish is well organized and its various auxiliaries, such as the Mutual Benefit Association, Catholic Truth Society, the Knights of Columbus, the Altar Society, the Young Ladies' Sodality, the Children's Sodality, the League of the Sacred Heart and the Young People's Rota Club are reported to be in a flourishing condition, progress being reported in all departments of the work of the parish.


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 1997.
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