1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Educational Institutions Part 5



In the year 1837 a band of Pottawatomie Indians, numbering about 150, set up their wigwams on the banks of the Osage River, Linn County, Kansas. They had migrated from Indiana, and some of them had been baptized by the Revs. Stephen Badin and Deseille. In the same year two Jesuit missionaries, Fathers Felix L. Verreydt and Christian Hoecken, were living among the Kickapoos near Fort Leavenworth. Towards the close of 1837 these missionaries received an invitation from Nesfwawke. the chief of the little body of Pottawatomies, to come and teach them religion. Father Hoecken responded all the more gladly because the labors of the Fathers had proved fruitless with the Kickapoos. In January, 1838, in the middle of winter, the journey was undertaken, and, after eight days of hardship, the missionary arrived at Pottawatomie Creek. This was the first visit of Father Hoecken to the Pottawatomies, and it lasted only two weeks, but to it St. Mary's College can trace its existence.

In March, 1838, the Pottawatomies, who had not settled definitely at Pottawatomie Creek, but had only been exploring the country for a suitable site, removed to Sugar Creek, a tributary of the Osage River. The site selected was the same as that on which Centreville now stands. Here almost immediately the Indians built a small church, in which services were held regularly during the remainder of Lent and until the end of 1840, when, owing to their steady increase in numbers through migration, a larger church had to be created.

Sometime in 1839 a school had been erected. It was not opened until 1840, however, and was maintained only for a time. In the first part of July, 1841, the pioneer band of Religious of the Sacred Heart arrived at the Mission, and on the 15th day of July a school for girls was constructed and placed under their care. A new school for boys was built towards the end of this same year, 1841, which began to be regularly frequented from the commencement of 1842. The Jesuit Fathers more especially connected with this beginning of the St. Mary's Mission, as it was afterwards called, were besides the missionaries mentioned above, Rev. P. J. Verhaegen, S. J., the Superior of the Jesuits in Missouri, and Father H. Aelen, S. J., the first assistant of Father Christian Hoecken. And on the 29th of August, 1841, Father Felix L. Verreydt and Brothers A. Mazella and George Miles were added to the number of the workmen in this primitive religious field.

On the 17th of June, 1846, the Government signed a contract purchasing the Indian lands on Sugar Creek, and gave the Indians a reservation along the banks of the Kansas (or Kaw) River, extending westward from what is at present the City of Topeka fifty miles on both sides of the Kansas River. Meanwhile the work of evangelizing the Indians, not only the Pottawatomies, but all the various tribes that were flocking westward at the instance of the United States Government - the Miamis, the Osages, the Peorias, the Piankeshaws - was going on uninterruptedly, the Sugar Creek mission being in a manner the center of operation for the religious men and women who were devoting their lives to the labor.

In the early part of November, 1847, an expedition of Indians accompanied by Father Verreydt, S. J., started out to explore the land assigned them on the Kansas River, with the object of selecting a site for settlement; and not earlier than November 11, 1847, the Fathers and religious moved to the new location. On June 20, 1848, the north side of the Kansas River was definitely settled upon as the new site of the mission buildings, and on September the 7th Father Verreydt, S. J., together with the Ladies of the Sacred Heart, crossed to the new buildings on the north side of the river. In this transfer and sale of the Indian lands no provision had been made for the Fathers and the religious by the Government. The Indians, however, contributed $1,700, and from other sources also some money had been gathered to continue the missionary work begun. On November 11th, however, the missionaries learned that an arrangement had been made between the St. Louis University and the civil Government to erect a school at the St. Mary's Mission. Still the work of education had already begun, for we find that in the winter of 1848 five new boarding scholars were received at the mission. This, then, was the beginning of what we now know as St. Mary's College at St. Mary's, Kansas; and since that winter towards the end of the first half of the last century the work of instruction has never been interrupted. In November, 1849, the roof was put on the first church at St. Mary's Mission, and this church was placed under the tutelage of the Immaculate Conception.

On the 24th of May, 1851, the Rev. J. B. Miege, S. J., having been raised to the dignity of Vicar Apostolic over the country inhabited by the Indians lying between the Rockies and what might be called the western boundary of civilization, arrived at St. Mary's Mission in company of Father Paul Ponziglione, S. J., and a lay brother, to make the humble mission church his Pro-Cathedral.

It seems no more than just that we should mention the fact that Father Christian Hoecken, S. J., who may justly be called the founder of St. Mary's, died in this year, a victim of pestilence and martyr to charity.

Bishop Miege resided at St. Mary's until 1855, when he established himself at Leavenworth. The charter of St. Mary's College was obtained on the 24th of December in the year of grace 1869.

It had been decided in St. Louis by the Provincial of Missouri, Reverend Father Coosemans, S. J., and his council, that a boarding college should be founded at St. Mary's, and the first news of the plan was definitely brought to the community on May 12, 1869, by the Rev. Joseph Keller, S. J., secretary of the Provincial, and orders were given to have a plan for a college building prepared. Very little time was lost; the charter was obtained, as we said, and a college seal designed and engraved, bearing the legend, "Virtuti et Scientiae," encompassing an image of the rising sun. Furthermore, the foundations of what is now known as the Old College were laid on the 31st of May, 1870. There was to be a stone basement and a superstructure of brick 4 stories high and 80 feet long. This building was to be one-fifth of the entire plan and was to form the central part of the completed design. At this early date St. Mary's College possessed upward of 1,334 acres of land; there were 150 boarders and 20 day scholars, 4 Fathers, 1 Scholastic, and 12 lay Brothers at the institution at that time. The Indians, however, were vanishing slowly but surely. The Fathers at the mission were anxious to follow, but were forbidden again and again to do so by the Provincials, their superiors. During the years 1872 to 1877 the Catholic and more civilized Indians continued to sell their lands and depart northward, and, being left to themselves, very many fell an easy prey to their racial vices.

On two separate occasions, in 1872-73 and 1873-74, the mission establishment was visited by fire. In each case the old buildings erected in the early Indian times were destroyed. On the 12th of August, 1877, Father Maurice Gailland, S. J., who has been the authority for almost all the events of this sketch since 1850, died. During all these years his name was most closely connected with St. Mary's Mission.

In February, 1879, the Jesuit College which had been opened since 1871, was destroyed by fire, but its classes were interrupted for but a few days, as the Ladies of the Sacred Heart Convent relinquished their building to the Jesuit Fathers and transferred their academy to a building in town. The convent was afterward purchased by the college.

Father Aloysius G. Van der Eerden, S. J., who died in 1905, was rector of the college at the time of the fire. The first of the four sections of the present faculty building was the Van der Eerden structure.

On the 29th of December, 1880, fire destroyed what was then known as the New Church. It was situated almost directly in front of the present Junior Building, across the railroad track, on the south side of Bertrand Avenue. The cornerstone of this church was laid on the 2d of August, 1875, and it had been dedicated on the 14th of February, 1876.

In the beginning of the scholastic year 1881-82 Father Charles Coppens, S. J., was rector of St. Mary's. The cornerstone of the present parish church in the Town of St. Mary's was laid on the 21st of July, 1881, and the structure was dedicated on the 2d of April, 1882. This same year the parishioners bought a house next to the new church for the Sisters of Charity, who were teaching the children in the parochial school.

The low stone structure between the Faculty and the Van der Eerden buildings was begun in February, 1884, and was completed in September of the same year (1884 ). It was once known as "The Plats," and contained on its upper and second floors the Philosophers' rooms, and below them the kitchen and scullery. Originally the upper floor was a dormitory for the small boys.

Rev. D. M. McErlane, S. J., was proclaimed rector of St. Mary's July 24, 1884, and during the year, among other improvements made, was the erection of the reservoir on the hill, and the mills by which to pump the water.

In the late '80s the old log Indian Church, which had done duty too as Bishop Miege's Pro-Cathedral, was leveled to the ground. Those interested may still notice a slight elevation in the greensward directly in front of the Junior Building, down near the railroad track, but inside the college grounds. In 1886-87 the three-story stone building which at the present day contains the Students' Dormitory, Senior Reading-room, and the Science rooms, together with the stairway and some small apartments, was built. In the course of 1887-88 what was until recently the Senior Gymnasium, was built. On the 29th of April, 1888, Father Henry J. Votel, S. J., was installed as rector. In the year 1888-89, the Dial, the St. Mary's College paper was established.

During the rectorship of Father Votel all the elegant pressed brick buildings, that stand out so prominently at St. Mary's, were planned and completed. First came the infirmary, begun August 28, 1889, and finished by the 28th of March, 1890.

In the course of the year 1889-90 the sidewalks around the infirmary and in front of the Faculty and class-room buildings were laid, The grand stand on the campus was first put up and the gymnasium in the senior division was improved. A dynamo was set up, and for the first time two are lights shed their brilliancy over the College Quadrangle. It was at this time, too, that the statue of the Guardian Angel was placed in the niche in which it still stands.

In 1890-91 the incandescent electric lamps were first put up in the Senior and Junior study halls, and a private telephone was run from the college to the railroad depot in town. The present pumping station in the field southward across the railroad track was planned and completed.

The first foundations for the present Junior Building were laid November 21, 1890; by June, 1891, the walls were completed to the roof.

All the large constructions that go to make up St. Mary's College are furnished with three-inch iron stand pipes and a line of hose to match on each floor, in case of fire. These pipes are situated at convenient points and are always filled with water, as they are in direct connection with both the reservoir and the pumping station.

On February 11, 1894, Father Edward Higgins, S. J., was proclaimed rector. During his term of office, extending from the date just mentioned to the Christmas of 1897, many things were done to beautify the grounds about the college; the lake was completed and filled with water; trees were planted; the old houses used for the workmen, which had become a blemish, were torn down; walks and drives were laid out; special attention was given to lawn and flower-beds; the pedestal and statue of St. Joseph, between the Recitation Hall and the Junior Building, was placed in position, etc.

In June, 1896, the S. M. C. Alumni Association was formed. Father James McCabe, S. J., was installed as rector on the 29th of December, 1897.

Under date of July 4, 1898, there is a remark in the annals of the college to the effect that work had begun on the north building, known as the McCabe Building. It was ready for occupancy on the 28th of December of that year. In 1899 the natatorium was enlarged to a little more than twice its former size.

The college suffered considerable damage because of the flood of 1903. The first steps toward the building of the beautiful chapel known as the Immaculata were taken by the members of the Senior and Junior sodalities in 1906, and the structure was impressively dedicated in May, 1909.

On February 10, 1907, Rev. Father Aloysius A. Breen, S. J., was appointed rector of the college.

The corner stone of "Loyola Hall," as it is called, was laid on May 1, 1907, and the construction was hurried from that time, so that it was possible to throw the hall open to occupancy in October of the same year. The annex to Loyola Hall was built two years later, an addition was made to the Senior Refectory and other structural expansions took place.

The first laymen's retreat was begun on July 24, 1909, and in the fall of the same year work was commenced on the new gymnasium, which was completed in June, 1910. The gymnasium also contains a large auditorium with stage settings. Sunday, February 26, 1911, was made memorable by the visit to St. Mary's, and the grand reception of Archbishop Diomede Falconio, then papal delegate to the United States. Among various improvements made about this time was the addition of a wing to Loyola Hall.

During the past few years St. Mary's College has broadened in its activities and increased in strength, both as an educational institute and a student body. It now has an attendance of about 400 pupils. The system of education in force is substantially the one in use in all the colleges of the Society of Jesus throughout the world. The prime purpose is not to fit the student for some special employment or profession, but to give him a general, vigorous and rounded development. The classics of Rome and Greece are special subjects of study. Generally speaking, the courses of instruction embraces High School, English and Collegiate departments. The study of the modern languages is optional. Those who do not desire to pursue a regular classical training are offered the English course, which embraces commercial education, also philosophy, chemistry and physics, civics, history and mathematics. The institution has a faculty of sixty-five, distributed as follows: Collegiate department, 20; High School, 29; English-Commercial, 16.


Friends University, at Wichita, Kansas, was the outcome of a longcherished desire on the part of Kansas Yearly Meeting of Friends to have within its limits an institution of collegiate rank. This desire was stimulated and strengthened by the rise of a number of academies which created a new demand for such an institution. As early as 1875 the matter began to be agitated in the Yearly Meeting and the agitation was continued from time to time, till the desire was finally realized.

The main building was erected in the days of the "Wichita Boom," at a cost of $225,000. It was dedicated as a memorial to President Garfield and was opened as Garfield University in 1887. There is a fine memorial slab of granite at the right of the main entrance. This building is a massive structure of brick and stone, covering three-quarters of an acre of ground and is said to be the largest school building under one roof in the United States. A considerable part of the interior is still unfinished. When entirely completed it will accommodate 900 or 1,000 students.

The Christian Church, under whose auspices the work was begun and prosecuted for a time, because of the financial depression following "the boom," was able to maintain the institution for only five years. Then the property stood idle until it fell into the hands of Friends. This came about in the following manner:

James M. Davis, a Friend and former student of Penn College, had accumulated a considerable fortune handling stereoscopes and stereoscopic views. In this enterprise he employed a large number of young men, thus enabling them to secure a college education. In this way he became intensely interested in higher education of the Christian type and conceived the idea of founding a college himself. And when he discovered that the property of Garfield University could be purchased at a much reduced price, he at once bought it. The purchase included besides the main building a campus of 15 acres, 2 dormitories and about 600 house lots in various parts of the city. All this he offered as a gift to Kansas Yearly Meeting, on condition that they should maintain a school for six consecutive years and within this time raise an endowment fund of $50,000. These conditions were met and a clear deed to the property given before the expiration of the six years.

Under the new name of Friends University the institution was opened in the fall of 1898 with a faculty of 6 professors and fewer than 50 students. The enrollment, however, reached a little over 100 before the end of the year. During the following year 185 were registered, but only 33 of these were of college rank. Since that time there has been a steady growth, particularly in the collegiate department. In the year 1914-15 the total enrollment was 398, of whom 273 were of collegiate rank. Because of the fact that in practically every town, large and small alike, good high schools have been established, in the not distant future the preparatory department will be discontinued, though some subfreshmen work will no doubt continue to be offered for several years to come.

During the five years while the Christian Church maintained the school, and for some time under the administration of Friends, only the north wing was finished, the museum room on the fourth floor being used at that time as the chapel room and auditorium. From time to time, however, new rooms have been finished, a fine stairway put in in the center of the building, and numerous other improvements made. The present chapel room on the main floor seats about 400. The main auditorium on the floor above, still unfinished, is said to have a seating capacity of 3,000.

The first class to be graduated and the smallest was in 1901. In this there were nine members. The largest class, graduated in 1915, had thirty-four members.

Friends University is managed by a board of fifteen directors, appointed by the Yearly Meeting. They have ably and economically handled the funds and, seconded by the untiring energies and good management of President Edmund Stanley, the institution has had an unusual growth. In the seventeen years of its history it has grown from 40 students to 400; from 6 professors to 18, and from no endowment fund to one of $250,000.

For a number of years the college has been fully accredited by the State University, so that a student can at any time take his grades there and receive full credit for them, and a graduate is placed on the same footing at the state institution as one of their own graduates and can take up graduate work there on the same terms as one of them. Recently Friends University has been placed on the list of colleges approved by the North Central Association. This puts it on a par with the best institutions of the middle West.

In naming the institution it seems unfortunate that the word university should have been used, since it is somewhat misleading. Of course it is not in any sense a university. It was hoped, however, and confidently believed by the founder, that it would in the not distant future become such in fact, and it was his desire that it should bear the name from the start, thinking it would be an incentive to unremitting effort to realize the hope.

Approximately, 250 graduates have already gone out to serve as ministers, missionaries, teachers, physicians, lawyers, business men, farmers, and in various other callings and the membership of the student body is drawn from a wide territory.

It is the policy of the management of Friends University to maintain a strong Biblical department in which the young men and women, not only of their denomination, but others, may fit themselves to become Christian workers and defenders of Christianity. In this large field there is an imperative need for work of this kind; while the Biblical department does not assume to give a complete theological course, it does feel a deep concern that it may not fail adequately to meet the demand which the situation brings, and it is quite clear that this cannot be done without placing more than ordinary emphasis upon Biblical work and offering somewhat extended courses along these lines. Strong Young Men's Christian Association organizations are maintained. In connection with these several Bible study classes are conducted and weekly meetings are held by both associations.


Bethel College is the result of the interest in higher religious education as it was found among the first Mennonite settlers in Kansas who had come mainly from Russia, Germany and Ohio. All of these elements felt the absence of their own school. On November 15, 1877, a number of school men and ministers met at the home of Rev. H. Richert in the Alexanderwohl settlement north of Newton, Kansas, to discuss the possibilities of establishing a school. Rev. William Ewert, Sr., was chosen chairman of the meeting, and Rev. David Goerz, secretary. Among the resolutions passed to be presented to the Kansas Conference, were the following: To establish a central school; that both German and English should be taught; teachers for district and parochial schools were to be trained there; the years from seven to fourteen were advised as the age for elementary schools. A school fund was to be created.

The discontinuance of the school in Wadsworth, Ohio, in 1878, made the need of a Mennonite school more acute, but the project did not result in school work until 1882. On September 13th of that year a school with twenty-one students, and H. H. Ewert as teacher was opened in the southern part of the Alexanderwohl settlement. It was soon discovered that a town would be a more favorable location for such a school than the country. In Halstead, Kansas, a group of men offered the Conference the free use of the necessary buildings if the school were located there. This offer was accepted. In the fall of 1883 the school was opened at Halstead with thirty-seven students. H. H. Ewert, now Prof. Ewert of Gretna, Manitoba, and Peter Galle, now Judge Galle of McPherson, Kansas, were employed as the first teachers. The same year the Conference permitted coeducation, and in 1887 sanctioned the formation of a corporation to build and maintain a college at Newton. In 1888 the corner stone was laid, but on account of the financially stringent times the building could not be completed until 1893. The school at Newton was formally opened on September 20, 1893, and Prof. C. H. Wedel, who had served as principal of the Halstead School the last years of its existence was put at the head of the teaching force.

For a number of years the work done was mostly of an academy, grade. In the fall of 1911 a full four years' college course was started. In January, 1916, the State Board of Education of Kansas placed Bethel College on the list of accredited colleges. This taking up of the college work does not mean, however, that the academy work has been abandoned, in fact, the academy students still outnumber the college students, the enrollment up to the present for this year being 135 in the academy and 72 in the college. The student body is drawn from a territory stretching from Pennsylvania to California and from Texas to Saskatchewan, and represents forty-five Mennonite congregations and five denominations outside.

The present faculty of the school is composed of twenty-one persons. Five of these, however, give only part time to the school. The property valuation of the school is as follows: Plant, $103,300; permanent funds, $105,353; making a total of $208,653.

1918 Kansas and Kansans Previous Section Next Section

A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 2000.

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