CATHOLIC PARISH OF HERNDON. While Rawlins County was not formally organized until 1881, many settlements had already been planted within its limits, including that of Herndon, established by a group of people from Hungary in 1878, and first called Pesth from Budapest. In 1879 the name was changed to Herndon. The first Catholic settler in that vicinity was Mathias Hafner, who came from Hungary and settled in the vicinity of Herndon in 1878. This was only one of a number of scattered communities over this section of Northwestern Kansas. The first Catholic priests who attended these missions were the Fathers of the Precious Blood from New Almelo, Kansas. In August, 1886, Father Fleisch became the first resident priest of the so-called western church near Herndon. The first railroad was built through Herndon in 1887. The pioneer priest had to ride and drive many miles across the prairies to reach the scattered communities.
In the spring of 1880 the first mass was said by Rev. August Reichers, C. P. P. S., of New Almelo, Kansas, in the sod house of Adam Pregler, three miles northwest of Herndon. Until 1881 there was mass at certain intervals, then from 1881 until 1883 about once a month. The first church building of the Herndon community was a sod structure built in March, 1883, three miles northwest of Herndon on school land south of Adam Pregler's. In the fall of 1885 this sod structure was replaced by a frame church, 24 by 40 feet, on the farm of Adam Pregler, the parsonage being a sod house. Rev. August Reichers, C. P. P. S., still had charge of the parish until 1886, when Rev. George Fleiseh, C. P. P. S., took charge of it until 1888. Father Fleisch was the first resident priest. From August, 1888, until August, 1889, Rev. Seraphin Kunkler, C. P. P. S. had charge of the parish. He was then succeeded in August, 1889, by Rev. J. Pichler, C. P. P. S., who built the first frame house in the Town of Herndon shortly after he arrived, and then said early mass in the northwestern church and late mass at Herndon, and resided at Herndon until April, 1890.
From April, 1890, until September, 1891, both parishes were without a priest. This vacancy was caused by the discord between the two parishes. The difficulties were not healed for a number of months. Finally in September, 1891, Bishop Hennessy sent Rev. Andrew Henderson, who then took charge of both parishes, but resided at Herndon and attended to both from there. He remained until December of the same year.
February 4, 1892, Rev. W. Bitter, by order of Bishop Hennessy, took charge of the congregations. Shortly after he arrived he consolidated the so-called West and Town congregations into one parish, under the title Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. In order to avoid any future strife he removed the northwest church to Herndon to be used as a parochial school. He found the church which Father Pichler had built in 1889 yet uncompleted, and after it was finished it burned down in January, 1893, during the mission. In the same year he began to build a new frame church, 36 by 70 feet. To complete the misfortune of the struggling mission, the new church was destroyed by a tornado before it was finished. Nothing daunted, Father Bitter started anew and happily succeeded in completing the new church, in which the first services were held on the 15th day of August, 1893. He also built a frame priest's house and sisters' house. Father Bitter was then transferred to Beloit, Kansas, in August, 1894. From August, 1894, to December, 1895, Rev. A. P. Heiman was pastor. In January, 1896, Rev. W. Wenzel assumed charge of the parish. He found a heavy debt, but during his time not only paid off all debts, but also built the boarding house in 1902 for the school children. He remained until September, 1908. He was succeeded by Rev. H. Sporenberg from October, 1908, to October, 1909.
On account of the many different Catholic missions located throughout the counties of Rawlins and Cheyenne, and having to be attended by priests from distant places, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Cunningham of Concordia requested the Capuchin Fathers to take charge of Herndon and the adjoining missions. This was accepted by the Capuchin Chapter in July, 1909. October 25, 1909, the Capuchin Fathers, Anthony Burkhart and Vincent Brand, accompanied by Brother Elzear, left Ellis County, Kansas, for their new field of labor in the counties of Rawlins and Cheyenne. They were introduced to their congregations by Rt. Rev. Bishop Cunningham. Father Anthony, O. M. Cap., Superior of the new mission, was pastor of Herndon until July, 1912. At that date Rev. P. Emmeram Kausler, O. M. Cap., was made pastor of Herndon.
A Catholic school has been maintained in connection with the church at Herndon since 1892. The priests at Herndon attend a number of missions, including Tully in Rawlins County, where services were held in private houses until 1901, when St. Patrick's Church was established. Another mission is in Atwood, where the Sacred Heart Church is located. This church was built on its original site in 1883. Another mission is Bird City in Cheyenne County, the home of St. Joseph's Church, erected in 1911. There is also the Studer Settlement in Rawlins County and the Bohemian Settlement in the same county, both attended as missions.
During the past five years many improvements and much progress have been made in the Herndon parish. On February 15, 1914, a meeting was held in which the need of a new church was discussed and the following day the first load of sand was hauled. With the people donating the labor, there had been completed by the 20th of October 18,000 cement blocks at a cost of only $750. Early in 1916 the Father Provincial, Rev. Ignatius Weisbruch, O. M. Cap., decided upon the location of the new church at the extreme south end of the church property, and on June 7th Rt. Rev. John F. Cunningham laid the cornerstone of the new Assumption Church, with about ten neighboring priests in attendance. On April 25, 1917, the church was dedicated, that being a most joyful day for the parish. Bishop Cunningham was the chief figure in the dedication service. The church stood complete, beautifully furnished, at a cost of $25,000, and with not a cent of debt.
Some other interesting events in the history of this parish should he noted in brief. On April 8, 1915, the silver jubilee of Father Emmeram was celebrated with pomp and feasting, and it was a beautiful occasion in spite of adverse conditions of weather, large crowds, both Catholic and non-Catholic, attending. In 1916 Rev. Father Lewis Centner was made pastor of Western Missions, together with Father Placidus Wolker. Father Pacificus Strohmayer became assistant. On May 31, 1916, a very beautiful church about thirty miles northwest of Herndon was dedicated at the Bohemian Settlement, one of Father Placidus Wolker's missions. This church was dedicated without debt at a cost of about eighteen thousand dollars, and it is a most beautiful house of God, built of brick and completely furnished, favorably comparing with the Herndon parish. The churches constructed in Rawlins County are among the finest in Northwestern Kansas and stand as monuments to the devoted labors of the Fathers Emmeram Kausler and Placidus Wolker. On July 31, 1916, the Very Reverend General of the Capuchin Order, who resides at Rome, made a canonical visitation at Herndon and missions.
Since July, 1918, the pastor of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church has been Father Ferdinand Harting.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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