1905 History of Crawford County Kansas


REV. F. M. VERDAN.

Father F. M. Verdan, the beloved pastor of the St. Aloysius parish, in Crawford county, with his church at the place called Greenbush, has been ministering to the spiritual needs of his people in this county for the past twenty years or more, and there is hardly a better known or more respected man of the county than this servant of God and the church.

The history of religion in southeastern Kansas, as, in fact, in the entire Mississippi valley, begins with the devoted efforts of the zealous, brave and persevering Jesuit fathers. These disciples of Loyola came to this part of the country in 1847, and covered all this territory on horseback, going for their mail to Fort Scott, and with their headquarters at St. Paul, where their Indian converts had given them sixteen hundred acres of land. On one occasion Father Colton, who was a prominent pioneer priest, was riding across the plains to St. Paul, and on the approach of darkness and a very heavy hail storm, he was forced to dismount and cover his head with the saddle for protection. On the following morning he made up his mind to found a church where he had spent the night, and he accordingly erected a cabin sixteen by eighteen feet, and was given a tract of one hundred and sixty acres of land. This place was then known as Hickory, and is the site of the spot in Crawford county now called Greenbush. The pioneer church was at various times in its history used as a court house, town hall, schoolhouse. Before the erection of the present church edifice services were held in the house of Thomas Murnell. The present church was built in 1877-82, being five years in course of construction. At the present time another, and more substantial, church is being erected. It will be of stone, and will be the finest in the county.

Thus the history of this religious community forms no insignificant portion of the record of Crawford county, and has had a really longer continuous corporate existence than any other organization or institution of the county. It was in the fall of 1881 that Father Verdan was assigned to this parish by Bishop L. M. Fink. He first came to Walnut, and then to Brazilton, where the first man he met was W. H. Ryan, the present mayor of Girard, who engaged a man to drive the Father to Hickory. Mr. Nicholas gave him a mule on which to make his pastoral calls, and thus he began his ministry. He had charge of the church of Girard, and had to cover a large area on horseback. The house where he now lives was finished on Christmas, 1882, and he has placed all the improvements on the ten acres about his home, such as vineyard, shade trees, fences, etc. His ministerial labors have been remarkably effective and influential for good, and he has the satisfaction of seeing a marked increase and growth in the size and social, moral and intellectual advancement of his parish.

Father Verdan was born in Savoy, France, being one of a family of three brothers and the only one to take up the work of the church and to come to America. His younger brother became a noted surgeon in the French army, and died in Africa when only twenty-six years old. Father Verdan as a child was remarkably precocious. He could read as soon as he could talk, and at the age of nine years he began his studies preparatory for entrance to the priesthood. He found no difficulty in keeping up with his classes notwithstanding his youth, and he graduated from the highest insititutions of learning in Paris. At the age of twenty-six years he came to America and entered Notre Dame University in Indiana, where he learned the English language. He afterward went to New Orleans and was a teacher of languages in St. Isadore College for eight months. He was then ordained to the priesthood, and went to Montreal, where he remained only eight months because of a loss of hearing in one ear. From there he came to Crawford county, where he soon regained his hearing.

Father Verdan has built up his local congregation to about one hundred families. His work has been carried on in several communities of the county. At Walnut he had a good congregation for the first eighteen years of his ministry. He established at Greenbush a store, a postoffice, a creamery and a blacksmith shop. He also conducted services at Girard. He built Hiatteville congregation. He keeps himself well informed on all present day issues and affairs, and is a man of broad intelligence and sympathy as well as a sincere and earnest worker for his Master.

Pages 302-303 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Amber Johnson, student at Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, in March, 2003.


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