ARRIVAL OF FATHER KUHLS - CATHOLIC FAMILIES - THE TOWN OF WYANDOTTE - SITE FOR A CHURCH - THE SCHOOL - A SILVER JUBILEE - THE NEW CHURCH - ST. THOMAS' CHURCH - ST. ANTHONY'S CHURCH - BLESSED SACRAMENT CHURCH - ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH - ST. JOHN'S CROATIAN CHURCH - ST. ROSE OF LIMA CHURCH - ST. JOSEPH'S POLISH CHURCH - ST. BRIDGET'S CHURCH - ST. PETER'S CONGREGATION - ST. CYRIL AND METHODIUS CHURCH - ST. JOHN'S CHURCH, ARGENTINE - ST. PATRICK'S PARISH - CATHOLIC CONVENT - SHAWNEETOWN - EUDORA - REMOVAL OF THE BISHOP'S RESIDENCE - REMINISCENCES OF FATHER KUHLS.
The Roman Catholic churches of Wyandotte county had their start from St. Mary's parish in Kansas City, Kansas. The history of this pioneer parish, therefore, is important in the church affairs of Kansas.
In the year 1858 the Rev. Theodore Heinman was sent by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Miege from Leavenworth to hold services in Wyandotte, now Kansas City, Kansas. He stayed during the mouth of January, holding services in private houses, principally in that of Mother Warren at No. 412 Minnesota avenue.
In March of the same year came the Rev. William Fish, who built a little brick church at the southwest corner of Ninth street and Ann avenue. This building was sold to one James Hennessy, in 1866, and served as a dwelling house. Only a few years ago it was torn down.
The Rev. Father Fish stayed until the end of July, 1859, when he left for want of support and took charge of St. Joseph's in Leavenworth.
The Rev. James McGee came the same month (July, 1859) and stayed until the end of September, 1860, but for want of support, he, too, left, returning to Ireland.
In 1861, came the Rev. C. Mueller, who stayed until December of the same year. This poor priest was maltreated by some of the Catholic people who now are dead and buried. Disgusted at this conduct he left, and thirteen years after he was found in St. Catherine's Hospital, Brooklyn, New York. He was chaplain of the hospital and died there shortly after.
In the month of May, 1864, the Rev. Father Heinman again came from Leavenworth, held services and baptized some children.
The Rev. Father Anton Kuhls arrived in Wyandotte the first week in October, 1864, leaving his first parish, St. Joseph's in Leavenworth, in care of the Carmelites. This was during the so called Price's raid. Father Kuhls's first experience was when the stage driver being unable to find the little church in the timber, dumped the good priest's trunk out of the stage with a bad prayer, and left trunk and priest on the wayside. A charitable woman, Mrs. Jas. Hennessy, helped carry the trunk to the church. It was she, also, who gave him the first loan of a broom to sweep the church and sacristy, and also furnished him with a blanket to sleep under.
The church was a one story brick, twenty by forty feet, which had been built amidst untold difficulties and had yet a debt of one hundred dollars, which had been advanced by a dear old friend, Mr. Henry Deister of Parkville, Missouri. The sacristy served all possible purposes - parlor, dining room, kitchen, dormitory and infirmary. By the kindness of a neighbor, John Kane, an Englishman, Father Kuhls was asked to report as a soldier next morning, but he got a passport of a friend Charles Glick (a brother of George W. Glick afterwards governor) who had been appointed provost marshal, to visit the camps as chaplain. The second day after his arrival Father Kuhls made a sick call to Mrs. Bright, living at the old mission house six miles west of town, afterwards the farm of Mrs. E. Burgard, at Muncie. Having no horse he made the trip on foot and met a band of militia under Captain Hall, who halted him, but by the interference of Mr. James Collins he was allowed to pass on unmolested.
The number of Catholic families in Wyandotte was about seven; the rest lived in Muncie, in all about forty families. Owing to the great poverty of the people the priest kept bachelor's hall for nearly two years, living on a very simple diet of bread and coffee. On Sundays after last mass, he used to ride out to Martin Stewart's, a gardner, who lived at what is now the corner of Tenth street and Quindaro boulevard, for a square meal.
The town of Wyandotte at this time had about three hundred families or less, and scarcely any streets. In muddy weather the church could hardly be reached; so it was decided to sell the old place and get nearer to town. Hiram Northrup gave a deed in fee simple, so that Father Kuhls could sell the old church. He had donated the ground on condition that it should always be used for church purposes. He kindly cancelled this condition, and Father Kuhls then made a resolution never to accept a church building site, as a donation, except it should be in a place where the majority of Catholics live.
The ground for the new church, consisting of three acres, was bought of Mathias Splitlog, an Indian, for eight hundred dollars in gold, and was the first piece of his allotted land sold. The new church was commenced at the close of 1865, at the southwest corner of Fifth street and Ann avenue. At the corner stone laying, the Rev. Father Hennessy, of St. Joseph, Missouri, - who died as archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa - preached an eloquent sermon. The year after, Father Kuhls sold one of those three acres for one thousand four hundred dollars, so that the two acres now owned by the church cost nothing. In 1866, during the building of the church, and while the priest was away at Leavenworth, a thief entered the study and stole one thousand seven hundred dollars, all of which had been collected in the east for the building of the church. Great was the priest's consternation and grief. On the following Sunday his poor congregation subscribed eight hundred dollars, and he netted one thousand dollars at a picnic held in the timber where the Fowler packing house now stands. During the meeting, at which the eight hundred dollars were subscribed, Mr. Patrick Doran, an old neighbor, headed the list with a twenty dollar gold piece, a whole month's wages, and his all at the time. The new church was dedicated in September, 1866, by the good Bishop Miege, the first bishop of Kansas and the territory east of the Rocky mountains. The Rev. Aloysius Meyer, of Eudora, preached, and the Rev. Father Linnekamp chanted high mass.
In October, one week after the dedication, Father Kuhl commenced school, putting a partition behind the altar and thus making a room for the purpose. The three rooms upstairs served as pastoral residence. He started with thirty-five pupils, and Miss Kate Dietz, of Fryburg, Pennsylvania, was the first teacher. She kept the school three years, afterwards joined the sisters at Leavenworth, and received the name of Sister Mary Aloysia. At this period four sisters came from Leavenworth to take charge of the school. They were sent by the saintly Mother Xavier. The parish priest gave them his new house, built in the meantime on the northwest corner of Fifth street and Ann avenue, and he moved into the basement of the church. Thus he had moved from garret to cellar for sixteen years, without having a permanent residence, The school flourished from the start, and a great number of Protestant children even sought it.
On May 2, 1888, Father Kuhls celebrated his silver jubilee. Bishop Matz, of Denver, preached an eloquent sermon on the priesthood. The event was a joyful one. The presents were numerous and amounted to over $2,500. The cash was used to build the cottage on the south side of St. Margaret's hospital - now to be used as a doctors' home - and to help the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Missouri. During that year, Father Kuhls broke a leg when returning from a sick call at St. Margaret's Hospital late in the evening the day before Christmas. He went to California for a few months' rest, and while there sent his written resignation as rector of St. Mary's church, to Bishop Fink. The Very Rev. John J. Cunningham, vicar general, was asked to be his successor. He declined, however wisely, and the bishop returned Father Kuhls's resignation after a six weeks' consideration.
On the first day of March, 1890, the grading commenced for the new stone church on the northwest corner of Fifth street: and Ann avenue, and the sisters' residence was torn down. On May 8th the basement was commenced. Mr. James Stanley had the contract for the mason work, and Mr. James Clark the contract for the new parsonage. The latter was ready for occupancy in September, and the church basement was dedicated and moved into on October 12, 1890. The Very Rev. John J. Cunningham, performed the ceremonies. The sermon was preached by Rev. Father Neidhart, S. S. R. There was a great crowd of people and plenty of rain throughout the day. The Blessed Sacrament was carried out from the old church in solemn procession, after nearly every member of the congregation had received Holy Communion for the last time in dear old St. Mary's. It was a sad leaving to many. Mr. Michael Gorman and Mr. James Healey, the two oldest residents, carried the old mission cross of 1870. Since then seven missions have been held at St. Mary's church by the Redemptorists.
The great St. Mary's church, as it stands today at the corner of Fifth street and Ann avenue, was completed in 1903 and dedicated on June 21st of that year with the most impressive services held on any like occasion in the city's history. The great church was crowded beyond its seating capacity, which is about 1,200. The ceremonies began about 10:30 A. M., and lasted until 2 o'clock in the afternoon.
The services began with the blessing of the exterior and interior walls by the Right Rev. Bishop Fink. Then the altars were blessed, while the Litany of the Saints was chanted. This service lasted until 11 o'clock, when pontifical high mass was celebrated by the Right Rev. Bishop Cunningham, of Concordia, Kansas, a schoolmate of Father Kuhls, with the Rev. Father Redecker, of Westphalia, as deacon; the Rev. Father Kinsella, of Leavenworth, as sub-deacon; the Rev. Father Ward, of Leavenworth as assistant priest, and the Rev. Father Jennings of Armourdale and Rev. Father Ildephonse, O. S. B., of Leavenworth, as masters of ceremonies.
The sermon of the Right Rev. Bishop Matz, of Denver, followed the celebration of mass, and the music, an orchestra, was furnished by Carl Bush and a choir of thirty voices. A large number of visiting priests from various parts of the country witnessed the dedication, among whom were Bishop Hogan of Kansas City, Missouri. and twenty other priests.
Bishop Matz spoke for more than an hour. His subject was "Christianity and Progress," and his text, "Be ye perfect as my Heavenly Father is perfect," was taken from Matthew iv: 48. He reviewed the entire history of Christianity, and never was a subject more ably handled from a local pulpit.
St. Mary's has the most beautiful interior of any church in either Kansas City, and not one has a more commanding exterior. The structure was under construction for twelve years, and the building represents the power and strength of its founder. the Rev. Father Kuhls. A large pipe organ that cost $2,500 was constructed at Pekin, Illinois, and with this the furnishing of the church is complete.
The dedication of the church came near being forestalled by the delay of two freight ears, containing the three altars of the church which were on their way from Louisville, Kentucky, when the floods occurred. For two weeks the cars were lost. Finally Mr. Frank Donovan located them at Randolph, Missouri, where they had been sidetracked. Mr. John Phelan and Dr. W. Z. Wright took the matter in hand and had the altars brought over to Kansas City, Kansas. In order to reach them it was necessary to move eighty other cars and this was done by special permission from Chicago. It took all night to accomplish this task. The altars arrived Saturday morning. At noon twenty-five men began the work of installing the altars, and labored incessantly until midnight Saturday, when the task was completed. This is considered one of the greatest feats ever performed in a Catholic church in Kansas, and may be in the United States. The altars are the finest that could be obtained, and are made of white oak artistically carved and trimmed in gold.
The largest parish school in Kansas is that of the St. Thomas parish in Kansas City, Kansas, at No. 626 Pyle street. With one of the very best of school buildings under the direction of the Rev. A. W. Jennings, with nine Sisters of St. Joseph as teachers, the school now has an enrollment of more than five hundred pupils, teaching complete grammar and commercial courses.
The organization of the St. Thomas parish was effected in 1881. The Right Reverend Thomas C. Moore, who was administrator of the diocese of Leavenworth after the death of Bishop Pink, but at that time director from Covington, Kentucky. was the first rector. A two story building which he erected was used for church and school purposes. There were but sixteen Catholic families in the parish at that time.
Father Moore was succeeded by the Rev. John Lee, who was rector until 1895, when he was succeeded by the Very Rev. John Ward of the cathedral at Leavenworth, who is now bishop of the diocese. Under Father Lee the church grew and flourished, and it was during his pastorate that the Sisters of St. Joseph were introduced as teachers in the parish school. Father Lee built the convent for the use of the sisters, the priests' house and the basement for a fine church, which later was roofed over and used for church purposes until the flood of 1903, which carried away the roof. Church services have since been held in the auditorium of the parish school building.
The Rev. A. W. Jennings took charge of St. Thomas' parish in 1900 and is the present rector. In 1902 he began the erection of the present fine school building, which cost about $25,000 and is both model and modern in every way. It was first occupied in January, 1903. During the spring of that year came the great flood, completely covering the basement chapel and rising to the second floor of the residence, school and convent. But Father Jennings was not discouraged. He bravely stayed at his post, and already the parish has recovered from the catastrophe. The school is larger than ever, and about two hundred and seventy-five families are again numbered in the membership of the parish.
Among the most beautiful and imposing church edifices in Kansas City. Kansas, is St. Anthony's, at the corner of Seventh street and Barnett avenue. This church is under charge of Father Leo Molengraft, of the order of Franciscans. It is devoted to the use of the German Catholic residents of the city. In addition to the church the parish has a fine residence and a large school. St. Anthony's parish was organized on All Saints' day, in 1886. Father Guido was its first pastor.
The need of a Catholic church in Chelsea Place was caused by the rapid growth in that district, and in 1899 a parish was organized there called the Blessed Sacrament, intended for the use of the residents of that little city and the farmers farther west. The Rev. B. S. Kelley, who was chancellor of the Leavenworth diocese and is now rector of the cathedral, said the first mass in the parish at the home of Frank Lyons. A vacant room was afterward rented and used for services and later a hall at Twentieth and Wells streets was secured for worship. In the spring of 1900 work was begun on a building for church purposes at Nineteenth and Wells streets.
Decoration day, 1901, the church was dedicated by Bishop Fink. Two years later a parish school was opened by Father Kelly, and in the fall of 1904 it was placed in charge of the Sisters of Charity. There are now one hundred and fifty pupils enrolled in the school and about one hundred and fifty-five families comprise the congregation of the parish. Since the building of the church, Father Kelly has purchased more ground, the parish now owning a full block. A cottage was purchased and turned over to the sisters who teach the school. When the parish was organized it had thirty families and no money, and but seven men, ten women and nine children attended the first mass. In seven years Father Kelly raised $30,000 for the building and lands mentioned, despite the fact that he had other duties, having been secretary to Bishop Fink.
The Blessed Sacrament was Father Kelly's first parish and he conducted its affairs in a manner which might well be a credit to an older and more experienced priest. In the fall of 1905 a new parochial residence was begun which today is the most substantial parish house in the diocese. The building was dedicated September 27, 1906. Father Kelly left this place October 13, 1907, to make his home with Bishop Lillis, as chancellor of the Leavenworth diocese. The Rev. Patrick McInerney succeeded Father Kelly as pastor. Father McInerney is a priest of exceptional ability, and was fully capable of carrying on the work which the rapid growth of this young parish demanded. He was assistant at the cathedral in Leavenworth for about two years, and for eight years pastor of a church which he built at Olathe, Kansas. Father McInerney is now rector of St. Peters parish church, and, as chancellor of the diocese, is directing the work of education in the St. Peters High School.
St. Benedict's parish was organized in 1903 by Father Philip William, who came to Kansas City, Kansas, from the Benedictine College at Atchison, where, for six years he held the professorship of oratory. During 1902 Father William built a frame school and church on Pacific avenue, near Boeke street, and later the structure was veneered with brick. Subsequently, a church edifice was erected on Boeke street. The school started seven years ago with sixty pupils and already has increased to three hundred and fifty, an indication of the growth of that city in sparsely settled districts.
Father William was born in Leavenworth in 1869. Early in life he determined to become a member of the teaching order of Benedictines, and joined the order when he was sixteen years old. He expected to devote his life to teaching but his talents in other directions are so great that his work has been changed.
A handsome church used by the Croatian nationality stands at Fourth street and Barnett avenue. It is called the church of St. John the Baptist and is presided over by Father M. D. Krmpotic. The church was built by this clergyman at a cost of $25,000. The architecture is of pure Gothic type, and its interior furnishings are of the finest material. The walls are decorated with paintings of Biblical scenes and characters by artists who came from Croatia for that purpose, The parish also has a $3,000 residence and maintains a school where more than one hundred Croatian children attend and receive instruction in the common branches and good citizenship. There are almost two hundred families in the parish besides about three hundred single men who are members of the congregation.
The parish of the St. Rose of Lima was organized October 6, 1907, by the Rev. William Michel. This new congregation is in the northeast part of the city. On account of the large population of substantial men and women a great future is prophesied for this new parish. Services were held at Flannigan's hall, Fifth street and Virginia avenue, until the new building at Eighth street and Quindaro street boulevard was erected. A new school was opened in 1907.
The Rev. William Michel has been a priest of the diocese for the pasteighteen years, for ten years having been located at Frankfort, Kansas and Irish Creek. In both these places he built new churches. Father Michel also erected one of the finest parochial residences of the diocese, which he occupied about two years. He came to Kansas City, Kansas, with the record of a hard worker and a priest devoted to his people.
The St. Joseph's Polish church, located at Vermont avenue and South Eighth street, may rightly be called the mother of several other churches in Kansas City, Kansas. Though organized originally for Polish people, its location causes it to be used by not only the Poles, but by the English, Slovaks, Croatians and other nationalities. As these people became more numerous, they withdrew from the St. Joseph's and built churches of their own elsewhere.
A congregation was organized by a few Poles and Slovaks in the community mentioned in 1887. The first pastor was Father Kloss. He bought four lots from Father Kuhls on which to build a church, but this was built later in the same year by Father Gajduzek. It was a frame structure and served until 1901, when it was destroyed by fire. Previous to the fire for several years the church was under the rectorship of Father Kulisek. After the fire the other nationalities withdrew from the church, leaving only the Poles. In 1902 the Rev. Alexander Simetana, the present pastor, took charge, and, with the wise council and advice of Bishop Lillis, settled the claims of the seceding races and built the present fine church which is now used exclusively by the Polish people.
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