Kingman County, KS.

 History  of  St . Leo

      Sometime after 1874, Kingman Township was organized by William Benefiel of Bross and other families. Bross was a town located three miles south and two miles east of present day St. Leo.
      Frank Weinschenk, a prominent real estate agent living in Peters (Willowdale) advanced the concept of a church-centered community. Owning land in the Willowdale-St. Leo area, he was instrumental in selling land and establishing Catholic churches. Families living west of Willowdale found traveling to church difficult, and were grateful when Bishop Hennessey, in Wichita, granted permission to erect a new church seven miles west of Willowdale. The following families were involved: Anna MacAdam, widowed with five children; the Henry Kleins; Fred Hausers, Joe Schneiders, Frank and Hubert Steffan families and the Joe Schmidts. Theodore and Catherine Schinstock arrived in 1902.
      The new church was constructed with financial assistance from Frank Weinschenk and sacrifices from the above named families. The church was dedicated May 18, 1903. By this time fifteen addititional families had moved into the parish. Father Albrecht Kienhoefer, the first resident pastor, assumed duties in 1906. He remained at St. Leo for thirty five years and is buried in St. Leo cemetery. In 1909 construction on a new church began, and Bishop Hennessey dedicated it May 30, 1911. This same modernized church is used today.
      Elementary school classes were first held in the church building, about 1906. The first teacher was Mr. Wiederhold, followed by Annie Schmidt, Anna Schackman and Mr. Limbach. Father Kienhoefer gave religious instruction.
      In 1914 Sister Blanche and Sister Inviolata, Dominican nuns, arrived from Great Bend to teach school. St. Leo School continued as a Catholic school until the 1940's. It became a district school. The Dominican Sisters remained as teachers in the public school. In 1982, St. Leo parishioners voted to maintain the school as parochial.
      In 1903 Joe Young from Sedgwick County built a store north of the church on land purchased by Weinschenk. The first store was a two story structure and with living quarters upstairs, a grocery store and saloon downstairs. Successors to Joe Young in operating the store up to 1938 were Henry Rotridge, Mr. Morgan, John Hagle, Ray McSperritt, Matt Theis, Frank and John Theis. A single story structure replaced the old one sometime in the late 1940's. Ownership continued to transfer from Leo Spade to Joe Heimerman, to Tim Danahy, then to Wallace Ford.
      The first blacksmith was Joe Budig, who had located his shop just east of the church. Mr. LudWig and Mr. Swope worked there. A shop north of the store was opened by Virgil Twyman. In 1906 Frank Jarmer rented that shop, but in 1909 he built a new shop south of the church. Alois Jarmer continues there in the family trade, updated to fit present day needs.
      Farming methods have dramatically changed over the years. However the church-centered community of St. Leo continues to thrive.

Written by Mrs. Bill Theis,
and based on research material compiled in 1969 by Margie Jarmer Fiickner.

Adapted from:
Kingman County, Kansas, And Its People.
(Kingman: Kingman County Historical Society. 1984)
Used by permission
Explore St Leo & Kingman County
September 25, 2001 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas /

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