Rawlins County HERNDON, KS

Herndon Catholic Church
The First Century

This is not an exhaustive history of the parish. It is just a smattering of the highlights of the past 100 years. Two previous "Histories" were published; one in 1913 of the "Pioneer Catholic Settlers and Parishes of Northwestern Kansas" and one in 1930, the "Golden Jubilee Booklet of St. Mary's Assumption Church, Herndon, Kansas".
        The State of Kansas was just about 10 years old and the Diocese of Leavenworth, comprising the entire state of Kansas, was just one year old, when in 1878 Mathias Hafner brought his family from Hungary and founded a home here, thus becoming the first Catholic family to settle in the Herndon area. In 1879 John Brown, Adam Pregler, Leo Bischop, Michael Zwickl, Stephen Kleidosty, Paul Niemeth, Frederick Schuetz, William Young, Joseph Bischop and Nicholas Jacobs settled in the immediate vicinity. In 1880 Lawrence Tongish, Anthony Weishapl, Nicholas Wahrman, John Sattler, Andrew Tongish, Joseph Leitner, George Hudiburgh and Martin Schwart arrived here.

        A few more Catholics arrived the following year. They were: John N. Kirchner, Theodore Barenberg Sr., Joseph Barenberg and John Petz. No new arrivals are recorded for 1882. In 1883 the Catholic population grew with the arrival of Wenzel Brown, Joseph Marintzer, Andrew Jankovitz, Joseph Hautzinger, Mathias Kaiser, Lawrence Heuberger, Lawrence Golgl, Francis Toth, Paul Riener, Frances Berger, Mathias Hartner and John Berger. The year 1884 found the following arriving on the Herndon scene: John Riepl, John Green, August Martin, Mrs. Catherine Walsh, Matthew Mahoney and Richard Boozan. Joseph Riepl, Michael Huss, Joseph Huss and William O'Leary came in 1885.

        There seems to be no official record of how the very first settlers satisfied their religious obligations. It is recorded, however, that in the spring of 1880 - May 11, 1880 - the Rev. August Reichert, C.P.S. came from New Almelo and offered the first Mass in these parts. The sod house of Adam Pregler was the scene of this solemn occasion. From that date the Catholics of the area had services at irregular intervals and from 1881 to 1883 services were held once a month.


        In March of 1883, the first catholic church building of the Herndon community was erected. A humble sod structure, it stood on the school grounds, northwest of Herndon, south of Adam Pregler's farm. In 1885, this lowly sod hut became the parsonage and was replaced with a frame church measuring 24 by 48 feet. Father August Reichert was in charge till 1886 and was succeeded by Rev. George Fleisch, C.P.S., the first priest to actually reside in the parish. Rev. Seraphin Kunkler came in 1888 and remained a year. He was followed by Rev. J. Pichler who came in August of 1889. He built the first frame church in the town of Herndon itself. After this frame church had been completed, the settlers had early mass at the Northwest church and late mass in town, and the pastor, Father Pichler resided in Herndon. This caused dissension between the two churches and when it could not be ironed out satisfactorily, Bishop Scannall, in April 1890, removed the pastor altogether.

        For eighteen long months neither church had a priest. During this time though, the records show, that the Rev. Frederick Schalk, C.P.S., did visit the area once and took care of the spiritual needs of the settlers. From September to December 1891, a diocesan priest, Rev. Andrew Henderson, was in charge.

From  the Past

Cemetery lots in 1889 and 1890 sold for $2.50 each.

        On February 4, 1892, the Rev. W. Bitter came to take charge of both congregations with headquarters in Herndon. He merged the two parishes into one under the patronage of the "Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary." To end all bickering between the two parishes, he moved the Northwest church building into town and used it as a parochial school. This is when the catholic school began in Herndon. The church building, begun in 1889, was not quite complete and Father Bitter completed it. Soon after, in January 1893, it was destroyed by fire. The congregation, undaunted, set about to build a new, better and larger church immediately. This edifice was dedicated on the Feast of the Assumption that same year. Around the same time a priest's house and sisters' convent was built. In August of 1894, Father Bitter was transferred to Beloit and was succeeded by Rev. A.P. Heiman who stayed till December 1895. From January 1896 until September 1908 the Rev. William Wenzel was the pastor. He was replaced by the Rev. Henry Sporenberg. He remained for one year till October 1909.


        At the request of the Most Rev. John F. Cunningham, D.D., the then bishop of Concordia, the Capuchin Province of St. Augustine, with headquarters in Pittsburgh, Penn., took over the charge of the Herndon parish and all missions in Rawlins and Cheyenne Counties (seven stations). The first two Capuchin priests were the Rev. Anthony Burkart and the Rev. Vincent Brandt. Brother Elzear Horn, a Capuchin lay-brother, accompanied them to take care of the domestic work. This Capuchin trio arrived on the Herndon scene on October 26, 1909. Father Anthony was pastor of the Herndon parish and Father Vincent attended the missions.

Father Emmeram Kausler         In July of 1912, Father Anthony was succeeded by the Rev. Emmeram Kausler (shown here), a man experienced in the building profession, besides being a priest. Without a doubt, it was the providence of God that inspired his superiors to send him to Herndon at that time. He made the necessary repairs on the school and convent buildings and then set about making plans to erect a suitable church building to meet the demands of a growing congregation. At that time there were about loo families in the parish and they accepted the gigantic task of building a church of large proportions and of durable materials. The people made the cement blocks themselves under the supervision of Father Emmeram and brought the project to a successful completion. The actual building of the church began in 1916, the cornerstone was laid on June 7, 1916. Almost a year later, on April 25, 1917, the church was dedicated by the Most Rev. J. F. Cunningham, Bishop of Concordia.

(See Brother Roman's diary for the blow-by-blow description of the building of the church.)

        As often happens with Capuchins, having finished this gigantic project, Father Emmeram was transferred to another parish and Father Ferdinand Hartung, ofmcap., succeeded him and remained until October 1921. At that time the Very Rev. Ignatius Weisbruch came as pastor and under his leadership, the new three- story monastery was erected. The priests moved into their new home on July 28, 1924.

        In August of 1925, The Rev. Kilian Lutz, ofmcap., took up his duties as pastor of St. Mary's, replacing Father Ignatius. Father Kilian had the pleasant task of building a new school. Once again, the parishioners responded to a parochial need. Work on the new school building began on March 15, 1926, the cornerstone was laid on May 26 and the building was dedicated on August 16th of the same year.

        In the 1928-29 school year, a ninth grade was added and continued until the four-year high school curriculum was completed. Under the pastorship of Father Filian, the Golden Jubilee of the parish was commemorated with solemn services on May 13,1930. (At that time, he published a "Souvenir Booklet" from which much of these above dates and information was taken and republished at this time for the benefit of later generations.)

        On July 30, 1930, Father Justin Walz, ofmcap., replaced Fr. Kilian as pastor. He remained here for six years and during this time the church was shingled (October and November of 1932); the system of Contribution envelopes was initiated; Father Dominic Unger, ofmcap., the only living priestly vocation of Herndon, read his first mass (1934) and a chapel was set up in the Sisters convent (1935). August 13,1936 finds Father Walter Herrmann, ofmcap., moving in with his suitcases to take over as pastor. During his tenure of office two more acres were bought and added to our cemetery for a parking lot. This purchase was made from Mr. Albert Kirchner for $45.00.

        After three years Fr. Walter's suitcases were on the move and Father Jordan Hammel's trunk arrived. At this time the High School became too severe a drain on the finances of the parish and was discontinued in the fall of 1939. During the five years of Fr. Jordan's stay in Herndon, the interior of the church was repaired and redecorated. Mr. Anthony Hafner, well-known local painter was foreman in charge. Father Timothy Gottschalk, ofmcap., repainted the Stations of the Cross. The cemetery was beautified with trees that still stand as sentinels around the graves of our beloved departed. At this time, too, both the church tower and the Rectory got a new cap of shingles.

        Father Jordan's pastorate ended on July 10, 1944, and his successor was Rev. Flavian Meis, ofmcap. His stay in Herndon lasted three years and during that time he was responsible for the purchase of the beautiful pipe organ that graces our choir loft. Then came Father William Stehle, ofmcap as pastor from July 1947 till August 1954. Father Florence Kirchgessner, ofmcap., followed Fr. William and remained till July 1956. It was at this time that the church committee and the pastor decided that something had to be done to the exterior of the church. PERMASTONE seemed to be the answer; a contract of $11,245.00 was signed and the work completed in October 1954. All as part of the preparation to celebrate the 75th Jubilee of the Parish. A Solemn High Mass celebrated on Sunday evening November 20, 1955, marked this memorable occasion.

        Then followed the pastorates of Fr. Walter Herrmann, second term; Felician Brookman and William Stehle, second term. Fr. William celebrated his 50th Jubilee as a priest on May 19, 1966, in Herndon. Months earlier - on January 30th, the Knights of Columbus, Council 1845 of Herndon, celebrated their 50th Jubilee.

        Father Paulinus Karlin, ofmcap., took the reins of the parish after Fr. William. He celebrated his 25th Jubilee as a priest on June 16, 1968. He brought to completion, the entire renovation of the interior of the church according to the norms laid down by Vatican Council II. New forced-air furnaces were installed at the same time. Cost of the project: $15,000.00. Then Father Flavian Meis, ofmcap., returned once again as pastor for another three years. His was the sad chore of closing St. Mary's school after better than three-quarters of a century educating children for God and Country.

        Father Howard Bich, ofmcap., came after Father Flavian and stayed for four years. During his tenure, the old three-story rectory was razed and in its place a new modern comfortable facility was erected at the cost of $26,000.00 and paid for upon completion. Father Howard, according to the December 9th, 1973, Church Bulletin, "moved into the new rectory during that previous week." Open house was held on Sunday, February 3rd, 1974. After completing this project, Father Howard was moved back East and Fr. Pmil Fischer, ofmcap., came in his place. During his term as pastor, the parking lot between the church and the school received a much-needed covering of crushed rock and on February the 26th, 1977, in accord with the Church Committee, Lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 12 in Block Four, Second Edition of City of Herndon, were deeded over to the Herndon Housing Authority. This area now boasts eight commodious modern low-cost housing units and a Community Building.

        June 13th, 1977, found Father Emil showing Father Owen Schellhase, ofmcap., around the confines of the parish prior to his taking over as pastor. On Father Owen's shoulders fell the pleasant task of dolling up the parish compound for its 100th Jubilee. First of all, at the instigation and financial help of the Christian Mothers and Altar Society and the strong hammering and painting arms of a fair number of parishioners, our parish hall was paneled and painted. That was the fall of 1977.

Complete List of Pastors

        In the Spring and Summer of 1979, the Church exterior was sealed and painted at the cost of $30,423.00. The Fund Drive for this project began the previous September and the full amount was on hand when the project was finished. Continuing the beautifying project, in the Spring of 1980, more crushed rock was added to the parking lot, new carpeting, financed by the CMAS, was installed in the sacristies and the North sacristy was converted into a Cry Room.

Taken from the Parish Centennial Book, 1980


Herndon, KS 66743

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October 8, 1998 / Jim Hoffman / Herndon, Kansas / HoffFFL@aol.com

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