Transcribed from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.

Roman Catholic Church.—The Catholic church is one of the strongest religious organizations in the United States. Its history in the New World began in the year 1494, when twelve priests, commissioned by the pope, accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to America. The priests serving the Spanish colonies and the missionaries were under the jurisdiction of the see of Saville until 1512, when the American see of San Domingo was erected and assumed control of religion in the new world. In 1522 another see was erected in Santiago de Cuba and that of Mexico followed in 1530. From these dioceses missionaries were sent to evangelize the Indians of the southwestern portions of the United States. The southeastern portion of what is now the United States was ecclesiastically dependent upon Santiago de Cuba and later Havana. Spanish missionaries, chiefly Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits established numerous missions in what are now the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. In 1565 a royal Spanish grant was issued to colonize Florida with the condition that twelve religious and four Jesuits be maintained. This colony founded St. Augustine, the oldest Catholic city in this country.

The first mission work in New Mexico was started by seven Franciscans in 1598 at San Juan, on the banks of the Rio del Norte, thirty-three years after the founding of St. Augustine, and from this base priests were sent into the surrounding territory and the New Mexican missions established. The period from 1650 to 1680 was the golden age of the New Mexican missions, where there were sixty members of the Franciscan order at one time. Later the Indians rebelled, burned and destroyed the missions, but in time the churches were restored, though they never gained as strong a foothold again.

In 1687 missions were established in what is now the State of Arizona by a Jesuit priest from Sonora, and after 1732 St. Francis and St. Miguel became the centers of missionary work, the Jesuits having charge until expelled by the Spaniards in 1767. With the close of Spanish dominion in Arizona the history of the missions ceases, as they became a part of the church of the United States. The beginning of Spanish missions in Texas dates from 1689, when three friars and a Franciscan established the mission of San Francisco de Los Texas.

In 1769 an expedition left Mexico for California and among its members were three Franciscans. A small chapel was erected at San Diego, the first step toward planting the Catholic church on the western coast. On June 3, 1769 the mission of Monterey was established by this same expedition. The Dominican order applied for permission to work in California and in 1773 the country was divided, the missions of lower California being entrusted to the order of St. Dominic, and those of upper California to the Franciscans. San Carlos mission became the residence of the superior and was the center of the mission work. The first report of the California missions was made in 1773 and shows that there were five missions—San Diego, San Gabriel, San Luis Obispo, San Antonio and San Carlos. In 1775 the missions of San Juan Capistrino and San Francisco were founded and in 1777 Santa Clara mission. Forty-three years after the founding of the first mission there were eighteen missions in California. As a result of the Mexican revolution the missions were confiscated and the friars were replaced by secular clergy.

While the Spaniards were establishing missions in the south and west the French began the same work on the northeast coast where the first religious establishment was made on Douchet island, Maine, in 1604. The missions of New York were the result of work among the Huron Indians, the first mission being established at Oswego in 1654. In the west the missions were located on the shores of the great lakes and the main waterways, and after the French discovered the Mississippi river they established missions down that stream to the Gulf of Mexico.

As early as 1634 Jesuits were established in the Maryland colony, and after 1681 Catholics were tolerated in Pennsylvania. It was in these states that the first churches were established. After the Revolution many Catholic emigrants came from Ireland, and in 1790 the see of Baltimore was established. At that time there were about 30,000 Catholics in the United States. By 1820 they had increased to 250,000, and during the next twenty years the numbers were greatly increased by immigration. Through the great migratory movement west, after the Revolution, the church was planted in the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi, and from there it crossed the continent, reaching the Pacific coast in the middle of the 19th century.

The church in the United States is a part of the whole Catholic church, subject to the same control and legislation as all other national churches. It is divided into provinces and dioceses. Each province is presided over by an archbishop, each diocese by a bishop, and the diocese is divided into parishes and missions with pastors appointed by the bishop.

Catholic mission work in what is now the State of Kansas was started in 1827 when Father Van Quickenborn, a Jesuit of Missouri, visited the Osage Indians in what is now southern Kansas. He made subsequent visits in 1829 and 1830. In 1847 Bishop Kendrick appointed Father John Schoenmakers superior of the Osage mission, in what is now Neosho county. During the Civil war the mission was deserted, but at its close work was resumed and as many as eighteen Catholic missions were established. St. Francis school, monastery and church were established, becoming permanent institutions. (See Missions.)

In 1851 John B. Miege was appointed to the vicarate of all "the territory from Kansas river at its mouth to the British possessions and from the Missouri river west to the Rocky mountains." He had headquarters at St. Marys, and in 1851 built the church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, "the first cathedral of Bishop Miege, and the first church of any size in Kansas." In 1855 he removed and established his see at Leavenworth. From St. Marys priests ministered to the early settlers of Kansas after the territory was thrown open to settlement, and in many cases after churches were erected the Jesuit fathers celebrated mass when there was no resident priest.

First Catholic Church in Kansas.


In 1855 there was but one Catholic bishop and a population of 700 Catholics in all Kansas territory. One of the earliest churches was organized at Leavenworth where the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was established in 1851. It was built under the direction of Father Heiman, who was the first pastor. In 1854 it was consecrated by Bishop Miege. In 1857 St. John's Catholic church was organized at Lawrence by Father Magee, with 15 members. Services were held in residences and public halls until 1860, when a church edifice was erected. St. John's church was established at Doniphan in 1857, Father Wirth being the first pastor. In 1862 St. Benedict's church was organized at Severance by Father Thomas Barth, a Benedictine from Atchison. In 1858 Father Heiman of Leavenworth organized St. Mary's mission at Wyandotte, with about 30 members. For some time they met at the house of John Warren, but within a year a church was built. The mission was abandoned during the Civil war but at its close the parish began to flourish and in 1866 a new church was built. The Catholic church at Valley Falls, Jefferson county, was established in 1858, but no building was erected for some time. In Nemaha county St. Mary's Catholic church was established in 1859 at Wild Cat, a settlement in Richmond township. The Catholic church at Fort Scott was organized in 1860 through the efforts of Fathers Schoenmakers, Ponziglione and Van Gach, and the first priest was Rev. J. F. Cunningham. The Church of the Assumption was organized at Topeka in 1862 by Father James H. Defouri, and the first church edifice, the oldest in the city, was completed in the same year. Father D. E. Mauritier, a missionary, established a church at Salina in 1866, the first pastor being Father Fogarty, the resident priest at Solomon City. At Ottawa, Franklin county, the Church of St. Joseph was organized by Father Guindon in 1869, and from that time the growth of the church was rapid. According to the census taken in 1875, there were 233 Catholic organizations in the state, with 15 church edifices and a membership of 63,510, which included children of Catholic parents. By 1886 there were 75,000 Catholics in the state, with 259 church buildings. In 1906 the Catholic church ranked second in membership of all churches in the state, with 93,195 communicants.

Pages 601-604 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.