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ELEVEN miles south of Hays on the main highway between Hays and LaCrosse, on the south bank of the Smoky Hill River lies the little town of Schoenchen, one of the six original colonies founded by the German-Russian emigrants from the Lower Volga district in Russia.
The founders of this colony located in Ellis County on the southwest quarter of Section 28, Township 15 South, Range 18 West, were originally members of the Liebenthal settlement in Rush County, Section 21, Township 16, Range 18 West.
This latter colony was founded February 22, 1876, by fourteen families, among whom were Henry Bieker, John Bieker, John Joseph Bieker, Nicklas Bieker, William Bieker, Frank Waldschmidt, Philip Wolf and John Zimmerman, all of Neu-Obermonjour, Russia. On August 14, 1876, the following families from Schoenchen, Russia, arrived at Liebenthal: Henry Depperschmidt, Peter Depperschmidt, John Jacob Schoenthaler, Karl Herrglotz, Helen Herrglotz, Jacob Monsch, Joseph Monsch, Michael Schmidt, Simon Schoenthaler, Joseph Schuckmann, Frederic Werth, Jacob Werth, John Werth, Sr., John Peter Werth, Karl Werth, Louis Werth, and Jacob Zimmermann. In September, 1876, a third group of settlers arrived at Liebenthal from Neu-Obermonjour. In this party were: Adam Bieker, Frank Dreher, John Dreher, Konrad Dreher, Philip Dreher, Frederic Graf, Joseph Rumbach and Joseph Zimmermann.
Some time after the arrival of this third group, trouble arose concerning the permanent location of the town. The second group of immigrants had made an agreement with the founders of the colony to move it from Section 21 to the east half of Section 16, Rush County. This site was larger, more elevated, and better supplied with water. Some few had already built houses on the new location when the difficulty arose. Section 16 was school land, and the settlers could not pay for it in full. Hence they could secure no patent, and on this account could deed no land for the erection of a church. In the meantime, John Schaefer of Liebenthal, in seeming violation of the agreement, donated four acres of land in Section 21 for the erection of a church. This change in affairs induced the settlers in Liebenthal to remain where they were, that is, on Section 21, This decision angered those who had built dwellings on Section 16, and in April-May, 1877 they removed their new houses to the present site of Schoenchen, thus laying the foundations of a new town. Those who moved from Liebenthal were: the settlers from Neu-Obermonjour of the first group; all of the second group excepting Henry Depperschmidt, Peter Depperschmidt and John Jacob Schoenthaler; and all of the third group excepting Philip Dreher.
Originally the town was called San Antonio, but this name was unsatisfactory. As noted above, the founders were partly from Schoenchen, Russia, and partly from Neu-Obermonjour, Russia. Both factions wished to have the honor of naming the new town after their native city. An open rupture was prevented only when both made some concessions. It was agreed to name the village Schoenchen, and dedicate the church to St. Anthony, who was the church patron of Neu-Obermonjour.
Schoenchen is exceptional in this that it was the only one of the colonies in which the large village cross was not used as a gathering place for religious exercises. Before the advent of Rev. Valentine Sommereisen toward the end of 1877, the people fulfilled their religious obligations by going to Hays whenever Mass was said there. From probably October, 1877, till sometime in 1879, Mass was said at intervals at Schoenchen, a private dwelling serving as a church. The first church was begun in 1879. It was of stone, and was designed to be 30x18x15 feet. The walls were already completed, when in the spring of 1880 a heavy rain caused the foundation to settle, cracking the walls so badly that the structure was abandoned. In its stead, a frame church, 30x18x9 feet was erected in the fall of 1881. In 1885 Rev. Joseph Hardes had stone hauled for a new church. His successor, Rev. Philip Brockard, had already built the foundation when a heavy rain did so much damage that the project was abandoned. The present church is of stone, and is the work of Rev. Emmeram Kausler, O.M. Cap., who designed and supervised the construction of it. The cornerstone was laid April 18, 1900, and the church dedicated June 13, 1911.
Rev. Valentine Sommereisen, the first priest to tend to the spiritual needs of the inhabitants of Schoenchen, was succeeded by a number of Capuchin Fathers. In April, 1884, the parish was placed in charge of the secular clergy, who, remained till May, 1899, when the Capuchins returned. The secular clergy again replaced the Friars in May, 1906, and since then have had uninterrupted charge. In the following list are found the names of all the priests who have ministered to the people of Schoenchen:
|1877||Rev. Val. Sommereisen.|
|1878||Rev. Anastasius Mueller, O.M. Cap.|
|1879||" " "|
|1880||" " "|
|1881||(Sep.) Rev. James Muench, O.M. Cap.|
|1882||" " "|
|1883||(Apr.) Rev. Andrew Eisenhut, O.M. Cap.|
|1884||(Apr.) Rev. Joseph Hardes.|
|1885||Rev. Ph. Brockard.
(Nov.) Rev. W. Bitter.
|1886||" " "|
|1887||(Aug.) Rev. K. T. Withopf.|
|1888||(Dec.) Rev. Jos. B. Disselkamp.|
|1889||(Sep.) Rev. F. J. Hartmann.|
|1890||" " "|
|1891||(Dec.) Rev. John M. Sklenar.|
|1892||" " "|
|1893||(Nov.) Rev. A. J. Abel.|
|1894||" " "|
|1895||(Aug.) Rev. B. Schroeder.|
|1896||" " "|
|1897||" " "|
|1898||" " "|
|1899||(May*) Rev. Richard Dei, O.M. Cap.
(Sep.*) Rev. Emmeram Kausler, O.M. Cap.
(Dec.*) Rev. Richard Dei, O.M. Cap.
|1900||(Feb.*) Rev. Emmeram Kausler, O.M. Cap.|
|1901||(Jul.). Rev. Michael Neff, O.M. Cap.|
|1902||" " "|
|1903||(Aug.) Rev. Theodose Mullan, O.M. Cap.|
|1904||(Aug.) Rev. Michael Neff, O.M. Cap.|
|1905||" " "|
|1906||(May ) Rev. Chas. Menig.|
|1907||" " "|
|1908||" " "|
|1909||" " "|
|1910||Fr. William Wenzel.|
|1916 to present time Fr. Peter Hoeller.|
Once provision had been made for divine services, the people of Schoenchen turned their attention to the educational needs of their children. A beginning in this field was made by John Dreher, who taught school in his own home. Reading, writing, catechism and singing made up the curriculum. All branches were taught in German, as the teacher himself knew practically no English.
Before long, however, a school district was organized, and a public school, still extant, was built and maintained. In 1916 a beautiful stone parochial school, measuring 64x32 feet, two stories high, was erected and placed in charge of the Sisters of St. Joseph. At present, about 135 pupils attend classes regularly. In March, 1926, the electors of the Schoenchen school district voted bonds for the erection and equipment of a $25,000 high school.
Bieker, Frank, Theobald, Carl, Alex, Fred, Conrad, Mrs. Elizabeth
Dinges, Carl, Joseph, Paul P., Albert, Peter
Dreher, John C., Mrs. Conrad, Paul, Martin, Joseph, Conrad, Mathew
Graf, John, Mrs. Ferdinand
John F. Foster, adopted son of Mrs. Graf.
Gottschalk, Louis, Henry, William, William Jr.
Gross, Mrs. Catherine
Herglotz, Mrs. Alex
Muntsch, Mrs. Jacob, Anton, Alex, George
Pfeifer, Adam, Jacob, Frank
Ruder, Paul, Leo
Unrein, Peter, John
Wasinger, Alois C., Anton D.
Werth, Alex E., Mrs. Alois, Anton, Alex B., Carl, Mrs. Fred, Henry, Jacob, Wendelin, Albert F., John J., Felix, Nick R., Nick, Theobald W., Wendelin, Theobald N., Albert J., Fidelis, John, Alois, Alois, Thomas, Nikodemus
Windholz, Mathias, Andrew
Wolf, Phillip, Peter
Zimmermann, Alex, Anastasius, Benjamin, Nikodemus, Nick B., Gabriel, Jacob and Frank
Picture: St. Anthony's Church, Schoenchen, Kansas
Picture: Town of Schoenchen, Kansas
Picture: Group of Immigrant Survivors of Schoenchen, Kansas
Picture: Schoenchen Deceased -
1-2. Jacob and Maria Barbara Werth; 3-4. George and Bernardino Gottschalk; 5-6. Conrad and Elizabeth Dreher; 7-8. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Waldschmidt; 9-10. Fred and Lucia Werth; 11-12. Mr. and Mrs. Adam Bieker; 13-14. John Joseph and Maria Anna Bieker; 15-16. Mr. and Mrs. Nick Ernst; 17. Alois Werth; 18. John Peter Werth; 19. John Gross; 20. Elizabeth Bieker; 21. Anna Margaretha Werth; 22. Johannes Werth
Transcribed from The Golden Jubilee of German-Russian Settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926