St. Patrick's Parish History

(Taken from The Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, date of issue unknown. Written by Helen Flaherty. Submitted by by Tracee Hamilton. If any of you are related to any of the families mentioned in this article Tracee would like to hear from you. Her email address is

The Union Pacific Railroad completed the union of the Atlanta and Pacific coasts when it finished 3,300 miles of track in 1869. To encourage the railroad to build this line, the government gave certain sections of land 20 miles north and 20 miles south of the proposed line, and the railroad company disposed of this land at $1.25 per acre. To encourage settlers, the government gave 160 acre homesteads and timber claims if certain conditions were fulfilled.

As a result of dissatisfaction with English rule, many of the people of Ireland immigrated to the United States. Many being poor, it was a necessity for them to find employment as soon as possible. The railroad provided work for many who were seeking jobs.

A number of the first Irish settlers of Lincoln county had first located in Junction City and Ellsworth. As there was a chance to take up homesteads and buy railroad land cheap, many of these people came to Lincoln county to acquire land homes of their own locating along the Saline River.

Pioneer Families..........
The first Irish to settle in Lincoln county were the Michael Healys and Peter King, followed by Mr. Healy’s mother, brothers, the Kings, Laffertys, Patrick and Thomas Noon with their families, the O’Tooles, Flahertys, Whalens, Foleys, Forans, Kellys, Mulloys, Corrigans and Kilcoynes. A short time later the Dillons and the Downey brothers arrived. Francis, one of the Downey brothers, was the first Catholic to locate in Lincoln Center (ed. note ­ now Lincoln) in about 1884. Shortly thereafter the Gallaghers and Dunns moved to that town from Lindsborg, Kan.

Other Catholic pioneer families were the Ackermans, Jaskes, Smiths, Zink, and others who were not Irish. Many of them came from Russia, Germany and other European countries to improve their lot in free American.

First Mass and First Church............
Around 1870, the Rev. John Fogarty of Junction City was one of the first priests to come to Lincoln and vicinity with any degree of regularity. In 1872 the Rev. Henry Temphaus, Beloit, said Mass in Lincoln. There was no church in Lincoln at this time. The Rev. Adolph Wibbert of Salina came to Lincoln from 1875-1878. When the Rev. Bernard Nuttman of Ellsworth began to serve Lincoln in 1878, the people considered building a church, and the city of Lincoln Center generously gave a whole block for that purpose. The first church was constructed partly of native cottonwood brought from Ellsworth and sawed on a local sawmill. Father Nuttman was succeeded by the Rev. T. Lager until 1880.

The Rev. P. O’Connor was here for the next two years, but died then of injuries received when thrown from a horse.

The Rev. John Kelly of Ellsworth ministered to the Lincoln Center needs from 1882-1883. It was during his time that the Most Rev. Louis Fink, Bishop of Leavenworth, came to administer confirmation for the first time. A Father Brockart cared for Lincoln the following year and he was in turn followed by the Rev. Anthony Carius, Ellsworth, an ex-Civil War chaplain. Father Carius served till 1888.

Vesper Parish............
The Union Pacific railroad had passed through Lincoln county by this time and Vesper, a few miles west of Lincoln Center, was becoming a thriving center. There were several Catholic families with small children in the vicinity, so it was decided to build a church. Mr. and Mrs. John O’Toole donated a 2-acre tract as a site and St. John’s church was built in 1887. An altar patterned after the one in the present Lincoln Church was made and donated by J.I. Flaherty.

During the Rev. C. Maujay’s pastorate which lasted until 1892, Mass was scheduled regularly for the 1 and 3 Sundays. The Sacrament of Confirmation was administered by Bishop Hennessy of Wichita in 1892. (Ed. note ­ Bishop Hennessy was serving as administrator of the Concordia Diocese during an interregnum.)

The Rev. John Regan had his home in Delphos and drove to Lincoln and Vesper in a top buggy for the next four years. The Rev. J. Corrivault, coming from Canada for reasons of health, served about a year.

First Resident Priest............
The Rev. John McNamara was first resident priest who served the parish until 1906. The rectory, still in use, was built in 1901. A leave of absence was granted Father McNamara to visit Ireland and the Rev. Joseph Conway was his substitute.

Present Church............
In 1904 it was decided to build a church of native limestone and the cornerstone was laid by the Rev. John Maher, Salina, in 1905. A Mr. John L. Larsen, though not a member of the parish, did most of the masonry work. He died within the past year at the age of 90.

A succession of pastors followed Father McNamara, with a Father Donovan serving in 1907, the Rev. John McGinnes until 1911 and the Rev. (now Rt. Rev. Monsignor) Michale Mulvihill the following year. The Rev. John Fitzgerald (now retired in Herington) served as pastor until 1922.

The Rev. John R. Fox succeeded Father Fitzgerald and served intermittently until 1930. Because of Father Fox’s ill health a large number of priests substituted from time to time, including the Rev. (now Rt. Rev. Monsignor) Michael Drieling. The Jesuits from St. Mary’s often filled in during this time.

In 1930 the Rev. Daniel B. Mulvihill because pastor and held it for 13 years, the longest tenure of any pastor of St. Patrick’s.

There was no bell in the belfry of St. Patrick’s, and the late Frances Shepard, president of the Ladies Guild in 1938, was instrumental in obtaining a 300-pound locomotive bell from the Union Pacific Railroad without cost. Miss Shepard worked through T.L. Murray, then local agent, and W.S. Markle, former agent, having the bell sent from Omaha. The bell rang out for the first time at 1938 midnight Mass.

The Rev. John W. Whitty succeeded Father Mulvihill in 1943 and remained until 1946. During his pastorate tilling was laid in sanctuary and sacristies, kneeler pads were installed, and a new roof put on the church.

For a short time in 1946 a shortage of priests caused Lincoln to become a mission of Beloit. In January 1947, the Rev. George F. Breckwell was appointed pastor of St. Patrick’s and was instrumental in accumulating funds for future redecoration of the church as well as installing a new furnace.

Vesper closed
Since the Vesper mission had been unattended for some time, and inasmuch as a wind storm had damaged the church, it was decided to sell the building and land in 1948.

The next pastor for the Rev. Adolph Hecker, appointed in 1952. During his pastorate the church was completely redecorated on the inside, the exterior of the church was sandblasted, and treated to preserve its original limestone finish, and the rectory was remodeled.

In April of 1958 the Rev. John Vandenberghe was appointed to Lincoln and remained until June 1961. While in Lincoln Father Vandenberghe was responsible for the building of a $25,000 parish hall constructed of blocks made at the local Quartzite Stone Co., and with a brick veneer facing.

The Rev. Eugene Stehno came to Lincoln in 1961 to succeed Father Vandenberghe, but was transferred to Concordia by reason of the serious illness of the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Emil Duchene in February 1962. The parish was attended by the Rev. Philip Lamberty, O.P., an instructor at Sacred Heart High School, Salina, by the Rev. John Shaulis, Chicago, and the Rev. Roger Meitl, Plainville.

St. Patrick’s, which extends over most of Lincoln County, is among the largest territorial parishes in the diocese. There are two cemeteries in the parish, one south of Lincoln and the other the Vesper cemetery near Vesper.

(Much of the data for this historical sketch was supplied by Miss Anne Dillon, Lincoln, a pioneer member of the parish.)
This article was transcribed by Tracee Hamilton. If any of you are related to any of the families mentioned in this article Tracee would like to hear from you. Her email address is

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