The History of Our Cradle Land
by Thomas H. Kinsella

Transcribed by Sean Furniss

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PART VII
WEA, MIAMI COUNTY


THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY ROSARY.

In July, 1857, the first settler took up his land-claim in the Wea township; his name was George Wickline, who by industry and perseverance became the owner of the northwest and southwest quarters of section 30, range 25, township 15.

In the year 1859, Anthony Vohs and William Schwartz came to Wea and took claims in section 30. William Schwartz began with 40 acres but in after years became one of the wealthy men of Miami County. His brother, Jacob Schwartz, came to the Settlement in 1860, and Joseph Vohs in 1863. This little group of families formed the neucleus of the Catholic Congregation of Wea. They were visited by Rev. Sebastian Favre from Lawrence, also, in after years, by Father Wattron.

Father Pichler came from Eudora in 1870 and Father Rudolph Meier was sent to Wea as its first resident pastor in 1871 and remained two or three years. He built a small residence to which Father Redeker afterwards added a room, which room is now the kitchen attached to the Sisters' house. Father Meier went to Scipio from Wea and joined the Carmelite Order, where he received the name Pius. He was a man of great ability and learning, held high positions in his Order and, finally, became the General of the whole Order in Rome.

He was succeeded at Wea in a short time by Father Pichler until Father Abel became pastor of Paola in 1874. He attended Wea as a mission and was followed by Father Hurley from 1877 to 1881. Finally Rev. John Redeker was appointed resident pastor of Holy Rosary Church on October 23, 1881.

The first modest building known as the "Holy Rosary Church" was erected in 1869. It was of wood and cost about $3,500. Father Favre was the first to offer up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in this Church. It was used as a parish hall in after years. This frame building was destroyed by fire in 1906. In 1881 there were about 60 Catholic families or 350 members belonging to the parish. The second resident pastor was Very Rev. John Redeker. He was born in Westphalia, Germany, June 22, 1854. He received his literary education in his native country, studied Theology at Louvain, Belgium, and was ordained at Mechlin, May 22, 1880. He emigrated to America the same year, arriving in this country, October 29. He came direct to Kansas, and was assigned to the position of assistant priest of the Catholic Church of Independence, Kansas. He was appointed to Wea, October 23, 1881, and immediately entered upon the discharge of his duties. He remained until 1887, then he was sent to Olathe, and finally, to Westphalia, where he remained until his death on March 7, 1916. Father Redeker was a man of deep piety, a learned and zealous priest, and left his impress on every parish he served. His immediate successor at Wea was Rev. Augustine J. Wieners who came in September, 1887. Father Wieners built a fine residence in 1892 and a large brick church in 1895-6. He established the parochial school, took great interest in the young people and in many ways proved himself a good shepherd and a wise administrator.

In addition to the church and rectory at Wea, Father Wieners also built a house for the school teacher; at his departure there was a debt of only $3,000, which was paid off in a few years.

The Louisburg church, exclusive of the foundations, is the work of Father Wieners. When we consider the limited means at the disposal of this young priest it is altogether remarkable how much he accomplished in the short space of ten years. Paxico, Wabaunsee county, became his next field of labor. There he remains as of old, ever busy, ever zealous for the Spiritual and temporal welfare of his flock.

The immediate successor of Father Wieners was Reverend Joseph Hohe.

Father Hohe was born in the diocese of Wursburg, Bavaria, on the 25th of February, 18863. He passed through the university of his native town and then coming to America finished his theological studies at the Benedictine Monastery of St. Meinrad's, Indiana. He was ordained to the priesthood February 25, 1888 at Vincennes, Indiana, by Bishop Chatard and at once set out for Kansas.

After attending to various missions in the Diocese of Leavenworth, he was appointed pastor of Holy Rosary church, Wea, in November 1897, and continued in that position until the spring of 1912. The fine brick church that had been built by his predecessor, Father Wieners, had been completed and furnished and all debts paid, when a terrible catastrophe overwhelmed the labors of years. On the evening of Passion Sunday, April 9th, 1905, a bolt of lightning struck the steeple and the church was quickly reduced to ashes. The Blessed Sacrament was saved, also the sacred vessels, vestments, and other movable things but, as a whole, the building was ruined. It was a severe blow to the pastor and the people of Wea.

Mr. Q. V. McAfee of Garnett, Kansas, had built the church in the first instance and was now called in to restore it at any cost. He accepted the contract in June but the work of rebuilding did not begin until the 15th of August; it was carried forward with great energy and was nearing completion of the roof when on the 14th of September, 1905, a cyclone leveled the building and left it a tangled mass of ruins. The contractor became discouraged and seeking out William Schwartz notified him that he was through with the job. "But we are not through with it, Mac," he replied, "You can't afford to abandon the work now. Stand up to it, Mac, and we will back you to the limit."

Mr. McAfee took courage once more and, for the third time, began to bring order out of chaos. He and his men worked steadily all through the fall and winter. The plastering was done in February, 1906, and the heating plant installed at the same time. In early spring new furniture, new pews, altars, railing, and confessional were put in and these things added to the vestments, sacred vessels, and other valuables rescued from the fire the year before, enabled the pastor to invite the Rt. Rev. Bishop of the Diocese to dedicate the new church of the Holy Rosary at Wea on May 29, 1906. Right Rev. Thomas F. Lillis, D.D., consecrated the new altar also in a solemn manner and Father Beck of Argentine preached an able sermon. The first Mass was said in the new church, however, on February the 26th, previous.

When the church was finally finished a debt of only $3,500 remained on the building. This was paid off by each member of the congregation assuming a part and giving his note for the amount. The plan worked very satisfactorily; in two years the debt was canceled.

It is worth of record here that the splendid main altar and all the beautiful imported wood-carved statues that adorn the church are the gifts of the children of good old Jacob Schwartz, dedicated to the memory of their father.

There are two high-class stained glass windows in the sanctuary, imported from Munich, Bavaria; all the other windows are of American workmanship. When the church of the Holy Rosary is frescoed it will be one of the most beautiful in the diocese and one of the most interesting, historically considered.

On April 4th, 1912, Father Hohe was succeeded by Rev. John Bollweg and the later, in turn, by Rev. Henry Freisberg in July, 1915.

Father Bollweg was born in Neuenkirchen, Germany, on January 9th, 1865. He was educated in Paderborn, Floreffe, and Louvain, Belgium, and was ordained at Louvain on June 29th, 1891. He came to America on the 2nd of August of that year and was appointed to Shawnee. In 1893 he became pastor of Alma. In 1895 he was appointed to Mooney Creek; then to Wathena in 1901. He took charge of Holy Rosary Church, Wea, on April 4th, 1912. He became chaplain of Ursuline Academy in June, 1916, and went to Louisburg as pastor, April 15, 1919.

REVEREND HENRY FREIDSBERG.

Rev. Henry Freisberg was born in Nauort, Hessen-Nassau, Germany, November 25th, 1877. Received his literary education in Germany and Holland. Studied Philosophy and Theology in Belgium and was ordained at Louvain on June 29th, 1895. He came to America on the 15th of August of that year, coming direct to the Diocese of Leavenworth, Kansas, and had charge of parishes at Holton, Olathe, Nortonville, Everest and Eudora, Kansas, and was appointed to his present charge, Wea, Kansas, July 4th, 1915.

Father Freisberg is interested in Catholic Education and is building a large and imposing school at the cost of nearly $20,000. It is a district school as well as a parochial one and the Ursuline Sisters are paid from the public school fund. There is also a High School department in the new building and all modern conveniences are installed.

Holy Rosary parish is fortunate in its location, in the richness of the soil and in the quality of its people who are both German and Irish in origin but, now American in the full meaning of the term.

They are a progressive, industrious, and united body of farmers and stockraisers. Wea is financially one of the strongest communities in Miami County.

NOTES ON THE FIRST CATHOLIC SETTLERS OF THE WEA PARISH.


WILLIAM SCHWARTZ.

Among the pioneer settlers of Miami County no man of any calling has occupied a more conspicuous place in the trials and struggles of pioneer days than William Schwartz, and it is only right to say, because it is true, that he never lagged behind, but was always with the first to act in any movement or enterprise for the general good of the community.

He was born in Nassau, Germany, May 4, 1838. At the age of eighteen years, in 1856, after having served an apprenticeship in the millright trade, he visioned the opportunities awaiting the ambitious young men of his country in far away America, and in obedience to the call to opportunity, he like others of his day, left all his kindred behind, and faced westward across the Atlantic.

If a detailed narrative of his experience after leaving Germany, prior to reaching Miami County were written, it would be interesting, but would take too much space to tell here. Let it suffice to say, that his experience was quite similar to thousands of young men or mere boys, whose courage prompted them to do as he did, because they were moved with a profound purpose to better themselves, and were able and willing to work. His willingness to work his mind as well as his body were pronounced characteristics of hiss, and every thing he undertook to do, his work showed that his mind had fully worked out the varied business enterprises outside of his vast individual activity as an agriculturist. In matters of religion he pursued an unyielding, constant, course, always on hand at Mass, and at the business meeting of the congregation, with his wise counsel, his money and his willing hands to help in the labor to be performed.

Mr. Schwartz and Anna Doherty (referred to otherwise in this book as the Doherty family) were married in Kansas City by Father Donnelly in 1864. Four children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz. Jacob A., the eldest, died in 1888. Dora M., the second, now Mrs. M. A. Kelly, lives on the original Schwartz home place near the Wea Church. Mr. and Mrs. M. A. Kelly were married November 22, 1893. Ten children have been born to them, all of whom are living. They are as follows: Phillip W., Anna J., Margaret U., Thomas E., Johanna M., Mary Frances, Dorothy M., Agnes C., William M. and Cecilia. William A., the third, was for more than thirty years manager of the Inter-State Mercantile Company of Louisburg, Kansas, but now of Cincinnati, Ohio. Wm. A. and Clara Strausbaugh of Paola were married in 1893. They have no children of their own. Agnes McNutt, now twenty years old, has made her home with them since she was five years old. Thomas E., the youngest, engaged actively in farming for many years. Later, he engaged in the mercantile business at Cleveland, Mo., for a few months, after which he associated himself with his brother, Wm. A., at Louisburg, Kansas, but in 1910 he became the Cashier of the Citizens State Bank at Paola, Kansas, and is still in that position. However, he still continued his farming activities through tenants. His wife was Margaret M. Vohs, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Vohs of Wea. Their children are seven in number. William E., Leo T., Edward F., Eugene J., Lawrence M., Thomas A. and Mary Pauline. Margaret Ann having died January 5, 1913, at the age of five years.

Doherty Family.

There are four brothers and one sister in the Doherty family: Martin, Thomas, Michael, John and Anna (Mrs. Wm. Schwartz).

They came from County Roscommon, Ireland, in 1865, and located south of what was then Aubry, Johnson County, Kansas.

Edward Doherty was married before he left Ireland, and they had a family of six children: Bridget (Mrs. Jacob Vohs), Patrick, Edward, Mary (Mrs. P. H. Murphy), John and Annie (Mrs. A. P. Conboy). Mr. and Mrs. Edward Doherty died some years ago, and were laid to rest in the Wea Cemetery, as were also their daughters, Mrs. Vohs and Mrs. Murphy, and their son Patrick.

Martin Doherty was married to Ellen Kelly in 1868, and made their home in a comfortable Log House that was located directly across the road from the Wea Catholic Church. Their humble abode was always open to the good Fathers that attended this parish (then a mission) and the parishioners that came from afar. This very religious couple very frequently drove twenty-one miles to Paola in a lumber wagon, without even a spring seat thereon, to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. Mr. Doherty died in 1882, and his good wife in 1889. Both were laid to rest in the cemetery near where they had long resided.

Thomas Doherty was married to Mrs. Paschal and lived on a farm West of Paola for many years, and later lived in the Indian Territory. They had five children: Ellen (Mrs. Eugene Papst), William, Edward, James and John. Mrs. Doherty also had a daughter (Mrs. Mollie Paschal, Osborne) by a former marriage. William died in 1917, and was buried in the Paola Catholic Cemetery. Thomas Doherty was also buried in the same cemetery.

John Doherty never married but made his home with his sister, Mrs. Wm. Schwartz. He died at Wea, and was buried in the Catholic cemetery there.

Anna (Mrs. Wm. Schwartz) came from Ireland with her brothers in 1865. She was married to Wm. Schwartz in Kansas City, Mo. by Father Donnelly. In those days, peopled did not travel in high power automobiles, but these good people took with them in their lumber wagon to the nearest town, Kansas City, Mo., twenty-seven miles away, a few sacks of wheat to have made into flour, so that they would have some flour in the house to begin housekeeping. This characteristic trait they continued all through life, and both lived to see the wisdom of their foresight. They had a comfortable and commodious home on their farm near Wea that was always open to all people of all creeds, and in the early history of this county was the stopping place of travelers from far and near. The writer of this article lived many years in this home, and knows that never was there a door locked, either front or rear, day or night, and never was anything large or small taken from this home. They had one daughter, Dora (Mrs. M. A. Kelly) who now lives on the old homestead at Wea. Jacob A. died in California, August 22, 1888. William A., was a resident of Louisburg until October, 1919, and now is a resident of Covington, Kentucky. Thomas E. lives in Paola, Kansas. Mrs. Schwartz died at the old home at Wea, August 3, 1895, and was buried in the cemetery at Wea.


Michael Kelly

Was one of the early residents of the humble village of Wea. He was born in County Roscommon, Ireland, in 1827. After the death of his wife he came to Miami County, Kansas, in 1869, locating at Wea, Kansas. He was married to Mary Lannian, who was also from County Roscommon. They had four children, two of whom died when young. Bridget (Mrs. John Gritter), lives at Wea, Kansas. Mary (Mrs. Michael Flaherty), lives in Olathe, Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Gritter have one daughter, Mary (Mrs. B. W. Seck) and one son, Albert Gritter. Both live near the present home. Mr. and Mrs. Flaherty have two daughters, Ida (Mrs. Clem Conboy), Kansas City, Mo., and Katherine (Mrs. Geo. Grass), of Olathe, Kansas. John Gritter was a carpenter by trade, and came to Wea in the seventies. He was married to Bridget Kelly in May, 1876. Mr. Gritter built many of the first good and substantial buildings in this community, and built the first Catholic Parsonage in Wea, which is now being used as a home for the Sisters who teach the Wea school. Mr. Gritter built the Altar, Communion Railing and Pews for the first church in Wea out of walnut trees, which they went to the timber for, and hewed out of the rough lumber. Mr. Gritter was one of the old class of workmen that labored under difficulties, but did fine work.


ANTHONY VOHS

Was born in Nassau, Germany, August 8, 1829. He and Wm. Schwartz were working in a saw mill east of Kansas City, Mo., in 1858, when they were offered an eighty acre tract of land in Miami County, Kansas, at $3.00 per acre as part payment for wages due them. The borrowed transportation to Wea which was then a yoke of oxen and wagon. With these the wended their way through the prairies to inspect what later became their fine country home, and from which sprang up the Catholic settlement that was name Wea after the Wea tribe of Indians, and is also located in Wea Township. At the time Mr. Vohs and Mr. Schwartz located here, there were only two other families in this part of the county.

Mr. Vohs was married to Elizabeth Becker in Illinois, in 1858. Their family consisted of one daughter, Lena (Mrs. Anthony Bauer), who lives near Louisburg, Kansas; George at Plainsville, Kansas, Anthony and Jasper near Paola, Frank at Osawatomie, and Joseph H. at Wea. Mrs. Vohs died September, 1876, and was buried at Wea. Mr. Vohs was later married to Barbara Hughes. Mr. Vohs died January 18, 1907, and is buried in the Wea cemetery.


EUGENE VOHS

Was born in Nassau, Germany, July 31, 1844, and came to Kansas in 1868, where he purchased a farm close to the Wea Catholic Church. He remained on the farm until 1876, when he bought the village store and became postmaster. In those days he had to haul the country produce to, and his merchandise from Kansas City, a distance of thirty miles. Wea was on a Star Mail Route, the mail being carried from Kansas City to Fort Scott and later from Kansas City to Louisburg. When the Missouri Pacific Railroad was built through this part of the county a R. F. D. Route was established through Was, and the Wea Postoffice was discontinued.

Mr. Vohs was married January 9, 1872, to Margaret Goebel, daughter of Peter and Anna Goebel. Mrs. Vohs has one sister and three brothers, who are now or have been residents of Miami county, Mrs. Mary Legner and J. L. Goebel of Louisburg, Kansas, and P. W. and F. S. Goebel, now of Kansas City, Kansas. Mr. P. W. Goebel came to Wea when about fifteen years of age, and made his home with Mrs. Vohs for about four years. Mr. and Mrs. Vohs had a family of six children: Margaret (Mrs. T. E. Schwartz) of Paola, Kansas, Albert P., Jasper J. and Ida (Mrs. Terrence McGuirk) of Louisburg, and William E. and Lawrence F., on the home farm with their mother. Mr. Vohs died November 24, 1906, and was buried at Wea. Mr. and Mrs. Vohs took an active interest in the welfare of the community and were ever ready to give their time and assistance to the betterment of the community in which they lived.


JOSEPH VOHS

Came from Nassau, Germany, in 1858, where he was born February 24, 1829. He first located in Illinois, where he was married to Rose Hirt August 28, 1859. The following year they moved to Wea, where they lived continuously until their death. They had a family of twelve children. Those now living are John, William, Louise Spielbusch, Elizabeth Seuferling, Albert, Rose Strack, Joseph P. Vohs. One daughter, Mary, became Sister Barbara and was located with the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth until her death. Three of the children died when young and Josephine Henry in 1918. Mrs. Vohs was born in Baden, Germany, in 1836.

They were both industrious and hard working people, Aunt Rose, as she was familiarly known, was a very generous and kind hearted woman, and could always be depended upon and found lending a helping hand to her neighbors and friends when in need of her services. These people remained on the home in which they were located they year following their marriage until their death which occurred in 1913; Mr. Vohs, July 13th, and Mrs. Vohs, December 25. Both were laid to rest in the Wea cemetery.

 

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