The History of Our Cradle Land
by Thomas H. Kinsella

Transcribed by Sean Furniss

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This flourishing little town situated near the east side of Miami county, came into being immediately following the close of the Civil war. It was first started at a point some four or five blocks east of the business center of the present town near the Shield's spring and was then called St. Louis, or in speaking the name it came to be called Little St. Louis. On November 10th, 1868, the principal part of the present town site was surveyed by Charles Sims, Dr. R. F. Steger and D. L. Perry. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad from Sedalia to Paola was started to be built through the town in 1870 and in order to avoid the confounding of the name of the town with St. Louis, Mo., the name was changed in 1870 to Louisburg. Among the early settlers who came to that vicinity in the territorial days that were identified as Catholics were the Shields, Cots, Dagnetts, Laramies, and the Morgans. Later came the O'Maras, O'Briens and Sloans. Prominent among the pioneers of the town were James Doyle and his sister Bridget, natives of Ireland. They were nephew and niece of Dr. Doyle (J. K. L.) Bishop of Kildare. Mr. Doyle became active as a town builder, but after a few years returned to his former home in Michigan and died soon afterwards. Miss Doyle, his sister, continued to live in Louisburg until the late nineties, when she moved to Paola. She was well educated, cultured and refined. The infirmities that came with the burden of years caused her to live a life of seclusion. She moved to Paola in 1897 and in 1917 she retired to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Kansas City.

L. A. Bowes and family settled on their farm east of Louisburg in the early seventies. During the seventies, P. W. Goebel settled in Louisburg and in the early eighties his mother along with her sons, Ferdinand S. and Joseph, settled here. Prominent among the Catholic families who came to Louisburg in the early day was Geo. Neiman, who came in 1869. He was a shoemaker by trade. He engaged in that business and later he added to his shop trade a stock of boots and shoes, and afterwards included a grocery store. Joseph Gangel and family located on a farm southeast of Louisburg in 1881. Dominie Maschler, with his family, came in 1884. The last three families came from Austria, Hungry. During all the years form the early settlement of the country until 1886 the faithful got along by going occasionally to church in Wea or Paola. The priests, each in their day at Paola, would go the rounds among the scattered people and occasionally say Mass at some private house in Louisburg. The Catholic population by 1886 had grown in numbers until they felt they were able to build a church of their own in Louisburg. Through the able leadership of Father Redeker of Wea the parish was organized and the foundation for the church building laid. In the midst of his early efforts Father Redeker was transferred from Wea to Westphalia. He was succeeded by Father Wieners who completed the frame church in 1887. It is dedicated to God under the title of "The Immaculate Conception." The beautiful cemetery, sloping gently to the east to welcome each morning's sun until the day of resurrection, adjoins the town at the southeast corner of the town limits. It was purchased in 1898. Already it is well flecked with marble and granite of various hues, marking the last resting place of the mortal remains of many of the pioneers as well as many of the younger generation who have gone to premature graves. Father Hohe, who succeeded Father Wieners, built the rectory in 1903. Father Heuberger became the resident priest following the building of the rectory. He built the sacristy to the church and had the steeple improved. Extensive improvements to the property were made by Father McNamara, in the way of cement side walks, painting of the buildings and a general beautifying of the premises, all to the delight of the members who helped him make his administration a success. When Father Hohe came to Wea in 1897 Louisburg was still a mission from Wea. He found the Louisburg church building, then ten years old, run down, both inside and outside. The foundation had given way, letting the building settle which cracked the plaster until much had fallen off. He built a new foundation, had a steel ceiling put on, the side walls mended and canvas covered and the entire interior of the church decorated in oil by an expert frescoer. A new altar, statues and stations of the cross were purchased, and other improvement were made that occasioned financial sacrifice, but which were well compensated for in a revived sprit of zeal in the congregation. From time to time during the administration of different priests, vestments, sacred vessels and many beautiful and useful altar equipments have been added until the church now is well supplied in its needs both as to beauty and utility. In writing this chapter on Louisburg it has been quite impossible to get the names of all the Catholic people that have, at different times, lived in or around Louisburg, and, to have woven all their names and activities into this narrative would have been an utter impossibility because of needed information.

A vast number of Catholic people have come and gone from the vicinity of Louisburg, both before it had a church and since. Some would stay but a short time and never in a particular way leave any lasting memory. Others stayed longer and became distinctly identified as permanent citizens only later to move to other locations where business and schools held out inducements to attract them away. It is not uncommon in talking to some of those who have drifted to other places to hear them say they cherish in fondest memory the days spent in and around Louisburg, and it is said many of them wander back here from time to time purely for the purpose of satisfying that yearning to see the old town and have a kindly word with friends of former days.

There is pathos found in the retrospective view of Louisburg. The place as a town of business has seen better days. It at one time supported a population of more than a thousand people, well employed, and gave great promise of growth, but there came a change in railroad building in adjacent territory and a change in her own railroad accommodations that checked the tide of the town's advancement, and as the town suffered so did the church in the loss of many of its most active members who moved away to places better or more attractive opportunities. In this thought we are reminded of the sentiment as expressed by the poet when he said: "Those that go are happier than those that are left behind!"

The congregation is holding its own nothwithstanding its handicaps. As some go away, others take their places and it is to be hoped it will increase in number and flourish in the coming years.

Louisburg and vicinity always was attended from Paola until Father John Redecker became the resident priest at Wea in 1881. From 1881 to September, 1887, he attended Louisburg as a mission. Father Wieners, who succeeded Father Redecker, attended Louisburg from Wea until November, 1897. Rev. Joseph Hohe succeeded Father Wieners from November, 1897 to April, 1912. Father Heuberger became resident pastor at Louisburg and remained six years and three months. Father Sylvester Mechan became resident pastor June, 1911, to September 1913. Father Patrick McNamara took charge of the parish September, 1913, and remained until April, 1918, when he was succeeded by Father Pottgiesser, who remained in charge until April 14th, 1919, when he in turn was succeeded by Father John Bollweg, who is resident at this time.

A Story of Human Interest.

The history of Catholicity in Miami County, Kansas, would not be complete without the special mention of a small Catholic community located on the north side of South Wea Creek, seven miles east and three miles north of Paola.

This immediate settlement was founded in the early spring of 1866, and centered around the person of Mrs. Ellen McGuirk. Her children were: Mary, Catherine, Margaret, Anna and Patrick H. The McGuirk children were all born in Ireland in the county of Monaghan, Province of Ulster, and though young at the time, they all remember the suffering and the horrors of the famine of 1848.

Terrance McGuirk, the husband and father of this family, witnessing the seeming hopelessness of a successful future in their oppressed native land, resolved to seek a home in the land of opportunity in far away America, and in obedience to his family obligations, and with the heroism always characteristic of his race, in 1851 he gave an affectionate goodby to his wife and children with the promise he would find a home in America and send for them, and with a sorrowful farewell to the land of his birth he sailed for the New World. Landing in America he caught the spirit as expressed by Horace Greeley: "Go West and grow up with the country," and following the impulse, he pressed westward and finally located in Jackson County, Missouri, not far from Independence.

He found employment at once and was soon prepared with means to send for his family, which, except Margaret, followed him in the early spring of 1851. The arrived in New Orleans May 3rd, and after a week spent in quarantine and a river boat voyage up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, they met the anxious husband and father at Wayne's Landing, three miles out from Independence, Missouri. They at once took up their new home on the farm between Independence and Westport. Margaret, how remained behind in Ireland along with other relatives, joined the family in 1854.

The Catholic faith was naturally deep seated with the family, and no doubt strengthened by persecution in Ireland, as they lived in Ulster Province, where Orangeism dominated. All of them remember seeing the orange walks and witnessed to their chagrin and humiliation the stamping under foot the shamrock which to them was held in sacred memory in the beautiful tradition of St. Patrick's symbol of the triune God.

The home of this family always was a welcome place for the priest, and from which he never left empty handed. Father Donnelly on his rounds among his scattered people at once became a welcome guest, and the McGuirk home became a local center where the faithful of the vicinity gathered to hear Mass and receive instructions.

Mary, the eldest daughter, was married to W. H. Burns, March 11th, 1855, and they at once set up a home of their own. Their after-lives are nicely commented on in their obituaries later on in this narrative.

Catherine, the second daughter, was married to Patrick Ringey, April 5th, 1858, and their subsequent life is touched upon later in the obituary of Patrick Rigney. Mrs. Rigney still survives and lives in Louisburg, Kansas.

In 1858 a shocking sorrow came to the McGuirk family by Mr. McGuirk being killed, supposedly by a horse he was riding, some distance from home on a mission in behalf of the family, and the fact that his dead body lay on the ground all night uncared for until found the next day, lent tragedy to the affair that intensified the grief of the stricken family. Sad is the thought that a faithful husband and a devoted father, who had the fortitude and courage to do for his family what he had done up to this time, that cruel fate should cut short his life with but six years' effort in behalf of his family in the new land of opportunity. The brave wife, who with four of her five children, some yet quite young, when she faced the perilous Atlantic Ocean on a slow sailing vessel to join her husband in a far off land, was equal to the task that fell to her lot on being left a widow. She maintained her home with her three younger children, making out the best she could, and then, in 1861, came the Civil War with the added troublesome border strife.

On January 6th, 1863, Anna, the fourth daughter, was married to Peter Miller. Soon afterwards Mr. Miller and his young wife moved to Kansas to what afterwards became Wea Parish. Besides their obituaries in this narrative their names are also mentioned elsewhere in this book on the notes of that parish.

The Civil War, with all the strife of theft and murder, so common in that part of Missouri, during the war, had sorely borne down on these people and the call of the prairies of Kansas in the late fall of 1864 found the families of W. H. Burns and Patrick Rigney living on the Colonel Polk farm, four miles northwest of what is now Louisburg, Kansas. The spring of 1866 found Mrs. Ellen McGuirk and her daughter, Margaret, and son, Patrick, along with the Patrick Rigney family, establishing the center of the little Community on South Wea Creek. W. H. Burns' family joined them in 1869. This same year a sister of Mrs. McGuirk, Mrs. Catherine Murphy, also a widow, along with her daughter, Mary, and son, Patrick, joined the community. The Murphy family all have gone to their reward. This same year, 1869, Margaret McGuirk, the third daughter, was married to Max Miller and moved to Paola, where they lived for a few years, when they moved to a farm ten miles south of Paola, near Block. In March, 1878, Mr. Miller died. In 1881, Mrs. Miller moved to Louisburg, where she still lives. Having no family responsibilities of her own, she became a benefactor to the newly organized parish and contributed liberally of her means and untiring personal efforts to build up and maintain the parish. Among her bequests is the splendid bell in the belfry of the church.

The little colony on South Wea Creek became the social center for people far and near and the open door hospitality extended by those people soon made their homes known to be places where strangers seeking shelter and food would not be turned from their doors. The families grew in number until the Ellen McGuirk family tree numbered more than twenty.

These people realized they had gone far afield as regards location to church, but their faith, by inheritance and made strong by persecution, found enchantment and inspiration rather than despair in overcoming their handicaps and difficulties. The old custom practiced back in Missouri when Father Donnelly would come to their home and say Mass and gather the children around him for instruction soon came to be the established custom in the new community. In those days Paola was the only place of a resident priest in this county, and Father Wattron for a time looked after their needs. Later on came Father Abel. Wea was then a mission out of Paola. This community being midway between those two places, a distance of twenty miles, it became a stop-over-night place at regular intervals for the priest. The faithful of the community, along with the McCarthys and Sheridans, who lived to the southwest a few miles, knew when to look for the priest, so all would gather to hear Mass and have the children instructed. Thus the place really became a mission. This was the practice during Father Abel's time and continued during Father Hurley's years in Paola. When Father Hurley left Paola, Wea ceased to be a mission from Paola, and Father Redeker became the resident priest at Wea and with that change the half-way mission ceased and the community became distinctly as belonging to the Paola Parish, until the church was built at Louisburg in 1887, when they became members of that parish.

P. H. McGuirk, the fifth child of Ellen and Terrance McGuirk, their only son, was married to Mary McCluskey, November 26, 1876, at Paola, Kansas. He and his wife continued to live on the farm a few years, when they moved to Louisburg, but later returned to the farm, where they both are living today. Their children are: Terrance, John, Edward, Theresa, Mary, Henry and Margaret, all of whom are married and have homes of their own, except Mary and Henry, who are with their parents on the farm.

Ellen McGuirk in her declining days in 1881 went with her daughter, Margaret, to live in Louisburg, where she died August 5th, 1886, being seventy-two years old at the time of her death. The writer would fail to do justice to this noble woman if no special or further comment was made of her. She came from a parental lineage of people recognized in her country as not having suffered so keenly the pressure imposed on the common peasantry of that unfortunate land. Though not especially educated, she bore the distinct marks of culture and refinement that made her a noticeable character, and thus she commanded the highest esteem and respect of all who came in contact with her. Her advice and counsel was always considered worth while. Her children were obedient to her in youth, and as their mother, when they were grown, she never surrendered her parental right to advise them to the extent of chastisement. She exercised the parental right to correct and even to chastise her grandchildren. She stood for honesty and fair play in all things, and while she was not contentious, she would not condone wrongdoing from anyone for the sake of personal popularity. She stood above the petty things of life, and with those high conceptions she taught her children the way they should go. She especially idolized her only son, Patrick, until the day of her death. That only can be explained by the fact that because he was a man he typified to her the faithful husband who had been so good to her and whose memory she cherished so keenly that he anniversary each year afterwards of his untimely death was a funeral day to her. The encomiast would find it difficult to overrate the influence for good in the world of the somewhat obscure individuals of her kind, and it is a sad commentary that such worthy characters are so easily lost sight of after they pass out of life. She fought the good fight to the highest degree in all the duties she owed to her family and friends and in matters of faith, as taught by Holy Mother Church, she carried from Ireland the faith of her fathers and nurtured it in her own family, and at least by good example, planted it in America, and in faith we believe she will receive her reward on the morning of the resurrection. Well might all her grandchildren, especially, cherish her memory and often recall in solemn reflection the faith, fortitude and sacrifice of this noble grandmother in the hope of bringing to themselves a merited benediction. Fleeting time since her death as called two of her daughters and three of the son-in-laws to their eternal reward. The following obituaries of the deceased, taken from the local papers at the time of their death, shed some light on the type of her children and those who, later , by marriage, became members of the Ellen McGuirk family.


William H. Burns died as his home in Kansas City, August 8, 1894, of Bright's disease. He was born November 15, 1818, aged 75 years, 8 months and 24 days. Mr. Burns was born in Dublin, Ireland, and spent most of his youth in traveling in foreign countries, where he gained a knowledge of manners and customs of the different nations. Having an unusual retentive memory, he was an interesting conversationalist, especially on the cradle lands of the Bible and also of the peculiarities of China and India, where he had spent several years. He came to this country in 1848, and was married to Miss Mary E. McGuirk March 11, 1855, at Westport, Mo. He was at that time employed by the Shawnee and Delaware Indians as a stonemason. He immediately moved with his wife to the newly opened territory of Kansas and settled at what was known as the Delaware crossing on the Kaw river, where he had charge of a ferryboat and had the honor of crossing the first legislative body that met in Kansas. he moved back to Westport in 1856, lived there until the spring of 1857, when he moved to the Hayes settlement near Westport. He returned to Westport again in 1859, where he was employed by William Bernard & Co., wholesale merchants, for the Mexican trade and remained in their service until 1864, when he removed with his family to Miami County, Kansas, where as one of the pioneer settlers he endured the hardships and privations that are always experienced in frontier life. He improved and lived upon his farm there for a number of years, but his health failing he left the farm in the spring of 1884. He purchased a home in Louisburg, Kansas, and lived there until November, 1892, when he moved to Kansas City, Mo., where he died. He was a kind and devoted husband and a loving father. He was the father of eight children, five daughters and three sons, of which he leaves four daughters and two sons to mourn his loss. The remains were brought to Stillwell, Kansas, where they were met by sorrowing relatives and a host of friends. from there he was taken to the Catholic church at Wea, where the funeral services were conducted by Rev. Father Wieners. This is the second time at the same place within three weeks that this bereaved family have been called upon to stand beside the open grave to see a loved form laid away; first little Leo Kelly, and now the aged grandfather. They have the heartfelt sympathy of the community.


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