The History of Our Cradle Land
by Thomas H. Kinsella

Transcribed by Sean Furniss

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St. Philip's Church.

The history of Osawatomie and vicinity is very interesting. Long before the town was established in 1855, destiny had marked the place. A small band of Pottawatomie Indians from Indiana settled there in 1837 and gave their name to the creek that empties into the Marias des Cygnes near Osawatomie. There were many Catholics amongst these Indians, and, learning that there were Black-robes among the Kickapoos near Fort Leavenworth, they sent a request for a priest to visit them. The Jesuit Father, Christian Hoecken, came at once, though it was in the middle of winter. The journey on horseback took eight days; he arrived at Pottawatomie Creek early in January, 1838. He was welcomed by the poor Indians as an angel from heaven and there, we venture to say, he laid the foundations of our Holy Religion in Kansas.

The second Catholic Church, in what was afterwards known as the State of Kansas, was constructed at or near where Osawatomie now stands; that was in November 1838. It was built by the Indians and measured 22 by 40 feet, Kickapoo had the first church, which was afterwards abandoned; but the mission established at Pottawatomie Creek remains to this day at St. Marys, Pottawatomie County, Kansas.

After the removal of the Pottawatomie Creek mission to Sugar Creek, Linn County, in 1839, we read nothing more of the place in Catholic annals until 1858.

In December of that year Father Schacht visited Osawatomie and said Mass at the home of a Mrs. Remington, and then passing beyond the town to the southwest, about two miles, he came to the home of the first Catholic settler of Miami County, James Poland, where he rested, said Mass, and consulted in regard to future plans for building a church at Osawatomie. There plans were quickly matured, a site was obtained and the foundations were about to be laid when a defect in title was found, which frustrated the whole design, and Paola was chosen as the place of the first church. In the early days the Town Company of Osawatomie donated ground to each denomination for church purposes, but the plot on which the present Catholic Church now stands remained unclaimed until 1889. Father Gleason placed the deed on record in the name of the Catholic Bishop of Leavenworth, Right Rev. L. M. Fink, O.S.B., and Father O'Connor, his immediate successor, began the work of founding the parish and building the Church of St. Philip. From 1889 to 1918 is a long series of years, but it took all that time to make a success of Catholicity at Osawatomie. The town itself was founded by people from the New England States and the spirit of the place was, of course, strongly anti-Catholic. It felt the effects of the border ruffian warfare and was once burned down. The name and fame of John Brown afterwards made the place famous in song and story; no less so the name and fame of Horace Greeley, who called into being the great Republican Party at a meeting once held at Osawatomie, so it is said.

Ex-President Roosevelt made a pilgrimage to the town in 1911 and, after visiting the monument and park maintained there by the patriotic societies of Kansas in honor of John Brown, he made one of his most famous speeches and inaugurated a new movement, if not a new progressive party which has greatly affected the whole country.

The first and oldest state institution, the State Hospital for the Insane, is located at Osawatomie, and the first Division Point of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, together with repair shops, are located in the town. It is one of the oldest Masonic centers in Kansas, and the Elks have also a splendid home. All the societies are well represented, but the churches of the various denominations are rather poorly sustained.

In the summer of 1889, Father O'Connor, the pastor of Paola, said Mass in Osawatomie. The old stone school house that is now a part of the Remington Lumber Yard was used and, afterwards, a frame building which stood where Johnson's furniture store is now located, served as a meeting place for the few scattered Catholics.

The railroad shops, the round house, and the section along the Missouri Pacific furnished the congregation. The people were eager to contribute towards the erection of a church; plans were drawn and Father O'Connor gave the contract to Mr. Petty of Paola in 1891.

A good rock foundation was laid for a frame building, 30 by 60 feet; there was no Sacristy or tower called for in the contract. Just the four walls with the pews, windows and doors, exclusive of plastering. Father O'Connor died on Tuesday, March 3rd, 1891, and was succeeded by Reverend Nicholas Neusius as pastor of Paola. He remained until the following August. The church at Osawatomie had no sanctuary furniture, not even an altar, a common board being used for that purpose. About this time Mrs. Shanklin obtained a gift of an old altar--the one now in use--from St. Augustine's church, Knox County, Illinois, in the diocese of Peoria.

The Sanctuary steps and foundation for the altar were constructed in Father Neusius' time and the beautiful little altar was placed in position at last. The altar is of walnut, painted white, and adorned with carved scroll work.

Mrs. Franklin and Mrs. Douglas collected money from the men in the shops for this purpose. Catholics and non-Catholics giving cheerfully. They also raffled a silver tea set, which added much to their fund, and thus an important step in the furnishing of the little church was accomplished.

Father Madden became the next pastor of Paola, from September, 1892 to 1893. During his time the altar railing was put in place. The ladies gave a ball and raffled as silver water pitcher with considerable financial success and thus the railing was paid for.

Father Quick followed Father Madden, but in his time nothing was done to speak of.

Then came Father Burk, from September, 1893, to September, 1894. He was followed by Reverend Anthony Dornseifer, who invited the Passionist, Father Erasmus, to give the first mission ever preached at Osawatomie.

In Father Dornseifer's time the organ was bought. To make the money for this a Social was given and a voting contest was carried on, at which $200.00 was realized, and thus the organ and other things were paid for.

Father Francis Taton was the next pastor. He was appointed to Paola in July, 1895, and remained until August, 1903. Father Taton did much for Osawatomie when we consider his limited means and the continual changes that took place in the railroad management. He built the Sacristy and added the choir gallery. He procured vestments and many other things needed for divine worship. He, like his predecessors, was very attentive to the instruction of the children and never neglected to give the people an opportunity to approach the Sacraments. Few can realize inn our day what a labor it was to attend to Osawatomie from Paola in all kinds of weather the year round, and this for thirty years. Every priest felt the strain.

Father Burk came again as pastor in August, 1903, and remained until December, 1914. He was prompt in his attendance and gave a monthly Mass on the 4th Sunday to the Asylum. He built the steeple to St. Philip's church, and Mrs. Mary Smith donated the bell, in memory of her son, Francis Ellis Smith. His health failing and feeling unequal to the task, Father Burk requested a change and was succeeded by Father Kinsella.

Father Kinsella became pastor on December 4th, 1914, with the understanding that he was to have an assistant priest as soon as possible. Many months passed, however, before the boon was granted. Fathers John F. Purcell and Michael J. O'Farrell became assistants in turn. In the meantime Father Kinsella found some work to do at Osawatomie and, incidentally, he learned the history and traditions of the place. He became greatly interested in the church and in the people and sought to inspire them by telling them that in twenty years the Centennial of Catholicity in Kansas would be held at Osawatomie; that it was now time to bestir themselves and not be taken unawares, for years pass swiftly. He impressed on them his idea that Osawatomie had a bright future and that the hand of God was over it in some mysterious way. On one occasion he said in a sermon: "I foretell, without being, at all, a prophet, that the day will come, and many of you will see that day, when Osawatomie will have a fine church, a Catholic school, a Sisters's house, and a priest's residence. Catholics will multiply; they will come from the farms around and the industries within your town. The grime and sweat and tears of eighty years will have their reward some day."

Henceforth events shaped themselves favorably and matters moved on swiftly to a renewed life. The railroad shops were regaining their old-time importance and many of the officers and, employees were Catholics. The future looked hopeful.

During Father Kinsella's time the church was repainted, electric lights were installed, a fine vestment case was placed in the Sacristy, books for a free library were purchased and, finally, the cottage west of the church was bought for $1,300.00. The purchase of this very modest home for the priest was made possible by the giving of the personal notes of S. L. Landis, James Churchill, W. G. Boisvert, to the owner of the property. This transaction added materially to the size of the church grounds and became the deciding factor in the Bishop's mind to raise the mission to the status of parish. The above named gentlemen deserve the credit.

Father Catterlin of the Redemptorist Order, who gave a two weeks' mission at Osawatomie in November, 1917, also gave his testimony to the Bishop in favor of the appointment of a pastor to St. Philip's church.

The important step was finally taken in the spring of 1918, and Father Vallely, pastor of Lansing, Kansas, and Chaplain of St. Vincent's Home, was appointed first resident pastor. He said Mass and preached for the first time here on Sunday, April 7th, 1918. The new pastor found a good piece of property, well located, on which was a neat little church fully furnished, all free of debt. The residence, however, was a makeshift in appearance but rather neat and pleasant inside. Up to this time no priest felt at home in Osawatomie. The people were always kind, of course. The home of Mr. and Mrs. John Churchill was always open to him; there he lodged and found refreshments year in and year out when he came to say Mass or to instruct the children.

This was one redeeming feature of the mission for many years. To this may be added the continual kindness and helpfulness of W. G. Boisvert and the Burns family. Finally, S. L. Landis and Mrs. Landis gave a warm welcome to the priest during these latter years--their house being contiguous to the church. Gratitude demands here the record of these facts because they typify the story of Mary and Martha as related in the Gospel. These good people, busy about many things, cheered the drooping spirits of the lonely and weary priest who had not whereon to lay his head.

The little cottage was furnished at last by the ladies of the parish so that the priest could now sit by his own fireside and be refreshed at his own table and feel the comfort of his own home, simple and humble though it was.

Father Valley began at once to plan for the future; he got every Catholic in the shops to donate one day's pay a month to the building fund, the other members of the Congregation giving a fixed yearly amount for the same purpose.

The first year (1918) saw $925.17 placed to the credit of the building fund. The second year (1919) raised the amount to $3,807.38, and on April 1st, 1920, the plans were being formed for a fine brick combination building--church and school--to be finished by September following. The Sister's apartments will be in the same building. The church portion to be completed interiorly at a future time, but the school rooms to be ready by September, 1921.

Thus in the space of four short years, a transformation has taken place at Osawatomie that augers well for the future of the Church in that famous little city. By the year 1938 the Centennial will be celebrated fittingly, it is hoped, and further improvements planned and executed.

The young pastor deserves great credit for his wise and energetic efforts and for his ability to wind the good will and cooperation of all the people of his own flock and, what is more, of the general public, or rather the public spirited citizens of the town. He has settled down to work like a native of Kansas, although, as his record will show, he is a product of the Eastern schools and an alumnus of a New York college.

Rev. Eugene F. Vallely was born in Reynoldsville, Pa., December 23, 1888, but was raised in Du Bois, Pa., where he attended the grade and high schools of St. Catherine's church, graduated in June, 1906. In the fall of 1906 he entered St. Bonaventure's College, Allegany, New York, and received his A. B. degree in 1911. He made his theological course in the same institution and was ordained by Bishop Ward in St. Benedict's Church, Atchison, Kansas, April 3, 1914. He sang his first Solemn High Mass at Du Bois, Pa., Easter Sunday, April 12, 1914.

Father Vallely was then assigned as assistant at St. Thomas Church, Armourdale, Kansas City, Kansas, where he remained till September 1, 1914, when he transferred to St. Mary's Church, Kansas City, Kansas, as assistant to Rev. Alexander Jennings. Upon the illness of Father Jennings in November, 1915, he assumed charge of the parish and continued during the illness and after the death of Father Jennings until September 1, 1916, when Father Burk assumed the rectorate of St. Mary's. From St. Mary's he went to Leavenworth as Chaplain of St. Vincent's Home and Rector of St. Francis de Sales, of Lansing, until April 1, 1918, when he became the first resident pastor of Osawatomie.


Sister Mary Luke (Julia Gaffney) of the Order of Saint Vincent De Paul, Leavenworth, hails from Osawatomie. She is the first of St. Philip's parish to enter Religion.

Mrs. Shanklin, Mrs. Franklin and Mrs. Douglas were the great workers of the early days!

In later years Mrs. Leininger and a band of able assistants collected a monthly tribute for the priest amounting to about $25.00. They furnished the Altar with linens, flowers and carpets and kept the church in order.

Mr. Churchill and Mr. Boisvert were the pillars of the church for many years. They deserve the inclusion of the following obituary notices in this history.

(From the Western Spirit.)

A patriot and a patriarch, John Churchill, died at his home in Osawatomie, Kansas, on Tuesday, May 4th, 1916. Had he lived until the 20th of June, he would have been 83 years old. He was, therefore, 82 years, 10 months and 16 days of age. Mr. Churchill was a soldier and a railway man. The principal years of his life were spent in the government and the railway service.

John Churchill was born in County Mayo, Ireland, June 20th, 1833, and came to the United States when he was 16 years old, landing at Philadelphia. A few years later he went to Chicago and after spending a few years on the river as steward of different steamboats, he finally bought up at St. Louis. Here he enlisted in the First Missouri Infantry and served his full term of enlistment, much of the time at the front. He had already done some work as section foreman and on his return from the army he took up railroading again. April 15, 1865, Mr. Churchill went to Philadelphia, where he and Mary J. McElheny were married by Archbishop Ryan and the couple returned to St. Louis. It was about this time that he accepted a job with the Missouri Pacific railroad, and from that time on he stayed with the company. It was in 1889 when Mr. Churchill and his family moved to Osawatomie. He is survived by his widow and five children. Mary A., James W. and Matthew P. Churchill live in Osawatomie; Thomas F. Churchill is a resident of Hoisington, and the other daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Griffen, resides at Rock Island, Illinois.

On Sunday, May 7th, 1916, funeral services were conducted at the Catholic church in the city of Osawatomie by Reverend Father Kinsella and interment was in the Catholic cemetery in Paola. The flag of the United States was wrapped around the casket. The Knights of Columbus of Paola attended in a body.

Miami County has lost a man who gave good example, whose life was a pattern for young men. He was an Irish gentleman in the fullest sense of the word, honest, brave, religious, temperate and charitable. In speaking of him as an Irishman, we refer only to the place of birth, the honor he always accorded to the "Old Sod," but in all else he was an American in every fiber and every thought. When war called for stout arms and brave hearts he went to the front in behalf of his country, and his record as a soldier is one of the best. The Grand Army button, that matchless emblem of valor, was his to wear and he wore it. In church matters he was considerate of everybody else's feelings and beliefs. Deep down in his heart he was a Catholic and he so lived that in being an honor to the Church Militant he was sure to be honored at the last by the Church Triumphant. For a man to live so that all of his name and blood carry with them a passport to the honor and respect of the world is convincing proof that virtue is its own reward.

(From the Graphic, Osawatomie.)

William G. Boisvert was born at LaBaie du Febure, Quebec, Canada, August 28, 1852. He died at St. Mary's Hospital, Kansas city, Mo., January 16, 1919. He came to Kansas in 1881 and had been a resident of this city for 34 years. He was married to Elizabeth Hosp, at Garnett, Kansas, March 4, 1883. He leaves to mourn his taking away, his wife, Elizabeth Boisvert, two children Ethel and Charles F. Boisvert, both of Osawatomie, five brothers and sisters and a grandson Chas. Dow Boisvert.

The live of W. G. Boisvert was interwoven with all progressive movements of this city. He was a staunch supporter of the water system, electric lights and paving. He was the champion of many civic improvements. To the student, the life of William Boisvert must drive home the fact that glory is only a furrow in the dust, but at the same time, it cannot help teaching that it is worth while to stamp that dust underfoot--so as thereon to leave an impression by which the world and posterity may know that we have once journeyed along the road of life. In the going out, this good man left his impress. The substantial things he stood for and helped to build will be his monument to this and future generations. He was a devout member of the Catholic Church; a charter member of the Elks Lodge; was trustee of this order for many years. He was a tireless worker in this capacity of trustee and largely responsible for our magnificent Elks' Home. He was also one of the oldest members of the City Fire Department. Many of the younger members of the fire department dropped out during the years it has been in existence, but Will G. Boisvert was faithful to the end, a period of service covering a quarter of a century.

The character of William Boisvert was as the open day. Neither darkness nor shadow rested upon it. Like beautiful landscape, its varied features were plainly seen; there was nothing hidden that should be revealed; nothing concealed that should be known. The page of his life is clearly written, without a blot or stain. His work was unchallenged. The breath of suspicion could not reach it. The rancor of aspersion could not touch it. His acts of mercy, though many, were unproclaimed. They were like the gentle dew of heaven, that nourished the soil of human poverty and lifted up the downcast and fallen. He recognized the fact that human justice and benevolence have not as yet eliminated justice from the social fabric. His word was his bond and those who knew him best asked no other security. In sorrow and in disappointment, in the struggle with the affliction and battle for his life, though sustained by an unflinching energy, resignation pointed the way. Two words, duty and resignation, were the leading exponents of his nature. In the consummation of his business plans, William G. Boisvert was a constructor and not a destroyer. He has, indeed, lived well, upon the tombstone of whose grave can be carved the verity: "Herein lieth a man who was a creator and not a destroyer."


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