Transcribed by Sean Furniss
The Church of the Assumption.
The first homesteaders of this district began to arrive in 1854. By the spring of 1857 a few Catholic families were settled on the surrounding land in Miami and Johnson counties; it was known as the "Bull Creek Parish," or Bull Creek district.
The Pioneer Catholics were:
There was a settlement of French across the line in Douglas County. Some of these were the Garmont family, the Mignot family and the Rouslean family. Mr. Matthew Babee was one of the earliest settlers.
Nearly all of these had come from Ireland and France. They were a good class of people, honest and industrious. They were imbued with the old Faith and left nothing undone to bring the blessings of Religion into their rough and lonely lives. The lived in dugouts, sod houses, log cabins and, finally, in comfortable homes. The land was rich and the pastures extensive. The climate was excellent, though variable. It took years to understand the peculiarities of the new surroundings and to fit themselves to fight the battles of life on the prairies. Some, of course, fell by the wayside, chiefly through their own fault, while the frugal, industrious families and individuals went forward to success and affluence.
There is no finer land in the United States, no grander country than eastern Kansas and this land God gave to our people after generations of cruel tyranny in the old world and after the plague and the famine had passed away. The older people fully appreciated these facts. They were grateful to God and showed it in their generosity to the Ministers of religion and in their zeal for the up-building of the Church in the New World.
"The first priest to visit the settlement was Father Bernard Donnelly; he celebrated Mass in the home of John McCarthy in October of the year 1857. Only five or six families were here at the time. The rest came during the following years. Father Donnelly walked out from Kansas City to attend this little flock; he did not ride. Father Bruner George walked also; he did all his missionary work on foot and recited his rosary as he walked along," says J. W. McCarthy. Father George's headquarters was at Lawrence.
In 1857 the Catholic families that had settled in this district began the construction of a church. It was built of logs, held together with wooden pins and rendered airtight or wind proof by mortar forced in between the logs. The men of the district hewed and hauled the logs, hacked them into shape, laid the foundations, and built what was, perhaps, one of the first Catholic churches in Kansas for white people exclusively; there had been Indian chapels in Kansas since 1837 at Kickapoo; 1838 at Pottawatomie Creek; 1839 at Sugar Creek; 1847 at Osage Mission and 1849 at St. Mary's. Bishop Miege moved to Leavenworth in 1855 and there built a very modest church.
No white people could own land in Kansas before 1854. After that date, therefore, we must look for the first white settlement (Kickapoo?) and then for the first Catholic settlement or body of people capable of building a church and forming a community or parish. Bull Creek district (now Edgerton), embracing a part of Miami and Johnson counties, had a regular church, dedicated to God under the patronage of St. Columkil, where divine services were held from 18858 onwards. During the next few years, a flourishing community sprang up around the little church, which was only 14x16 feet in dimensions. It was located near the east side of the present cemetery, on land donated by Mr. Murtha Noland. Father McGee came to dedicate the church and to celebrate Mass in it for the first time. This took place in April, 1858, says venerable Florence McCarthy. Nothing could have been more primitive, more simple, than this first public Catholic function in these parts, yet, back of it all, was a flood of human sentiment, of sad recollections, and fond memories that nothing but the sky above and the vast plains beneath could encompass. The little church was only a figure, a symbol of the grand old Church of their Native land, and they besought the Patriarch, St. Columkil, to preside over it, as he did over Ancient Iona. The little chapel grew dear to the people as the years went by, for it became the center of their social as well as their spiritual life. To this humble chapel came the famous Father Ivo Schacht on his way to Paola and other points south, in 1859; he continued his visitations up to 1862. Father Schacht was a noted preacher and some of his finest sermons were delivered in the church at Bull Creek, for there was no other church, then, anywhere in the vicinity.
Father Bruner George came on foot from Lawrence in 1860, or there-about. Father Sebastion Favre came, also, from Lawrence, on horseback during the Civil War period; he was followed by Father Francis J. Wattron, who came from Paola in 1866. In his time the Stone Church was built. It is supposed that he continued to visit this settlement until 1874. In 1870 the town of Edgerton was laid out and the railroad built. Henceforth the settlement was known as "Edgerton, Johnson County," but the parish boundary extends into Miami County on the south side, and that fact is the cause of its inclusion in this volume. It would take a separate work to do justice to this--one of the oldest Catholic Settlements in Kansas. It will be a misfortune if the memory of those heroic men and women should pass into oblivion; they deserve better of posterity. The more we know of the pioneers of Kansas the more are we moved with admiration for their many virtues.
The old stone church was built in the cemetery, about 75 feet south of where the Log Church once stood.
"It was commenced in 1866 and dedicated in 1867."--Florence McCarthy.
Rev. Father Noonen succeeded Father Wattron in 1874. He remained eighteen months and resided in Edgerton. Rev. Father M. J. Casey attended Edgerton from Olathe for several years and was succeeded by Rev. M. J. Gleason of Paola in 1885. Rev. Father Pujos became a resident pastor in 1889. Reverend Joseph A. Pompeney, D.D., came from Leavenworth as resident pastor in 1890. In speaking of this period Doctor Pompeney remarks: "I succeeded Father Pujos as resident pastor in March, 1890. Father Pujos must have been the first resident pastor. He purchased a two-story frame building two blocks south of the location where the new church was erected and used it as the first pastoral residence. I occupied the house between March, 1890, and October, 1893, when I was appointed to Pittsburg. Rev. B. Hudson succeeded me (as a non-resident pastor). He lived at Olathe. He sold the pastoral residence at Edgerton to Martin Kelley. The old stone church was still standing when I left Edgerton in 1893. The new church was built in the town of Edgerton as an accommodation to the priest and to a considerable number of parishioners who lived north and west, and who had to drive through town and a mile and three-fourths beyond the town eastward to the old church." The cost of this new building was about $3,000.
After Father Hudson, came (between 1893 and 1910) Reverend Fathers Lee, Kennedy, Freisberg, McInerney, Galvin, and Herron, all of Olathe. Edgerton was once more a mission station. Reverend Denis J. Fitzpatrick became resident pastor in January, 1910. He built the present pastoral residence at a cost of $2,646.00. The zealous young priest did much for the financial and spiritual welfare of the parish. He lived in the sacristy of the church until the new residence was finished in May, 1910. By the end of the year he was recalled home by his own Bishop in Ireland to the great regret of the people of Edgerton. He was succeeded by Reverend B. F. McGeary as resident pastor.
After Father McGeary, came Reverend Lawrence Kramer in 1913, as resident pastor; he was followed in turn by Reverend David C. Hall, the present worthy pastor who was appointed in April, 1916.
During all the years many good priests came at stated times to minister to the people, while, at other times, priests who were not interested in the place acted as pastors for a time and passed on. The spirit of faith and piety grew cold, some remained away from Mass, while others became penurious and failed to contribute, according to their means, to support of religion. Discord and disunion threatened the very life of the parish. This, however, was more apparent than real, for the people were still Roman Catholic to the heart's core and took small account of such bickerings. Family prayer and the observance of fast and abstinence was strictly maintained, and few, if any, ever missed their Easter duty.
In writing of the early days, Mr. J. W. McCarthy says: "In the log cabin of Mr. and Mrs. John McCarthy, was celebrated the first Mass, which was attended by four or five families only, namely: Mr. and Mrs. Patrick O'Connell and family, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Gallivan and family, (Santa Fe) John Dwyer and family, (Black) Dennis Dwyer, Mr. and Mrs. John McCarthy and family, Mr. Murtha Noland and family this was in 1857.
"In this log cabin of Mr. McCarthy were administered all the sacraments of the Church except Holy Orders. It was the home of all the priests and Bishops up until 1880. Strange to say, that there were no deaths in the community except one, a sudden death in a saw mill, up until the year 1870 that were not attended by a priest, for there was never a night too dark or cold for certain young men in the congregation to go for the priest or doctor. They would ride one horse and lead another for the priest or doctor to ride on. The round trip would take two days and two nights. They would always have to return with the priest. Those young men were Michael Keating, John Reding, Maurice Buttinore, J. W. and Florence McCarthy, Junior (brothers).
"The land donated for the cemetery was: First, one acre by Mr. Murtha Noland, the Northeast one; the next was given by Mr. Michael McCarthy, the Southeast one; the Northwest one was donated by Mr. Michael Kenneally, and the Southwest one by Mr. Patrick Brickley. The present cemetery now.
"The first to enter Religion was Hannah McCarthy, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John McCarthy, now Sister Felicita of the Order of St. Vincent De Paul of Leavenworth. Next, Mary Sullivan, a step-daughter of (Black) Dennis Dwyer, Sister Zita. She died shortly after her profession in the Order of St. Vincent De Paul. May Knipscher, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Knipscher, Sister Mary Bernard, Order of St. Vincent De Paul. Father John Knipscher, S.J., a brother of Sister Mary Bernard. The next is Mr. J. Leo McCarthy, S.J., a scholastic, teacher of St. Mary's College; he is son of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. McCarthy, nephew of Sister Felicitas. Margaret Kauffman is now a Novice, if I understand right, of the St. Joseph Order of St. Louis, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Kauffman, now of Edgerton but formerly of Louisburg. Do not know her Sister name. Agnes McCarthy is a Postulant of St. Vincent De Paul of Leavenworth.
"The Edgerton people did not only build three churches at Edgerton but were assessed to help build a residence and to furnish it at Baldwin. They helped to build a second church and residence at Olathe, and to furnish them. The stone church at Edgerton was built in or about the year of 1866-7."
Some of the old family names have disappeared from the district and many new ones have been added to the parish roster. There are now about forty-five families in the parish.
The main altar in the present church as well as many other splendid gifts came from the venerable pioneers, Mr. and Mrs. Florence McCarthy.
The young people have scattered far and wide, filling places of honor in all walks of life--while still retaining much of the old Catholic spirit of their ancestors. The future of the parish is now assured. It is financially and spiritually prosperous.
A parochial school will, some day, crown the work and an increased Catholic population will be attracted to Edgerton district on account of its religions and educational advantages as well as its rich soil and healthful climate.
Thomas Coughlin died at his farm in Richland township, Miami county, Kansas, Saturday, January 10, 1920, at the age of 93 years, five months and fifteen days. He was a great character, a natural leader of men, who was above the petty dissensions of life, fair minded and just. He was a true Christian and practiced it every day of his life. He was wonderfully devoted to his family, and to him his boys were always his children, and his happiest moments were when he had them about him. He looked forward each Sunday to the visit of his two sons in Paola, Edward and Robert, and was always solicitous for the welfare of his family, even as the shadows were closing about him. His mental vigor was remarkable, enabling him to direct the management of his large business interest as unerringly and successfully as in the earlier years of his life. His death brings sorrow to all the community where he lived and wherever he was known. the heritage of a great life is the most valuable possession that he could have bequeathed to his family.
Mr. Coughlin was born July 26, 1826, his life reaching far into two centuries. His birthplace was the town of Moate, county of West Meath, Ireland. His father lived on seven acres of rented land, which he farmed by the use of a spade. Thomas came to America in 1849, requiring seven weeks and three days to make the voyage. He was sick three months and in quarantine in the city of New York after his arrival. As soon as he was able, he hired to a farmer in New Jersey and worked for $6.00 a month during the winter and for $15 a month during harvest. In 1852 he went to Crawfordsville, Indiana. The same year he sent for his father and brother to come to this country and sent them $40 to pay for their voyage. He came to Kansas, March 10, 1858. He was told at St. Louis that he would not be able to make the trip, because of the border troubles, but said that he was never treated with more courtesy than on this trip, which he made overland, riding a horse. The people where he stopped would not let him even saddle his own horse or pay for his keep. He put in a little ten acre crop of corn, and in June of that year, in the company with Peter McCormick and Michael Coughlin, walked to Leavenworth, making the trip in one day over Indian paths, and worked the remainder of that year and the next on the government farm at Leavenworth. In October, 1859, he returned to Crawfordsville and worked for Mr. Blair as a packer and butcher until 1865, when he again came to Kansas. His father came to this State in 1865.
Mr. Coughlin was married in Kansas City in 1868, by Rev. Father Donnelly, to Miss Bridget McLaughlin, his Crawfordsville, Indiana, sweetheart, who faced the hardships of the early days with her husband, uncomplainingly, and who was her husband's best inspiration.
Privations then were many and comforts and necessities few, but there would have been no pioneering, no development of the sturdy pioneer character, if this had not been true. He brought practically nothing with him to Kansas except his determined purpose, his sturdy character and the integrity that illuminated his whole life and which are characteristic of his family. The prairie cabins were few and widely scattered, and when he went away from home at night he hung a lantern at his cabin door to guide his return. He walked to Leavenworth for his provisions and carried them home on his back. Finally he became the proud possessor of a pony, and by working an occasional day for the neighbor pioneers, he secured the use of another pony with which to break up his prairie farm and get part of it planted. From this humble beginning, by slow degrees, with what we now regard as the hardships of pioneer life, but which were then considered merely the incidents necessary in the country's development, came the splendid estate of 1,100 acres of the finest land in Kansas, well improved and well stocked, which he leaves to his family. With its accumulation came the development of the splendid citizenship for which Thomas Coughlin stood. His life was in the open, physically and mentally, and because of his well ordered life and regular habits, he was as sturdy as the oak that withstood the storms of ages, and lived far beyond the allotted span. He leaves his widow, one daughter and five sons, his children being among the most useful and respected citizens of Miami county. The daughter is the wife of W. L. Rigney of Paola. Three of the sons assisted their father in the management of his farms, Thomas J., John and Charles F. Coughlin, and two of the sons live in Paola, Edward H. and Robert E. Coughlin, who are leading members of the Miami county bar.
The funeral was held Monday, January 12, at 10:30 o'clock a. m., from Assumption church at Edgerton. His pallbearers were his five sons and his son-in-law, W. L. Rigney. Solemn High Mass was said by Father D. C. Hall of Edgerton, assisted by Father A. J. Domann and Father T. H. Kinsella of Paola. Burial was in the Catholic cemetery at Edgerton.
Thomas Coughlin climbed the rugged pathway of life, conquering and surmounting obstacles that seemed almost impassable, and in the fullness of years gazed calmly down from the heights, with the consciousness that he had fulfilled life's best mission and left no duty undone.
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