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large numbers of Catholics in Elbow and McDowell's Creek, Man-
hattan had so few that the first Mass was not said there until 1865.
At that time Father Dumortier celebrated it at the home of Mr. and
Mrs. Mathew Peak and he baptized their daughter, Rose, on the
same day. Glass candlesticks used at this original service are still
in the possession of the Peak family. 48 The fact that the map of
1866 does not state numbers for Manhattan is an indication that the
few families there joined the Catholics of near-by congregations for
services or conducted them in the Peak home. 49

McDowell's Creek is in the country a few miles southeast of Man-
hattan. There were never many communicants there and those few
were Irish. Among them were the Brannick, Ryan and Tully fami-
lies and later converts from the Lutheran Schippert family. These
people were mostly stone masons as is evidenced from the number
of stone walls, stone houses and stone barns still extant in that
vicinity. 50 Besides farming, this vicinity became known for sheep
raising. Today the little stone church and cemetery at the foot of
the hill brings a person back to the days when Father Dumortier
would arrive to serve his flock. Although some baptisms are re-
corded for McDowell's Creek as early as 1859, they must have been
those of adult converts. The first two white children born in the
valley were John Brannick and Mary Ann Tully. The former lost

45. Interview with Msgr. A. J. Luckey, Manhattan, April 6, 1951.

46. Dumortier's map, 1866.

47. Interview with Msgr. A. J. Luckey, Manhattan, April 6, 1951; interview with
Sebastian Dekat, Flush, April 6, 1951.

48. Arthur J. Luckey, Seven Dolors Parish, Manhattan, Kansas (Manhattan, 1920),
PP. [7, 8]; interview with John Peak, Manhattan, April 6, 1951.

49. Dumortier's map, 1866.

50. The Kansas City Catholic Register in 1937 carried several articles on the history
of the Catholic church in the Diocese of Concordia (now Salina). Among these was one on
McDowell's creek, July 15, 1937; interview with Mrs. Mary Brannick and Marie Brannick,
McDowell's Creek, April 6, 1951.


his mother a few days after his birth and was reared by the James
Ryan family whose daughter he later married. The Ryan family
donated land for the church and cemetery. Mary Ann Tully died
in April, 1951, in Junction City. 51

To the west of McDowell's Creek is Clark's Creek. There were
three distinct settlements all Irish in this region. The familiar
names still found in the locality are Maloney, Gogin, Murphy, O'Day
and McGrath. Patrick Maloney and James Gogin, both bound for
Clark's Creek, met in Leavenworth, bought a span of oxen, put a
top on a wagon and struck out together for their destination. Ma-
loney settled at Skiddy and Gogin three miles down the creek. Two
living members of the latter family, who were baptized by Father
Dumortier, furnished this information. 52 Members of families from
Chapman's Creek and Glare's Creek intermarried in several in-
stances. 53 This mission, some 55 miles from St. Mary's, had a con-
gregation of 94 in 1866. 54

Lyon's Creek, also to the south of the Kaw, had a few Catholics,
about 30 in number. In an account entitled, "Kansas Sixty Years
Ago," there is a reference to neighborly visits back and forth among
the settlements. Thomas F. Doran of Lyon's Creek wrote:

There were two Irishmen who came regularly to visit us. They were Pat
Maloney and Tom O'Day. They always came in the winter, and usually in a
snow storm. Every time a blizzard came from the north we looked for them,
though they had to travel from Clark's creek, a distance of twenty miles. We
were seldom disappointed. O'Day came on foot, leading a saddled horse. I
never saw him ride. Maloney was a strong character and afterwards became
quite wealthy. 55

It appears that Father Dumortier would cross the Kaw and visit
the missions in the Cottonwood valley, first working west along the
creeks mentioned south of the river, and would recross the river at
Junction City. Then he would go west, visiting the other missions
east of Junction City on his way back to St. Mary's. At Ogden there
was a sizable group of Dykes, Mallons, Hanaghans, Woods, Dixons
and a Jewish family, Weichselbaums, who were friendly to the

51. Interview with Msgr. James Bradley, Junction City, April 7, 1951. He stated
that the Tully family later helped in the erection of the Junction City church. The fact
that Father Dumortier knew of the capabilities of the people in the various settlements made
this co-operation possible. Pride, op. cit., p. 90, states that some of the original buildings
at Fort Riley had been erected from stone quarried by Tully, contractor for buildings there.

52. Interview with Richard and Martin Gogin, Junction City, April 7, 1951. Both
men have died since that time.

53. Three Gogin daughters married three Scanlon sons of Chapman's Creek. The first
marriage performed of a native of Chapman's Creek and one of Clark's Creek was that of
John Erwin of the former and Ellen McGrath of the latter place, November 7, 1862.

54. Dumortier's map, 1866.

55. Thomas F. Doran, "Kansas Sixty Years Ago," Kansas Historical Collections, v. 15
(1919-1920), pp. 482-501; Clara M. Shields, "The Lyon Creek Settlement," ibid., v. 14
(1915-1918), pp. 143-170.


priest. 56 Here he built one of his stone churches. In the modern
church in Ogden today the main altar is erected to the memory of
this courageous missionary. 57

As mentioned previously, Junction City became the entrepot for
trade and travel to the West and a large group of Catholics settled
there at an early date. This became one of the largest and most
important missions of the area. The first mention in the Junction
City Weekly Union read: "Father DeMortier organized the Catholic
Church on June 4, 1861." 58 Important early settlers were the
Dixons Patrick, Thomas and James, A. B. White, John Caspar,
R. E. Lawrenson, R. O. Rizer, Anton Bader, V. Phester, A. Single-
man, James Maloney of Dry Creek, Mrs. J. Petter and Pat Breen.
Perhaps one of the most interesting women in the entire missionary
circuit was Mrs. Mary Clarke, whose husband, a captain in the
army, died in 1862. The following year she purchased a home in
Junction City. 59 While at Fort Riley she had been of great assist-
ance to Father Dumortier in helping him locate the Catholic soldiers
stationed there. Upon her removal to Junction City, she became
the religious leader of the community, forwarding every charitable
and religious cause. The government granted Mrs. Clarke the
privilege of operating the ferry across the Republican river at
Junction City and of collecting die tolls. She hired Tom O'Day to
operate the ferry for her until its discontinuance after the bridge
was built in 1867. 60

The local newspaper made many references to the church which
was to be built in Junction City, but, as with construction in general,
its actual building was postponed until after the Civil War. 61

56. Theodore Weichselbaum settled in Ogden in 1857 at the time the county seat and
the land office were located there. He became financially interested in sutlers' stores at
Forts Larned, Dodge, Harker, Wallace and Camp Supply. Early in the 1870's he built a
brewery at Ogden and ran it until the Kansas prohibition law was passed in 1881. The beer
was hauled around the country and sold to sutlers' stores and saloons. Pride, op. cit., pp.
109, 110. It was this same Weichselbaum who carried the news of the breaking out of the
Civil War from Fort Riley to Fort Wise (Bent's old fort) with an ox team. Ibid., p. 144.

57. Interview with Msgr. C. J. Roache, Abilene, April 8, 1951. The "Dumortier Ac-
count Book" listed expenditures for the church he erected as $1,300, with debts amounting
to $267 and with $56 in the treasury as of December 2, 1866.

58. Another item in the Junction City Weekly Union of May 29, 1862; Andreas-Cutler,
op. cit., pp. 1006, 1008.

59. Smoky Hill and Republican Union, August 22, 1863, stated: "The stone dwelling
house . . . was sold one day last week ... to Mrs. Capt. Clarke, of Fort Riley,
for $1450"; interview with Margie Clarke, Junction City, April 7, 1951; "St. Xavier's
Catholic Church Founded in 1861 by Father DeMortier, A Martyr to the Plague," Junction
City Union, March 3, 1934. This was the anniversary issue of the paper.

60. Interview with Mr. Hubert Bader, Junction City, April 7, 1951; interview with
Margie Clarke, Junction City, April 7, 1951. The ferry was swept away by high water and
repaired at once in 1865. Pride, op. cit., p. 150.

61. "Dumortier Account Book," December 2, 1866: "Deposit $205 minus $20 equals
$185. Mrs. Clarke had subscribed $50; gave $20; returned $10 at her request and the
$10 remaining to the Elbow Church. Therefore, deposit $185 for Junction City; Mr. John
Aipe gave $20 for the church of which $15 were returned to him at his request and $5
given to the Elbow Church. The money deposited for Junction City Church is not $185
but $165. The Church has in its treasury $470 cash. Common church property $500
cash." Smoky Hill and Republican Union, October 24, 1861; May 29, 1862; Junction City
Union, May 19, 1866.


Finally the Smoky Hill and Republican Union stated:

The citizens of Junction City and vicinity have gone to work in earnest
to have a Catholic Church erected . . .of brick or stone . . .
40 x 80 feet. . . . About three hours work on Thanksgiving Day pro-
duced a subscription of over $1100 for the purpose. In addition . . . a
large amount has been subscribed by persons living in the surrounding vicinity.
Success to it we say. 62

This was the most expensive structure of those erected by Father
Dumortier, costing over $4,000. It was finished with the aid of
stone masons from McDowell's Creek and ready for dedication at
the time of the death of the priest in July, 1867. 63 The congrega-
tion was about one hundred. 64

Construction of the Kansas Pacific railroad accelerated the influx
of immigrants to central Kansas. As the track was laid, settlements
sprung up in its wake. With the march of civilization went the
missionary as far west as present-day Ellsworth, and reaching out
into the untracked area to the north and south as well. 65

As early as 1851, the Rev. Ignatius Maes, S. J., had found his way
to Chapman's creek to labor among the Indians. Several tribes
habitually roamed over this part of the territory along the Smoky
Hill river and Chapman's creek, which was favorable for hunting.
An added reason for the choice of this region for Indian maneuvers
was the presence of numerous springs. Indian hill, on the high
knoll overlooking the valley, became a communal burial ground for
a number of Indian tribes. There is a tradition among white settlers
that the squaws would gather there periodically to chant their
death songs on three consecutive nights to the consternation of the
frightened pioneers. 66

While ministering to the Indians, Father Maes encountered
whites scattered throughout a wide area and ministered to them
until the coming of Dumortier. By that time other Irish families
had settled there. John Erwin and Michael Hogan arrived in 1858
and shortly afterwards John Powers and William Delaney arrived.
The latter had scouted there earlier and now came to settle per-
manently. The first corn crop was credited to Thomas Howe and

62. Ibid., December 8, 1866; February 23, 1867.

63. Ibid., August 10, 1867, stated: "Mass will be celebrated in the new Catholic
church on next Sunday [the llth] morning at 10 o'clock."

64. Dumortier's map, 1866; DeSmet, op. cit., p. 112. In the present church in Junc-
tion City is a plaque in honor of Father Dumortier. The name is spelled DeMorte.

65. These settlements included Chapman's Creek, Mud Creek (Abilene), Solomon,
balina, Lincoln, Ellsworth and Fort Harker (present-day Kanopolis). Up the Republican
river and Parson's creek there was a mission for 59. Dumortier's map, 1866.

66. J. B. Carpenter, "Early Days of Chapman," Abilene Chronicle, August 29, 1930.
This was a reprint of an article written and published in 1884.


the first wheat to Michael Hogan. 67 Since the nearest mills were at
Leavenworth and Council Grove, these men were obliged to haul
their grain by ox wagon to those distant places. Oftentimes they
took their families with them the entire journey or left them with
their friends in the more eastern settlements. 68 Other Catholic
families were those of L. L. Warnock, John Nash, John Lundrigan,
Mrs. M. Kelley, Mrs. Catherine Ryan and Mrs. M. Devan, all of
whom became prosperous farmers. 69

Father Dumortier began to plan at once the building of a church
in Chapman and the settlers donated time and the sum of $700, a
veritable fortune in those days. Rock was quarried near by, but
lumber had to be brought from Leavenworth. In the account book
he listed the outlay of money to the amount of $1,750, with $50 in
the treasury. 70 The Junction City Union commented that stone
work on the little church was finished and the carpenters were
enclosing it. 71

The old church, although not used since 1883, is still a pioneer
landmark, standing in the old Chapman cemetery. Each year on
Memorial Day it is used again by the descendants of the pioneers
for services. 72 The first couple married in that church was Patrick
Riordan of Solomon and Maggie Devan of Chapman. Prior to
that time, John Erwin of Chapman had married Ellen McGrath of
Clark's Creek at the home of her parents in the latter place as there
was no church in either place. 73 There was a large congregation of
140 in Chapman in 1866. 74

Mud Creek had changed its name to the more dignified Biblical
one of Abilene about the time that Father. Dumortier met a group
of Catholic settlers there. In 1859 the James Mason, Margaret
Callahan and Pat Hall families settled in Abilene and invited the
priest to their homes. With the coming of the Kansas Pacific, a
considerable colony of Catholics moved there from Kankakee, 111.
This included the Ryans, Rings, Hogans and Sherrins. Most of the

67. Ibid. John Erwin also operated a stage station for some time in the early days.
Pride, op. cit., p. 127.

68. Notes by and interview with Mrs. Ann Erwin Thisler, Chapman, April 1 and 8,

69. These names predominate in the cemetery at Chapman, where not only the first
settlers of that place but also those of Abilene and Clark's creek were buried.

70. This account was itemized as follows: "(eve of my retreat) Chapman's Creek has

E$930 to masons; $54 to Devan for lumber; $15 to Hardeher Hall; $30 to John Essen
rin?] for lumber; $750 to Loder Corporation. Total $1750." "Dumortier Account
c," December 2, 1886.

71. Junction City Union, May 19, 1866.

72. This is considered the oldest church in the Diocese of Salina. Interview with
the Rev. Romanus Mattingly, Chapman, March 14, 1951; interview with Mrs. Ann Erwin
Thisler, Chapman, April 8, 1951.

73. November 7, 1862, with Father Louis Dumortier as officiating priest.

74. Dumortier's map, 1866.


men freighted over the two routes hauling foodstuffs from Fort
Leavenworth to Salina and from Fort Riley to Fort Larned. These
trips with ox team were made infrequently, only when necessary. 75

According to the memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Callahan Flynn,
daughter of the pioneer mother who with her large family staked
a claim west of the present St. Joseph's orphanage, the first Mass
was said in the log cabin of her grandmother in 1860. She received
Communion at the hands of Father Dumortier. She stated that he
was revered by Protestants and Catholics alike. The first baptism
in Abilene proper was that of Jimmy Hall in I860. 76 There were 82
Catholics there in 1866, although a church was not built until 1874.
Many joined the Chapman Creek congregation or heard Mass in,
private residences. 77

Mrs. Flynn related that the people of Abilene felt sorry to see
Father Louis riding bareback on his pony; therefore, they sponsored
a dance, the proceeds of which would buy him a buggy. The sum
of $180 was realized. However, en route back to St. Mary's, he
found one of his churches in debt and with a generous gesture
turned the money over to it. This was a disappointment to his
Abilene benefactors but they admired the charity of the missionary.

Beyond Abilene was another Irish settlement, Solomon City,
which became the largest mission in point of numbers, 200 in 1866. 78
This large number was due no doubt to the railroad camps built
there. Previous mention has been made of the work of two fron-
tierswomen, Mrs. Mary Clarke of Junction City and Mrs. Margaret
Callahan of Abilene, in assisting Father Dumortier to bring about
parish life in those places.

The third woman in this account was Mrs. Margaret Riordan, a
widow, who with her seven children and her nephew, traveled in
1860 from LaSalle county, Illinois, by boat to Leavenworth and
thence to the Solomon valley. On the long trek across the country
they stopped at St. Mary's where they enjoyed the hospitality of
the Jesuit Fathers. While there, Father Dumortier described to

75. Margaret Callahan Flynn, "Memoirs." This account was written December 20,
1936, in an interview with the Rev. Edmund Arpin to be used by the Rev. Joseph Conway
in an article similar to the one under consideration. The interviewer commented that
Mrs. Flynn, although old at the time, had a clear mind and in checking the information
she supplied the writer also feels that it may be considered reliable.

76. Ibid. Mrs. Flynn was nine years old at the time. Hence the events she chronicled
happened within her lifetime. Her marriage record is found in the old baptismal, death
and marriage record book in the Solomon parish house. It reads: "Abilene on this
nineteenth day of November, 1870, I the undersigned joined in the bonds of holy matrimony
John Flynn, age 23 and Margaret Callahan, age 19 years. Witnesses were Richard Callahan
and Kate Dawe. Felix Swembergh."

77. Dumortier's map, 1866; interview with Agnes Callahan, Abilene, April 8, 1951.

78. Dumortier's map, 1866.



them the country through which they would travel, some of his
parishioners whom they would meet en route, and the beauties
and possibilities of the valley where they hoped to settle. 79

Continuing westward for a few days, they reached Chapman's
Creek where they made the acquaintance of the Erwin, Devan and
other Catholic families who encouraged them to stay in this more
settled location. However, "Mother Riordan," as she came to be
known, continued to the spot where they had been advised to settle.
To their surprise, they found the log cabin of John Begley, an Irish-
man, who had taken a claim on Buckeye creek, four miles northwest
of present Solomon. He advised the Riordans to take land immedi-
.ately to the south, which they did. There they built a sturdy cabin
which became the center of Catholicism for a large area. "Mother
Riordan/' a powerful personality, is spoken of with reverence even
to the present time.

It was some time before the familiar white pony wandered rider-
less into the Riordan property. It was the custom of Father Louis,
when he saw the cabin to which he was directed, to dismount and
allow the pony to go ahead and announce his coming. Mrs. Riordan,
accustomed as she was to caution in dealing with frontier peddlers
or refugees from organized society, always advised her children to
ask from whence the stranger came. When one day the answer
was "St. Mary's" it was evident that the long-expected guest had

Hurriedly she summoned the Berrigans, the Sullivans, the Stan-
tons and other pioneers. In the possession of the Riordan family
today is found the rosewood chest from Ireland upon which Mass
was said and in which were kept linens used solely for that pur-
pose. 80 In 1865 Father Dumortier proposed that a church be
started. An item in the Junction City Weekly Union the following
year stated: "A Catholic Church and school house are to be built
at Solomon City during this Summer." 81 After the death of Father
Louis, Solomon became a resident pastorate from whence the priest
cared for Catholics west to the Colorado line. 82

79. Interview with Mrs. Mary O'Keefe, Solomon, April 3, 1951. The children of
Mrs. Riordan were John, Bridget, Timothy, Patrick, Dennis, Mary and Thomas. All mar-
ried and took put claims in the Solomon valley. Patrick as mentioned in another connection
married Maggie Devan of Chapman's Creek. "Into Old History," Salina Journal, July 18,
1933. This was a reprint of an article on the beginnings of Solomon which had appeared in
a paper, The Rustler, 1895, edited and published by W. R. Geis of Salina.

80. Interview with Mrs. Mary O'Keefe, Solomon, April 3, 1951.

81. Junction City Weekly Union, July 6, 1867.

82. The "Solomon Parish Book" contains an account of the general history of the
beginnings of the church there in the handwriting of the Rev. Felix Swembergh, pastor in
1869. In this same book are accounts of baptisms, confirmations, deaths and marriages for
the early years. Since the priest from Solomon tended to the spiritual needs of Catholics
as far as the Colorado line records for those dates are to be found there. Sixteen were
confirmed by Bishop John B. Miege on June 20, 1869, at Solomon; Andreas-Cutler, op. cit.,
pp. 691, 692.


There were so few Catholics in Salina during Dumortier's time
that services were conducted either with the Solomon congregation
or in log cabins of the settlers. The priest stayed at the A. M.
Campbell home when in Salina. This was one of the pioneer non-
Catholic families of Salina and they treated him as a member of the
family. Living members of the Campbell family relate that their
mother always referred to him as a very pious man, a true saint
if ever one walked the prairies of Kansas. 83

The German Schippel brothers, Gotthard and John, who pio-
neered in the Saline valley, erected a log cabin on the banks of that
river. Gotthard Schipple married Clara Wary, daughter of a Bel-
gian Catholic, and the descendants of that branch became one of
the prosperous families of Saline county. Carpenters by trade,
the Schippels realized the need for transportation over the Saline
for on-coming immigrants. Therefore, they built a ferry, charging
a dollar a wagon or team. It is recorded that some days they
ferried as many as 300 across the river. 84

The early settlers of Salina were of mixed nationality German,
Belgian, French and Irish. Names still prominent in the parish are
Giersch, Wary, McAuliffe, Commerford, Carlin, O'Reilly, Cunning-
ham, Sherrin, Geis and Schwartz. In 1866 there were 75 Catholics
in the Saline valley. 85

Father Dumortier rode on past Salina up the Saline river in
1867 to present-day Lincoln. There, according to printed sources,
he was called Father LeMarte. A description of the early days is

The structure was a log cabin; the priest had come from Ellsworth, and
was not seen again for months . . . instructions was given to the little
ones and confessions were heard on the banks of the Saline beneath a friendly
cottonwood tree. . . , 86

Lincoln was also an Irish settlement, where the Owen Healeys,
the Whalens and the Flahertys settled in 1865. The Dumortier map
indicates a congregation of 45. 87

83. Interview with Mrs. A. M. Campbell, Salina, April 11, 1951.

84. Interview with Mrs. Rose Wessling Schippel, Salina, April 18, 1951. The Fort
Riley-Fort Lamed road crossed the Smoky Hill river at Salina. James R. Mead, "The
Saline River Country in 1859," Kansas Historical Collections, v. 9 (1905-1906), pp. 8-19;
Andreas-Cutler, op. cit., p. 698: George A. Root, "Ferries in Kansas," The Kansas Historical
Quarterly, v. 4 (1935), May, pp. 151-153.

85. Dumortier's map, 1866; Anna M. Geis, "The Coming of the Catholic Church to
Salina," Salina Journal, October 6, 1931. This was a reprint of a talk given to the Saline
County Native Daughters, September, 1931.

86. Connelley, op. cit., v. 3, p. 1607, contains an article on early beginnings in Lin-
coln county; and on p. 1605, an article on Michael Joseph Healey, son of Owen Healey, in
which considerable mention is made of Catholicity there; Adolph Roenigk, Pioneer History
of Kansas (Lincoln, Kan., 1933), pp. 63-68; interview with Miss Nellie Healey, Salina,
April 3, 1951; interview with Mr. and Miss Dillon, Lincoln, April 3, 1951.

87. Dumortier's map, 1866; George Jelinek, Ellsworth, 1867-1947 (Salina, 1947),

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 20) → online text (page 31 of 76)