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NEGenWeb Project Church/Catholic Franciscans

Activity of the Friars Outside of Columbus, NE

Chapter VIII

St. Mary of the Angels, Grand Prairie Township

The Mother Parish of All German Parishes in Platte County THE LAY OF THE LAND The church of St. Mary's is located about four and one-half miles southeast of Humphrey in the township of Grand Prairie, Platte county, Nebraska. Grand Prairie, until about 1872, was called "Stearns Prairie", after Mr. O. E. Stearns. The latter, according to I. N. Taylor, settled in the year 1869, about two miles east of the present St. Mary's church. Mr. Stearns established a store there, followed it with a hotel, and was soon made postmaster of the settlement. Within the year he was joined by the Regan Brothers and Mr. John Peter Braun, the first Catholic settlers in the vicinity. Mr. Robert Gentleman, from Canada, was another pioneer Catholic settler. TAYLOR'S DESCRIPTION OF "STEARNS PRAIRIE" Mr. I. N. Taylor, the first historian of Platte county, writing in "The Columbus Republican" in 1875, described Stearns Prairie as follows: "The prairie has properly taken the name of the original settler, not only from the fact of the first settlement, but from the prominence of this twin sister hill, overlooking the vast area of 100 square miles, and visible from every quarter for a long distance, as also from the record of the proprietor, which is not unworthy of the designation. This prairie is a part of the plain stretching from Shell Creek to Tracy Creek, with surface so level that a railroad might be laid along the entire divide with scarcely a cut or a fill. The soil is a deep chocolate loam, underlaid with calcareous clay. It has already (1875) become notorious for its fine crops of wheat. "As to improvements, it is a vast chess board, the even sections or square miles being colored, chiefly black by the plow, and the odd ones being railroad land, remaining in their native green or brown. At first thought one might complain that half of this great wide expanse should be out of the reach of the homesteader, and owned by a railroad corporation. But on second thought it is plain, that but for the railroad these homesteads would not be here at all, or if here, so distant from all markets that they could scarcely subsist, much less have the blessings of various luxuries, frequent news, and the means of progress." (This article was signed "Eyentee", which was the author's unique way of signing himself--I. N. Taylor.) 1 8.htm THE FIRST CATHOLIC SETTLER The first Catholic German settler in Grand Prairie was John Peter Braun, who was born in Germany and immigrated to Wisconsin in 1848, settling about six miles south of Milwaukee, where he purchased twenty acres of land. In 1861 he moved to Dane county, where he had purchased 80 acres. About fall (1869) he came to Platte county, settling in Grand Prairie, which was then still called "Stearns Prairie". Here he homesteaded and took a timber claim, was one of the organizers of the first parish for German-speaking Catholics in Platte county, and, with his wife, donated liberally to the support of the church, and, in his influential position, did much good until his death, A. D. 1893. Rev. Edmund Roediger, O. F. M., onetime pastor of St. Mary's, called Mrs. J. P. Braun "The greatest benefactress of the parish". Their children, Joseph, Hubert and John, Jr., also deserve mention in the chronicle of the parish. FIRST TRACES OF CATHOLIC WORSHIP In the aggregation of people settling in Stearns Prairie, there were about sixteen families, of German, Austrian and Dutch extraction. Most of these people, who spoke German, had migrated first to Dane county, Green Bay, etc., in Wisconsin, and thence to their Nebraska home, mostly situated about eighteen miles or more from Columbus. Pursuant to the encouragement of Fathers F. Uhing, of West Point and John Bernard, of Forest City and St. Patrick's on Shell Creek, respectively, both energetic early Nebraska missionaries and often mentioned in this history, the German Catholic settlers, at the urging of Rev. F. Uhing, were finally called together at the home of Augustine Wieser, for the purpose of building a church. One meeting had been held at the Wieser home and another at John Peter Braun's residence. Augustine Wieser and William Eimers each of298

Rev. Meinolph Schmitz, O. F. M. 2 8.htm (1) Old St. Mary's Church, Humphrey P. O.; (2) Interior of Second St. Mary's Church; (3) Exterior of Second St. Mary's Church

Rev. Valentine Dorenkemper, O. F. M.

Rev. Anselm Puetz, O. F. M. 299

Rev. Joseph Unger

fered a strip of ten acres. Wieser offered the identical ground on which the present Tarnov church stands. A wealthy French settler, John B. Senecal, who was present at the second meeting, offered a ten-acre plot and, an extra $100. When asked whether the $100 meant over and above what he had already, subscribed, he affirmed the question. Thereupon, J. P. Braun withdrew his offer, believing that 10 acres and $200 was too big a donation. After considerable parley, the Wm. Eimer site was accepted. A building committee composed of Messrs. John P. Braun, Wm. Eimers and Inatz (sic) Zach was appointed to take charge of the church to be erected. THE FIRST PARISHIONERS 3 8.htm In checking over the number of people that lived in the territory of the proposed church, the committee found the following families, all of whom became the first parishioners of St. Mary's: J. P. Braun, Augustine Wieser, Ignats Zach, John Pfeifer, Mrs. Mary Pfeifer, Matthew Fuchs, William Elmers, Leonard Widhalm, Paul Faber, Frank Pfeifer, Anton Pfeifer, William Tieskoetter, Richard Olmer, Timothy Tracy, J. B. Senecal, Mr. Kiloran, Robert Gentleman, I. Veith. Several Iowans aided in building the church by sending money, while still residents of the Hawkeye state. They included: Henry Scheidemantel, Henry Kraemer, Wm. Kraemer, Bernard Konert, Frederick Unger, Joseph Kraemer, Henry Lohaus, Joseph Wemhoff, Mrs. Pleischer. All of the above mentioned people finally settled in Stearns Prairie and attached themselves to St. Mary's parish with the exception of the Kraemers and Mrs. Pleischer. The building of the church was agreed upon in 1874, but that summer brought the first devastation by the grasshoppers. By this and the lack of money the building was delayed until the following year. CONDITIONS OF CHURCH MEMBERSHIP An important meeting was held on March 22, 1875, and soon after, the structure was commenced. Strict rules were laid down by the first parishioners. Some of them were: Every landowner and settler had to give a note, payable in two installments, and drawing a ten per cent interest charge, if allowed to become overdue. Everybody who desired to call St. Mary's his parish had to make a contribution. Everyone had to buy a lot in the cemetery. "He who does not contribute to the priest's salary loses his church membership. If the will of the people designates that everyone must donate money for one or another necessity, every parishioner must contribute." "Manual work and teaming must be done by all families, and divided as evenly as possible." The voice of the parishioners in assembly is all-powerful, and when a quorum of twenty was present, the entire church membership is bound by the decisions. All movements of a larger nature must be voted upon and passed at a regular or special meeting. The following is the list subscription to the church fund: John Peter Braun $ 100 4 8.htm Ignatz Zach Leonard Widhalm Frank Pfeifer Matthaeus Fuchs Mrs. Mary Pfeifer J. B. Senecal Richard Olmer August Wieser Paul Faber Turner's Bank, Columbus Wm. Tieskoetter John Pfeifer (Timothy) Tracy Mr. Kiloran Various contributions THE BUILDING IS COMMENCED Despite the ruinous visit of the grasshoppers and the loss of a portion of the crop the previous summer, the church was ordered to be started in June, 1875. A contract was then made for lumber. Accordingly, the committee on building made a trip to Columbus and bought lumber amounting to $340. Three hundred dollars of this was paid in cash and a note given for the. remainder. There was then $125 left in the treasury. The settlers all helped to haul the lumber to the new site. John Pfeifer laid the brick foundation and John P. Braun commenced on the frame work. Mr. Glassbrenner, a carpenter, was secured and lodged gratis in the home of John P. Braun. Mr. Glassbrenner agreed to do the work for his board and also wages amounting to $105. When the building was already partly up, several of the parishioners objected that the structure was being built on too low ground. So great was the murmur that the 'building was moved about a hundred steps to the south and there completed. Work was finished late in the fall of 1875 and the new church named "St. Mary's of the Angels". Rev. Fr. Ryan, Rev. F. Schulack, S. J., Fr. Uhing and John Bernard (later known as Fr. Alexius, O. F. M.) held services at intervals. The building committee consisted of John P. Braun, Augustine Wieser and Ignatz Zach. 300 20 16 5 16 8 5 8 60 15 20 5 8 10 5 35

DIFFICULTY OF OBTAINING A GERMAN PASTOR 5 8.htm At first, Fr. Ryan of Columbus held services in the new church, but he was aware that the parishioners greatly desired a pastor speaking their own language. After the first great difficulty of gathering enough to build a House of God, there remained no less a difficulty in securing the services of a German pastor. Such priests were exceedingly rare in Nebraska at that time. An appeal was even directed to the Holy Father in Rome, by Mr. J. B. Braun. Meanwhile St. Mary's was visited occasionally by Revs. O. Groenebaum of Omaha, Rev. J. Bernard and Rev. Schulack (Sulac), S. J., of Chicago, Illinois. The Bishop of Omaha, Rt. Rev. James O'Connor, a man of apostolic zeal, did all in his power to supply shepherds to his rapidly increasing flock. His greatest task was obtaining pastors from various countries of the world for congregations speaking chiefly some foreign language. Priests for the Germans, Bohemians and Poles were exceedingly hard to get. FRANCISCAN VICTIMS OF THE KULTURKAMPF COME TO THE RESCUE The rector of St. Mary Magdalene's Church, in Omaha, Fr. Otto Groenebaum, called the Bishop's attention to the fact that many Franciscan victims of the Kulturkampf in Germany, had sought refuge in the United States, going chiefly to Illinois. The Bishop immediately applied to them (probably in 1876) in behalf of his German and Polish flocks. Accordingly, the Very Rev. Commissary Provincial of the Franciscans in America, Fr. Mauritius Klostermann, O. F. M., of Teutopolis, Illinois, inspected several sites including Fremont, but selected Columbus as the location for the Franciscan monastery. At the end of January, 1877, two of their number, Frs. Ambrose Janssen and Anselm Puetz, were sent by the Commissary Provincial Mauritius to Nebraska, and Fr. Ambrose arrived at Columbus in the beginning of February, 1877. He took charge of the Germans there as well as of Stearns Prairie. THE FIRST FRANCISCAN PASTOR ATTENDS Fr. Otto Groenebaum had just obtained permission to take a trip to Europe to visit his aged parents and Bishop O'Connor delegated Fr. Groenebaum to visit Bohemia and induce priests and theological students to immigrate and labor in the Nebraska field, where many Bohemians had settled. Fr. Anselm was placed in temporary charge of St. Mary Magdalene's church, Omaha, from February 2 until about the middle of July. During his administration of the Omaha parish, Fr. Ambrose made several trips to the German church in Stearns Prairie and read Mass there for the first time on Ash Wednesday, February 14, 1877; March 14, April 8, and May 6. Fr. Sebastian Cebulla, O. F. M., is also mentioned as a visiting priest. On May 15, 1877, Fr. Anselm Puetz held divine service. THE FIRST REGULAR PASTOR When Fr. Groenebaum, in July, 1877, returned from Europe, Fr. Anselm Puetz, O. F. M., was appointed regular pastor of St. Mary's. A youthful and vigorous man, with bubbling zeal, he set about to cement the parts of a promising parish. Already in 1878, he enlarged the miniature 6 8.htm church on the east side, adding a sanctuary with a turret, a room for the priest and a sacristy, thus doubling its size and making it resemble a church. This improvement cost about $750. In the month of November, 1878, Bishop O'Connor came to Platte county and St. Mary's of the Angels church was visited. The Sacrament of Confirmation was administered there for the first time. Fr. Anselm kept a record of finances. His report from July, 1877, to the first of the year, 1879 is as follows: RECEIPTS Sunday collections Pew rent Cemetery lots and graves By notes Pew rent Contributions for pastor Total receipts EXPENDITURES Salary of pastor Sundries Total expenditures $209.00 143.66 $352.66 $ 64.17 46.75 68.42 66.42 25.00 242.00 $512.76

Fr. Anselm was an excellent manager, speaker and singer. Years later (about 1910), the kind old man was induced by Rev. Eugene O. F. M., to write his Reminiscences, and to them we take the reader for the next several paragraphs, knowing that they will be very acceptable and full of interest.

REMINISCENCES OF REV. P. ANSELM PUETZ, O. F. M. "Already during my stay in Omaha in the summer of 1877, acting as pastor of St. Mary Magdalene's parish during Rev. Otto Groenebaum's absence in Europe, I had now and then been in Columbus and vicinity. Thereafter the parish of German farmers in Stearns' Prairie, 18 miles north of Columbus, was assigned to me. At first these people had services twice a month, 301

soon, three times, and finally, every Sunday and Holy day. On the intervening Sunday I rode in the stage coach to Madison county, 35 miles north of Columbus, to an Irish settlement called Battle Creek at the confluence of Battle Creek and the Elkhorn river. The distance from Columbus varied, according to the location of the farm place where I stayed over night. 7 8.htm "SANCTA MARIA ANGELORUM", OR MARY, QUEEN OF ANGELS "Sancta Maria Angelorum", or Mary, Queen of Angels, is the title of the little church in the high prairie called Stearns Prairie, eighteen miles north of Columbus and about four and onehalf miles southeast of Humphrey. The Union Pacific Railroad owned this land on either side of the railroad track. It was given to the immigrants as homesteads. The farms consisted of eighty acres and the land was given to the settler on condition that he reside on the place for five consecutive years. There were also timber claims, so called, because the homestead clause designated that 160 acres would be given to the settler on the same conditions, providing that he plant at least forty acres in timber. The reason for this was to provide protection for the country against storms. A third method of acquisition of land was the school land, so called, because by law, it was provided that in each township two sections, (Nos. 16 and 36) be set aside and sold, the proceeds of which were to be placed in the school fund. These sections of school land might be sold for $500 or leased for twenty-five years. The immigrants now took up homesteads and timber claims for themselves and their grownup sons, and thus acquired considerable tracts of land. "The slogan, 'Go West, young man', evidently had been heeded by the settlers of Stearns Prairie. In the neighborhood of St. Mary's a little settlement of about fifty German and Austrian families had been formed. Most of them had come from the vicinity of Green Bay, Wisconsin, where they had wasted much time and energy in clearing up the timber lands. Of the Germans there were the families of Henry Wilde and his brother Bernard Wilde. Henry later on moved on to Texas. John Peter Braun was the first German Catholic to settle in Stearns Prairie. Of the Austrians, there were the families of Ignatz Zach and Augustine Wieser. Among the Dutch, who spoke German fluently, there were the Menten, Stephen Van Doren, Cornelius Heesacker, Frank Wassenburg and Martin Onkels. 'These and several others had come hither possessed of some money and hence were able to start unencumbered by indebtedness. Many however, especially among the Germans and Austrians, had come stripped of almost all their earthly means, and usually had enough left to make a small cash payment, to acquire a homestead of eighty acres. But the older settlers did not leave these to their fate. Victuals were exceedingly cheap in price, because, with Columbus as the closest market, products were not easily brought to the trade. The first comers aided their newer neighbors in building sod houses, and in breaking the soil. This recently broken ground was then planted with corn and potatoes. Even though the yield of the first year was small, it was sufficient for the subsistence of the planter. The next summer, when the sod was thoroughly decomposed, the plowshare was used once more. The soil, thus fertilized, then produced an abundant crop. FUEL "Fuel was the cheapest imaginable. There was no wood on the vast prairies, and while coal could be bought in Columbus, its purchase was beyond the wildest dream of most of the settlers, penniless as they were already. The coal at Columbus was monopolized by the Union Pacific Railroad, which had the only tracks running in all directions into Omaha and was thus able to 8 8.htm shut out all competition. The railroad, which owned the bridge across the Missouri at Omaha, would not allow any coal to be brought over it for Western sales, except in a very limited amount. Although it had only recently found rich coal lands on its property in Wyoming, it would not bring any of the needed fuel into those places, where it could maintain price control. "Our farmers found a way to extricate themselves from this plight. In the sloughs among the hills there grew a grass similar to a reed, which was tall and was quite tough. This grass the settlers mowed and after it was dry, handfuls were twisted into a kind of a fagot. This made excellent fuel, hot and effective; the labor connected with its manufacture led to the invention of a crude device to twist the slough grass. "Other settlers burned corncobs, with or without shelling off the corn, depending on the price paid for shelled corn".--N.B. by Editor: Some people have called this a sinful waste of corn, but there is no doubt that the early setlers (sic) were justified in pursuing the course they did. The farmers reasoned that the corn sold for less than the equivalent in coal, and after all the many expenses incidental to placing the produce on the market were deducted--planting, caring, picking, shelling, hauling, wear and tear on machines and vehicles, not to mention other lesser labors connected with it--all 302

combined in making the burning of corn the best way out after all. A settler testified that he had often taken corn to Madison and sold it for the attractively low price of 12 cents per bushel.. The same man claimed he knew of neighbors, who sold their crop in time of dire want for as low as 6 cents per bushel. Another settler claims that as late as seven or eight years ago, when corn was 19 and 20 cents per bushel, he burned corn in the furnace FARM IMPLEMENTS "There was another grave difficulty that confronted the poor pioneers. Where were they to obtain their necessary farm implements? This need was eventually taken care of in a rather peculiar and risky manner by some prominent man in Columbus, who owned several hundred acres of prairie land, possessed large herds of cattle and horses, which were tended by cowboys. This man was willing to take a mortgage on the homestead land and to give to the settlers a certain number of cattle and horses, as well as implements for farm use". (N.B. The transaction was somewhat shady, in as much as the mortgage given by the settler's was on land that did not as yet really belong to them. For under the law of the land the eighty acres of homestead did not belong to the settler until after five years of care--Editor). "I have observed that neither party ever suffered in consequence of this sort of tramaction, such was the honesty of those days. But by this method I noticed that even the poorest, by dint of industry and economy, attained to a certain affluence." 8.htm SPIRITUAL PRIVATIONS "St. Mary's was the only Catholic church between St. Patrick's on Shell Creek and the one at Battle Creek, beyond Madison. All those who, in this immense district, wished to attend church, had to attend St. Mary's. Accordingly, worshippers came from the vicinity of Madison, the territory where St. Bernard is now located, from the present St. Anthony's including a number of Poles who resided there, and from the east to a distance of twelve or fifteen miles (from the vicinity of the present town of Creston.--Editor). Churches soon began to spring up. The people along Elm Creek erected a church of their own (St. Anthony's, in Burrows Township); next, in 1878; St. Bernard sprang up; in December 1880 the Poles near St. Anthony's built St. Michael's at Burrows, now known as Tarnov. The next in line, was St. Leonard's, about 1881, in Madison, for the farmers scattered about Madison vicinity". HUMPHREY "St. Francis church at Humphrey, which town seemed to have sprung from the ground in 1880, was erected only a few years after the Union Pacific Railroad from Duncan to Norfolk had luckily crossed the prairie. Father Anselm speaks of Humphrey as follows: "At my time there was at Tracy Creek nothing save prairie and a German bachelor by the name of William Tieskoetter, who led a lonely life. An American named Humphrey had a considerable farm down the road and also managed a sod house hotel. Already at an early date keen-witted farmers voiced their opinion that St. Mary's had not been built in the most favorable location; it should have been built some miles to the north. The most advantageous places, as indicated by the shrewd farmers, were the present site of Humphrey, and also the place where St. Bernard now stands". A LITTLE SPECULATION "That St. Mary's was erected on the site it was is the result of speculation. A well-to-do merchant of Iowa City, Iowa, owned a large tract of land where the church building now stands. To render the land more valuable and to attract immigrants, he donated ten acres for church purposes on condition that the church be built on the ten acres. The man's name was William Eimers. The building of the church, however, was left by Mr. Eimers in the hands of the farmers. John P. Braun was interested in the proposition and took a prominent part in the construction of the edifice. His land adjoined the William Eimers' property on the south. By some mistake a number of the graves came to be placed on the Braun farm and had to be later exhumed and reinterred. Upon our arrival here, however, we found all these things to have been settled already". ANTI-FRANCISCAN FEELING "The Franciscans came to St. Mary's on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14th, 1877. At first they found opposition on the part of a few, who warned against the "Capuchins", who, they claimed, 10 8.htm would empoverish them. The course of events proved, however, that such was not the case and gradually the opposition subsided, especially when one of the chief trouble-makers was named as one of the church trustees by the shrewd pastor. The neighboring parishioners, especially John P. Braun, Frederick Unger and Gerard Brockhaus, did the Fathers many a favor. Thus, for instance, Joseph Braun, who, it seems, had taught school for some time in the Stearns Prairie district school, for a while served as director of the choir as well as organist. 303

DESCRIPTION OF THE FIRST ST. MARYS CHURCH "St. Mary's was a structure that well might have been a barn. Its dimensions were 25x40 feet and it was commenced by John P. Braun and completed by Mr. Glassbrenner. The building was unplastered and nail kegs formed the support of the boards that served as seats. The altar had been made from the pieces of wash board left over. On the altar stood a brass crucifix, and the footends of two broken kerosene lamps served as candlesticks. A white cloth lay on the altar. That was all". "Should one infer from this that the people were unwilling to make sacrifices, he would be greatly in error. The direction of a priest had been lacking and before the advent of a pastor, there had been a lack of confidence". THE GRASSHOPPERS--A PROCESSION IS HELD "The grasshoppers were bad around St. Mary's in 1877. The Rt. Rev. Bishop had prescribed prayers, public devotions and, where possible, a procession. We too, intended to march in procession through the fields. A Catholic procession, however, should be preceded by a processional cross. We had none. A farmer manufactured a cross with a long pole, and a small corpus was finally discovered somewhere and attached to the cross. An old medicine bottle did service as a holy water pot. We now set out, and amid prayers and hymns, wended our way through the prairie. At four corners of the road we stopped, I recited the customary prayers and exorcisms and sprinkled the fields with the contents of my holy water bottle. Divine Providence being favorable, a south wind set in and, as if by command, the grasshoppers arose and flew southward. Luckily they had not yet done much damage. That they obscure the sun and fly along like clouds I have not observed. But it is an interesting sight to see millions upon millions while the sun was shining, their translucent wings gleaming and glimmering through the screen, thick as snowflakes. On walking through the prairie before they took flight, at each step, little clouds of grasshoppers would alight. But alas! They had already deposited their eggs in the soft dirt of the road, in the newly-plowed ground, in fact, wherever the ground was not too hard". IN THE WAKE OF THE GRASSHOPPER

11 8.htm "When the grasshoppers luckily flew away, most of the settlers believed that the danger was over, and the eggs left by the pests would cause little trouble the following spring. But they were in error. The grasshoppers had deposited their eggs everywhere, chiefly in the soft ground" (N.B. but in the hard as well.--Ed.). "The eggs have a life that even great cold cannot destroy. Such eggs have been frozen into solid ice and left therein for weeks and months. When the ice was finally melted, the eggs were as alive as ever. In the spring, fine black spots appeared amid the fine green wheat. Finally, the whole field was covered, and eventually consumed by the hungry young insects. Luck was partly with the settlers again, for the strong wind from the north and the elements of the heavens conspired to remove the grasshoppers southward: The chief hatching place of the grasshoppers is in the sandy Black Hills of South Dakota, and they travel southward by the action of the wind'. FURNISHING THE CHURCH "The little church was heretofore poorly furnished. To beautify it, many donations were necessary and the emulation of the people had to be aroused." The Brockhaus family, one and a half miles from church, where I boarded, donated a mission chalice costing ten dollars. The following Sunday, I exhibited the chalice to the people and mentioned the Brockhaus family as the donors, with an exhortation to imitate the good example that had been set. This was successful. One was willing to donate six candlesticks; another a worthy processional cross; another, the altar cards, the youngest son of John P. Braun paid for the altar-stone; a young couple recently married at St. Mary's gave a missal valued at eighteen dollars. The last two articles proved a great relief to my valise. One person donated the cruets; hence I was able to discard my homely medicine bottle, as a holy water pot with sprinkler was given. Mrs. John P. Braun presented the church with a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin, since the church was dedicated to Mary. The statue cost $65 and was imported from Munich, Germany, from the famous art works studios there. MORE DONATIONS-VESTMENTS--PEWS, ETC. The boys chipped in and purchased a statue of St. Joseph. The Ladies' Society donated a magnificent banner bearing the image of St. Anne. The young ladies were also drafted into service. I purchased material in the various liturigical colors. Fr. Ambrose was a rather fair adept in the art of cutting vestments and he prepared the parts, which I gave to the young ladies to sew. Some had to make albs and altar-boys' outfits, others took care of the corporals, purificators and lavabo towels. Nor were the men forgotten. Here Mr. Eimers got ahead of me. One Sunday he was present. The 304

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St. Mary's School and Sisters' Convent, Humphrey P. O.

Rev. Edmund Roediger, O. F. M., a Missionary in China Rev. Edmund Roediger, O. F. M. old planks were still doing service as pews. Divine service being over, Mr. Bimers took the men to task in a manner that I would have never ventured. It was effective. Monday morning they were off at once to Columbus to get the required lumber for new pews. The carpenters set to work immediately and the following Sunday the new pews were ready for occupancy. I tackled them still more. The fourteen "Stations of the Cross" would be a beautiful ornament to the 13 8.htm church and many graces were attached to them. I could purchase them at B. Herder's, at St. Louis for the sum of twenty dollars. If fourteen heads of families would each defray the expense of one station, we should soon be able to have the Way of the Cross in our church. The fourteen were found at once, each paid $1.50 and the next Sunday the Way of the Cross was blessed. To make the celebration more impressive, a pro305

cession was held around the church during which each donor carried one of the Stations, which picture he was later allowed to hang up. What a joy! (These stations were later used in the winter chapel and have recently been sold by Fr. Lawrence to a church in Colorado. --Editor). I ordered from B. Herder a quantity of prayer-books, rosaries, steel crosses and glass candle-sticks with silvery sheen. He furnished all of these at wholesale prices. Everything sold like hot cakes. Each housewife was desirous of a little cross with two silvery candle-sticks and a crucifix. I was soon forced to send a second order." ADDING SANCTUARY AND SACRISTY AND PRIEST'S ROOM TO CHURCH "The little old church still stood devoid of all gracefulness. In 1878 it was resolved to enlarge the same by the addition of a sacristy and a room for the priest. At the same time the flat ceiling was to be replaced by a vaulted one and the whole church was to be plastered. Exteriorly, too, the building was later given a more churchlike appearance by adding a small belfry to the roof and by arching the tops of the windows. Paint was then applied to the whole structure." (N.B. When putting up the triumphal arch over the communion rail, Mr. Gier fell, broke both wrists and in agony had them bathed in vinegar by Mrs. F. Unger and was then taken to Columbus to have them set by a doctor. The setting was not very successful and Mr. Gier's wrists remained deformed ever after.--Editor). THE CEMETERY Part of the ten acres of the church land was fenced in for a cemetery and in the middle of it a large cross was set up which rose eighteen feet above the ground and was visible at a great distance. On All Souls' Day the dedication of God's Acre took place. Those who, by mistake, had been buried on Braun's land, had been exhumed and reinterred (sic) in the new cemetery. As we gather from an entry made by Fr. Anselm: "On All Souls Day 1877, the cemetery, which had been fenced in by parishioners, was solemnly blessed. The Rt. Rev. Bishop James O'Connor had most readily granted the permission to the priest of the parish. The cemetery is larger than one acre and lies in the northeast corner of the ten acres which are a donation of Mr. Wm. Eimers. The cemetery is divided crossways into one walk east and west and another running north and south. The four parts are divided into sixty family burial lots, each of which can be obtained, if desired, upon the payment of $5 into the church treasury. On the east side there is sufficient room for single graves. A grave for one adult costs $2, for a child $1, which money is for the 14 8.htm church treasury. (To the rear of these, still farther east, is a plot of ground, which has not shared the ecclesiastical blessing and is destined for the burial of unbaptized children and for the interment of those who departed without being in communion with the church). By mistake several interments had been made even before the cemetery was platted. Several bodies lay in a place behind the church, which upon exact platting proved to be without the church property. These bodies were transferred to the blessed cemetery. The names of these persons are: L. T. Carney, a veteran; Mrs. Schneider; Mrs. Rohlmann; Mrs. Weinberger; a child of Mr. Stephen van Doren; a child of Frank Wassenberg; a child of Richard Olmer; a child of Mr. McDonald; a child of Mr. Paul Klas." This unblessed portion on the east side, Fr. Edmund added to the processional road in 1898 and set aside a place for the unbaptized along the south side. SOLEMN CORPUS CHRISTI PROCESSION IN THE OPEN Fr. Anselm continues: "In the same year we also held the Corpus Christi procession. A canopy was made, and instead of festoons, the ladies had purchased material of different colors and hung it in long broad stripes from the arches of the vault. Fourteen boys dressed in white carried burning candles on poles a yard and a half long. All of the girl first communicants were dressed in white and three of the largest carried the emblems of faith, hope and charity. The new processional cross headed the procession and the banner carried by the president of the married ladies' society was the pride of all the members of the society. The four church directors carried the canopy, while other men carried lighted tapers. On the four corners of the processional way the neighboring ladies had ornamented altars. Everything was befitting and solemn. The people had flocked hither in great numbers and there was a sea of humanity surging about the church. The Irish people had never witnessed such a scene." THE RT. REV. BISHOP JAMES O'CONNOR VISITS ST. MARY'S Nov. 18 and 19, 1878. The time was now ripe for the visitation of the Rt. Rev. Bishop for the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation. The monastery and school at Columbus having been recently finished, the Bishop took that occasion to dedicate them and administer Confirmation on the same trip. His Lordship arrived in Columbus Saturday afternoon, Nov. 16, accompanied by Rev. Otto Groenebaum. On Sunday morning 306

Nov. 17, the dedication of the monastery and school took place in Columbus. High Mass and Confirmation followed. The old church there could not hold all the people. The children had to be admitted into the sanctuary, lest they be crushed by the jam along the aisles. The Rt. Rev. Bishop invited them to sit on the steps of the throne, so crowded was the church. It was a redletter day for St. Bonaventures." 15 8.htm RECEPTION OF THE RT. REV. PRELATE "Monday afternoon, Nov. 18, the Bishop came to St. Mary's. William Elmers, who had, in the meantime, opened a big store in Columbus and resided there with his family, himself brought the Rt. Rev. Ordinary to the prairie, making the trip in the finest carriage of that day. Our men and young men, mounted on richly trimmed horses, rode forth to meet him across the country. When word came that the Bishop was approaching, we wended our way from the church to meet him. Those to be confirmed, girls dressed in white, and the altar boys made up this welcoming group. Four girls carried a wide wreath of flowers on ribbons, which had been fashioned around a hoop. The front of this was open and when the Rt. Rev. Bishop alighted from the carriage, the four girls with the front of the wreath blocked the way. The Bishop did not understand the meaning of this and asked: "What's this?" Fr. Groenebaum, who stood beside him, said, "Step in!" and the Bishop entered. Immediately the girls formed a circle around him with the open end in the rear. At the church door the girls carried out a similar maneuvre (sic) and the Bishop was then allowed to leave the wreath. In church the ceremonies for the reception of the Bishop were observed. After the singing of the "Ecce Sacerdos" he spoke a few heartfelt words from the altar, expressing his satisfaction and, as the day was late, he bade the people "Good night". The Bishop spent the night in the little room beside the sanctuary. In the course of the evening I spoke to him concerning the rivalry and zeal of the people to do something for the church. He was glad to hear of it and bestowed words of praise." THE BISHOP ADMINISTERS THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION "The altar pleased the Bishop very much. He declared it was a good idea. I kept my peace and the thought, "If you had cast a glance behind it, you would speak in a different strain". The old altar and tabernacle were still existing in their crudeness, but the shabbiness was somewhat covered with cloth and presented a nice appearance. The long, narrow wooden-box in which the Blessed Virgin had been shipped was placed on end and the statue mounted thereon. The statue overlooked the altar and thus the whole presented a beautiful sight. The following morning the five Holy Masses commenced early. Fr. Ambrose celebrated the High Mass, the Rt. Rev. Bishop delivered an English address and Fr. Groenebaum a German sermon. Then the Sacrament of Confirmation was administered. Another gala day. The weather was most splendid, the mildest imaginable. The day was Nov. 19th, the feast day of St. Elizabeth. CONFIRMATION AT ST. ANTHONY'S AND ST. BERNARD'S The next day, Nov. 20, the Rt. Rev. Bishop was escorted by the people of St. Anthony's church, on Elm Creek. There he also administered Confirmation. Thence he proceeded to St. Bernard's, which was the pride of Fr. Ambrose. Very well satisfied, the Rt. Rev. Bishop departed from the prairie, rejoicing that he had visited such a promising religious community as was then in Platte county.

16 8.htm Fr. Groenebaum was not a stranger among the people. It happened this way: Bernard Wilde, father of a large family, fell dangerously ill and fears were entertained for his life. The closest German priest was Fr. Groenebaum of Omaha. Mr. Wilde desired the services of a German priest. Accordingly the pastor of St. M. Magdalene's came from Omaha to Stearns Prairie. Fr. Anselm organized St. Ann's Married Ladies' Society and probably the other societies. At least, we are informed that Fr. Edmund admitted a mistake in his historical sketch of St. Mary's parish regarding the organizer of the societies. After two years of successful labors Fr. Anselm was transferred to Damiansville, Illinois, there to take the place of the very sick Rev. Lohmann, whose place he filled for several months. St. Mary's owes much to this zealous and energetic pastor. BIOGRAPHY OF REV. ANSELM PUETZ, O. F. M. Francis Puetz was a native of Dueren, Diocese of Cologne, Rhineland, Prussia, being born September 1, 1834. He was raised to the dignity of the priesthood in 1862. For a time he was a Domsaenger (singer in the minster) at Aix-la-Chapelle, for he was gifted with a strong and beautiful voice. His, it seems, was the finest voice in the Saxonian Province, of the Holy Cross, Germany, for he eventually came to follow the Poverello of Assisi, at Warendorf in Westphalia. There he donned the habit of the Franciscans, October 6, 1870. 307

The persecutions of the Catholics in Germany, now known in history by the misnomer of "the Kulturkampf", drove him and more than 120 Patres, brothers and religious candidates to the hospitable shores of freedom-loving America. That was in June, 1875. The graphic description of the journey to Illinois has been published in a translation by Fr. Eugene in "The Illinois Historical Review, Volume VIII, No. 1 (July 1925), Page 681, entitled: "The Expulsion of the Franciscans from Prussia and Their Coming to the United States in the Summer of 1875". Fr. Anselm's first appointment in the New World was to the mission of Green Creek near Effingham, Illinois. He was one of those fugitive priests of Europe who realized the necessity of learning, above all, the language of this country. Although already forty-one years old, he bent every effort to acquire the English language as best he might. On January 27, 1877, he came to Nebraska with Rev. Ambrose Janssen. While Fr. Ambrose was in Columbus laying the plans of St. Bonaventure's parish and monastery, Fr. Anselm ministered to St. Mary Magdalene's in Omaha, probably till about the middle of July of the same year, to allow the pastor, Rev. Otto J. Groenebaum, to make a trip to Germany and Bohemia, both to visit his aged parents and to bring priests for the Bohemians and Germans. 17 8.htm August, 1877, saw Fr. Anselm in Columbus, from whence he attended St. Mary's near Humphrey, the largest of the missions taken care of by the Franciscans from Columbus. In addition to this he made many a missionary trip to Battle Creek, as well as some to the south, to the Hollander Settlement at Center, Seberger Settlement, etc. At the request of Fr. Eugene, the aged Fr. Anselm wrote his reminiscences in America and especially in Nebraska. On these papers Fr. Anselm worked at intervals from 1906-1910. It was unfortunate that death overtook him before they were completely finished. Leaving Nebraska, the energetic Fr. Anselm, who was small in stature and not overly strong in body, was sent to Damiansville, Illinois, to replace Fr. Lohman, who was very ill. Owing to the constant rains the roads in the neighborhood were very bad at that time and it was there, while battling against great odds in reaching his scattered flock, many of whom were ill and died, that Fr. Anselm contracted an illness from exposure that gave him constant trouble for the remainder of his life. Then followed several moves, among them being to Joliet, Illinois; St. Peter's Chicago; Quincy, Illinois; Rhineland, Missouri, where he was pastor and superior; St. Augustine's, Chicago; and Teutopolis, Illinois. Finally, the ever active Fr. Anselm was transferred to St. Joseph's, in Cleveland, Ohio, where he labored zealously as Director of the Third Order of St. Francis and confessor to nuns at several institutions. Fr. Anselm passed to his eternal reward, Jan. 14, 1912. Rt. Rev. Bishop Farrelly, D. D., of Cleveland, sang the Requiem Mass, at which service many priests and religious, to whom he had been a prudent confessor and spiritual director, assisted. At his own request, there was no funeral sermon. Fr. Anselm was a preacher of no mean ability. He was a zealous priest, an excellent religious and edified all with whom he came in contact. THE SECOND PASTOR, REV. MEINOLPH SCHMITZ, FALL, 1879-JANUARY, 1882 Upon the departure of Fr. Anselm, another Franciscan, Fr. Meinulphus Schmitz was appointed pastor of St. Mary's. The bulk of the people belonging to the new parish were Germans, Austrians or Hollanders from the Old World, who were used to having the churches equipped with bells. Bells have been a popular symbol of Catholicism for centuries and the peoples of Continental Europe are especially responsive to the joyous peal of the Angelus bell, as well as to its call to divine services and the tolling of the bell for the lately departed. Bernard Wemhoff, who lated (sic) became Brother Paul, of the Franciscan Order, saw this need and contributed the means, whereby it was supplied. The bell weighed 535 pounds and cost $186.75. It was blessed December 31, 1879, and hung in a special belfry near the church. On the following Good Friday the belfry was blown down in a violent storm, but the bell was not damaged much. June 15, 1880, was another joyous day for St. Mary's of the Angels. Following the custom of most of the friars in the Sacred Heart Province of the Franciscan Order in America, Fr. Meinolphus Schmitz arranged with Rt. Rev. Ordinary canonically to erect "the Confraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners". This was a favorite devotion of 18 8.htm those days and, without doubt, the Confraternity devotions did an immense amount of good in behalf of immortal souls. A PAROCHIAL SCHOOL IS BUILT Fr. Schmitz was a zealous pastor, who realized the need of a parochial school in order to preserve the faith of their fathers in the souls of the rising generation. He brought the expenses of his little country parish to rock bottom and 308

then took the step to carry out the wish of his Bishop: to build a Catholic school. RAISING PARISH FUNDS BY ASSESSMENT With consent of the parishioners and the approval of the Rt. Rev. Bishop the pastor assessed each family possessing eighty acres, annually $2.50, in order to meet the expenditures of the congregation and to help pay for the school and its maintenance. Later the amount was somewhat raised. Fr. Meinolph had obtained a contribution of 1000 marks or about $225 from Doctor Rockerath, probably a brother-in-law, living at Cologne, Germany, and another donation of $130 from the famous Leopoldine Foundation in Vienna, Austria, a missionary society which has deserved so well of the Catholics in the United States at a time when money was scarce and Catholics few and poor. Work on the school was begun on September 19, 1881. The cost of the school was $1,250. Before it was plastered, the Sisters of Lafeyette arrived to take charge. THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS AT ST. MARY'S At this time there were two parochial schools in Platte county, one at Columbus, the other at St. Bernard's, taught by the Franciscan Sisters of Joliet, Illinois. Since the Franciscan Sisters of Lafayette had come to Columbus about March, 1879, to found St. Mary's Hospital, it was deemed advisable to turn over the new school to them. The Sister M. Deogratias, local superior at Lafayette and superior of all the forty-four Sisters (in Columbus, Omaha, etc.) in the United States, came with Sr. M. Ignatia and Sr. M. Mathea, the teachers, to install them at St. Mary's while Sr. M. Magdalene, superior and cook, came about three weeks later. On Dec. 2, the Sisters arrived at Humphrey, consisting then of a railroad station, post office, Eimer's general merchandise store and a blacksmith shop. Next morning, December 3, 1881, a wagon took the Sisters to St. Mary's. It was snowing and very cold. When they arrived at 10 o'clock, Fr. Meinolph welcomed them and immediately said mass. After mass he directed them to a house across the road to get some breakfast, but the lady who had a large family and a small house would not admit them. Thereupon the pastor took the Sisters over to his boarding place. But Mrs. J. P. Braun held the doorknob in her hand and told the newcomers that she was too old to keep those fine ladies from the East in her home. The Sisters pleaded that they were just common 19 8.htm folks like the rest and that they were willing to help with the work until their residence at the school was finished. Thereupon the really kindhearted Mrs. J. P. Braun received them into her home. They spent three weeks there helping with the chores and sewing for the church. As soon as Sr. M. Magdalene, the superior, arrived, the Sisters took up their quarters at school, although their apartments (sic) were not quite ready even then. REMINISCENCES BY SR. IGNATIA: THE OPENING OF ST. MARY'S SCHOOL Classes were opened in the new parochial school on the first Monday in January 1882, with an attendance of 44 pupils. Among these were represented as far as Sr. Ignatia can recall children of the Eimers, Ottis, Brockhaus, Werner, Steffes, Steiner, Osterhoff, Rohartsch, Wieser, John Schumacher, Rother (Rodder), Loeffelhoz, Partsch, Scheidemantel, Hamling, Krings, Odenthal, Veik, Ripp, Jaixen, Krings families and some from the present Tarnov, whose names she failed to recall. With the exception of the Eimers and Ottis, the parents were all farmers. There was a great difference between the pupils in regard to age and size, ranging as they did from six to nineteen years. Most of the children came to school barefooted. About 1883 diphtheria broke out at St. Mary's and a number of children died. Among them was little Ben. Brockhaus, a very bright boy who had a few days before replied to Fr. Theodore Arentz in answer to the question: "What would you have done, if you had been addressed by the serpent in paradise instead of Eve?"--"I would have taken a club and killed it", was little Ben's reply. On Saturday following he was laid to rest in the cemetery. PIONEER CONDITIONS One day, before Fr. Theodore's arrival, a terrific blizzard swept the prairies and having used up all our fuel, we burned boxes and the lumber still on hand and straw from a number of strawstacks. After the worst of the storm was over, we managed to get to Mr. J. P. Braun's and told him of our predicament. Being director of the district school, he kindly let us have some of the coal and thus we were saved from freezing, during the zero weather following the blizzard. When the new pastor came from Columbus, he immediately ordered a supply of coal for us and school. As corn sold for seven and eight cents per bushel, people burned not only corn cobs but also the corn, this being cheaper than buying coal. Conditions at St. Mary's then were certainly romantic. One man, Mr. Joseph Braun, played the organ loaned to the church by his father, and sang. And while Fr. Theodore preached, the corn burning in the 309

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2004 for the NEGenWeb Project by Sherri Brakenhoff, Ted & Carole Miller


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