History of St. Louis Church
At the end of the 1850's and the beginning of the 1860's several Catholic families of various nationalities settled along Independence creek. At first they attended church whenever possible at Doniphan, Atchison or St. Benedict's near Bendena. There were no roads and no bridges. Hence travel was very difficult. To administer to the spiritual needs of these people, Benedictine Fathers from Atchison began to come through every two or three months on their missionary tours. At first, Mass was said in private homes. The Slattery home, was the favorite stopping place for most of the priests and here also the vestments were kept. The priests also stopped at other homes, namely the Schletzbaum, Cleary, Vollmer and Hunkey. After the Center school (District # 52) was built, Mass was celebrated there until the first church was built in 1880. The vestments were brought from the Slattery home to the school every Sunday.
Catechism was usually taught on Saturday afternoon and this caused the priest to stay overnight with some family, as it was too far to drive back and forth for the Sunday services. The horse was kept at the college and the pastor had to drive out either Saturday or Sunday. This was done in all sorts of weather and many times the roads were next to impassable. Such difficulties, indeed, tested themissionary spirit and zeal of the various priests.
Father John Stader, O.S.B. was the Benedictine missionary priest that was serving the community in 1880 when the first church was built. The church was built five miles west and four miles north of Atchison, KS in a settlement formerly known as Independence or Slattery. The church cost $2,243.50.
The first baptism on record is that of William Vollmer, March 25, 1865; the first marriage, Frank Schletzbaum and Victoria Hess, Oct. 28, 1885; the first funeral rites, Anna Prohaska, Feb. 13, 1889; and the first confirmation by Bishop Fink, when 17 were confirmed.
On Sunday, between Christmas and New Year's in 1897, the first church was destroyed by fire, during the pastorate of Father Benno Feser, O.S.B. He drove out early that Sunday and as it was very cold, built a fire in the big stove in the church and also in the little stove in the sacristy. Apparently the stove in the church set fire to the canvas ceiling of the church then causing its total destruction. Father Benno sat in the warm sacristy saying his office, unaware of the fire. Suddenly some neighbors rushed in and told him of the fire. Upon opening the sacristy door and seeing the blaze, in his excitement he grabbed the Blessed Virgin statue and pushed it through a window. Needless to say, both were smashed.
After the fire, Mass was again said in the Center schoolhouse. Mass was also said in the Eden schoolhouse, which was one-half mile north and three miles west of the church.
The second church was ready for mass December 25, 1898. It was dedicated by Rt. Rev. Louis M. Fink, D.D., O.S.B. May 14th, 1899. The total cost of the new church was $6,787.96. The building was 76 x 42 ft. The tower was 90 feet high. All the interior furniture of the church was procured by Father Adalbert with the exception of the stations which were bought by Father Gregory, O.S.B. and blessed on October 28, 1905. Most everything was acquired by 1907 except for the center altar. For more than a year he begged every Sunday for donations for the altar. The altar was a donation from Frank Watowa, Sr. It cost $1,800.
This information was found in the archives of St. Louis Church at the St. Benedict's Abbey. It was hand written by Father Raymond Woydziak OSB dated April 1936. He was the assigned priest at St. Louis Church during 1933 thru 1938. The last paragraph of his document follows:
Prospects for the future of this parish are not very bright. At present it is not even half as large as it was in its prime and is steadily going down on account of families losing their farms and others selling out and moving away. The school is also slowly getting smaller.
On Aug. 11, 1970, St. Louis parish became a mission of Sacred Heart Catholic parish in Atchison. During the pastorate of Father Theodore, the church again was destroyed by fire on April 12, 1977. Church services were held in the parish schoolhouse during the rebuilding.
With insurance money, parishioner pledges ($43,750.00) and other fund raisers, the church was rebuilt for $165,000.00 without borrowing any funds. The first mass in the new church was said March 11, 1979.
St. Louis Church became a mission of the St. Ann's parish of Effingham in 1990.
There have been twelve religious from St. Louis parish, including the Rev. John Gormley, who said his first mass at St. Louis Church Aug. 15, 1899. Nuns were Sisters Anna Kramer, Mary Finnegan, Frances Kramer, Stella Slattery, Dorothy Dooley, Immaculata Kramer, Adrian Brentano, Agatha Robinson, Lucy Kramer, Gertrude Enzbrenner Scherer and Lucy Dooley, who became Mother Lucy, mother superior of Mount St. Scholastica Convent, Atchison.
And once again the future of the parish is not very bright as we face the shortage of priests.
This is a shortened version of the St. Louis Church History. A complete history book is available in the church basement for a cost of $5.00.