On April 28, 1847, one of the longest, continuous-running stories in Kansas history got its start in Neosho County. Political wrangling and planning started a few years earlier; but when the Osage Mission opened, in April of 1847, it had a substantial effect on the future of of the Osage People, education, religion, commerce, and the settlement of southern Kansas and the four-state region. The story continues.
On April 28, 1847, several ox-drawn carts lumbered into the grounds of a newly constructed mission-yard. Five weary men climbed down from the carts and were quickly surrounded by an enthusiastic group of Osage who had come to greet the Tapuska-Watanka (priest lords). The missionaries included Mission Director, Father John Schoenmakers; his young assistant Father John Bax; and three coadjutor brothers: John Sheehan, John De Bruyn and Thomas Coglan (Brother Thomas O’Donnell joined them in 1848). All of the missionaries had already immigrated to a new land when they came to America, and the Mission site might have seemed alien. Father Bax’s impression of their arrival was embodied in a letter to Father Pierre Jean De Smet:
"It would be impossible to paint for you the enthusiasm with which we were received … At first sight of these savages … I could not suppress the pain I felt … The adults had only a slight covering over the middle of the body; the little children, even as old as six or seven years, were wholly destitute of clothing. Half serious, half jesting, I thought that a truly savage portion of the Lord’s vineyard had been given to me to cultivate.”
These men were the first missionaries to staff the government's Osage Mission Indian boy's school. A group of four Loretto Sisters opened the girl's school the following October. More Jesuits and Lorettos would follow.
The mission was so remote and foreboding that government contractors rushed through construction of the mission buildings so they could return to civilization. As a result the missionaries dealt with leaks, a fireplace chimney collapse and structural problems for years. But the schools thrived, as best as they could, with inadequate funding; and through famine, epidemics, floods, a War and deaths.
Through it's trials, the missionaries witnessed the birth of civilization in southern Kansas. They watched barren prairies transform into a landscape of homesteads and small towns and the Jesuits assisted with the founding of several settlements. With Osage Mission serving as the Jesuit missionary headquarters, south of the Santa Fe Trail, they established more than 150 mission stations in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Colorado.
When the Osage land cessions occurred during the 1865 - 1870 period, the Jesuits and Lorettos had a plan and the means to execute it. As part of the Osage land cession treaties, Father Schoenmakers was gifted a section of land by the Osages, and options to buy more, which he did. When he founded the town of Osage Mission, he already had a church, schools and a well trained staff of school teachers and administrators. Beginning with the establishment of his town company, Father Schoenmakers undertook the work of transitioning the Indian schools into public schools and he and Sister Bridget Hayden built two prestigious frontier boarding colleges.
The mission and it's schools eventually evolved into a very unique new town and the schools we enjoy today. The schools on the lots west of the present St. Francis Catholic Church have provided continuous, quality education for 173 years — They have never missed a term!
The following link from the St. Francis Catholic Church website is an abridged version of the Osage Mission Story:For the entire 15 chapter Osage Mission story,follow THIS LINK. 
Some Reference Information:
1. The Saint Francis Catholic Church history page does not include Chapter 14 of the A Catholic Mission "Our Story" page (The Anti-Horse Thief Association).
Thoughts 'n Things
Some 'Thoughts' and short articles about past and present-day St. Paul and the Southern Kansas - 4 State Region.