Origin of the Catholic Church in Kansas
From the record of St. Mary’s as well as of Osage Mission’s it appears that in the north and south of Kansas since the year 1847, the Roman Catholic Church had two regular congregations, with convents and mission schools for boarders and day schools, and from both these missions, which I may call two religious (?) in the course of time she spread over what today is known as the state of Kansas.
But how did happen that such a preference was given to the Roman Catholic Church over all other denominations? How was it that priests and nuns got such as strong hold on the beautiful country of Kansas? The only answer I can give is, that neither priest nor nuns did intrude themselves over this land, but their service having been requested by different nations of Indians who since 1825 had been remove to Kansas from east of the Mississippi, the U. S. Government thought proper to allow them to come in, and shielded by the Constitution of the Great Republic they gradually did increase in numbers, and extended their labors not only in behalf of the Indians, but also of the Roman Catholics employed by the American Fur Company in her great many mercantile establishments all through the Indian Territory.
Most of the gentlemen forming this company being native either of France, Canada they generally were Roman Catholic. The power and influence of this company was very extensive in those early days, for it had the control of all the Indian trade from the Rocky Mountains down to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi, Arkansas, the Missouri, Platte and Colorado Rivers being, I might say, the principal channels of this immense trade. All along the banks of these rivers, and their tributaries, the Company had an army of hunters and trappers, besides they employed quite a number of men on the steamboats, and barges running over these waters, and had a legion of clerks, and Indian interpreters to wait on the Indians, who would daily bring in an enormous amount of buffalo-robes, and rare peltries (?). Now most of those employees, with but very few exception, were Creoles, and in a large majority they were all Roman Catholics. As the French people, as well as the Creoles were always in good terms with the Indians, under their management every thing was proceeding with great success. Harmony existed between the white and the Indian, trade was very brisk, and most beneficial to the company.
It was but natural that the Roman Catholic Church employed in this great trading enterprise, at certain special times of the year especially during either Christmas or Easter times, should wish to see some of missionary priests. This being but just and right the leading men of the company would willingly invite one of the Fathers of the Indian mission to come occasionally to visit their establishments, and would always receive him with all possible merits or suspect. By degrees the Trading Posts began to grow into small towns and became points of some importance. Then the Fathers made it their duty to visit such places as regularly as circumstances would allow it. At their coming either a school house, or an empty store, or a town hall, would he fitted up as a chapel. And upon Sunday, when the Fathers would have Divine Service, such places were generally too small to accommodate the crowd of people coming in. After few years, as many were becoming more abundant, the Fathers began to put up small chapels, which were also used as parochial schools; after a while special rooms here and there were set apart for the Church and school, and Pastor’s residence. And it was in this way, that by the time the Indian Territory was opened to the white settlers, the Roman Catholic Church found itself already well established on the soil.
If the kindness shown by the American Fur Company towards the Roman Catholic Church missionary was great, that exhibited at the same time by the U. S. offices, at the military forts in the Indian Territory, was by no means inferior. In fact these proved themselves at all times true gentlemen in dealing with the Fathers, treating them with much courtesy, and allowing full liberty t the Roman Catholic Soldiers to attend to Mass, and comply with their Christian duties, whenever some of the Fathers would come.