Got Lucky — In More Ways Than One!
Sometimes research leads you astray. You are staring at a computer screen or a frame of microfilm looking for a specific piece of information. Then, something in the corner of the screen catches your eye — something more interesting than what you were looking for in first place. For a moment your search is interrupted with “OH! Look at that!” I had an "OH!" experience a few years ago while looking at a 137 year old St. Francis Catholic Church logbook entry. The family that was interested in that entry came to St. Paul three times to celebrate their heritage.
It started on April 19, 2011 when Larry Strecker called me. Larry is a Topeka business consultant who was planning a trip to St. Paul. The trip would involve driving from Topeka to Spearville, just north of Dodge City, to pick up his parents Bernard and Eleanor. Then he would drive back across Kansas to visit our museum—and they were coming for a very specific reason. Their branch of the Strecker family tree was formed, by marriage, at Osage Mission during the 1870’s. They were also pretty certain that the marriage of Erick Strecker to Agnes Engles was performed by the prominent Jesuit missionary Father Paul Mary Ponziglione.
We set a visit date of May 10 and Larry asked for a favor. Would I please check marriage records to confirm a wedding date he gave me; and the fact that Father Paul did officiate at the service?
As it turns out, Larry, Bernard and Eleanor were pretty sure that Father Paul had heard the vows of Erick Strecker and Agnes Engles. In fact, the Strecker’s knew a lot about the Kansas Catholic Church in general. Bernard’s first cousin was Archbishop Ignatius Jerome Strecker of Kansas City from 1969 through 1993 . After his retirement he wrote a book about the history of the Church in Kansas . Bishop Strecker's book discusses the history of Osage Mission and specifically includes his family's Osage Mission wedding. It also includes a couple of sketches of Father Paul that are shown here. Also, at the time of his visit, Larry was on the boards of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas and Christ’s Peace House of Prayer.
The day after our conversation I called the rectory to arrange to see the old marriage books. When I got there Nancy had already found the book. The information I wrote down for the wedding was the 1878 to 1880. We had to search a bit because the actual marriage date was recorded as April 18, 1874—and it was recorded in the beautiful script of Father Ponziglione. I took some photos of the book, thanked Nancy and headed home to clean up the photographs and call Larry with the news.
It was during the photo editing that I had my “OH!” moment. On the line below the Strecker’s was recorded a wedding on April 27, 1874; Charley Cooney and Mary Lucretia Davis. My great grandparents were married by Father Paul just over a week later! I had seen the information in a genealogy study done by Jeanie Van Leeuwen; but to see it in Father Ponziglione’s own writing was pretty neat .
Larry and his parents did visit St. Paul on May 10. Bernard and Eleanor were in their early 80’s and were full of energy and enthusiasm. Another museum volunteer and I gave them information and we learned from them too. They toured the church and St. Francis Cemetery and by late afternoon we all felt like it had been a great day.
During our visit Larry told us his consulting business works with the state of Kansas quite a bit and he was familiar with some of the Kansas tourism folks. On the way to the car he was talking about the incredible story of the Catholic Mission and he asked “Ron, what kind of economic impact does your glorious history have on the local economy?” I had to admit that it really wasn’t much.
In October of 2013 Larry contacted the museum again. Bernard was aging and Larry told his parents he would like to take them on a trip anywhere they wanted to go. Dad said “Osage Mission!” He wanted to come back to St. Paul. When they arrived in mid-October Bernard seemed more frail and both Larry and his mother showed concern. At the time Eleanor and Bernard had been married for 59 years and she seldom left his side. As I recall we made a late-afternoon trip to Chicken Annie’s, Girard, and said goodbye in the parking lot. A short time later Larry let us know that dad had taken a bad fall and was in the hospital. He passed away on November 30.
Several members of the Strecker Family returned to St. Paul in 2014 for a family reunion; but Rosie and I were traveling. We hated to miss it because our memory of the Strecker’s, and the discovery they led us to, will last forever.
Some Reference Information:
 Archbishop Strecker’s service in Kansas City was his second appointment. In April of 1962 he was appointed the second Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri by Pope John XXIII. When Pope John Paul VI later named him to the Kansas City position, at age 51, he was the youngest prelate of that rank in the United States. As noted, he retired in 1993, published his book in about 2000 and passed away on October 16, 2003.
 Archbishop Strecker’s book is: The Church in Kansas, 1850 – 1905, A Family Story. The book contains no publisher information or a publish date and I assume it was self-published. I found our copy on eBay and there were several others available on the internet. The 2000 publish date appeared on some of the internet sites. The sketches shown above are on pages 43 and 44 of the book. I mentioned using the sketches here, with Larry, and he saw no reason why I wouldn’t.
 When I look at the dates in the marriage records a few things came to mind:
For more information about Father Paul Ponziglione follow THIS LINK.
Thoughts 'n Things
Some 'Thoughts' and short articles about past and present-day St. Paul and the Southern Kansas - 4 State Region.