On May 11, 2019, our 'New' St. Francis Catholic Church building turned 135 years old! But our parish is several years older and there was an earlier building.
St. Francis Catholic Church, St. Paul, Kansas, was dedicated on May 11, 1884. After nearly thirteen years of anticipation and slow construction the dedication was a triumphant moment — but tears were probably shed too. The church's champion and Osage Mission founder, Father John Schoenmakers, had passed away on July 28, 1883, only months before completion. It would take another 18 - 20 years to put the finishing touches on the Southeast Kansas landmark, but overall, May 11 was a good day.
The Parish Was Older and There Was An Earlier Church.
Our parish was established in April of 1847 when Fathers Schoenmakers and Bax and three Jesuit brothers arrived at the mission. During early months one of the government-built Osage Mission school buildings was used as a church. In a sense, St. Francis Parish was, itself, a mission station within a mission because a proper church wasn't available. In 1848 the Jesuits built a log church described as 35' wide by 30' long with a 16' roof peak. This building was expanded twice to a final size of 35' x 90'. 
When Osage land cessions began in the mid-1860's, settlers flowed into the area. Father Schoenmakers' new mission town  was located near the eastern edge of the frontier. It's existing church and schools were attractive to many Catholics seeking new opportunities. Father John knew a larger church building was needed. The June 1871 issue of the People's Advocate newspaper announced: "The Catholics met at St. Francis Hall Sunday, June 25 and voted to commence operation at once on the foundation of a new stone church to be 160 x 74 feet and to cost $75,000."
Below is a brief pictorial overview of the church buildings and their history. Also, follow THIS LINK for a description of the original church fund-raising and construction project and more recent upgrades.
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Some Reference Information.
1. Dimensions of the original Log Church vary from 30' x 30' to 35' square, depending on source. The original church and it's first expansion were of log construction. The final expansion was frame construction and the entire building was covered with clapboard. In its final configuration the 'little log church' wasn't that small. It was 90' long and depending on width it was as large as 3,150 square feet (if 35' x 90'). More about the little log church in a later post.
2. Follow THIS LINK for more information about Father Schoenmakers' new mission town of Osage Mission.
3. For more information about the basement chapel added during the 1909 - 1910 foundation repair, follow THIS LINK.
4. For more information about the historic 1930 reinterment of the seventeen Pioneer Sisters of Loretto, follow THIS LINK.
5. The life-sized crucifix was donated to the church by the family of Michael Balfay. When the Balfay family was moving from Chetopa to Osage Mission in 1884, their wagon was caught in river current at Trotters Ford. While trying to save his team, wagon and family Mr. Balfay promised that if our Lord spared them he would make a lasting gift to the church. Michael's family was spared but before he could fulfill his promise he died suddenly. His family filled his promise in 1889.
Thoughts 'n Things
Some 'Thoughts' and short articles about past and present-day St. Paul and the Southern Kansas - 4 State Region.