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Chapter III


In 1919 (sic) Fort Atkinson was established about thirty miles north of Omaha, near the present city of Calhoun. The Sixth U. S. Infantry regiment stationed there was Catholic almost to a man when the Fort was evacuated in 1927 (sic). In 1830 Lucien Fontenelle settled at Bellevue. His son Logan was the chief of the Omaha tribe until he met his death at the hands of the murderous Sioux in Nance county. As early as 1838 the famous Father de Smet, S. J., attended the Pottawatomie Indians at Council Bluffs. In 1840 he officiated at the funeral of Lucien Fontenelle. When in 1854, after the treaty with the Indians, the United States threw open the territory to settlement by the whites, many Catholics began to flock into Nebraska. In the summer of 1855 Rev. Father W. Emonds, of St. Joseph, Missouri, (later of Iowa City, Iowa), visited the Catholics in Council Bluffs and on this occasion also crossed over into Omaha and said the first Mass in the gate city of the west. This was probably May 14th or 15th, 1855. He did not tarry long. He later on returned to Germany and died there in November, 1906.


Land was now acquired at Omaha and in 1856 St. Mary's Church was erected at Eighth near Howard St. The ground was donated by the Nebraska and Iowa Ferry Company. The modest brick structure 24x40 feet was surmounted by a plain, unpainted wooden cross and dedicated in August of the same year by Fr. ScanIon of St. Joseph, Missouri. The next pastors were Fr. Trecy of St. John's, Dakota county, and Fr. Francis Cannon, O. S. B. Before the church was ready for use Mass is said to have been celebrated in the residence at Nineteenth and Dodge Sts., of Governor Cuming, whose wife was a Catholic.

Fr. Cavanaugh officiated at the first wedding, the contracting parties being John Owens and Mary McGovern and the witnesses were John Dougherty and Mary Cummings. The next marriage August 5 (July 5) was that of Patrick Murty and Bridget Henecy. (We suspect that Patrick Murray and Bridget Hennessy, of Columbus, Platte County, are meant.--Ed.). Rev. J. F. Trecy officiated.


"One of the most honored names in Nebraska annals", says Professor A. E. Sheldon in his "History and Stories of Nebraska", Chicago and Lincoln, The University Publishing Company, 1913, p. 77, is that of Father De Smet, first Catholic missionary to the Indians of the Platte and upper Missouri region. "He was born in Termonde, Belgium, and died at St. Louis, Missouri. He came to the United States in 1821, joined the Society of Jesus at Fiorissant and was one of the founders of the St. Louis Province. He established a mission among the Potowatomies (sic) at Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1838, and arranged a treaty of peace between them and the Sioux." "For the next thirty years Father De Smet was the most active missionary in the western world. He explored the plains and mountains, crossed the continent several times to the Pacific ocean, founded missions wherever he went and gained the confidence of the Indians everywhere." (Sheldon 1. c. p. 77). In 1840 he was sent to the Flathead and Pend d'Oreille tribes. In 1846 he went on a peace mission to the Blackfeet and then labored for a time at St. Louis, acting as procurator for the Missions. In 1851 and 1858 he prevented Indian outbreaks caused by the coming of the whites into California and Oregon. In 1868 he went on another peace mission to the Sioux, being the only white man to go with safety among this cruel tribe. Nineteen times he crossed the Atlantic ocean visiting many countries and soliciting funds and recruits for the Indian Missions. His numerous writings are very valuable for knowledge of the Indians.

See Cath. Dict., 1929, p. 291.

"Four times Father De Smet crossed Nebraska over the Oregon Trail and seventeen times on steamboat, skiff or canoe on the Missouri river he passed the Nebraska shores." Sheldon, 1. c. On one of the trips in a boat up the river Father Hoeken, companion of Father de Smet, died while Fr. De Smet recovered from the cholera, or some other epidemic disease.

His description of the Platte river of 1840 is excellent and he clearly foresaw the future of


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the immense plains of the west (1. c. p. 78). Father De Smet took an active part in the first Fort Laramie Council (really held forty miles east of Fort Laramie) in 1851, in what is now Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska, and brought about the "Fort Laramie Treaty" of which he also wrote the best account. The council lasted eighteen days, was attended by 10,000 Indians of the plains and mountains "who for the first time made a treaty with the United States, peace with each other and a division of lands among the tribes." (l. c. p. 79).

On this occasion Father De Smet said Mass, preached to the Indians and administered baptism to 1856 persons, mostly children. In explanation of so many adults included in the number it is said that the missionary often found savages most ready and willing to receive the gift of faith, owing of course, to the grace of God and a certain preparedness by a naturally fairly good life, at least in many instances.

His greatest service to Nebraska Father De Smet rendered on June 21, 1868, near the Junction of the Powder and Yellowstone rivers when he induced 5,000 Sioux to end a bloody war of several years and as a result the second peace of Fort Laramie was concluded.


The Vicariate Apostolic of the Territory East of the Rocky Mountains was formed A. D. 1851. The Rev. John Baptist Miege, S. J., was named the First Vicar Apostolic in 1851. His vicariate comprised all the territory west of the Missouri river to the crest of the Rocky Mountains and from the southern boundary of Kansas to the British possessions on the north, embracing therefore the present states of Kansas and Nebraska, part of the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. The Catholic population numbered about 5,000, of whom 3,000 were Indians of ten different nations, attended by only a few priests. In 1856 the Benedictines settled at Doniphan, Kansas, and later established their domicile at Atchison, Kansas (Diocese of Leavenworth).


As this immense territory began to be more and more settled by whites, the burden proved too difficult for one Bishop and at the request of the Rt. Rev. Vicar Apostolic Miege, the Council held at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1856, petitioned the Holy See for a division of the Apostolic Vicariate of the Territory East of the Rocky Mountains. It was divided into the two Apostolic Vicariates of Kansas and Nebraska.

Bishop Miege remained administrator of the new Vicariate of Nebraska for two years until the appointment of the Rt. Rev. James Miles O'Gorman, superior of the Trappist Monastery at Dubuque, Iowa, in 1859.

The Rt. Rev. John B. Miege was born at La Foret, Upper Savoy, Italy, on September 18, 1815, studied the classics at Moutiers, joined the Jesuits at Milan, October 23, 1836, and was ordained priest September 7, 1847, at Rome. Driven into exile by political disturbances, Fr. Miege volunteered for the Indian missions in the United States. In 1849 he was assistant pastor at St. Charles, Missouri, then assistant master of novices at Florissant, Missouri, and professor of moral theology. In 1851, when he was consecrated Bishop of Messenia and Vicar Apostolic at St. Louis by Rt. Rev. Bishop R. P. Kenrick, his Vicariate numbered five churches, ten Indian nations, and a population of 5,000 including 3,000 Indians. He established his residence among the Pottawatamies at what is now St. Mary's, Kansas. In 1856 the Benedictines began a foundation at Doniphan near Atchison, Kansas, but soon established a priory and college at the later place. Bishop Miege soon had a parochial school wherever there was a resident pastor. In 1855 and 1858 he attended the Provincial Councils of St. Louis.

"Bishop Miege was indefatigable as a missionary, traversing on horse-back and wagon the wild remote regions over which his people were scattered, visiting the Indian villages, forts, trading posts and growing towns." Cath. Encycl. Diocese of Leavenworth, Vol. IX, pp. 102 and following. To Nebraska he is said to have made only three visits.

He built a Cathedral at Leavenworth. After receiving a co-adjutor in the Very Rev. Louis Maria Fink, O. S. B., of Atchison, he made a trip to South America and for three years collected for his needy Vicariate. His request to return to the Jesuit Order was granted by the Apostolic See in 1874. He returned to Woodstock, Maryland. In 1877 he was sent to Detroit, Michigan, to found a college. After three years he returned to Woodstock, where he acted as spiritual director. He passed away July 21, l884.--R. I. P.


Dunnigan's Catholic Almanac, for the year 1858 (printed in fall 1857). (N. B. The statistics were gathered at the end of the preceding year).

Nebraska Territory Established 1857. Administrator: Rt. Rev. John B. Miege, S. J. Nebraska City attended from Doniphan, Kansas Territory. Omaha attended from St. John's, Frank-


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Some Pioneer Bishops and Priests of Nebraska

S.B. Miege

Rt. Rev. Bishop S. B.
Miege, S. J., D. D., Vicar
Apostolic of the Territory
East of the Rocky
Mountains 1811

J.V. O'Gorman

His Excellency, Rt. Rev.
Bishop J. V. O'Gorman, D. D.,
Vicar Apostolic of Nebraska

J. O'Connor

His Excellency, Rt. Rev. Bishop
J. O'Connor, D. D., Vicar
Apostolic of Nebraska, First Bishop
of Omaha, 1876-1890

Wm. Kelly

Rev. Wm. Kelly, Patriarch
Priest of Nebraska

J.P. Bedard

Rev. J. P. Bedard
Died December, 1876

John Daxacher

Rev. John Daxacher

P.J. Erlach

Rev. P. J. Erlach, Columbus

Cyril Augustinsky

Rev. Cyril Augustinsky, O. F. M.

P. DeSmet

Rev. P. DeSmet, S. J.,
Indian Missionary


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lin (now Jackson, Dakota county. St. Patrick's Settlement, St. John's, Rev. J. Tracy (Trecy).

Catholic Almanac for the year 1858 (prepared in fall 1857) gives the following:

Vicar Ap. Rt. Rev. J. B. Miege; Nebraska City and various missions attended from Doniphan, Kansas.

Omaha City, Rev. Francis Canon, O. S. B.

St. Patrick's Settlement, St. John's (now Jackson). Rev. J. F. Trecy who visits the settlements and forts on the upper Missouri river.

A Jesuit among the Indians in the northwest.

Metropolitan Catholic Almanac, for the year 1859: Vicariate of Nebraska, established 1857. Administrator: Rt. Rev. John B. Miege, S. J. Nebraska City: Rev. H. P. Kenny, who is also attending various stations in South Nebraska. Omaha City: Rev. Francis Canon, O. S. B., who also visits some settlements on the Platte. St. Patrick's Settlement, St. John's: Rev. J. Tracy, who visits the settlements and the forts of the Upper Missouri.

RT. REV. JAMES O'GORMAN, D. D., MAY, 1859-JULY 4, 1874

The successor to the Rt. Rev. John Miege was the Rt. Rev. James Miles O'Gorman, a Trappist of New Melleray, near Dubuque, Iowa. He was a native of County Tipperary, Ireland, where he was born near Nenagh in 1804. James O'Gorman joined the Trappist Order at Mount Melleray, County Waterford, November 1, 1839, and was ordained priest in 1843. In 1849 he came to Dubuque, Iowa, to establish his order at New Melleray. On May 8, 1859, he was consecrated by Most Rev. R. S. Kenrick, Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri, titular Bishop of Raphanea and Vicar Apostolic of Nebraska--then comprising Nebraska, the Dakotas west of the Missouri river, Montana and Wyoming.

When he arrived in Omaha in May, 1859, the Bishop found only three priests, namely Fr. J. F. Trecy, at St. John's, Dakota county; a Jesuit missionary among the Indians and Fr. Francis Cannon, O. S. B., of Nebraska City. Soon after, on June 25, 1859, Bishop O'Gorman raised to the dignity of the priesthood, at St. Mary's Cathedral, the Rev. Wm. Kelly, the first priest ordained in and for Nebraska. Bishop O'Gorman labored zealously, baptizing, marrying etc., because of the lack of priests.

In 1860 the same Almanac adds to the foregoing that Rulo, Brownsville, Arago, are visited from Nebraska City; Elkhorn visited from Omaha city; Columbus, Fremont, Cuming City and Dakota stations have not yet been formed for want of priests and scattering Catholics.

Fort Randall and the settlements of the upper Missouri, visited from St. John's. A Jesuit Father resides among the Indian tribes and is doing an immense amount of good.

The Vicariate, through the immigration of many Catholics and the gradual increase of the clergy, grew in importance. In 1861 it numbered eight diocesan priests and four regulars. Besides St. Mary's Cathedral in Omaha and St. John's in Dakota county, four other churches were being erected and there were eight stations occasionally attended by visiting priests. The Catholic population, including Indians, was estimated at 7,000. Today Nebraska numbers nearly 700 priests and the Catholic population more than 155,000.


Bishop O'Gorman, upon his arrival at Omaha, had been offered 42 lots for the Catholic church, if he would locate there. But the panic of 1857 had wrought great havoc to the little city and the Vicar Apostolic, finding too much grass in its streets for a Bishopric, declined the gift and thought seriously of taking up his residence elsewhere. After visiting several other places, he concluded, however, to take up his residence at Omaha.

As a Trappist, Bishop O'Gorman was accustomed to poverty and privation and he found plenty of both in the early years of his administration in Nebraska. It is said that his method of appointing pastors was unique. He would take the prospective incumbent to the back door of his residence in Eighth street and, after surveying the horizon to the westward, he would point in a certain direction and say: "You go that way, Father." (True Voice, December 7, 1928).

The same Almanac for 1861 says of Columbus city:

Fort Randall, Plunka station (Ponca) and the settlements of the West missions visited by F. A. Fourmont--Fremont visited from Columbus. Recapitulation: secular priests, four; priests of religious orders, four; churches, one; churches in progress of building, three or four; eight stations where Holy Mass was occasionally offered up; the Catholic population of Nebraska at this time was estimated at 7,000.

The Metropolitan Almanac for 1867 mentions that the Vicariate Apostolic of Nebraska embraces the territories of Nebraska, Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

Omaha City, St. Philomena's, Rev. John Curtis; Rev. John A. Hayes, assistant with the missions of Elkhorn, Forest City, Rockport and Papillion, attended once a month.

Nebraska City, Otoe county, Rev. Emanuel


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Hartwig, O. S. B., pastor with Plattsmouth, Cass county and Salt Creek, attended from there.

Columbus, Platte county, Rev. James Erlach, pastor, with St. Helena (German settlement), and West Point (German settlement), Cottonwood Springs, Fort Kearney, Wood River, Shell Creek (Irish settlements), attended from there.

Bishop O'Gorman also invited the Sisters of Mercy from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Omaha, where they arrived October 21, 1864.

Bishop O'Gorman labored very zealously doing pastoral work like any other priest. He tried to get more priests and on May, 1859, he ordained Rev. Wm. Kelly in St. Mary's Cathedral, Omaha. He is the first priest ordained in Nebraska and for Nebraska who is, therefore, often styled the "Patriarch priest of Nebraska." Bishop O'Gorman also sent out Rev. Kelly to collect funds in the east and in the railroad and mining camps for the new Cathedral of St. Philomena. He collected $30,000. The cornerstone was laid June 3, 1867, the dedication took place on Passion Sunday, March 29, 1868. Rev. John Curtis, first pastor of the Cathedral, delivered the sermon and Bishop O'Gorman dedicated the edifice and pontificated, being assisted by Rev. Fathers Keenan, Daxacher and Curtis. Mr. Edward Creighton was the chief benefactor. Mrs. Creighton gave the marble altar ($5,000) and the ladies of the congregation donated a pipe organ ($4,000). St. Mary's church was turned into a parochial school in charge of the Sisters of Mercy and served as such until 1882 when it was sold to the Burlington and Missouri H. H. In 1889 it was torn down.

Two small buildings (frame) were erected at the south of the old church for school purposes. Miss Johanna O'Brien was the first school teacher for the girls and a Mr. Webster for the boys. Later Miss Cecilia Burkley, now Mrs. C. Burkhard, took charge of the girls and Mr. John Rush of the boys. The successive boys' teachers were Mr. John McGouldrick, who became a priest; Mr. Courtenay, Mr. Watson and Mr. Quann. In 1877 the boys' school was removed to Eighteenth and Izard. In 1868 the Sisters of Mercy bought three acres of land at Twenty-fourth and St. Mary's avenue for $150 and erected St. Mary's Convent from which the avenue received its name. In the same year Fr. Groenebaum built St. Mary Magdalene's church on Douglas between Sixteenth and Seventeenth streets.

Bishop J. O'Gorman died rather suddenly and was interred under the high Altar of St. Pholomena's (sic) cathedral. At his death the Vicariate numbered about 19 priests, 20 churches, 56 stations, 3 convents, 1 hospital (St. Joseph's in charge of the Sisters of Mercy), and a Catholic population of 12,000.

Father J. Ireland declined the appointment to the Vicariate of Nebraska in deference to the wishes of Bishop Grace and after another delay a successor to Bishop J. O'Gorman was appointed.


The Rt. Rev. James O'Connor, D. D., brother of the Rt. Rev. Bishop Michael O'Connor, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, was appointed Bishop of Dibona and Vicar Apostolic of Nebraska. His cradle stood in Queenstown, Ireland, where he first saw light on September 10, 1823. At the age of fifteen, he came with with his brother Michael, to Pennsylvania, and was educated at St. Charles Seminary, Philadelphia, and in the Propaganda College at Rome, where Cardinal Fransoni ordained him to the priesthood, March 25, 1848. For seven years he was rector of St. Michael's Seminary, 1849-1856, and the seven following years he was rector of St. Charles Seminary, at Overbrook, Pennsylvania. In 1872 he was made, pastor of St. Dominic's church at Holmesburg, Pennsylvania, and was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Nebraska and consecrated by Bishop Ryan at Philadelphia on August 20, 1876, coming to Omaha in September.

He found in his Vicariate two churches in Omaha city, St. Philomena's Cathedral and St. Mary Magdalene's church (erected in 1868). The population of Omaha increased rapidly. Hence Holy Family parish (1877), St. Wenceslaus Bohemian parish (1877), St. Patrick's (1882), St. Peter's (1886), St. Joseph's German parish (1886), St. John's Collegiate church (1877), St. Cecelia's (1888), and Sacred Heart parish (1890) were founded.

Owing to the construction of the Union Pacific Railway in 1867, and more especially the extension of the Burlington Railway in the seventies and eighties, Nebraska was opened up to colonists and settlers, among them many Germans and Bohemians and Poles since 1868, began to pour in from Eastern states. In 1880 the Dakotas were erected into a Vicariate and the Vicariate of Montana was formed on April 7, 1883, and was erected into the diocese of Helena, Montana, March 7, 1884. The Vicariate of Nebraska was erected into the diocese of Omaha on October 2, 1885, with Bishop O'Connor as its first Bishop. (P. 250, Vol. IX). Bishop O'Connor aided in the settlement of the state and one colony was named in his honor, "O'Connor City", in Greeley county. General O'Neill also founded a colony near O'Neill, in Holt county.


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During his administration Bishop O'Connor established in his diocese the Sons of St. Francis at Columbus in 1877, The Jesuits at Omaha in 1878, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of Lafayette, Indian (Columbus, 1879, and Omaha, etc., 1879), the Poor Clares (1880), the Madames of the Sacred Heart (18??), the Benedictine Sisters, and the Sisters of Providence. A catholic college was endowed by the Creighton family and deeded over in 1879 to the Jesuits as trustees. Bishop O'Connor also assisted Miss Catherine Drexel in the foundation of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and the first novice was a Humphrey, Nebraska, young lady, Miss Ottis, or Mother M. James. This Sisterhood devotes itself especially to the education of the Indians and Negroes of the United States. Bishop O'connor also aided in the establishment of the "catholic Mutual Relief Society of America."


Bishop O'Connor also became the first Bishop of the new diocese of Omaha (comprising Nebraska and Wyoming), October 2, 1885. Already in 1887 the dioceses of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, were established and the diocese of Omaha was limited to the counties of Nebraska north of the Platte River.

The Rt. Rev. Bishop O'Connor was called to his heavenly reward on May 27, 1890. His demise was deeply mourned by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. "Bishop O'Connor was a great Bishop, of broad vision, with a kindly nature and strong will. He was a real builder of the west."--True Voice, Dec. 7, 1928. His remains were laid to rest beside those of Bishop O'Gorman and Father curtis in old St. Philomena's.


The Rt. Rev. Richard Scannell, Bishop of Concordia, Kansas, was chosen as successor to the late Bishop O'connor, in January, 1891. He was a native of the Emerald Isle, being born in 1845. He studied philosophy and theology at All Hallows College, Dublin, Ireland, and was raised to the dignity of the priesthood June 24, 1871. After serving as assistant at the Nashville Cathedral he had charge of a new church in East Nashville. He next held the office of vicar general and, after Bishop Feehan's transfer to Chicago, that of administrator of the diocese of Nashville until 1883, when Bishop Rademacher was appointed. A pastor of St. Joseph's parish in Nashville he erected a church and school and was appointed to the see of Concordia, Kansas, on November 30, 1887. On April 12, 1891, he was installed in St. Philomena's cathedral at Omaha as the second Bishop of that see. Besides working diligently for the promotion of the spiritual welfare of his flock, Bishop Scannell laid the foundation for the new St. cecilia's cathedral on October 6, 1907, in presence of three Archbishops, eighteen Bishops, three Domestic Prelates and over a hundred priests. Archbishop Ireland delivered the sermon.

The True Voice (L. C.) says of his administration: "He was a capable administrator, of sound judgment and far-seeing view. He was conservative and at the same time progressive. He was a strict disciplinarian of severe exterior; but he had withal a kind heart. He was devoted to justice, which was chosen as his motto on his coat of arms. Under his administration Omaha made great progress and was noted for its good order and discipline."

We must not forget to mention that the erection of the diocese of Kearney in Western Nebraska occurred in 1912 during the administration of Bishop Scannell.

Monsignor A. M. Colaneri was appointed administrator of the Omaha diocese during the vacancy of the Omaha see.

J. J. HARTY, D. D., A. D. 1916-MAY, 1927

The vacancy caused by the death of Bishop Scannell was filled by the appointment of the Most Rev. Archbishop J. J. Harty, D. D., of Manila, Philippine Islands. The announcement was made on May 16, 1916. The "Archbishop-Bishop" arrived in see city in December, 1916, and was installed on December 16, amid the scaffolding of the still unfinished cathedral.

The new ordinary erected a number of new parishes in the city of Omaha, the number in 1928 was thirty-four. Many new but small parishes were also formed in the country and many priests were admitted into the diocese from far and near. "Most of these priests, however, soon departed for greener fields, and the diocese settled down to reducing the tremendous debt incurred during the period of expansion and inflated prices. This problem has not yet been entirely solved." (True Voice, l. c.).

Archbishop Harty was an incurable optimist allowing his heart to dictate in many matters and was always cheerful and hopeful of a successful outcome amid the greatest difficulties with which he was finally unable to cope, largely owing to ill health. He finally went to California to spend his declining days and in May, 1926, an Apostolic Administrator was appointed for the see of Omaha in the person of the Rt. Rev. F. J. L. Beckman, D. D., Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska. He continued in this office until the


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R. Scannell

His Excellency, Rt. Rev. Richard Scannell, D. D., Bishop of Omaha

J.J. Harty

His Excellency, Most Rev. J. J. Harty, D. D. Bishop of Omaha

J. Rummel

His Excellency, Rt. Rev. Joseph Rummel, D., Bishop of Omaha Since 1928

Rt. Rev. J. F. Rummel, D. D., arrived to take over the diocese.


The Most Rev. Archbishop J. J. Harty was a native of St. Louis, Missouri. His nativity occurred on November 5, 1853. He made his studies at St. Vincent College, Cape Girardeau, Missouri. On April 28, 1878, he was raised to the dignity of the priesthood. His first field of activity was as assistant pastor at St. Lawrence O'Toole parish church in St. Louis. About 1886 he was ordered to organize St. Leo's parish which developed rapidly. On June 6, 1903, a rare occurrence, he was immediately made Archbishop of Manila, P. I. In 1914 he visited the United States and was given a grand reception


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(caption readable view)
Bottom row: Interior of St. Joseph's Hospital Chapel, Omaha.
Prof. E. B. Sheldon      St. Mary's, David City


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by his old parishioners of St. Leo's. After visiting Rome he returned to Manila. On May 16, 1916, Archbishop Harty was transferred to the see of Omaha. But his health was broken and owing to this and other causes, about spring of 1926, Rome appointed an Apostolic Administrator in the Rt. Rev. F. J. L. Beckmann, Bishop of Lincoln, now Archbishop of Dubuque. Archbishop Harty went to California and died there October 29, 1927.

Interment of the mortal remains of the kindly and beloved prelate was made in Holy Cross cemetery at Omaha after solemn obsequies in St. Cecilia's cathedral. Many Archbishops and Bishops and Monsignori and hundreds of priests attended the last solemn rites.

SINCE JULY 3, 1928

Bishop J. F. Rummel is a native of Baden, Germany, where he was born October 14, 1876. About six years later he came with his parents to New York City. After graduating from the parochial schools of that metropolis he made his high school and college studies at St. Mary's College, North East, Pennsylvania, and St. Anselm's College at Manchester, New Hampshire. After his graduation from the latter institution in June, 1896, he entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, in the fall of 1896. He finished his theological studies in the North American College in Rome Italy (1899-1902) and was ordained by Cardinal Respighi in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

"Fr. Rummel returned to New York in July, 1903, and was assigned as assistant to the. church of St. Joseph in that city. He was made pastor of St. Peter's Church, Kingston, New York, by Cardinal Farley, in 1907, and in the Synod of 1912 he was named Dean of the Counties Ulster and Sullivan, New York, in succession to the late Msgr. Richard Lalor Burtsell. In 1915 Fr. Rummel was put in charge of St. Anthony of Padua, a Bronx parish in New York, where he labored for nearly ten years. Fr. Rummel was made pastor of the church of St. Joseph of the Holy Family in Harlem, in November, 1924."--True Voice, December 7, 1928.

Fr. J. F. Rummel was an official of the Matrimonial Curia of the Arch-diocese of New York. After the war he acted as executive secretary of a committee headed by Bishop Dunn to collect supplies for the starving poor of Germany. Upon the recommendation of Cardinal Hayes, Fr. Rummel was, in April, 1924, named Papal Chamberlain, with the title of Very Rev. Monsignor. His appointment as Bishop of the Omaha diocese was made on March 30, 1928. He was consecrated in May, 1928.

His installation by Cardinal Hayes occurred on July 4, 1928.

Since his coming to Nebraska Rt. Rev. Bishop Rummel has labored very zealously. Among the most noteworthy achievements of his administration are the successful drive in the beginning of 1930 for funds to build a new orphanage, finish the Cathedral and subsidize high schools, hospitals, etc. For this purpose the Bishop's Confraternity of the Laity was established, each member pledging himself to contribute within three years $75 or more. The other great achievements was the National Eucharistic Congress held at Omaha, in September, 1930, which proved successful beyond all expectations. It was attended by one Cardinal, many Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots and Monsignori and hundreds of Priests and a very large concourse of the laity.

Omaha is moreover a great educational center, numbering besides the famous Creighton University conducted by the Jesuit Fathers, also institutions of higher learning in charge of the Sisters of Mercy, the Madames of the Sacred Heart and a well organized system of parochial schools. Rev. J. Ostdick is the Diocesan School Director. Among the many hospitals, St. Joseph's Creighton Memorial, St. Joseph's and St. Catherine's deserve special mention. The Creighton Brothers, Edward and John Creighton, and their wives were famous philanthropists.


The story of the founding of Columbus, A. D. 1856, has already been told in the first part. Among the pioneers were Mr. John Browner, (fall of 1856), John Haney; James Haney (1857), Mr. Michael Smith, a German, his brother, Adam Smith, George Berney (1857), Pat Murray and Hugh McDonough came in the spring of 1857. Soon after many other Irish Catholics settled along Shell Creek.

At first a traveling clergyman had to satisfy the religious needs of these pioneers or they had to repair to Omaha for this purpose.


Already in 1860 the Catholics of Columbus and vicinity, under the leadership of John Browner and others, organized a small parish which was turned over to the Rev. Almire Fourmont. The church was named after the patron saint of John Browner. The first church or chapel was a small log cabin thatched with slough grass or straw, later on covered with boards, which had a door on the east side and


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three windows. This was the first church erected by any denomination in Platte county. It stood on the northeast corner of Eighth street and Nineteenth avenue, now the homeplace of Mr. John Staub, Sr. It was later inhabited by the Larry Byrnes family and still later by Mr. Parley. The latter wished to buy the house; but before he could get the money together, the pastor of St. Bonaventure's sold it, contrary to agreement. This so incensed Mr. Farley that he quit going to church.


The first parishioners were: John Browner, John Haney, James Haney, Pat Murray, Henry Carrig, David Carrig, James Carrig, John Dineen, Michael Dineen, Edward Hayes, Thomas Lynch, Mrs. Dunlap, James Conway, and Mrs. Brady.

N.B. The first mention of Columbus in the Catholic directory is for the year 1860 (prepared in the fall of 1859). It says: "Columbus, Fremont, Cummings City, and Dakota. Stations have not been formed in these places for want of priests and the scattered manner in which the Catholics have located." Fr. Cannon, Kelley and Trecey were the only priests under Bishop O'Gorman in 1859. The 1861 Directory (prepared in the fall of 1860), has the following notice:

"Columbus City, Rev. Fr. A. Fourmont. Fremont visited from Columbus. Fort Randall and Plunka (Ponca Sta.) and the settlements of the W. missions visited by Fr. A. Fourmont."

From the above notice it follows that Fr. Almire Fourmont was stationed at Columbus in 1860, as is attested by Mr. Lute North and others. In June, 1861, he recorded a baptism at the Cathedral in Omaha. In September, 1862, he made a missionary trip to Fort Randall. Whether he resided for a time at Sioux City or was still a resident of Columbus when he gave the advice to the people of Sioux City to purchase an additional lot for their church building and paid for it, is not quite clear. There are absolutely no church records at Columbus before December 23, 1866, when Father Ryan began the baptismal and marriage records. We found, however, several baptisms and marriages recorded (1856-1867) at St. Philamena's (sic) Church, Omaha.


Fr. Almire Fourmont was a native of Sable, France, where he first saw the light February 11, 1819. He was educated and most probably ordained in his native country. He labored among the Ottowa Indians, from October, 1852, to June, 1856. He attended the Pohegan Indian mission ('now Silver Creek') Michigan, from Notre Dame, Indiana. Thereupon he is mentioned as pastor of St Vincent de Paul church in New York City and of Hudson, New York.

Fr. Fourmont was transferred from Columbus in July, 1863, to Rulo, Nebraska, and remained in this place until 1865. While in Rulo he started to build a basilica with walls four feet thick. When the foundation was as high as the water table, he could not pay the workmen. The Rt. Rev. Bishop dismissed him and sold the foundation stones from which seven stone houses were built at Rulo. From this place he went to Topeka, Kansas, and in 1867, to New York City. Thence he returned to France, where, according to Fr. Kelly, he died in 1872.

JULY, 1863-JULY, 1865

The second pastor of Columbus was the Rev. William Kelly, "the Patriarch Priest of Nebraska", who took charge about July, 1863. Fr. Kelly related to Rev. M. Shine that there was an intense excitement aroused in Columbus on the arrival of the news of President Lincoln's assassination, in April, 1865.


Rev. William Kelly was a native of Ireland, being born about 1820 in the parish of Tullyhem, Newry County, Armagh, Ireland. When eighteen years of age, he joined the Community of the Christian Brothers at Dublin. He was sent to the United States to collect for some institution in Ireland. Feeling called to the priesthood, he, after 15 years in the Order, asked for permission to study for the priesthood. He severed connections with the Christian Brothers and attended Rev. Dr. Bennet's famous classical school in the capital of Ireland. In July, 1855, he came to the United States, studied at St. Vincent College at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, (November 1855-fall, 1858); went to Atchison, Kansas, to finish his theological course and was adopted by the Vicar Apostolic of Nebraska, the Rt. Rev. James O'Gorman. The latter ordained him to the priesthood, June 25, 1859, in old St. Mary's church, Omaha, the first Catholic church in Nebraska. Heretofore, there were only two priests in Nebraska--Rev. Francis O'Connor, O. S. B., at Nebraska City and Rev. Jeremiah Trecy at St. John's (or Franklin) (1 1/2 miles north of the present town of Jackson, Dakota County) besides a Jesuit Father among the Indians of the Northwest.

Rev. Kelly was assistant in Omaha until July, 1861; then for six months he was in charge of St. John's, Dakota county; again at the Ca-


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thedral at Omaha, till July, 1863. Later on (1867) he collected in the east $30,000 for the new cathedral of St Philomena's at Omaha. At this time he became the successor of the Rev. Almire Fourmont, the first pastor at Columbus, Nebraska. Fr. Kelly most probably built the frame church (St. John's) popularly known as Fr. Ryan's church. About July, 1865, Fr. Kelly was appointed pastor of Rulo and there also built a church and parsonage. The church at Brownville was also erected by him.


When a new mission was to be opened in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in the fall of 1867, the choice fell upon Fr. Kelly, who built a church and pastoral residence and attended the different railroad camps along the Union Pacific Railroad then in the course of construction, giving those men and families regular service. His territory extended from Sidney, Nebraska, westward to Wasatch Canyon, Utah, and northward to Fort Laramie. In October, 1869, he was recalled to Omaha, to accompany his Bishop to the Vatican Council held at Rome. He was next made pastor of Lincoln-fall 1871-May, 1874--with the missions of Plattsmouth, Seward, York and all the new towns along the Burlington, as far as Hastings.

Recalled to Omaha in 1874, he was made pastor of the cathedral by Bishop James O'Connor in 1876 and Vicar General, serving until September, 1878, when he retired. He passed away October 23, 1907, at Omaha.


Fr. Kelly's chief characteristics were thoughtfulness, kindness, and zeal for the glory of God. He was a friend to every one, rich and poor, old and young, saint and sinner. He visited families all over Omaha, especially those who were sick or in trouble. He never rode but often walked miles in the coldest weather to visit the sick or those in affliction. In this world we will never know all the good he did in that way.

There are many stories related of his zeal; we shall mention one here. One cold day in midwinter he went to visit a family in South Omaha. He found the lady of the house very despondent. Her children were sick and she was not well herself. Her house work had to be attended to and she had not the strength to do it. Fr. Kelly tried his best to comfort and cheer her, but did not succeed. At last he had an inspiration and said: "You sit in that rocker and take that sick child in your arms and I will sing for you; it will put the child to sleep," and it did. It made such an impression on the woman that she never forgot it. Father Kelly spoke to every one he met in the suburbs. Our dear Bishop O'Connor used to tell this story of him. It happened one cold afternoon that the Bishop was walking towards the old Cathedral and Fr. Kelly was going in an opposite direction; both wore caps far down on their foreheads and were muffled up. Father stopped the Bishop and said: "Well, how are you, and how are all the family?" The Bishop replied, "Well, thank you", and continued his walk laughing.

When he was pastor at old St. Mary's (Catholic church) in Omaha, he visited occasionally the missions during the Civil war in eastern Nebraska. While riding his pony on one of these trips, he was taken for a "rustler" (horse thief for the Confederates) by a group of vigilantes, who arrested him and were on the point of hanging him despite his protestations of being a Catholic priest. As a last recourse to save his life, he begged his captors to search his saddle bags. There they found evident proofs of the prisoner being a priest and Father Kelly regained his freedom. While collecting in the west for the new Cathedral at Omaha, he visited railroad and mining camps as far west as the Rocky mountains. Entering a dance-hall in a mining camp one day, one of the men demanded what he was doing there. "I am collecting for a new cathedral in Omaha" was the reply. Thereupon the Western man doffed his hat, drew his trusty six-shooter and accompanied the astonished priest around, thus obtaining more than a hatful of money through this "persuasive" method. (True Voice, Dec., 1929).

He lived for many years at the old St. Philomena's Cathedral residence. When the property was sold to the railroad and the house had to be demolished, it had a very depressing effect on Fr. Kelly, who was then eighty-seven years of age. Old people do not like changes. Rt. Rev. Bishop Scannell offered him a room in his own house, but no. Several of the pastors of Omaha invited him to stay with them, but no, he wanted to go to "his own Sisters" on Fifteenth and Castellar Streets.

Sr. Madeline in her Reminiscences says of him: "They were all delighted to have him. Mother got a room fitted up on the first floor, near the chapel. He took sick the first night and the next morning, they had the doctor and a trained nurse for a day and night. All his brother priests came, Rev. Fr. McGovern, Fathers Smith, Stenson and Gleeson seldom left his bed side. The doctor gave little hope on account of his age.

He died on Wednesday, October 23, 1907, and on Thursday his precious remains were brought to St. Patrick's church. where he lay in state


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and was viewed by hundreds of his friends. On Friday morning the office of the dead was chanted by the priests, Monsignor A. Colaneri sang the Requium (sic) Mass and Rt. Rev. Bishop R. Scannell preached the funeral sermon. It was one of the largest priest's funerals they ever had in Omaha. May his soul live with the angels and saints in the heaven of the Blest. (Sr. Madeline, 1. c., p. 53-55).


(August 24, 1865-December 10, 1866).

Fr. Wm. Kelly was succeeded at Columbus by the Rev. Phillip James Erlach. He attended all the Catholics scattered along the Platte, Elkhorn and Loup rivers, including such places as St. Helena, Cottonwood Springs, Fort Kearney, Wood River, Shell Creek, West Point and St. Charles. The latter station was organized by him--See Cath. Dir. for 1867.


Fr. Erlach wrote from Columbus, Nebraska, to his classmates in the old country a letter dated August 28, 1865, where he says among other things that he had celebrated his first holy Mass in the Omaha Cathedral two days after his ordination. As there were only five priests in the vast Vicariate at that time he was detailed for duty without delay.

"In July 1," he continues, "the Rt. Rev. Bishop sent me to visit the wild prairies to a distance of 180 miles and do missionary work. I put the mass requisites in a satchel, strapped it to the saddle and set out north along the Missouri River. I found and visited many Catholics and stayed with them for a month and a half, always moving. They received me everywhere with joy, and I would say I also enjoyed it all the while had there not been so many mosquitoes.

"The majority of Catholics here know only English, and, therefore, I also have to talk only English. But in the missions I have found various languages and heard confessions in English, German, French, Italian, Bohemian and even Dutch.

"I returned to the Rt. Rev. Bishop on August 20th, but two days later he gave me charge of Columbus, a small town 100 miles west of Omaha.


"Here I found a small church, quite new, but not entirely completed. The mission district which I have to attend, extends 60 miles from here in all four directions. I have many Catholics, but they are all scattered. Some come 30 miles to Mass on Sundays. I live in a small nice house with a little garden and prepare my own meals or go to various homes to get something to eat. I have no steady salary, but I suffer no want, for I have everything I need. We (priests) dress here only in black like the rest of people: in summer we wear white overcoats. There are also some German Catholics here, but they have lost their faith; they are all "freigeister" and "freimaurer". My church is frequented by all kinds of Protestants, Mormons, Methodists, etc., for all without exception are accustomed to go to sermons, no matter by whom they are preached. The best Catholics are the Irish, and the most careless are the French. Although the various religious sects abound here, I am molested by none; but they do not like my sermons, as I always bring out the fact, at least briefly, that there is only one true faith. The people of Columbus are all well to do, but in matters of faith and education they are very poor. Everything would be all right with us, were it not for the fact that the majority lose their faith, live like animals and forget their souls. Many even deny that they have a soul. I have much work to do and must take care of many people who are worse than the wild Indians, of whom there are as many here as we.

"Columbus is but a small town, only five (nine) years old. The (U. P.) railroad is being built very rapidly, and I think it will enable me to take a ride to Omaha this fall. From 200 to 500 wagons pass through this town every day for California or places nearer to us, where natural treasures had been lately discovered. Everybody rushes west in search of gold. If this should continue, Columbus will soon become a big and rich city."


Rev. Phillip James Erlach was born at Kovor in Slovenia, now a part of Jugoslavia, on April 27, 1839. Having completed his classical course at Ljubljana, he entered the Central theological seminary at Goricia, Krani, but left for America with his celebrated countryman, Rev. Francis Pierz, (who died in Laibach, Carniola), F. H. Katzer (became Archbishop), James Trobec (became Bishop), Aloys Plut, Joseph Buh, etc., in 1864. He finished his theological education at St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was ordained by Bishop O'Gorman at Omaha on June 27, 1865, as one of the first priests ordained for the Vicariate Apostolic of Nebraska.

He had charge of Columbus, Nebraska, for nearly 16 months, beginning with August 24, 1865. From Columbus he went to Jackson on December 10, 1866, where he, as an accomplished musician, organized the first choir and bought the first organ. He attended also Fort Ran-


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dall, St. Helena, Ponca and Decatur. On October 9, 1869, he was sent to Cheyenne, Wyoming, with jurisdiction over the entire state of Wyoming and a considerable portion of western Nebraska, as far east as Sidney. From April 16, 1871, to January 30, 1873, he ruled over Rulo, Nebraska, and stations Arago, Barada, Burk's Settlement and Brownville. Then he went again to Jackson where he built the new parsonage and also erected the first churches at New Castle and South Creek. On December 10, 1877, he was sent to Grand Island, Nebraska, as the first resident pastor. Here he built the parochial residence and attended various stations in the surrounding territory, including Wood River and St. Libory. From July 11, 1880, to the end of the year 1884, he had charge of Hebron, Thayer County, Nebraska, where he built the church and parsonage and organized three new missions, viz., Davenport, Hubbel and Steele City, attending besides the missions of Alexandria, Carleton and Fairbury. At Alexandria he erected the pastoral residence and parochial school.

In 1885 he left Nebraska and joined the Marquette diocese, Upper Michigan, where his countryman, the Rt. Rev. John Vertin was Bishop. There he had charge of Calumet for about a year, and of Iron River until October, 1889. In the latter place he completed and decorated the church, Then he attended Manistique and Mackinac Island for nearly a year. During the following three years he had charge of St. Patrick's parish, Menominee (made up of Irish, French, Germans and Indians), Ontonagon and Newberry. His last station was at Bessemer, Michigan. He died at the St. Francis hospital, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, on May 8, 1894, thus ending his eventful career. His remains were interred in the parish church at Bessemer--Courtesy of Rev. Dr. J. L. Zaplotnik.

N.B. Rt. Rev. Monsignor A. J. Rezek, LL.D. of St. Ignatius Church, Rt. Rev. Monsignor Shine and Mr. P. F. Kenkel, R. S. G., have also furnished information about Fr. P. J. Erlach.

DECEMBER 1866-1891

At his own request Father James Mary Ryan was transferred from Jackson near Sioux City to Columbus. Fr. Erlach, however, remained in charge until December 10th. After that Father Ryan took charge of the vast territory along the Union Pacific Railroad from Elkhorn on the east to Julesburg, Colorado, and Cheyenne, and Fort Laramie, Wyoming.


The second Catholic church in Columbus generally known as "Father Ryan's Church occupied block 133 on Ninth street and Nineteenth avenue, the latter being then called Grover street. The third lot east of the church was occupied by a small parsonage. The first church had only two windows on either side. It has often been asked who built this church. Fr Ryan did not build it, but only enlarged it; for he writes to the Bishop (probably in April, 1879): "In the year 1866, at my own request I was transferred to Columbus, where I found a little church like a stable. I enlarged it and made it 60 feet long, put up a good bell and steeple and also built a house--all cost me $1,800 of my own funds and no thanks". As Fr. P. J. Erlach also found a church quite new, it seems that Fr. Wm. Kelly erected the second St. John's church. The property was acquired August 15, 1862.


(Courtesy of Mr. Louis Lachnit, Recorder of Deeds, Platte County).

Lot 1, Block 168, original city of Columbus, (located at the corner of 8th St. & 18th Ave.)

Jan. 21, 1861, lot 1, was purchased by Rev Almire Fourmont, from Peter Meyer & Ellen Meyer, the consideration being $200. (Book "B" of Deeds, page 239). July 19, 1862, lot 1, purchased by Rt. Rev. James O'Gorman, from Rev. Almire Fourmont, for the consideration of $200. (Book "B", page 452, of Deeds). Aug. 27, 1880, Rt. Rev. James O'Connor, sold to Franciscan Brotherhood, lot 1, block 168. June 23, 1885, lot 1, sold by Franciscan Brotherhood to John Michel.

All of Block 133, original City of Columbus.

Lots 5, 6, 7 and 8, block 133, purchased Aug. 15, 1862, by Rt. Rev. James O'Gorman, from John P. Becker, for the sum of $1.00. (Book "B", of Deeds, page 458). Aug. 15, 1862, lots 1 and 2, purchased by Rt. Rev. James O'Gorman, from Margaretha and Vincent Kummer. April 10, 1863, lots 3 and 4, purchased by Rt. Rev. James O'Gorman, from John Davis. Jan. 20, 1893, Alfred D. Jones and wife, sold by quit claim deed to Rt. Rev. Richard Scannell, lots 5 and 6, block 133. May 19, 1893, St. Philomena's Church of Omaha, Nebraska, sold to Frederick O. Stenger, lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, block 133 (comprising the entire block).

Block 127, lots 1 and 2, of the Original City of Columbus.

Lots 1 and 2, 'block 127, purchased Nov. 16, 1876, by Rev. James M. Ryan from Julius A. and Caroline Reed. Jan. 25, 1892, Rev. Jas. M. Ryan, sold to Richard Scannell, lot 1, and E1/2 of lot 2, block 127. Oct. 16, 1899, Rt. Rev. Richard Scannell. sold to Frank Kuenzli. lot 1


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