St. John Nepomucene Church, Joliet Township
ST. JOHN NEPOMUCENE CHURCH, MIDDLE SHELL CREEK,
JOLIET TOWNSHIP, PLATTE COUNTY
Joliet township was organized August 5, 1873, as Lookingglass precinct. B. Yerion and others petitioned for its organization. The first election was held at the home of Robert Jones.
The soil is a rich loam and easily drained by Shell Creek and other smaller creeks. At John McPhillips' farm and other places there are springs yielding a wonderful water supply.
The earliest Catholic settler in this neighborhood was John Walker from Canada and Iowa respectively. Soon after a number of others from Lindsay, Canada, settled here, the Connellys, and also others such as Mr. Caraher, Joseph Cady, J. Ducey, M. Farrell, J. H. Gogan, M. Maher, John Noon, Peter, Wm. and James Noonan, J. Rivet and many others.
The pioneers had to take their produce on a "crotch" drawn by oxen like a sleigh or on their back to Columbus and carry back a sack of four (sic) and groceries some twenty and more miles. One day "Hunting Jones", as he was styled, had gone to Columbus to trade. During his absence one of the frequent and violent blizzards broke out, and his wife, who was ill abed, had to break up the chairs, the table, etc., in order to keep herself and the little ones from freezing to death. For to leave the house would have meant a catastrophe. This incident is vouched for by Mr. John McPhillips.
Another famous character was "Johnny Smoker", the "friend of the Indian", who one day mysteriously disappeared. Many years later a man on his death bed in Northern Europe confessed that he had purchased Johnny Smoker's farm, paid him the amount and then murdered Smoker, to get the money back; the body of his victim he had thrown into an old well.
From 1860 to 1872 Columbus had the only Catholic church for many miles in circumference. Our Catholic settlers had to walk to Columbus to satisfy their religious duty. Sometimes Mass was said in houses near the present St. Patrick's cemetery, about 4 1/4 miles southeast of Platte Center, and when a church was erected in 1872, they attended St. Patrick's church. After some time Mass was occasionally celebrated in private homes or in the public school near the present St. John's church, at Farrell's, etc., by Fathers Ryan, J. M. J. Smith and John Flood.
In July, 1878, Lindsay, numbering twenty-two families (fifty adults) was attended on the fourth Sunday of the month. The number of Paschal Communions was fifty-five. Farrell numbered seventeen families and three adults (total forty adults), thirty-eight Paschal Communions and was attended once a month on a week day, from St. Patrick's, Platte Center, the distance from there to Lindsay being fifteen miles and from St. Patrick's to Farrell twenty-one miles.
REV. J. M. SMYTH
Rev. J. M. Smyth had said Mass occasionally at Farrell's or in the district school near the present St. John's church. In the early days the public school buildings were at the disposal of denominations, who were still without a church of their own.
REV. JOHN FLOOD
Rev. John Flood, of St. Patrick's, successor to Rev. Smyth, did the same until the number of families was large enough to warrant the erection of a church in the year 1882. It was a frame building, 24x64 feet in dimensions. The church was named in honor of St. John Nepomucene as a compliment to Mr. John Deegan, who donated eight acres for church purposes.
LIST OF PARISHIONERS IN 1884:
|Bohan, Martin||Gogan, J. H.|
|Bellerts||Gogan, J., Jr.|
|Brady, J.||Gogan, Wm.|
|Cady, Joseph||Griffin, M.|
|Carville, C.||Knowles, Gilbert|
|Callahan, B.||Krause, ----|
|Carney, ----||Koch, ----|
|Clark, M.||Maher, Martin|
|Coleman, J.||Maher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Connelly, Wm., Sr.||McAuliffe, ----|
|Connelly, Wm., Jr.||McCabe, H.|
|Connelly, Sam||Noon, John|
|Connelly, Edward||Noonan, James|
|Cunningham, Joseph||Noonan, Peter|
|Deegan, John N.||Noonan, Wm.|
|Deegan, P.||McPhillips, Thos.|
|Donald, P.||Moriarity, John|
|Ducey, J.||Rivet, J.|
|Duffy, P.||Rogan, Mrs. Cath.|
|Galligan, A.||Rosaki, Mrs.|
|Galligan, John||Shanahan, John|
|Galligan, P.||Smith, Fred J.|
|Fay, ----||Sullivan, J.|
|Farrell, Michael||Sweeny, J.|
|Fortune, Mrs.||Walker, Frank|
|Gillespie, ----||Walker, John|
St. John Nep. Church, Joliet Township
Rev. Othmar Berthieaume,
Rev. John N. Turek,
Rev. Francis H Steck,
THE FRANCISCANS IN CHARGE
When in February, 1884, Rev. John Flood was transferred to Omaha, St. Patrick's church and its missions, including St. Michael's, Albion, and St. John's Nepomucene, were entrusted to the Franciscans and Rev. Maximilian, O. F. M. (died in January, 1931, in California) took charge. He provided a room for the priest, had the church plastered, installed a number of pews made by Wm. Duesman, and provided altar linens, vestments, candlesticks, censer, a monstrance (Nov. 1884) and a statue of the Blessed Virgin (1885), to enhance the splendor of Divine Worship. On one occasion he was snowbound at the church about three days by an awful blizzard and suffered severely from cold and hunger. In January, 1886, Mr. McCabe was paid $35.00 for an organ. Confirmation was administered May 15, 1886, by the Right Reverend James O'Connor, D. D., Bishop of Omaha.
REV. LUKE MIERSOWSKI, O. F. M.
Rev. Luke Miersowski, O. F. M., August 1, 1886-January 15, 1887, was soon called to Radom, Illinois, and replaced by the saintly Father Bonaventure Faulhaber, O. F. M., January, 1887-January, 1892. The receipts for 1887 amounted to $565.77 with a deficit of $50.55. The trustees at that time were Messrs. Henry McCabe, Martin Maher and John Deegan. The cemetery was fenced in. On January 6, 1887, the deed for the church land was recorded.
SALARY PAID TO THE FATHERS
December 20, 1887, P. Bonaventure writes: to the Rt. Rev. Ordinary: "Now the writer of this having had a council with his Superior, most
humbly makes to your Lordship this petition: to fix the salary for Shell Creek and Madison. We attend each place twice a month, have even many sick calls (to Shell Creek), must travel by the (railroad) car and by wagon, at all seasons and hours, and received only $100 a year, which amount was paid only partly, until this year we made up all the posts (items) still unpaid. We helped to spare the people. But the little amount, $100, will scarcely pay the necessary clothes. The people are now doing somewhat better and should at least do something. Understand, all income including Easter and Christmas collections, go into the common (church) treasury. Columbus, with easier service, gets $150. (A. D. 1887--Editor). What shall we ask of Madison and Shell Creek? There is a collection in provisions once in fall which brings in about $30-$35."
Fr. Bonaventure Faulhaber.
Father Bonaventure labored most zealously to instruct young and old in his long sermons and not short instructions and to bring back to church and to the sacraments the careless. He also introduced the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and other pious societies. When the saintly pastor was removed upon complaints made by the people against his long sermons, instructions and strictness in the confessional, he was succeeded by Rev. Valentine Dorenkemper, O. F. M., who during his rectorship of six months built the steeple.
Father Bonaventure had boarded at John Deegan's. Most of his successors boarded with Mr. John McPhillips gratis or for a nominal sum, for which the parish and the Franciscan Fathers owe Mr. McPhillips a debt of gratitude.
REV. SALVATOR LEHMANN, O. F. M.
Rev. Salvator Lehmann, O. F. M., (July, 1892-July, 1893) planned the transfer of St. John's to the promising little town of Lindsay. An energetic protest on the part of many parishioners was the result.
Postville, Platte County, March 20th, 1893.
Rt. Rev. Bishop Scannell,
Rt. Rev. Bishop:
We the undersigned of St. John Nepomucene's Mission, Shell Creek, Platte County, Neb., understand that the people of Lindsay are trying to build a church in the town of Lindsay and to abandon the above named church. If such is the case, then we beg leave to protest, for the following reasons to wit. First. From the fact that the present church and cemetery is centerly (sic) located. Second. That the present church and cemetery cost the congregation Three Thousand Dollars ($3,000), all of which is paid. Third. That none of the property of the present church could be made available to help build the church in Lindsay and therefore would be a total loss to the congregation. Fourth. That it would deprive twenty-five families of having any reasonable show of going to church. Fifth. That while we have no objection to the people of Lindsay, to build a church and maintain it, but we would most emphatically protest against the abandonment of our present church. Sixth. That as your Lordship wisely remarked in your late Pastoral that
Rev. Shliska, O. F. M., Tarnov
(St. John's Nep., Joliet Twp.)
it would prevent Catholic families from locating here and cause the families that are here to sell out and go elsewhere. Hoping your Lordship will give the matter your careful consideration, for which your Petitioners will ever pray.
|John McPhillips||James Noonan|
|Peter Noonan||James Keogh|
|Edward Connelly||Joseph Cady|
|Hugh McConnell||Anthony Cady|
|M. C. Ruzicka||Patrick H. Smith|
|Dan D. Keogh||Daniel Wilson|
|Frank McCarville||Mike Sheridan|
|M. J. Clark||Thomas Farrell|
|E. J. Keogh||Matthew Farrell|
|Daniel Hayes||Patrick Morrissey|
|Xavier Forgette||W. H. Dress|
|Charles Underwood||E. F. Morrissey|
|James McPhillips||M. Sweeney|
|John Deegan||Mike Mooney|
|Lou Callahan||Sarah Rivet|
|Peter Kele||John Sweeney|
Rt. Rev. Bishop Scannell,
Rt. Rev. Bishop:
In case our present church be abandoned there will be a great breakup in our congregation; for as stated in our petition, it will cause a great part to sell out and leave here and in case it is not abandoned there will be most likely more Catholic families inside of a year, as there was two families located here last year on account of the church, and they have friends, who intend to come here in the near future.
Your Lordship, as you most likely are aware of, we contributed and built this church, when we were very poor, and it would be very hard to take it away from us now as we just got it paid for.
Your Lordship would you please write me and let me know what decision you will give on the matter and oblige,
Yours very truly,
St. John's Church, Shell Creek, Joliet Twp., Platte County, Ill (sic).
Father Salvator was soon transferred. His successor was the Rev. Herbert Stotter, O. F. M., (July 1893-August, 1896). He started a circulating library, ordered a new altar costing $200.00 from Gier Brothers, Chillecothe, Missouri, and purchased a bell weighing 900 pounds. He, moreover, invited Rev. Mauritius Baukholt, O. F. M., of Columbus, Nebraska, to preach a mission December 2nd to 6th, 1896, which was highly appreciated by those in attendance. As those living in or near Lindsay, whether because of bad weather, poor roads, or because of distance and other reasons, we are unable to state which, failed to attend in large numbers, Father Mauritius advised the pastor to build a church in Lindsay. When he followed this advice, it proved a blow to St. John's parish from which it has never completely recovered.
After the brief and uneventful pastorates of Rev. Philemon Toepfer, O. F. M., (July, 1896-July, 1897), and of Rev. Walfried Rompe, O. F. M., (July, 1897-January, 1899), who was called the "pastor on horseback", Father Sabinus Mollitor assumed charge of St. John's. He greatly beautified the cemetery. When the growing Lindsay mission required more and more attention, a third Father was sent to St. Bernard, to take over the Schoolcraft and Shell Creek Missions.
REV. ALBERT BRIJESERMANN, O. F. M.
Rev. Albert Bruesermann, O. F. M., (August, 1900-July, 1910) built a large barn 36x140 feet for 24 teams, to shelter the horses during inclement weather. He, moreover, beautified the house of God, installing stained glass windows, new side altars (from Columbus, Ohio), a Communion railing and new pews, a new organ gallery and a number of statues (St. John Nepomucene, St. Patrick, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Thomas Aquinas, The Guardian Angel, etc.). He also purchased a
team (Flossie and Birdie) and buggy and he himself acted as driver. Miss Mary Cady and Miss Catherine Danahey joined the Congregation of the Madames of the Sacred Heart near Lake Forest, Illinois. The cemetery was plotted and a cope was donated in 1906 and a Christmas crib ($42.50), in 1908. Mrs. John McPhillips donated $78.00 towards a fine new chalice. In June, 1910, the new ostensorium arrived. A benefactor donated $50.00 towards the same. The pastor also ordered an ornamental iron fence and gate for the cemetery which arrived just before his transfer to Illinois. It cost $359.12. "The good old Irish people at dear old St. John's were very sociable and especially very respectful
Rev. James Meyer, O. F. M.
towards their pastor. It was a joy to meet them before and after Mass and to visit their homes in fall." (Father Albert).
REV. LEO ZETTEL, O. F. M.
Rev. Leo Zettel, O. F. M., (July, 1910-June, 1912) Father Leo purchased a new organ about November, 1910. The collection for St. Cecilia's Cathedral (assessment $300.00, it seems) amounted to $191.00; a sum of $150.00, however, was at this time forwarded to the diocesan Chancery. The plate collections for 1912 were $18.36; the Christmas collection, $18.00; the ordinary church expenses, $68.37; the salary, $200.00 and painting the church cost $115.00.
REV. FRANCIS BORGIA STECK, O. F. M.
Rev. Francis Borgia Steck, O. F. M., (July, 1912-summer of 1913) was the next pastor. Father Francis (Henry) Steck was born July 11, 1884, attended St. Anthony's school in St. Louis, made his classical studies at Teutopolis, Illinois, joined the Order of Friars Minor June 22, 1904, made his simple profession June 22, 1905; his solemn profession July 11, 1908, and was raised to the priesthood June 22, 1911. Being a native of St. Louis, Missouri; he made some interesting experiences as pastor of St. John's Jolliet Township and of St. Francis de Sales (Schoolcraft) with the fleet team of ponies (Flossie and Birdie) left him by the former pastor. But let him tell his own tale.
"My greatest worry during this time were two ponies I would have to handle on the way to and from the missions (with my residence at St. Bernard's, Platte County). It was in Nebraska that I handled reins for the first time. I knew about as much about driving horses as the Spanish missionary of the 17th century knew about running an automobile--nothing. The results were accordingly. I'll never forget the first time I tried to remove the bridle from "Birdie". (Birdie and Flossie were the pride of the neighborhood and the worry of the pastor of St. John's.) To me the bridle with its many buckles was a Chinese puzzle. I simply opened all of them and as a result had half a dozen pieces of strap in my hands. The people heard about it and had a good hearty laugh. Twice the horses got the better of me and ran away with their "master", who was in as much of a predicament as John Gilpin was on his famous ride. Here again something happened that opened my eyes. Near Shell Creek lived a good natured Irishman by the name of Mike Clark. I visited him one Sunday afternoon and told him about the runaway I had. He looked at me and said quietly, "Sure and what did you do?" I told him that I tried to make them stop. At this he said: "Wrong, Father, wrong! The next time you simply let them run for all they are worth, but keep them in the middle of the road. They will stop when they get tired. And when they are good and tired, then show them that you are master and make them run several more miles at the top speed. It'll teach them a lesson and they won't feel like running away again." I thought the remedy very simple, though you may be sure I never applied it."
As Father Francis had charge also of Schoolcraft, we might as well tell his experiences there now also. "If I ever felt lonesome in my life it was during my twenty-four hours stay every two weeks at Schoolcraft. There was absolutely nothing to do but to wait until some human face showed up. Usually no such face showed up all Saturday afternoon and all next morning until about ten o'clock. Then a few would come straggling in, so that by eleven o'clock we could finally begin with holy mass.--At Schoolcraft I would have to prepare my own supper on Saturday evening. I never learned cooking and so I was in a bad fix. One incident I shall never forget. I had taken eggs along, intending to boil them. Well, to make the meal complete,
I also wanted coffee. So I filled the pot with water and put the ground coffee beans in and then set the whole thing on the stove. After long waiting the water began to boil furiously. I was sure it would be a fine strong coffee. But when I poured it out it was like dishwater, steaming frightfully. It had as much the taste of coffee as our present near beer has the taste of the old time beverage. While looking the situation over, the thought occurred to me to boil the eggs in what was to be coffee. I did so, and the result was that I had not only boiled eggs but also nicely colored Easter eggs."
"While at Shell Creek, I boarded with Mr. John McPhillips. Being with these fine people was the only bright and cheerful recollection I have of my pastoral experience in Nebraska."
In August, 1913, Father Francis was relieved of his worries and sent to Teutopolis College, to act as professor and associate editor of the Franciscan Herald, which began to make its appearance in 1912. During the six years at his alma mater, Father Francis wrote "The Franciscans and the Protestant Revolution in England,"--intending to write parallel studies of contemporary Franciscan activity on the continent during the religious upheaval. But in the summer of 1919 his superiors sent him to Santa Barbara, California, that he might collaborate with the famous Father Zephyrin Engelhardt, O. F. M., in writing the local history of the twenty-one California missions. During the two years spent with Father Engelhardt he helped finish in manuscript seven of the missions. Of these the local history of six or more has since been published, viz., San Diego, San Luis Rey, San Juan Capistrano, San Gabriel, San Fernando, and Santa Barbara. Meanwhile the young historian studied the Spanish language privately, published "The Glories of the Franciscan order," (which has since appeared in a second edition and has been translated into Italian) and wrote magazine articles.
In the fall of 1921, he was recalled to serve the Franciscan Herald in the capacity of literary editor. The following summer he received an obedience for Quincy College, Quincy, Illinois, where he taught American History and the Spanish language. Two years later, in 1924, he was permitted by his superiors to take up graduate work in American Church History and Library work at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D. C. He pursued this work for three years under the direction of the Rev. Peter Guilday. Father Francis Steck received his degree of P.D. after writing a book on "The Louis Jolliet and Pere Marquette Expedition", which shows deep research and wide acquaintance with the sources and which has caused such a stir among lovers of history. In this book he gives proper credit to L. Jolliet as the leader of the expedition of the exploration of the Mississippi. No lover of history can afford to pass by this book.
At present Father Francis is professor of history, etc., at the Quincy Franciscan College. He is frequent contributor to many magazines on things historical and associate editor of Arthur Preuss's Fortnightly Review. He also gives summer courses, etc., in history to various teaching Sisterhoods.
REV. JAMES MEYER, O. F. M.
Rev. James Meyer, O. F. M., July, respectively August 31, 1913-January, 1915.
Father James worked for frequent Communion. On September 19, the pastor lighted a bonfire; everything being dry and a high wind blowing, hay valued at $80.00 and damage to the barn estimated at $40.00 ensued. The damage to the barn was covered by subscription. On October 19, the pastor held a meeting of the Poles of the neighborhood to ascertain whether they would join the parish. Eight men responded: Tony Rosenthal, Chas. Bryg, Valentine Laska, Peter Tetares, Frank and Chas. Syslo, and two others. They were not minded to transfer their membership to St. John's, as their interests were vested in St. Michael's, Tarnov. However, they declared their willingness to help support the church. In November, the Jubilee of Constantine was celebrated quite successfully in point of attendance and reception of the Sacraments and visits. A mission was preached September 27,-October 4, 1914, by the Rev. John Joseph Brogger, O. F. M. A Sodality for the young people was formed in the spring of 1914 with a membership of forty. April 26, The Ladies' Sodality was placed under the protection of St. Monica. On May 10, 1914, occurred the first general communion of the Sodality and of the Children of Mary. At this time Mr. John McPhillips was received into the Third Order of St. Francis, probably the first one in the parish. To pay the residue on the new cathedral assessment, $145.00, a collection was taken up which netted $60.50. Another book case was purchased for the parish library. On December 8, 1914, eight candidates were received into the Third Order. Henceforth the pastor held monthly meetings for them. In December, 1914, the pastor began to read the gospel in Polish for the benefit of the Polish attendance. "Things are so now that only with their support St. John's can continue as heretofore."
REV. JOHN NEPOMUCENE TUREK, O. F. M.
Rev. John Nepomucene Turek, O. F. M., October, 1915-July, 1918. In May, 1915, Miss Katherine Noonan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Peter
Noonan, left for Lafayette. She is now known as Sister M. Bridget, O. S. F. On December 8, 1915, several novices made their profession in the Third order, which was then formally organized. Mr. John McPhillips was elected prefect; Mr. Peter Noonan, treasurer; Mrs. Katherine Noonan, secretary. On August 27, the harvest festival given at Peter Schumacher's farm, netted $359.84. The Operetta, "Every Soul," presented by 103 children of Holy Family School, of Lindsay, contributed largely to the success. In the fall of 1916 Father John Nepomuc planned a $4,000 school with Polish Sisters of St. Louis in charge. The plan was not realized, because impracticable for the small parish. In summer 1917, the horses were raffled. Of the proceeds, $250.00, St. Francis Parish, that had paid for the horses, received $150.00, and St. John's $100.00. A Ford Automobile ($391.35) replaced the team and buggy. St. John's contributed $195.68.
After Father Wm. Shlizka, O. F. M., had administered St. John's from Tarnov for about six months (July, 1918-January, 1919) Father John N. Turek once more assumed charge till August, 1919.
REV. PETER BARTKO,
O. F. M.
REV. OTHMAR BERTHIEAUME AND SUCCESSORS
Rev. Peter Bartko, O. F. M., August, 1919- January, 1921, was soon called elsewhere. Rev. Othmar Berthieaume, 1921-1926, was his successor. He put a new foundation under the church, painted it on the outside and constructed extra rooms to the rear of the church. A donation of $1,000 by the mother of Mr. Wm. Noonan made these improvements possible. Mr. Schad furnished the lumber, Mr. Dickenson of Norfolk raised the building and did the masonry work for the small sum of $200.00, while the excavating for the foundation and hauling of material was done by the farmers. Mr. Nansel and son Jack with their truck and the pastor with a borrowed team helped to expedite matters. The outside painting was done by Mr. Ackermann Junior and the inside painting was done by Ruppert Brothers.
Father Othmar had his residence partly at Lindsay, partly at Humphrey and again at Lindsay. The successors of Rev. Othmar were: Rev. Maximilian Klotzbucher, O. F. M., August 1926-June 1927; Rev. Erwin Huntscha, who invited Rev. Didacus Gruenholz, O. F. M., to preach a mission following the mission at Lindsay in 1928; Ludger Wegemer, O. F. M., January 3, 1929-Easter 1931, who purchased a new automobile, and Rev. Anthony Wagner, O. F. M., the present pastor since Easter, 1931.
St. John's was given back to the diocese in August, 1930. The Franciscans are temporarily in charge until His Excellency appoints a successor. During their administration the friars baptized about 376 persons and assisted at 44 marriages. The record of First Communions, Confirmations is incomplete.