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THE founders of Catherine were the first of all the German-Russians to leave the land of the Czars for far-off America. On October 22, 1875, the families of Justus Bissing, Friedrich Karlin, Peter Karlin, Jacob Karlin and Friedrick Koerner - in all, twenty-seven persons - left Katharinenstadt, the largest and most important of the German colonies on the Volga. At Saratov they were joined by several families from Pfeifer and Kamenka. In company with these they journeyed to Berlin, where they arrived on October the 27th.
From Berlin this group proceeded to Bremen where they had to wait several days for a ship. During their stay in Bremen they were joined by a large contingent of emigrants from Herzog, Obermonjour, Marienthal, Boregard, Liebenthal and several other villages, who had left their home a little later than the party from Katharinenstadt.
Together they took passage on the North-German Lloyd liner "Ohio," on November 2. Three weeks later, after a rough voyage, they arrived in Baltimore. From here they proceeded directly to Topeka, Kansas, where they arrived on November 28. They remained in Topeka until the end of February, 1876, when they went on to Hays, arriving at the latter city on the first of March.
At Hays the newcomers rented Krueger's store, in which they all lived for about five weeks. Each morning they drove to the site where Catherine now stands, and worked on their new homes, hauling lumber and other necessary material from Hays. The houses finally completed, the entire group moved to the new village, named Catherine in honor of their former home in Russia, on the eighth of April, 1876.
The original number of settlers was augmented by the arrival, on July 27, 1876, of the following families of Katharinenstadt: John Karlin, Karl Koerner, Friedrich Meis, Mrs. Meis (a widow), Andrew Schmidt, Jacob Schmidt, John Schmidt, Peter Schmidt, Mrs. Schueler (a widow), Mrs. A. Schuetz (a widow), Henry Staab, Karl Staab, August Walter, Friedrich Walter, Jacob Walter and Jacob Welz. This group comprises seventy-three persons, all of whom the glowing accounts of the new land had induced to emigrate.
On September 26, 1876, the following families arrived: Jacob Staab, Jacob J. Staab, John Staab, Peter Staab, Raymond Staab and Peter Ubert. Sometime in November they were followed by Karl Karlin, Leonard Mittelmeier, Jacob Meier, Henry Paul, Michael Peters, and John Giebler. In August, 1877, the families of Joseph Giebler and Friedrich Weilert arrived, and in July, 1878, the families of Peter Leikam, Jacob Mueller, Jacob Mueller Jr., and Michael Weilert. The last of the early settlers arrived in November, 1878. They were: Jacob Dorz-Weiler, Henry Wolf, Dorothea Beilman and Anna Mittelmeier.
Catherine is located on Section 16-13-17, a section which belonged to the Kansas school commission. It was purchased by four of the settlers, each buying a quarter, at a price of three dollars per acre. Each resident contributed to the purchase price, receiving in return one or more shares. Shares ranged from six to thirty-eight acres. Five acres of meadow land entitled the buyer to one town lot. In 1880 the four original purchasers transferred their holdings to the shareholders.
In April, 1893, a charter for the "St. Catherine Town and Grazing Company" was obtained. The capital stock of the new company was valued at $7,040.00 - 128 shares at $55.00 per share. No property could be sold except upon a two-thirds vote of the stockholders. No individual could hold more than ten shares. Additional regulations were: Tax dues were to be raised by the collection of a pasturage fee; cutting the timber along the creek was prohibited; any shareholder could sell or rent his share, but to prevent undesirables from coming in, the right to dwell in the village was made dependent upon a two-thirds vote of the shareholders (a kind of exclusion law). In 1997 the directors of the company issued deeds of ownership for the town lots.
Although the St. Catherine Company fared better than a similar corporation in Munjor, it still had its difficulties. Finally on the second of February; 1908, upon a petition signed by two-thirds of the shareholders, the land known as "grazing land" was divided among the shareholders by casting lots.
The first homes at Catherine possessed few conveniences or luxuries, still in this regard, they were better off than the settlers of the other villages. This was due to the fact that they came from Katharinenstadt, which was the market place for all the nearby Volga colonies. Here they came in contact with people of greater wealth and more refinement than the others, with the result that their standard of living was higher, and their general appearance, dress, and home comforts of a superior quality.
Long after founding Catherine they adhered to the custom prevailing in Russia of living in towns and driving to the farm in the morning and returning at nightfall. All stock was kept in town, one section being set aside for grazing purposes. While this custom was socially an advantage, it retarded the material development of the community, and Catherine before long, became the poorest of the new settlements. However, when once the people fully realized the impracticability and wastefulness of this custom, it was discarded.
One other result of the system spoken of above was to lay great stress upon the appearance of the town. This fact gave Catherine the reputation of being the best ordered, cleanest, and most prosperous looking of the German-Russian towns. The houses were mostly built of stone quarried from the Steinberg in the immediate vicinity, which could be had for the bare cost of quarrying and hauling.
Spiritually the settlers of Catherine fared about the same as their brethern of Herzog and Munjor. In the absence of a priest they held devotions in the open air, gathering around the cross. The devotions were conducted by Jacob Schmidt, popularly known as "Der Schulmeister" (the schoolmaster), who had for many years occupied that position in Russia. Mr. Schmidt was also the leader and director of the choir and performed all the services that were required of the schulmeister in the old country, such as teaching, holding devotions, etc. He was a person revered, respected and universally loved.
Divine services were held in the school house erected in 1879. For thirteen years this was used for that purpose until the completion of the present church building, which was dedicated on the sixth day of October, 1892, by the Rt. Rev. John J. Hennessy, Bishop of Wichita.
As regards education, the people of Catherine followed the general custom of sending the children to the public school - the only kind to be had in the beginning. However, a few months of the year, after the close of the regular school term, were devoted to religious instruction, an assessment of so much per child being levied against the parents to pay the teacher.
One of the most successful of all the teachers who labored at Catherine is William Grabbe, who, now a veteran in his chosen calling, is still teaching in the public school.
The old school building, erected in 1897, having become too small, a new four-roomed structure of stone was built in 1902, and entrusted to the Sisters of St. Agnes, who had taken charge of the old school.
The Capuchin Fathers have spiritual charge of the parish. The following is the list of all the priests who have labored in the village:
|1876||Rev. Adolf Wibbert.|
|1877||(Aug.) Rev. Val. Sommereisen.|
|1878||Rev. Matthew Hau, O.M. Cap.
Rev. Jos. Cal. Mayershofer, O.M.
|1879||" " "|
|1880||" " "|
|1881||Rev. Anthony Berger, O.M. Cap.|
|1882||Rev. James Muench, O.M. Cap.|
|1883||(Jul.) Rev. Anastasius Mueller, O.M. Cap.|
|1884||" " "|
|1895||(Aug.) Rev. Martin Muelders, O.M. Cap.|
|1986||(Aug.) Rev. Matthew Savelsberg, O.M. Cap.|
|1887||" " "|
|1888||" " "|
|1889||" " "|
|1890||(Mar.) Rev. Martin Muelders, O.M. Cap.|
|1891||" " "|
|1892||(Dec.) Rev. Chilian Lutz, O.M. Cap.|
|1893||(Aug.) Rev. Emmeram Kausler, O.M. Cap.|
|1894||" " "|
|1895||" " "|
|1896||(Aug.) Rev. Joseph Trageser, O.M. Cap.|
|1897||" " "|
|1898||" " "|
|1899||" " "|
|1900||(Aug.) Rev. Jerome Mueller, O.M. Cap.|
|1901||" " "|
|1902||(Aug.) Rev. Jerome Mueller, O.M. Cap.|
|1903||" " "|
|1904||" " "|
|1905||" " "|
|1906||(Aug.) Rev. Joseph Trageser, O.M. Cap.|
|1907||(Aug.) Rev. Alphons Hillenbrand, O.M. Cap.|
|1908||(Aug.) Rev. James Steppe, O.M. Cap.|
|1909||(Aug.) Rev. Matthew Savelsberg, O.M. Cap.|
|1910||" " "|
|1911||Fr. Emmeram Kausler, O.M. Cap.|
|1912||Fr. Edward Heyl, O.M. Cap.|
|1913||(Feb.) Fr. Jerome Mueller.|
|1914||(Aug.) Fr. Severin, O.M. Cap.|
|1916||(July) Fr. Michael Neff, O.M. Cap.|
|1917||(Sept.) Fr. Basil, O.M. Cap.|
|1921||(July) Fr. Andrew, O.M. Cap.|
|1924||(July) Fr. Alban, O.M. Cap.|
Picture: Rev. Fr. Alban Hammel, O.M. Cap., Pastor St. Catherine Church, Catherine, Kans.
Picture: View of Catherine, Kansas
Picture: Catherine, Ellis County, Kansas, St. Catherine's Church
Picture: Group of Immigrant Survivors, Catherine, Kansas
1. Sr. Stella (Amelia Schmidt); 2. Sr. Scholastien (Cath. Walter); 3. Sr. Solana (Adelaide Wolf); 4. Sr. Alexandra (Agnes Schoeler); 5. Sr. Annette (Sophie Karlin); 6. Sr. Bertilla (Pauline Schueler); 7. Sr. Martina (Mathilda Walter); 8. Sr. Clementia (Mathilda Schueler); 9. Sr. Cyrilla. This Sister does not belong to Ellis Co. She is from Wisconsin.; 10. Sr. Paulina (Angela Meis); 11. Laura Karlin; 12. Sr. Fidelis (Cecilia Karlin); 13. Sr. Mathilda (Philippa Meis); 14. Sr. Protase (Christina Leikam); 15. Sr. Adelinde (Agnes Koerner); 16. Sr. Alexia (Anna Schueler); 17-18. Twins; 17. Sr. Paulita (Rose Staab); 18. Sr. Carlita (Mary Staab); 19. Sr. Ethelbert (Ida Schuetz)
Picture: Catherine Deceased
1-2. Jacob and Anna Staab; 3-4. Friedrich and Maria Karlin; 5-6. John and Catherine Schmidt; 7-8. John Jacob and Anna Maria Staab; 9-10. John and Elizabeth Staab; 11-12. Peter and Dorothea Leikam; 13-14. Heinrich and Anna Wolf; 15-16. Andrew and Emilia Schmidt; 17-18. Mr. and Mrs. August Walter; 19-20. Michael and Anna Maria Wellert; 21-22. Carl Meis and Anna Katherina Meis; 23-24. Carl and Elizabeth Karlin; 25-26. Jacob and Anna Karlin; 27. Friedrich Koerner; 28. Paul Koerner; 29. Jacob Schmidt; 30. Heinrich Staab; 31. Jacob Walter; 32. Peter Meis; 33. (Not identified); 34. Anna Maria Schmidt; 35. Agnes Schueler; 36. Anna Maria Schuetz; 37. Carl Meis
Transcribed from The Golden Jubilee of German-Russian Settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926