On November 18, 1878, Edward and Susannah Craft quit claimed the three acres that now contain the cemetery to Louis M Fink of Leavenworth County, Kansas. Who was Louis M Fink?
He was the Bishop of Leavenworth Diocese, part of the Archdiocese of St Louis of the Roman Catholic Church. This donation established one of the only two Catholic cemeteries in Cowley County.
Bishop Fink had been consecrated to that office in 1871. The 1896 newspaper article which featured the image above mentions that at the time he became the bishop, there were only thirty-three Catholic churches in the state.
Catholics were not always accepted — there is a long tradition of anti-Catholicism in the U.S.. Priests had to ride circuits to serve their mission congregations, and were harassed and assaulted. When Catholic immigration from Italy, Ireland, Germany, and other countries increased, the “Know-Nothings” and other hate groups raised fears of a “Romish” takeover of the country, especially its schools.
This anti-Catholicism was as alive in Kansas as anywhere in the U.S.. Two years after the bishop’s silver jubilee, at a time when the number of Catholics in the state had increased nearly tenfold, the Arkansas City [Kansas] Traveler published an anti-Catholic article on its front page, its first point including a declaration that “the principles of the Romish church are opposed to our free institutions.” Catholics were also the object of attacks by the Ku Klux Klan.
The Catholics of Red Bud may have traveled to Winfield for services or Mass may have been said in a private home. But in 1887, they were able to buy a wooden church — if slightly used, only about ten years old. As the Winfield Courier reported in a 1901 supplement on local history:
HOLY NAME CHURCH The first missionaries who ministered to the Indians and afterwards to the few Catholic first settlers here, were Reverends Schumaker and Boncilione, Jesuit Fathers from the Osage Mission, now St. Paul’s Mission in Neosho county. Later the Catholics were attended by priests from Independence and Wichita. The Catholics first built a small frame church on the site of the present one. Under Rev McKernan, the present massive stone structure was erected at a cost of about $115,009 and the old frame building was sold to the Catholics of Red Bud, who moved it to that place and are still using it as a house of worship.
I have not yet discovered exactly when the gifted land began to be used for a cemetery, but it all likelihood it was put to use soon after it was given. Catholics would have felt an urgent need for consecrated ground for the burial of their dead in a time when high rates of childhood mortality, deaths in childbirth, and the ever-present dangers of accidents and illnesses were never far from the thoughts of these settlers. The land is marked as a Catholic Cemetery in an 1882 Township Map.
I hope to find a registry of burials through the church or other records, but for now these early burials are unknown. Of the markers that can be seen there today, the earliest burial seems to be Rosey Walck’s, in 1890.
Image of Bishop Fink was found in the Western Kansas World. (WaKeneney, KS) June 20, 1896. Accessed via the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America Site:
Winfield Courier quote from: Millington, D. A; Greer, E. P 1882 Winfield Courier History of Cowley County, Kansas brought down to January 1, 1901 by E.P.Greer (Winfield [Kansas] Courier Supplement, 1901)
https://archive.org/details/historyofcowleyc00mill accessed online 11/17/2017.
More historical information about the Catholics of Winfield can be found on this site, a labor of love by Winfield history buff Bill Bottorff:
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