NEGenWeb Project

Chapter XVIII

St. Patrick's, Shell Creek (1863-1871-1885) --
Later St. Joseph's Church, Platte Center (1885-1929)


The first permanent settler on Lower Shell Creek in Platte county seems to have been Carl Reinke, who came in the fall of 1856 with the original Columbus Town Company but settled in Shell Creek Precinct. (Born 1828, died 1906, interred in Columbus City Cemetery). His first home was a sod house. Ox teams costing $200 a pair were used to break the virgin prairie.

The first Catholic settlers along Lower Shell Creek, mostly between Columbus and the present Platte Center, were:


Rev. Boniface Depmann, O. F. M.,
First Pastor of St. Joseph's, Platte Center, Nebr.

In 1857: Thomas Lynch, Patrick Gleason, John Dineen and Michael Kelly led the way for others; they came in March, 1857. Pat Murray came about spring, 1857, but settled near Columbus. They were followed in the next year, 1858, by Michael Dineen and James Conway.

In August, 1859: Edward Hayes, Henry Carrig, Dave Carrig, James Carrig, Michael Doody and Patrick Burke, arrived.

In 1868: Thos. Flynn, John Slevin (a recluse), John Shaughnessy (killed when a well caved in), John Regan, Sr., Dennis and Michael Duggan, Patrick Dugan, and Edmund Roberts.

In 1869: Henry Ripp, Joseph Jordan, Christian Greisen, Joseph Liebig, Chas. Mehrberger (or Mayberger). These were Germans, as the names indicate.

In 1870: Michael Hogan, John Sackey, Patrick and Dennis Regan, Thos. Shea.

In 1871: Dennis Sullivan, Thos. Sullivan, Patrick Murphy, Michael Upton, Patrick Carey.

In 1872: Wm. O'Callaghan, Thos. Dean, Michael Cronin, came to settle.

The winters at this period were very severe; blizzards lasting three to four days; were very dangerous to travelers and stock. Flour had to be freighted in from Fort Calhoun, near Omaha, in the fifties, till the Rickley Mill was finally built. As more pioneers scattered about, the first school, a log affair, was erected in District 4 (near St. Patrick's cemetery) and taught by Mr. John Kern. About 1868, J. B. Becker built a grist mill on Shell 'Creek. Some poisonous snakes were found along the creek, but the settlers suffered little from their bites. For many years the depredations of wolves were very annoying. In February, 1871, James Carrig killed a huge mountain wolf that had terrorized the neighborhood and the death of the dreaded beast was celebrated by a dance. James Carrig was a typical pioneer--a hard fighter and a man able to stand almost any strain. Re died about 1915 at Kearney, being 84 years old at his death.


From 1857 till about 1861 the Catholic settlers as a rule had to travel to Omaha with ox teams to have their children baptized, to receive the sacraments, etc. In 1860 the Catholics in Columbus and vicinity, most of them from Shell Creek, organized 'St., John's parish and were given the Rev. A. Fourmont as a pastor. The first church was a little log church and Fr. Fourmont, for several years, was the only resident clergyman in Platte county. According to "Past and Present, of Platte County", Vol. I, p. 359, Fr. Fourmont came out to Shell Creek occasionally to say Mass. In August, 1863, came Fr. Wm. Kelly. At the end of 1863 Fr. Smith came up from Columbus from time to time. Fr. Kelly also came occasionally from Columbus in 1864, as did his successor, Fr. Erlach, in 1865. All the above named priests said Mass in the sod houses of Patrick Gleason, Thomas Lynch and Edward Hayes. After this no service was held for many years, as Fr. Ryan


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Combination Church, School and Sisters' Residence, Platte Center, Neb.


Rev. Godfrey Hoelters, O. F. M.


Rev. Titus Hugger, O. F. M.


Rev. Jerome Hellhake, O. F. M.

obliged the Catholics to attend St. John's Church in Columbus.


In 1870 Fr. Frederick Uhing, of West Point, Nebraska, was invited by the Catholic Germans to minister to their spiritual wants. During his time the church was built by Ferdinand Ripp, near the Pat Gleason home in the year 1873. It was a frame building 24x40 feet. Before it was exteriorly completed Mass was said in the house of Henry Ripp. Interiorly it was not finished for several years.

The church was built on a plot of ground donated by Mr. Patrick Gleason and Mrs. Mary (Lynch) Cleary, who each donated four acres, described as follows: Patrick Gleason, four acres of land in the northeast corner of the SE 1/4, Section 29, Township 18, Range 1. The deed was executed in court in 1872 and recorded in book F, page 23. Mrs. Cleary also donated four acres, Section 28, Township 18, Range 1, conveyed by Daniel Lynch, June 13, 1872. This ground is still used as a burial ground and is located 4 1/2 miles southeast of Platte Center.

According to Fr. Hyacinth Schroeder, Fr. John H. Bernard, who afterwards joined the Franciscan Order, as Fr. Alexius, must have come in 1874. He was the first resident priest and had a parsonage built by Thomas Shea in the spring of 1876. In summer, 1877, he left for the Franciscan novitiate.

Rev. John Heskemann Bernard was a native of Vreden, Germany, born January 16, 1836. He seems to have been a religious, but left the


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order. He was ordained and labored in the diocese of Vincennes and Chicago and in Nebraska, being stationed at Forest City or Gretna, whence he attended, among other missions, the Luxemburg settlement between Beliwood and David City. There he built the first St. Mary's church. About 1877 he joined the Order of Friars Minor. He labored at Teutopolis as pastor of Bishop Creek, at Indianapolis, Indiana, at Cleveland, Ohio, and afterwards at Indianapolis, Indiana. There he passed away suddenly on July 1, 1894, in the 59th year of his age, and the 16th of his religious profession.

OCTOBER 11, 1877-FEBRUARY, 1880

The next resident pastor of St. Patrick's was the Rev. J. M. J. Smyth, who had been assistant to Rev. James Ryan at Columbus.

Before Fr. Smyth's time no church records were kept at St. Patrick's, entries being made at St. John's, Columbus, and much valuable history of the early Catholic settlement was lost. Fr. Smyth's residence is given in the Catholic Directory as "Gleason Postoffice, Nebraska". From this point he occasionally visited Brady's District, or the Upper Shell Creek, Lindsay Postoffice and Farrell, all in Platte county; Halifax, O'Connor City and St. Michael's (Spalding), Greely (sic) county; St. Brendan's and Albion, Boone county; Fort Hartsuff, Valley county, and Genoa and Fullerton in Nance county.


Number of Catholic families, 60 and 8 adults; number of adult Catholics, 158. Number of children, 120; Paschal communions, 205; no converts; first communions, 20; no religious order; Altar Society members, 20; no indebtedness; church improvements, $50; house and furniture, 950; children attending Catechetical instructions on Sundays, average 18.

This report refers to St. St. Patrick's parish.


Lindsay: 22 families and 3 adults; fifty adults; 55 Paschal communions.
Farrell: 17 families and 5 adults.
Albion, Boone county: 18 families and 8 adults
Number of adults in Lindsay, 50; Farrell, 40; Albion, 50.
First communions: Lindsay, 8; Farrell, 7; Albion, 5.
Paschal communion: Lindsay, 55; Farrell, 38; Albion, 55.
Lindsay visited every 4th Sunday of the month; Farrell, every 4th Sunday of the month; Albion, once every month on a week day.


Remarks: Halifax: 13 families; O'Connor City, 90 families and 14 single men; Paschal communions 33 and 52, respectively.


Contains only 3 Catholic families. There are a few Catholics at Fort Hartsuff, Valley county. I went there three times during the first year.

N. B.: Middle and Upper Shell Creek are changed respectively to Lindsay and Farrell.

(Signed) J. M. Smyth.

JULY, 1877-JULY 1, 1878

Rt. Rev. Bishop:

The subjoined is as accurate a report as I can give this year. This mission comprises the greater part of Platte county, the whole of Boone, Greely and Valley counties. A church will be built in Albion, Boone county, this fall; also an addition of 20 feet to the church at Gleason, Platte Co. There are in my mission 149 families and 30 young men in possession of homes. It is more than one priest can do, to attend to the several stations and now every little station or mission wants Mass on Sunday. The support of two priests is very doubtful, but the work has to be done and if two were here, "the Lord will provide".

J. M. J. Smyth, Pastor.

FEBRUARY 13, 1880

"There was a very affecting scene witnessed at Shell Creek Church yesterday, February 8, 1880. It commenced with an appeal of the Rev. Fr. Smyth, for aid for the suffering in Ireland. There were few who could listen unmoved to the picture he drew of those, who were ever ready to relieve the wants of others, now themselves victims of gaunt famine. The members of the congregation, headed by Rr. Smith's name for $25, contributed somewhere in the neighborhood of $100. This is true generosity when we consider that the greater part of them lost their small grain by being grasshoppered. Fr. Smyth preached his farewell sermon yesterday. I have witnessed a good many such scenes, but never saw so many sorrowful faces and eyes full to the brim with tears. Fr. Smyth goes to Greely county to take charge of the colony there. May success attend him and may he soon return to his friends and congregation again at Shell Creek."

List of Parishioners of St. Patrick's (according to Baptismal Records), 1877:

Thos. Blandford and Julia Siegel, Pat Brennan and Bridget Downey. Thos McPhillips and


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Catherine Lynch, Peter Galligan and Mary Helen Madden, Nich. Gentleman and Mary Garrig, Jacob Learey and Mary Mahoney, Michael Doody and Catherine Finlay, John Sweeny and Albina Foley, Sam Connelly and Alice Geogan, (Upper Shell Creek); John Hennessey and Mary Francis, Mich. McDonald and Julia Devlin; (Middle Shell Creek); Pat Foley and Elizabeth Foley, Wm. Connelly and Mary Sullivan, Morris Langan and Margaret Kenealy, Andrew O'Donnell and Margaret Lovett, Thos. Flynn and Rosanna Delaney, Phillip Walker and Catherine Scanlan, John Deegan and Rose Dully, Joseph Rivet and Sarah Shields, Mich. Duggan and Bridget McCarthy, Mich. Cronin and Catherine Harrahan, Jacob Ducey and Johanna Dougherty, Pat. Coleman and Mary Clark, Edw. Roberts and Honora Riordan, Edw. Hayes and Mary Sullivan, Jeremiah Cronin and Kate Moriarty, Stephen Gleason and Bridget Burke, John Maher and Catherine Butler, Mich. Hogan and Sarah Bruthor, Jacob McCormack and Jane Tracey, Denis Duggan and Catherine Began, Denis Regan and Margaret Holland, Pat. Fahey and Anna Perkinson, Jacob Fay and Helen Finton, John Sullivan and Alice Manderville, Pat Dugan and Elizabeth Cadigan, Ed. Higgins and Catherine Connelly, David Murphy and Helen Lenahan, Wilbert Fortune and Josephine ----, John Greacy and Margaret Brew, Martin Bohen and Harriette Ryan, John. Lucid and Bridget O'Neill, Joseph Souliere and Catherine Hingey, Dennis Sullivan and Helen Donoghue, Patrick Murray and Catherine Doyle, Pat Manley and Mary Mahoney, Jacob Hoffman and Anna Spohn, John Shanahan and Catherine Cahill, Henry Carrig and ----, Pat Hayes and Catherine Sheehan.


Mr, and Mrs. G. Borowiak, Duncan, Neb.

Fr. Flood also attended many missions be-

FEBRUARY 29, 1880-FEBRUARY, 1884 (sic)

sides St. Patrick's, as his report to the Diocesan Chancery shows.

Report 1879-1880, Rev. John Flood, Pastor:

St. Patrick's: Platte Center, distance from Pastor's residence, 0 miles; attended on 3 Sundays; 52 Catholic families; 145 practical; 5 non-practical; 145 Catholics above 21 years; 191 under 21 years; 30 children; 231 Paschal communions; 15 First communions; 3 Catholic and 1 mixed marriage; expenditure for church $30; no balance; pastoral residence at Platte Center.

Remark: Church in course of erection in Albion, Boone county.

Albion: St. Michael's; attended twice a month; distance 38 miles; Catholic families, 30; practical Catholics above 21 years, 65; non-practical, 2; under 21 years, 63; Sunday school, 17; parochial school, none; Paschal communion, 80; First communion, 4; no converts; Baptisms, 4; marriages, none; no deaths.

Lindsay: Platte county; no church; Sunday, one a month; 15 miles; 24 Catholic families; 55 Catholics over 21 years; 2 non-practical; 78 under 21 years; Sunday school, 16; Catholic school, none; Paschal communions, 66; First communions, 4; Baptisms, 3; no converts; no marriages; no deaths.

Farrell: Platte county; no church; attended one Sunday a month; 21 miles; 17 Catholic families; 42 over 21 years; 1 non-practical; 38 under 21 years; 11 attend Sunday school; no Catholic school; 50 Paschal communion; 2 First communions; no converts; no baptisms; no marriages; no deaths.


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Fullerton: Nance county; no church; visited occasionally; 25 miles; 4 Catholic families; 9 over 21 years; no non-practical; 10 under 21 years; no Sunday school; no Catholic school; 12 Paschal communions; no first communions; no baptisms; no marriages; no deaths.

Fr. Flood, in his report for 1880-1881, credits Platte Center with 53 Catholic families; 150 practical, above 21 years, 3 non-practical; 192 under 21 years; 34 attend Sunday school; 253 Paschal communions; 12 First communions; 1 convert; 27 baptisms; 3 Catholic marriages; no deaths.

Remark: I have enclosed a report of the church in Albion, not completed; size 24x40. Paid $650.

Upper Shell Creek: Platte county; 15 miles from St. Patrick's; attended once a month; 36 Catholic families; 80 practical, over 21 years; 60 under 21 years; 20 Sunday school pupils; 80 Paschal communions; 5 First communions.

REPORT FOR 1881-1882

St. Patrick's: 60 Catholic families; 20 Sunday school pupils; 18 baptisms; 3 Catholic marriages; 295 Paschal communions; 5 First communions; Altar Society, 50 members.

Missions attended: St. Michael's, Albion, 40 families; St. John's, Upper Shell Creek (13 miles); 40 families; St. Ann's Settlement, Nance county, 10 Catholic families, 23 adults over 21 years, 2 non-practical, 3 children under 21 years, 2 baptisms, 25 Paschal communions, 1 First communion, no converts.


Rev. John J. Flood was born at New Haven, Connecticut, in 1849. In 1874 he began to attend the Priests' Seminary at Montreal, Canada, for three years and was ordained priest August 15, 1877, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by the late Archbishop P. Ryan. He chose Nebraska for his scene of labors. His first mission was at Laramie, Wyoming, in August, 1877, at the time of the Indian outbreak. In February, 1880, he was sent to St. Patrick's parish at Gleason, near Platte Center, Nebraska. Here he labored in charge of a number of missions until January, 1884. After serving as chaplain of the Poor Clares' Monastery, at Omaha, for some time, he built and completed a new church in Lexington, Dawson county, Nebraska. He was then removed to Dale, Custer county, in 1893. His field of labor included a number of missions. From Dale he came to Sidney in August, 1899, and served there until the time of his death, which occurred on September 18, 1902. The remains were removed to Wood River in May, 1922.--R. I. P.

A brother to Rev. John Flood lives at Dalton, Nebraska. He furnished the above data, supplemented by Fr. Flood's report to the Chancery, June 25, 1879, regarding his ordination and activity.

JANUARY, 1884-AUGUST 3, 1930

FEBRUARY, 1884-JULY, 1886

Some time after the Franciscans had been relieved of Butler county, the Rt. Rev. Bishop James O'Connor removed Fr. J. Flood and turned over St. Patrick's to the friars, with directions to found a parish in Platte Center, a town that had grown up since 1880, after the advent of the Columbus-Norfolk branch of the U. P. R. R. Fr. Boniface held the first service February 3, 1884.

By order of the Bishop, a meeting of the Catholics in Platte Center was held on May 4, 1884, at the store of C. C. Carrig and James Lynch, presided over by the Rev. Seraphin Lampe, O. F. M., superior of the Columbus monastery, and the Rev. Boniface Depmann, O. F. M., the newly-appointed pastor, to consult the people about building a church and school at Platte Center.

In a letter dated May 14, 1884, Fr. Boniface informs the Rt. Re Bishop J. O'Connor: "At the meeting held at Platte Center on Sunday afternoon, May 4th, the people subscribed the sum of $1,500 toward building a Sister school including temporary chapel and Sisters' dwelling which is to cost $4,000.00. Mr. Murphy gave two acres to build on, the best place to be had. With God's help I will begin to build as soon as I have $2,000 in cash. I have received from your secretary books of Shell Creek, which show that Rev. J. Flood has got $104 too much payment. Is there any hope that this sum will be refunded, and if so, will you permit me to use the same for the building fund of Platte Center?

"Signed: P. Boniface Depmann, O. S. F."

Above sum was refunded.


A sum of $1,500 was subscribed that day, and a resolution passed to erect a building for the sum of $4,000. Mr. Patrick Murphy donated two acres towards a building site in the S. W. 1/4 of N. W. 1/4 of Section 7, Township 18, Range 1, West of 6th P. M. The adjoining two acres (south) were a gift of Mr. Edmond Roberts. Deeds were made to the Rt. Rev. Bishop on June 3, 1884, by John Kehoe, Notary Public. Ven. Bro. Adrian Wewer, O. F. M., drew the plans for the edifice and Mr. Frank Brockhaus put up the structure for the sum of $500, beginning August 20th, and completing it November 15, 1884. The material, etc., was furnished by the parish.


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The dimensions of the two-story combination church, school, and Sisters' residence were 24x58; the school was 24x28 ft.; the Sisters' home on the north, 25x28 feet. The contract was signed by the Rev. Pastor P. Boniface, O. F. M.; C. C. Carrig and Mr. Frank Brockhaus respectively.


The first Mass in the new building was celebrated at 8 o'clock a. m., on Christmas Day, 1884.

The plastering was not done until May and June of the following year.


Realizing the paramount importance of the parochial school, especially in pioneer days, when priests were few in number and overburdened with the labors of many and difficult missions, the Rt. Rev. Bishop James O'Connor, of Omaha, who had charge of the vast territory in Nebraska, made every effort to open schools wherever possible, especially in the new towns springing up everywhere.

Thus, he instructed Fr. Boniface, the pastor at St. Joseph's, that he would like to see a school go up, along with the church. This was done, to the satisfaction of the fervent Catholics.


Mr. and Mrs. John Kehoe, Platte Center, Neb.


Father Boniface succeeded in obtaining the services of the Franciscan Sisters of Lafayette, Indiana. We quote two announcements by Fr. Boniface about this time:

On the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, 1885, he remarked: "Arrangements have been made to have the Sisters come here and open up a school in the beginning of September, that is, in about four weeks. I am satisfied that you will hear this news with great joy, especially the parents."

The ladies were called for a meeting to consider what would yet be needed for the Sisters' residence.

On the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, the pastor published: "Tomorrow afternoon the Sisters will arrive here and the parish school will be opened Wednesday morning. On that day Holy Mass will be offered at 8 o'clock in honor of the Holy Ghost, that God may bless us in this important affair-the Catholic education of the children of St. Joseph's parish. All parents who have children to send to school, will do well to come to Mass that morning and present their children to the Sisters personally.

"In making the arrangements to get the Sisters and to start the parish school, I simply trusted in God and in your good will, knowing that I will not be dissappointed (sic) in either. Some good ladies partly provided the necessities namely: Miss Sarah Perkinson, Mrs. David Carrig, Miss Jennie Macken, Mrs. John Kehoe, Mrs. Michael Cooney, Mrs. Pat Murphy, Mrs. Pat Carey, Mrs. Michael Duggan, Mrs. John Macken, Mrs. Ignatz Niemoeller, Mrs. Richard Rossiter and Mrs. John McGuane. I hereby express my sincere thanks".


The first Sisters that came to take over the new school were Sisters Modesta and Hermana. Classes were commenced in the church temporarily on September 7th, and on September 23rd, in the school proper. The enrollment was 40 children. Some particulars are given in:


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"In August or the first part of September, Sister Hermana and myself accompanied by Ven. Sr. Josepha came to Platte Center to make preparations for the school. There were two class rooms; but for two years only one room was used. There were about 60 pupils from the first to the eighth grade. For a number of weeks school was taught in the church as there were no desks nor any furniture in the class room. Every Monday morning the Rev. Father removed the Blessed Sacrament to the sacristy, where it remained until his return.

For about two years there was Mass on Sundays only once every two weeks. On the Sundays when there was no Mass, usually in the evening, Rev. Fr. Anastasius would stop off on his return from a mission (I think it was Tarnov) and give us Mass and Holy Communion on Monday morning. There was poverty everywhere and we suffered much from cold."--Sr. M. Modesta.


Following the custom of the old country, a bell for the church was greatly desired. Fr. Boniface took the lead and was assisted by Messrs. Charles Carrig, John Kehoe, and John Macken in raising money through subscriptions.

Special effort was made so that the bell was secured before the coming of the Bishop to Platte Center, to bless the church and confirm a class of 59. The bell cost $75 and weighed 235 pounds. The tone is E. The bell later served in the school and also as the Angelus Bell, when the pastor was absent.

On March 21, 1886, Rev. Boniface erected the Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of the combination building.


Fr. Boniface also attended the Mission of St. Michael's at Albion.

After laboring zealously at Platte Center, Fr. Boniface was transferred to Quincy, Illinois, in July, 1886.


Subscriptions May 4th, 1884, up to time when report was printed by Rev. Boniface O. F. M.

Burke, John $ $
Burns, Martin
Carey, Pat
Carney, Pat
Carrig, David Sr.
Carrig & Lynch
Carrig, Henry
Carrig, James
Considine, John
Cooney, James
Creighton, Henry
Cronin, Michael
Dineen, John Sr.
Dineen, John Jr.
Donahue, Dan
Doody, Michael Sr.
Doody, Michael Jr.
Dugan, Dennis
Duggan, John
Duggan, Michael
Duggan, Pat
Dunn, Martin .
Fahey, Pat
Fenton, Simon
Gentleman, Nicholas
Gentleman, Robert Sr.
Gentleman, Robert Jr.
Gleason, John
Gleason, Pat
Gleason, Stephen
Gleason, Thomas
Hallen & Byrne
Hays, Pat
Hendrichs, George
Hennesy, John
Higgins, Ed
Hogan, Michael
Kehoe, John
Lackey, John
Lengan, Maurice
Lucid, John
Lynch, Thomas
Macken, Dan
Macken, Eugene
Macken, John
Maher, John
Maher, Michael
Mahony, Ed
Mahony, Pat
McDonald, Pat
McGuane, John
Merberger. Chas.
Meyer, Joseph
Moffit, John
Murphy, David
Murphy, Pat
2 acres of land
Mylet, Thos
Niemoeller, Frank
Niemoeller, Ignatius
Mehrberger, Charles
Meyer, Joseph
Moffitt, John
Murphy, David
Murphy, Pat
2 acres of land
Mylet, Thomas
Niemoeller, Frank


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