Early sacramental registries document the
growth and development of the Church in southwest Kansas
By Tim Wenzl
Mining the Archives
Parish registries document more than an individual’s sacramental faith life. Sacramental books also document the growth and development of the Church in southwest Kansas.
One of the oldest parish registries in the Diocese of Dodge City is a leather-bound sacramental book known as “the Windthorst book.” When one holds this book, one holds history. There is a distinct feel of the tattered leather that encases this valuable tome.
The first page is a table of contents written in Latin: Liber Baptizatorum; Liber Matrimoniorum; Liber Dufunctorum; Liber Confirmatorum; Liber Neo-Communicantum.
The first entry in the book is the baptism of Christopher Goebel, son of Wilhelm Goebel and Sophia Huck on May 17, 1878, at Tennessee Settlement in Ford County. Benedictine Father Ferdinand Wolf officiated and signed the registry.
What I find most interesting about the Windthorst book is following the travels of Father Ferdinand. The successive entries in the registry reveal a vast and wide territory entrusted to his care.
Here is the ministry trail of Father Ferdinand from 1878 to 1881: Tennessee Settlement (became Old St. Joseph’s), Ford County; Larned, Pawnee County; Fort Dodge, Ford County; Truebenz Austrian Settlement, Barton County; Windthorst, Cincinnati Colony, Ford County; Great Bend; Kinsley, Edwards County; Ness County; Camp Supply, Indian Territory; Fort Elliott, Texas; Gutzmiller’s, Barton County; Sherlock, (became Coolidge) Sequoyah County; Lakin, Kearney County; Pawnee Rock, Barton County; Cimarron, Foote County; Dodge City, Ford County; Spearville, Ford County; Brown’s Grove, (became Burdett), Pawnee County; Pierceville, Sequoyah County; Ridgeway, (became Wright), Ford County; and St. Leopold’s Colony, (became Olmitz), Barton County.
Pastors who followed Father Ferdinand at Windthorst saw their parish territory extend to the Colorado state line. Baptismal records show a Catholic presence at Sherlock (Coolidge) as early as 1880. Eventually this fledging congregation developed and constructed a church under the patronage of St. Patrick. This church served the Catholics in the Coolidge community from 1889 to 1907, when most of the congregation moved to Syracuse.
The earliest sacramental records for the parishes in the Dodge City and Garden City deaneries will likely be found in the Windthorst book. There are early sacramental records for the parishes in the Great Bend deanery as well. But the earliest records for these parishes will be found in parishes east of the boundaries of the Diocese of Dodge City, when missionary priests were traveling from Osage Mission (now St. Paul), Solomon City, Wichita and Newton.