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The first Volga German village to be established in Kansas was Liebenthal which was settled on February 21, 1876 by a group from Liebenthal, Russia; two more groups of Liebenthal settlers arrived in August and September of that year. The second group arriving in August came from Schoenchen, Russia. The September group came from Neu-Obermonjou, Russia. The settlers in the first group were named Herrman, Schaffer, Bollig, Beil, Bieker, Goetz, Lechleiter, Schuckman, Weber, Wolf, Zimmerman, Kreutzer, Waldschmidt, and Schoenberger. These Volga Germans were escaping a Russia that had become intolerant of them and whose ruler had broken the promises made to them a century earlier when they had migrated there from Germany.
As soon as they arrived, the settlers began work on dugout shelters with roof covers made from the trees that grew along Big Timber Creek. However, the settlers soon began quarrying and trimming the limestone that they found in the rifts in the land. They created a village of stone buildings that was very much like the villages they had left behind in Russia, centered on its church, and with front doors facing away from the streets.
Most of the people from the second and third groups of emigrants decided to move from Liebenthal. They established the town of Schoenchen in Section 28 of Ellis County. The others stayed and started plans to build their church beginning in 1877. The church, which measured 48x28 feet, was completed in October 1878, and it was first permanent church building in the Kansas Volga German settlements. A parish house was built in 1889, and the first parochial school was built in 1897. The original church building was later used as a school. The present church was built just to the west of the original church building beginning in 1902, and the dedication was on May 28, 1905.
A fire in 1917 gutted both the church and the parish house. A new parish house was built in 1918. The church was cleaned up and rebuilt following the fire and was dedicated on November 8, 1921.
Another fire damaged the church again on December 27, 1959. It was rebuilt in two years
Liebenthal businesses included livery stables, general stores and blacksmith shops. A bank was organized in 1917, but it closed permanently after suffering financial problems during the depression in the 1930's.
The first parochial school was built in 1890 and classes were held in it until 1968 when the districts in the area consolidated.
St. Joseph's Church
House built by Joseph Herrman in 1886
St. Joseph's School in 1917
St. Joseph's Catholic Church
Grotto on the south side of St. Joseph's Church
Information from Judith Reynolds
Forsyth Library Photo ArchivesColor pictures taken by Patty Nicholas, archivist
Algrim, Gene, et al. Rush County Kansas...125 Years in Story & Pictures. LaCrosse: The Rush County News and Creative Printing, 2001.
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