The founding of Antonino, Kansas
In October 1904, thirty members of the St. Francis Church in Munjor, who lived on farms 7-10 miles west of Munjor, met to discuss establishing a parish and new village closer to their farms southwest of Hays. The new village was located on a site atop a scenic hill nine miles southwest of Hays, eight and a half miles west of Munjor and ten miles north of Schoenchen. They wanted to name their new town St. Anthony, but because there was already a town named Anthony in Harper County, records show that "Saint Antonino" was the name applied for in 1905. However, because of postal regulations in place at that time, the post office took the "Saint" off the name. Unlike the earlier settlements which experienced considerable difficulty in locating supplies, the Antonino founders received the gift of a frame building. A decade earlier, the “Gold Mill” hotel had been constructed to serve the boom town of Chetolah, following the discovery of gold on the Smoky Hill River. The Ellis County gold rush evaporated quickly and Chetolah became a ghost town in 1894. Using lumber from the defunct gold mine, Antonino residents donated most of the labor. Built at a cost of about $3,000 over a period of less than four months, the original wood frame church measured 80 by 30 feet and was 18 feet high. Fr. Maurus Schebler, Antonino’s first priest, offered the first Mass on March 25, 1905. Bishop John Cunningham dedicated the new Parish, Our Lady Help of Christians, in October 1905.
Overcrowding in the 1905 church became the main reason for the construction of a new church in 1951. Under the guidance of Fr. Flavian Meis, the parish built a much larger church, using many of the materials from the original church. A Gothic-in style building with an attached five-room rectory, full basement, indoor restrooms, electrical wiring and kitchen facilities were constructed. A buff color exterior nicely complemented the area’s generous use of stone for buildings and fence posts. Many local parishioners donated their labor and most of the cost of materials came from private donations. At a cost of slightly over $70,000, the new church facility was dedicated on May 26, 1952, by Bishop Frank Thill. The community of Antonino celebrated its 100 year centennial in 2005. For information about Antonino and Our Lady Help of Christians
call 785-623-4561 or 785-625-5386.
Antonino on Volga German.net
Antonino on GenWeb
Antonino – Legends of Kansas
Antonino – Fort Hays State University
Antonino – Hometown Locator
Antonino – Places & Names
ARCHITECTURAL & HISTORICAL SITES OF INTEREST
Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church
As the town of Antonino grew in size after World War II, the Catholic community there realized the original 1905 wooden church was becoming overcrowded. Walter Ford of Lawton, Oklahoma designed this Gothic-style building of buff brick, measuring 40 by 90 feet, with an attached five-room rectory, full basement, and kitchen facilities. Contracted by Tom Lenahan of Jetmore, the new church was built with donated finances and labor by local parishioners. Bishop Frank Thill dedicated the church on May 26, 1952. A full-time priest occupied the rectory until the early 1980s. Today, the parish is serviced by St. Joseph's Church of Hays. Antonino men and women continue to maintain the structure, which has a weekly Saturday evening Mass, the annual fall feast, which is held the first Sunday of November and frequent parish gatherings. Although the church is normally locked during the week, visitors are welcome to make arrangements to view the church and see the stained glass windows, statues and beautiful interior furnishings by calling 785-625-5386.
Sisters of St. Joseph Convent
Since the town's founding in the early twentieth century, Antonino also enjoyed the presence of the Sisters of St. Joseph. With construction of a new church came a new convent, likewise built of buff brick, located immediately south of the rectory. Nuns there taught school and played valuable roles in the community until the convent was closed in 1974. Today the building is the private residence of Jim and Shelby Doty. It is located just south of the church and can be viewed from the street.
Antonino Elementary School (Betts residence)
During the Great Depression when local farmers could not afford the cost of private parochial education, the public school district built an elementary school on the east edge of town. Partly funded by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), local men donated their labor to the construction of this two-story limestone structure, with central heating, four large classrooms, and a foyer and office. A brick addition was later added to the south. From 1939 to 1974, two generations of local children gained their education and exercised on the outdoor swing sets and baseball fields. After its closing in 1974, the school served for many years as a township hall and 4-H building, and today is the home of Alan and Rikki Betts. Today, visitors can easily see from the street the lettering above the front steps that is still engraved in the stone - Rural School Dist No. U-1 & 1939.
Antonino Town and Post Office
By the 1890s and 1900s, more Catholic German-Russians from Munjor bought land and started farms in Lookout Township. Travel across the pastures and prairies to weekly church services in Munjor grew difficult, and so local landowners donated twenty acres for a new townsite, with five of those for church use. Founded in1905, Antonino was named for St. Anthony and began as a daughter village of Munjor, several miles to the east. By the 1920s, Antonino had 50 to 60 homes, a union-owned store, a post office, two schools, a church and convent, and a dance hall and tavern. Though it never was incorporated, Antonino was home to a thriving community known for its talented musicians and devout people unified by faith. Rural families kept small houses in Antonino for winter use, elders' retirement, and for children to be proximate to school. After World War II, the town got a modern facelift as older homes were torn down or moved and were replaced by newer houses. As the advent of automobiles made transportation easier and fewer families lived on farms, Antonino gradually lost population.
The former post office, located diagonally from the church, rests on lots where men once gathered to get mail, shop at the union store, converse about the weather and share information about relatives in Munjor and back in Russia. The post office building, opened in 1950, once housed a gasoline station and candy store. Since its closing in 1981, it has been privately-owned property.
ART RELATED SITES OF INTEREST
Iron Crosses, Antonino Cemetery
Located half a mile west of Antonino, the cemetery was established in 1905 at the time of the town's founding. Many early founders and immigrants from Russia in the 1870s are buried on the east end. Wrought-iron crosses, instead of limestone or marble grave markers, have long been a feature of Volga-German cemeteries on the windy plains. Locally crafted, they testify to the "do-it-yourself" spirit of Kansas homesteaders. Look for the handcrafted details and scroll work including roses, vines, sunbursts, hearts and the crucifixes. The north fence, constructed of black-painted wrought iron in 1980, continues that tradition.
HISTORICAL SITES OF INTEREST
Ghost Town of Chetolah
The ghost town of Chetolah, southwest of Antonino, began in 1888 as a service center for the B.O.D. A livery stable and store once existed, as well as a hotel known for its quality pies and bean soup. In 1893, a miner H.P. Artz claimed to have discovered gold near Chetolah, prompting a rush of settlers to southern Ellis County. When most of the "gold" turned out to be iron pyrite, the mining shafts and the Chetolah townsite were soon abandoned. Some of the lumber from the gold mills was later used in construction of the original Antonino church in 1905.
Directions: 3 miles west of Antonino and turn left (south) on 180th Ave. Proceed 3 miles south on 180th Ave to Chetolah Gold Road. Near the area where the Smoky Hill River crosses 180th Ave and north of Chetolah Gold Road is the location of this former town. The area is not marked, and ruins are not easily seen from the road, but look for the concrete remains near the river and bridge area. Keep in mind, this area is private property and public access is not permitted.
Millions of bison once crowded the Great Plains before being hunted to near-extinction in the 1800s. Visitors who walk the pastures surrounding Antonino and the nearby Smoky Hill River can see large "buffalo wallows" where bison once rolled in mud to cool themselves during the blistering summers. With each roll in the mud, the buffalo gradually removed several hundred pounds of dirt from these wallows, which in turn would make them larger and deeper. These indents on the landscape have changed little over the past two centuries. During dry weather these buffalo wallows appear to be just a small crater in the pasture, but after a hard rain, they are filled with water and mud. One can imagine the buffalo rolling in the mud with the grass, dirt and debris caked to their hide. One location where these buffalo wallows can be seen from the county road is 3 ˝” miles south of Antonino on 210th Ave. The area is not marked, but venturing into the pasture on the west side of the road will provide the best viewing.
Smoky Hill River Valley
The Smoky Hill River is located four miles south of Antonino and provides a scenic drive by going south on 210th Road to the Smoky Hill River Road. Turn west and follow the road along the river and then go back north and west on the county roads to Chetolah Gold Road to drive past the Ghost town of Chetolah. Plains Indians once hunted and established campsites along its banks. With the discoveries of gold in California and Colorado in the mid-1800s, white travelers used the river as a convenient western route and often met their deaths along what some called "the starvation trail." In 1865, the Butterfield Overland Despatch (B.O.D.) opened a stage and mail service along the route, connecting Kansas City to Denver. Travelers along Grants Villa Road can imagine the once-flowing Smoky as it appeared to these early migrants. Directions: 1 mile west of Antonino and turn south on 200th Ave. Proceed 3 miles south on 200th Ave to Chetolah Gold Road. Turn right (west) and drive one mile west. To the left is the view of the beautiful Smoky Hill River Valley.
Smoky Hill River Valley
COMMERCE and BUSINESSES
Lazy H Kansas Ranch
Located three miles east and one half-mile north of Antonino, the Lazy H Kansas Ranch is part of the Lazy H Ranch based in Larkspur, Colorado. It is a top genetic purebred Angus establishment, complete with an embryo transplant program that enables utilization of the best genetics available for the Angus cattle breed. Through methods ranging from artificial insemination to ultrasound pregnancy testing, Lazy H can enhance profit-making decisions for breeders. On a guided tour, visitors can see the pastures, feeding areas and bull pens, and can visit the modern headquarters and breeding facility. An annual bull sale is held each spring.
The Lazy H Kansas Ranch - Maurice Rohr
747 240 AveHays, KS 67601
Antonino Fall Feast, first Sunday of November
Since the 1990s, the Christian Mothers Society of Our Lady Help of Christians parish has hosted the fall feast in the church basement. Serving a traditional meal of roast beef, meatballs, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, corn, fresh vegetables and desserts, the dinner continues many traditions of German-Russian culture. Similar meals were served at wedding banquets and at the annual parish picnics that lasted for decades. The church basement itself, prior to 1974, was used for school programs and is still the site for Christmas parties and social gatherings. Held at the opening of pheasant season, the feast annually attracts hundreds of hunters, parishioners, former and current members of the community . . . and the just-plain hungry. Home baked cakes, pies, rolls and cookies are served and are also available through the raffle drawing. Craft items, canned goods and handmade holiday gifts are available to purchase. All are welcome! Call for details - 785-623-4561.