Founded – April/May 1877
Population - 217
Elevation - 1,926 feet
City of Schoenchen
Schoenchen, KS 67667
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The founding of Schoenchen, Kansas
The founders of Schoenchen were originally part of a group of Germans who came from Russia and began the village of Liebenthal in Rush County, Kansas. They came from several colonies along the lower Volga River in Russia and in the fall of 1875, they left their homes and traveled by way of Baltimore, Topeka and Hays. On February 22, 1876, they began to establish their new town near the Big Timber Creek. After several other groups arrived later in the summer and fall of 1876, a dispute about the arrangements for land, the permanent location of the town and property that was donated for the church caused some settlers to get angry and move their new houses four miles north and one mile west of Liebenthal. This became the location for their new town and included over 35 families or individuals from Liebenthal. This new settlement was founded in April-May 1877 and included members who were all originally from Neu-Obermonjou or Schoenchen in Russia.
The first records of the naming of the town refer to a document from February 1880, when George Gottschalk applied for the office of postmaster for the village. He put down “St. Anthony” as the name of the town - which was actually the name of the parish church in Neu-Obermonjou, Russia. The post office did not accept this name for the town and instead, listed the village as Tyner. Whether or not the name Tyner was ever used as the name of the town is not known, but in May 1882, when a deed was prepared for some of the early settlers, the name San Antonio was used on the documents. So originally the town was called San Antonio, but this name was not accepted by all the villagers because several of the town founders were from Schoenchen, Russia, and some came from Neu-Obermonjour, Russia. They wanted to name the new town after their native village in Russia. It was agreed to name the village Schoenchen, and dedicate the church to St. Anthony, who was the church patron of Neu-Obermonjour.
Unlike the other villages of German immigrants from Russia who settled in Ellis County, the people of Schoenchen did not congregate around a large village cross for a Sunday religious service. Instead, they used homemade wooden crosses and gathered at their homes or attended Mass in Hays, Kansas whenever a priest said Mass there. It was not until 1880, that the first church was completed in Schoenchen. After a heavy rain, the foundation settled badly and the first church was replaced by another structure built in 1881.
Today, Schoenchen is a quiet and friendly community with much of the town’s activities centered around the church. Although it is the smallest incorporated town in Ellis County, it is by no means the smallest town in Ellis County. Schoenchen became incorporated in 1932 in order to receive electric service from the power company in Great Bend. There is no city manager or city hall, but Schoenchen does have a mayor, city clerk and post office. Streets are paved and lighted and the town does have its own sewer system and trash service is available.
We invite you to stop and visit St. Anthony Church and the many other explorer type sights around town. Be sure to stop in Earl’s Bar & Grill for some food or a cold drink.
ARCHITECTURAL & HISTORICAL SITES OF INTEREST
St. Anthony Church
206 Church St.
Schoenchen, KS 67667
The first church services in Schoenchen were held in private dwellings until a structure could be built. Construction of the first church began in 1879. The stone walls were already completed when, in the spring of 1880, a heavy rain caused the foundation to settle, cracking the walls so badly that the structure was abandoned. In its place a temporary wooden frame church, 30x18x9 feet was erected in the fall of 1881. In February 1900, Father Emmeran Kausler, O.F.M. Cap. was assigned to Schoenchen and in a few months began overseeing the construction of their new church. The cornerstone for the current stone church was laid on April 18, 1900, and the church was dedicated on June 13, 1901. The task to quarry the native limestone blocks was a difficult job since the only tools they had were hand drills, wedges and sledge hammers. Father Emmeran did much of the mason work, but he also trained men from the parish to assist him. All adult men pledged to help one day a week towards the construction of the church. In addition to the volunteer labor, every parishioner over 12 years of age was assessed $40 towards the construction. The church features Gothic windows, gold-capped arches, abutments and unusual crown shaped light fixtures. St. Anthony Church was scarred by fire on two occasions. The first blaze erupted by a floor furnace near the front of the church in the early 1920’s. The second fire was in the rear of the church in 1932. After each fire, the church was rebuilt and arches were placed in the ceiling after the last fire. Traditional Catholic Masses are held on Saturday evenings at 5:30 pm. The church is normally locked during weekdays, but arrangements can be made for tours or to visit by appointment - 785-625-5451.
208 Church Street
The community of Schoenchen always placed a high importance for the educational needs of their children. The first “Schulmeister” (teacher) was John Dreher, who taught classes from his home and included religion, reading, writing and singing. When the founders of Schoenchen learned that schools could be operated though tax money, they organized their own school district in 1880, and built their first public school. It was a 30’ x 20’ building constructed of native limestone. Because all the students and teachers were Catholic, the priest also took the opportunity to provide religious instruction during school hours.
Father Theodosius Mullan, O.F.M. Cap. was instrumental in building a convent and bringing the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia to Schoenchen to teach in the public school in August, 1904. The Sisters received their salary from the district and continued to teach religion and to use Catholic textbooks. Father Peter Hoeller was in charge of having the present parochial school built in 1912. Native limestone was used in the construction, and the building measures 64 x 32 feet, and contains four large classrooms and a full basement. A new convent of native limestone, containing ten rooms was built on to the school. The following sisters were the first teachers in the new school: Sisters Georgia Moritz, Superior, Romanus Deneke, Mary John Kuebler, and Mary Nicholas Arnoldy.
Since the land owners of the district were nearly all Catholic, the school was operated on a parochial/public school basis. The Sisters who taught the first six grades were paid by the parish, and the Sister who taught the seventh and eighth grades was paid by the district.
From 1921 to 1926, there were two years of high school offered in the first public school building. Alex Bieker taught there from 1921 to 1922, Sister Rosina from 1922 to 1923, and Sister Honoria taught from 1922 to 1926. In 1926, the Schoenchen School district sold $20,000 in bonds for the erection and equipment of a high school. The building would measure 76’ x 53’ and constructed with modern American red brick, containing 16 classrooms and a gym. It was located on the south edge of town on four acres of ground in the northwest quarter of section 33-15-18. The school was maintained by taxes and tuition was paid by students who attended from other districts. Teenagers from Liebenthal, Loretto, Pfeifer, Munjor and Antonino, attended the Schoenchen High School during the Great Depression in the 1930's. The pastor gave religious instructions twice a week until he was compelled by state law to curtail his activities in 1953. The school was state accredited from the start and offered quite a varied instructional program, with a preference for business training courses.
In 1938, a new gymnasium auditorium was built, and the former auditorium was remodeled into additional classrooms. Up to six teachers were employed, which allowed for home economics, manual training, music and chorus. The new gym was 83’ x 76’ and built of native limestone adjacent to the high school. It also served as a social center for various community activities.
In 1940, the parochial school was changed to a public school and the district paid rent for the use of the parish buildings. That arrangement changed when a deed dated July 26, 1975, turned over the buildings to the Hays Unified School District #489 in exchange for the school district to maintain the building. The parish could continue to use the classroom before and after school for religious education classes. The church used the school building for parish dinners, Wednesday CCD classes, church meetings and funeral dinners. The USD 489 School board voted in the fall of 1995 to close the school and students from Schoenchen would then attend in Hays. On January 9, 1996, the school board decided to sell the gym and because of an agreement with the parish going back to nearly 100 years ago, it was sold back to St. Anthony Church for $1
113 Arapahoe Street
Shortly after the church was completed in June of 1901, Father Michael Neff, O.F.M. Cap. became the priest at St. Anthony Church in July, and was the first priest to have regular weekly Sunday Mass services. He remained in Schoenchen until August 1903, when he was replaced by Father Theodosius Mullan, O.F.M. Cap. Father Theodosius was responsible for having the Sisters of St Joseph from Concordia, Kansas come to Schoenchen and had the old rectory turned into a convent for the Sisters to live. In August 1904, Father Michael Neff was re-assigned to St. Anthony and he took on the project of having a rectory for the priests to live. It was constructed of the same type of limestone that was used on the church and the 53’ x 33’ residence included two levels and twelve rooms. It was completed in 1905 at a cost of $3,500. Although it is currently used as a private residence and public access is not permitted, it can be viewed from the street in front of the rectory.
It may very well be the smallest post office in Kansas and perhaps ranked # 4 or #5 as the smallest post office in the United States because the Post Office in Schoenchen is only 8’ x 10’. “Standing room only” means about 4 people in the front part of the Post Office where the old style metal boxes line the wall as you enter the small door. Just like a regular post office, residents can pick up their mail, purchase stamps, purchase money orders or send packages. For many years the postmaster operated the post office out his home or from Shirley’s Café, the restaurant down the street, that featured his wife’s German cooking. When the café lease changed, the postmaster decided to have the storage-shed sized structure built in his front yard. Now all he has to do is walk about 20 steps from his house to the Post Office to sort mail, sell stamps and prepare packages. This location is what the U.S. Postal Service calls a contract station where they contract with an individual to provide postal service to a town, rather then operate a full-service post office. Stop in and take a peak inside.
ART RELATED SITES OF INTEREST
St. Anthony Church Replica
206 Church Street
At the St. Anthony Catholic Church in Schoenchen, you can see a work of art inside a work of art! In 1987, local parishioner Ron Sauer built an exact replica of the St. Anthony Church which is on display in the front of the church. He was determined to make the replica as authentic as possible with exact scaled measurements, working bells, doors that open and the same kind of limestone used in the construction of the real church. Ron started working on the project in the spring of 1987, and worked evenings and weekends for about 5 months. The replica is on a scale of one inch equals three feet. He handcrafted the limestone with fine details as he cut each rock individually and used liquid nails and gray caulking to make it look like mortar between each stone. For the windows, Plexiglas was used and he hand painted them to resemble stained glass windows. Plexiglas was also used for the front doors that are framed in wood. The roof was made out of cardboard and then painted to have the appearance of the red roof of the church. Metal rods were used for the piping on the roof and handrails on the ramp leading up to the church. The cross and bell located in front of the church were also handcrafted and replicated. Ron installed bells in the belfry of the church and attached a rope. When the rope is pulled the bells ring. The church sits on a base of green outdoor carpet that represents the grass, and the sidewalks are painted gray on the plywood. A plaque stands next to the replica of the church and pays tribute to the beautiful art work that Ron Sauer put into this project and about the Volga Germans who founded the community of Schoenchen. Tours of the church to see the replica can be arranged by appointment - 785-628-3968.
St. Anthony Cemetery – Iron cross grave markers
Southwest corner of West Arapahoe Street.
Schoenchen, KS 67667
Although the blacksmiths and farmers who handcrafted the iron cross grave markers at this cemetery may not have thought of themselves as artists, the beautiful pieces they created to mark the graves of loved ones and the early pioneers of Schoenchen are truly works of art. There are 32 grave markers made of steel, pipe or hand forged from iron and other scrap metal they had available. These iron crosses are not unique to just this cemetery but are something you will find in all of the Volga German cemeteries in Ellis County as well as other communities that have ties to the pioneers of Germans who immigrated to American from Russia in the 1870’s and 1880’s. Although all the iron crosses in this cemetery have been painted in a shiny metallic silver color, some of the iron crosses in other nearby cemeteries are painted black, which would be more typical of the wrought iron black style of finish.
Look for the intricate details and beautiful scrollwork they forged into flowing patterns of similar geometric shapes. Heart shaped bands and steel spiral ribbon patterns were often used as well as scrollwork that created vines and flowers. You will also see miniature angels, ivy leafs, five to eight pointed stars, castle tipped shapes, sunbursts, cherub figurines and a crucifix on many of the iron grave markers.
Smoky Hill River Valley
The Smoky Hill River is the dominant geological feature near Schoenchen, and the river valley provides beautiful views and offers scenic drives along the country roads to the west or east of town. The Smoky Hill River originates in the High Plains of eastern Colorado and flows east through western Kansas. It winds around to the west and north of Schoenchen and as it continues through central Kansas it joins the Republican River at Junction City to form the Kansas River. The river gets its name from the Smoky Hills region of north-central Kansas which is divided into three regions based on the underlying rock outcroppings: The Dakota sandstone, Greenhorn limestone and Niobrara chalk. The limestone and blue shale formations are what you will see on the bluffs, hills and road cutouts near Schoenchen. The chalky limestone formations and slabs provided excellent building materials for the early immigrants. They would cut out the slabs from the side of the hills to form large stone blocks, smaller brick like chunks and very large 8’ long stone posts that you see bordering the fields and pastures.
The limestone, chalk and shale you see in this area were formed during the geological era known as the Cretaceous period. This is when Kansas was underwater and at the bottom of the Cretaceous Interior Sea. Millions of years of deposits from sediment, mud and sand formed layers on upon layers that eventually turned into sandstone, chalk and shale. Through a process of compaction and pressure, these rock and shale formations were created. Now they are exposed to the elements and through erosion and the forces of Mother Nature; what was once at the bottom of the sea, is now exposed - and the shells and fossilized remains of many of the prehistoric creatures that lived 70 to 100 million years ago are visible.
Although the hills and bluffs that are on private property are not open to public access, many interesting rocks and shells can be seen along the ditches where there are rock outcroppings on either side of the county roads. Taking the Smoky Hill River Road or Schoenchen Ave to the west of town several miles provides the opportunity to see the river valley, farmland and country side. East of Schoenchen approximately 2 ½ miles is where the Big Timber Creek flows into the Smoky Hill River and the County Line Road provides better access to see this area between 270th and 280th Ave. More information about the Cretaceous period and the fossils found in this area can be learned about at the Sternberg Musuem of Natural History located in Hays, Kansas. http://sternberg.fhsu.edu/
COMMERCE & BUSINESSES
Louis Werth opened the first general store in town where household and farm supplies could be purchased. It was located on the north end of town and after a few years, Conrad Bieker operated the store until 1915 when the Farmers Union bought it and hired Aloysius Wasinger to manage it. The Farmers Union built a larger red brick store that offered more products and was the main store in Schoenchen for many years. During the 1930s and 40s, there were a few other smaller filling stations and repair shops and today, only several businesses remain open in town.
Schoenchen on City Data.com
1595 Chetolah Gold Road
Hays, KS 67601
Located two miles north of Schoenchen at the intersection of Hwy 183 and Chetola Gold Road is this large dealership that sells new and used trucks, trailers and truck equipment. This dealership provides mechanical service work, parts, leasing and rental services.
Earl’s Bar and Grill
Schoenchen, KS 67667
Everyone is always welcome at this friendly small town restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner. Stop in to get a fountain drink, a sandwich for lunch, a cold beer in the afternoon or select one of their dinner items on the menu.
Jonnies Repair & Towing
Wayne Gottschalk owner
190 250th Ave (S. Hwy 183)
PO Box 66
8 am to 5:30 pm - Closed Saturday & Sunday
Located a mile east of Schoenchen off Hwy 183, this business provides full service automotive repair, tires, batteries, mechanical work on light trucks, farm tractors and towing services.
Johnnies Service and Repair business was opened in 1970 by John W. Gottschalk and is a family owned business. John and Esther built the business and in 2007 John retired and his son Wayne took over the business. Wayne has work for his dad full time since 1978. Customer satisfaction is the key to Johnnies Repair & Towing Success. Wayne goes above & beyond the customers expectations.
Schoenchen, KS 67667
Olson Welding provides welding and metal fabrication services. All products and services are customized to meet the customer’s individual needs including trailers, truck beds, oil field equipment and much more. Services can be preformed here at our shop, or we can travel to customer’s job location. Olson Welding is locally owned and operated small town business that takes pride in that fact the serving the needs of the customer is our #1 priority.
Hours: Monday-Saturday 8 am-5 pm.
Rock Haven Spa
1530 Smoky Hill River Rd
Hays, KS, 67601
Located just to the north and east of the town of Schoenchen is a spa that is located in a historic barn. Business owner Dereama Allenbaugh also operates Salon Ten O Seven in downtown Hays, and Salon Diva at 4333 Vine. Visit their website for more information about this unique business.
"Tommy*Sues" HOMEMADE NOODLES
Schoenchen, KS 67667
"Tommy*Sues" HOMEMADE NOODLES was established in February of 2007. My initial interest in making noodles began 22 years ago when I met my husband to be and moved to Schoenchen. Twice a year, my mother-in-law would prepare a room to make noodles. We would spend the entire day rolling dough, cutting noodles, and laying them out on bed sheets to dry ... once they were ready we would have a supply of noodles for the next six months. The art of noodle making and tradition very much interested me. I was born and raised in Hays of German decent, and like most Germans, we like our homemade noodles. I soon learned that because of extremely busy schedules, the art and tradition of noodle making was slowly dwindling away. When my mother-n-law passed away, I made the decision to open a production shop to produce homemade noodles. With the support of my husband and mother I started "Tommy*Sues" HOMEMADE NOODLES ....... "Just Like Grandma Used to Make".
"Tommy*Sues" HOMEMADE NOODLES is a production area, at this time and although we do not have a store front, we do sell through local retailers. Following is a list of stores that carry our product.
ELLIS Rich's IGA
HAYS Cerv's Conoco, Hays City Quality Meats, Warren's Meat Market
GREAT BEND Mike's Meat Market
HOISINGTON Cerv's Convenient Store
LACROSSE E-Z Mart Convenient Store, Rick's Food Store
RUSSELL Klema's Apple Market
SCHOENCHEN Earl's Bar and Grill
TOPEKA Kansas Originals
VICTORIA Total Convenience, Victoria Food and Variety
WILSON Kansas Originals, Wilson Family Foods
Noodles are available in 14 oz packages and several different sizes: Narrow, Medium, Wide, Extra Wide and Hole Wheat Medium.
Town and Country Water Well Service
315 North Front – Box 97
Schoenchen, KS 67667
St. Anthony German Feast
The annual German Feast is held in September on the first Sunday after Labor Day at the St. Anthony Community Center – 209 Front St. in Schoenchen. It is a fundraiser for the church and the ladies do the cooking and the men help out to prepare their famous soups and noodles. All are invited to attend and enjoy a traditional Ellis County style German meal while you listen to old time German music including polkas and waltzes. They serve from 4-7 pm and the German buffet includes green bean dumpling soup, sauerkraut soup, German sausage, ham and beans, noodles, homemade bread, pies, kuchen and other desserts. Country Store with handmade items, raffle and prizes. 785-628-3968 firstname.lastname@example.org