Discover the history of Osage Mission, which was founded in 1847 to provide education for young Osage boys and girls. During the next 1/2 century the mission would become "a great distributing center of civilization" for frontier Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
The author of “Beacon on the Plains” used the phrases “Successful Failure” and “….a great distributing center of civilization…” in describing the story of the Osage Mission, now St. Paul, Kansas. Together, these are fair assessments of the history of one of the most important and influential settlements on the new Kansas frontier.
Osage Mission was established in 1847, a full seven years before Kansas would become a territory and 14 years prior to statehood. As early as 1821 the chiefs of the Osage Nation had requested schools. A proud and industrious people, the Osage recognized the advance of the white civilization and knew their young must be educated in the ways of the white man if they were to prosper. In 1844, after the failure of several missions, the Osage specifically requested “Black Robe” schools run by the Jesuits whom they had previously encountered in Missouri. In April of 1847 a group of five Jesuits led by Father John Schoenmakers opened the Osage Manual Labor School for Boys on a hill near the convergence of Flat Rock Creek with the Neosho River. In October of the same year a group of Loretto sisters, from Kentucky, would open the Osage Manual Labor School for Girls.
The Osage welcomed their teachers, enrollment grew and the Jesuit and Loretto missionaries gained a spot in Osage hearts and history. But to say the mission was a success is an overstatement. The mission was situated three miles west of an Osage reserve boundary that extended more than 150 miles farther west. The location was close to eastern Osage villages scattered along the Neosho and Verdigris rivers. It also provided access to groups of mechanics and traders who were beginning to gather west of the Missouri frontier border; and the security and services of Fort Scott just 40 miles northeast. But it isolated the schools from about one-half of the Osage people who lived in the western reaches of the reserve. The Civil War, disease, the influx of settlers and a series of treaties led to the exodus of the Osage into their current reserve in Osage County, Oklahoma. The departure of the Osage in 1870 did not provide the missionaries enough time to accomplish their ambitions for the Indians.
But the mission’s location was perfect for the westward expansion that occurred during the second half of the 19th century. Thirty miles from the Missouri border, Osage Mission was on the doorstep of the western frontier. The Osage manual labor schools quickly developed into St. Francis Institute for Boys and St. Ann’s Academy for Girls. These regional boarding schools would attract students from many states with excellent academic, music and art programs. The schools would eventually evolve into the longest, continuously operating school system in Kansas – 165 years in 2012. The mission would grow into a prosperous settlement and in 1869, into the town of Osage Mission. Father John Schoenmakers donated the initial one-mile plat of land to the town company from land he was given by the Osage during treaty settlements. He also selected trusted businessmen, some from Ft. Scott, to start the Osage Mission Town Company. Osage Mission flourished as a center of commerce, education and transit. The location would also serve as the central point for missionary activity that extended across a three state region – as far west as Fort Dodge, southwest to Fort Sill, OK and north to the Santa Fe Trail. More than 110 mission stations were established by the Osage Mission Jesuits. At least 87 of them were established by the legendary Jesuit trail rider, Father Paul Mary Ponziglione.
OSAGE MISSION - NEOSHO COUNTY MUSEUM
The Osage Mission Museum and local historical sites provide the perspective of an exciting and dangerous period in our growing nation’s history. See our web link above for more information regarding the mission and the museum.
GRAVES MEMORIAL PUBLIC LIBRARY
Also visit nearby Graves Memorial Public Library to view a display on the life and times of William Whites Graves. W.W. Graves was a local newspaper editor and historian who recorded the stories of Osage Mission and Neosho County in a series of books. He also published the Anti-Horse Thief Association A.H.T.A. Weekly News from St. Paul from 1902 through the 1932. During this time he gained important influence with the organization; and the association saw its national attendance grow to nearly 50,000 members. He eventually served two terms each as national vice-president and president during the middle 1920's. His time as editor of the A.H.T.A. newspaper has been described as the heyday of the organization. The library is located at 717 Central.
Library Hours are:
9:00 - 12:00 and 1:00 - 5:00 M, Tu, Th, Fri
9:00 - 12:00 and 4:00 - 8:00 Wed
9:00 - 2:00 Saturday