| Building a Church was a Priority for Catherine
Aust, Scott. "Building a Church was a Priority for Catherine." Hays Daily News, 23 July 2001.
Volga-German Homecoming: 125th Jubilee Celebration
One of the first things the Volga-Germans did upon arriving in
Kansas, regardless of the community, was make preparations for building
Harold Dorzweiler, in charge of today's Catherine festivities,
said Catherine was no exception.
"They started about 10 to 15 years ahead of time. Every farmer
would donate so much of his crop, and they started a fund,"
Dorzweiler said. "Once they had enough together, they started
Construction began on the church in 1890, and it was dedicated
in 1892, he said.
"The most important thing to them was to build the church,"
Today's celebration began with a Mass at St. Catherine Catholic
Church and a dedication of a new cornerstone.
"Pete Felten redid our cornerstone because the old one was
crumbling," Dorzweiler said. "He took the old one out,
made a new one, and made it to look like the old one," he said
of the well-known Hays sculptor.
Following the cornerstone dedication, a new stone memorial was
dedicated in the cemetery that lists the names of all the pioneers
"The old part of the cemetery, when they first got here, a
lot of the markers were just iron crosses. There's no names on them
or anything," Dorzweiler said. "So by the old church records,
we've made a huge granite stone that's going to have their names
on it, date of birth, everything, for the old pioneers."
However, the stone is not finished because a machine broke down,
Dorzweiler said, but the dedication ceremony will continue.
There were food and beverage booths, bingo and kids games during
the afternoon. A parade featuring old machinery will be at 5:30
p.m., and a dance will be from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
"We're going to have a threshing demonstration with an old
threshing machine at 2 p.m., and we're going to do it again about
6 p.m. because some people wanted to see it after they got off work,"
Additionally, there will be tours of the church and the old school
building all day.
Souvenir hunters also can get a special cancellation commemorating
the 125th anniversary celebration in the lobby of the post office
from 3 to 4 p.m.
Catherine Postmaster Ramon Schmidt said the cancellation mark will
feature the Stone Hill, a local landmark, a bush and berries representing
local blackberries used to make pies, as well as the German name
for the town, "Katharinenstadt."
"We have a special folder they can get from us, made for these
special stamps," Schmidt said. "It will have a first-class
stamp in there, and we will put the postmark on there."
Schmidt said people also can bring a piece of paper instead of
getting the special folder, but it must have a stamp on it before
the cancellation mark can be used.
They can bring a postcard if that has a stamp on it, a piece of
paper, an envelope, but it must have a stamp on there, and we'll
cancel it with this," Schmidt said.
If someone misses the opportunity today, Schmidt said they can
mail a request to him for about the next 30 days.
The founders of Catherine were the first to emigrate form Russia,
leaving Katharinenstadt on Oct. 22, 1875. They arrived in Hays on
March 1, 1876, and rented a building at 13th and Fort.
The settlers drove their wagons daily to the present town site
and constructed dwellings. Catherine was established on April 8,
Catherine has changed quite a bit in the last hundred years or
so. Dorzweiler said in the early 1900s, the town probably had a
population of around 1,000 or more and had a couple of general stores,
a bowling alley, clothing store and a number of pubs. Today the
population is probably less than 100.
One thing that is interesting about Catherine and the other communities
is the fact that particular surnames can be associated with each
"For instance, if your name is Schmidt, or Staab, or Karlin,
you can almost bet that your ancestors were from Catherine,"
Dorzweiler said. "Now you go to Munjor, you get into Befort
and Gross, and names like that."
Dorzweiler said the reason for that is families tended to travel
together from Russia and stayed together when founding new communities
Reprinted with permission of The
Hays Daily News.