St. Patrick's Church - Dedicated October 19, 1910
St. Patrick's Church - 2017
St. Patrick's History
The history of St. Patrick's Church was printed in 1977 when the parish celebrated its 100th anniversary. Rev. Kenneth Potts was an assistant pastor here at the time and we attribute the early history of St. Mary;s to him as the Church history goes hand in hand with the school history. We have edited this history and changed certain sentences for ease of reading. Rev. Kenneth Potts died December 26, 1998.
There was a great destiny for Holt County, but in the latter part of July 1876, grasshoppers temporarily postponed it. The grasshoppers covered the ground to a depth of four to six inches. The aerial flight of the insects was about one and one-half miles wide and lasted for nearly two days. Such severe crop damage, amounting to over fifty percent losses in the colony, caused many of the homsteaders to decide to leave the colony.
The official organization of Holt County occurred in the summer of 1876. In the face of the grasshopper scourge, it provided the struggling settlers with badly needed encouragement. They had been looking forward to the area's official recognition as a County for many months. The children and settlers were able to attend a school, which was established by one of the settlers in her own home.
The settlers then decided to begin the erection of a church for the Lord. Father Bedard was still coming from Frenchtown (present day Neligh) for services in O'Neill. As the church was being built, Father Bedard is reported to have died, probably in Yankton in 1876. The church was completed in July 1877, and the first Mass was said by Father Smith of Council Bluffs who was sent here for the purpose. He was appointed as the first permanent pastor of St. Joseph's Church (St. Patrick's Church) in O'Neill. As the newly ordained priest arrived in O'Neill, he temporarily resided at the home of John Cronin and at intervals with families of Dennis Daly and J.P. O'Donnell.
During the year 1879, Father Smith built the first parochial residence in the parish. Much land was still public domain and the virgin prairies, unbroken and unclaimed, lay invitingly awaiting the approach of the homesteader who soon came in, entered claims, and established homes so that Father Smith soon found his ever increasing congregation outgrew the seated capacity of his eighteen feet by thirty-six feet church. The first money collected for the new church, which was built by Father Smith, came from a bequest of John Hughes, a bachelor, who died here and willed his property to St. Joseph's Church - several thousand dollars in notes, on parties in Iowa, but for various causes. Father Smith realized only seven or eight hundred dollars on them.
The old church, which had been moved to the east of the church being built, was sold tot he O'Neill School District Number Seven. O'Neill's first church building became O'Neill's first public school building and continued as such until 1884 when School District Number Seven built its brick building.
In 1889, a strong and universal feeling existed throughout the parish, that the time had come and the exigencies and necessities of the situation demanded the establishment, at O'Neill, of an Academy for young ladies, wherein should be taught the higher branches of learning, music, and the arts, the same to be placed in charge of and conducted by one of the more popular orders of instructors to be found among the sisterhood of the church.
Following Easter in 1890, subscription books, for the purpose for raising funds, were opened to the public and voluntary contributions were solicited for the purpose of building a Catholic Academy. The people, fully assuring the success of the project met those with generous and prompt responses. Plans were taking form to build the Sister's school on the lots just west of the church and rectory. It must be remembered that when the parish was incorporated in 1886, Bishop James O'Connor once again gave warranty back to Father Cassidy.
The plans for the school really began to take form. Toward the middle of May 1890, a certain Mr. McLean visited Father Cassidy. He offered a cash donation of $2,500 and freight gratis on all material used in the schools construction. He also guaranteed that all the material should be purchased at Sioux City prices, and all of this was no doubt to bring Mr. McLean's donation up to $4,000, possibly $5,000. A meeting on May 29, 1890, showed that the people of O'Neill pledged nearly $5,000, making the total close to $10,000. Meetings and conferences were held from time to time to devise ways and means until June 19, 1890, when the plans were released and a contract was entered into for the erection of the brick building. Many went to Architect Dyer's office to see the plans. The plans were elaborate and when the building was completed, the cost was to be at least $22,000. It was to be seventy-five feet on the front (south) and forty-five wide (east) with an addition in the back, thirty-one feet by forty-nine feet. But this back part was not to be built right away but, in time, was expected as an addition. The school was to contain four floors (basement, two full stories, and an attic). It was to be equipped with all modern appliances, and heated by steam. It was to be built on the western half of Block Four and was to be know as Saint Mary's Academy. The plans were to build the best possible. The basement was to be divided into kitchen, laundry, and dining rooms. On the first floor was to be a music room and reception room in the southwest corner, a parlor in the southeast corner, two schoolrooms, hall and cloakroom. The entrance and vestibule would measure nine feet by thirteen feet. The second floor would have two sisters' rooms in front, chapel room on the east and a class room on the west, with a hall and cloak room on the floor below. The third floor was to be divided into dormitories, a bathroom and a hall. A tower would measure twelve feet by sixteen feet and would run up in front over the vestibule. A large spacious hall and stairway, the elegant rooms for its various departments, were to combine and thus make it one of the finest buildings in this part of the state. The style of the building would be Romanesque, the corners would be rounded, with a foundation of stone and the main building was to be of brick with stone trimmings.
City Engineer Adams set out the stakes for the building. To the people of O'Neill, it was the Sisters' College but to Father Cassidy, it was to be Saint Mary's Academy. Excavation began in June of 1890, and Contractor Burns donated his work to the church and was certainly deserving of much credit or as the local newspaper stated it "...considering the fact that he has not a dollar's worth of property in the town for his liberality."
The cornerstone for the new school was laid on September 13, 1890. It was a big day for O'Neil, and there was a a large crowd to witness the ceremony. At two-thirty in the afternoon, the O'Neill Cornet Band marched to the church and rendered a few selection prepared especially for the occasion, in a very commendable manner. At three o'clock, the procession, which formed in front of the church, was composed of the O'Neill Cornet Band, the Sunday school children, the Young Ladies Sodality, the Catholic Knights of America, and the priests. The procession marched to the academy and upon the first floor, which was laid, and on which stood the speaker, Father Joseph F. Nugent of Des Moines, Iowa. On the platform with the speaker were Father John Jeannette of Omaha (who officiated as celebrant owing to the recent death of Bishop O'Connor and the Episcopal See of Omaha still being vacant), Father Kolin of Atkinson, and Fathers Cassidy and Hoheisl of O'Neill. Father Nugent delighted and entertained the audience for forty-five minutes in which he made the dedicating speech. He spoke upon the usefulness and the benefits to be derived from Catholic school and the audience stood rapt in attention as the words of logic and wisdom fell from his lips. As an orator Father Nugent had few, if any, equals and everyone in the vast audience listened with interest to every word that was spoken. After his talk came the ceremony of laying the corner stone. In the stone was placed in a tin box which contained papers on which were written the names of Pope Leo XIII, the late Bishop O'Connor, President Benjamin Harrison and Vice President Levi P. Morton, Mayor John McBride of O'Neill, and the names of the building committee, the largest donators, a copy of each of the city papers, including a copy of the "boom" edition of THE FRONTIER and also coins of the current year. After the ceremonies of laying the corner stone were over, the bank played a few selections and the audience dispersed. That evening, Father Nugent gave a lecture on the church on the subject of "The Lost Confessional," which he handles in a very able manner and was listened to by a large audience. After the lecture a collection was taken up and together with the one taken in the afternoon amounted to one-hundred fifty dollars, which was given to the academy.
Work was pushed along rapidly. Father Cassidy did take a mortgage on the property for two thousand dollars with the Fidelity Loan and Trust Company of Sioux City on Lots 13 & 14 and this was paid back by November 23, 1889. A Mechanic's Lien was filed by Richard Smithy and was paid by December 6, 1890. Then the building was completed in early February of 1891. It has a slate roof and was very steep. The tower in front was higher than the test of the building and was seventy feet about the ground and was surmounted with a large bronze cross of very fine pattern. There were three large chimneys, one each on the north, east, and west, besides the several smaller ones. The material used in the structure was principally brick with stone sills, caps, and steps. Its foundation was secure and the building in every respect was solid and substantial, a creditable monument to the enterprise and liberally of the people and lasting credit to the city. The total cost of the building without the addition was not less than twenty thousand dollars and when the addition, which as in the planning stage, was to be added, the whole unit would be nearly thirty thousand dollars. The school was not expected to open until September 1891 because all the good teachers were already engaged in teaching for the year, and it was the intention of the parish board to start with good teachers only. The Dominican Sisters had been contacted and had agreed to come and run the school. Father Cassidy had already received inquiries from points east and west concerning the school, and hopes were high that the school was going to be a success.
But then on February 19, 1891, at high noon, when the school was almost completed, the fire alarm was sounded, and terrible fact was that Saint Mary's Academy, the pride of the town, was in flames. Crowds of men and women rushed to the scene, but it was too late to save the building and nothing could be done in a heroic manner. The wind was favorable being from the south, and as soon as the roof fell and the northeast corner burned out, the danger to the other building was over. It was a sickening and painful sight to see that grand structure going up in smoke and there were many sad hearts in the town because of the fire. The origin of the fire was a mystery and will probably always remain one. The workmen stated that there had been no fire in any room of the building all day except in the southwest attic room and that was out by eleven o'clock. They left the building at five minutes of twelve and there was no fire visible then. The men went down to the New Ogden to dinner and had just gone in to the table when they heard the cry of fire. The noon bell has scarcely ceased ringing when it was started up as the fire alarm, and the smoke was seen issuing from the windows in the first and second stories on the northeast side and out of the roof at noon or very soon thereafter. It started up and got very strong headway in an almost incredibly short space of time and the whole building was burned in about ninety minutes. The loss was estimated from then to twelve thousand dollars and the building was insured for then thousand dollars in the name of the church. The contractors had no insurance. The walls and high chimneys, and even the cupola frame were left standing and it was thought that the greater part of the walls were still as good as new. The northeast and northwest corners were cracked and the windowsills and caps, made of red sandstone, seemed to be burned, and some of them totally ruined.
It was almost certain that the damage was to be repaired and that the building was to be in shape for the fall school term. Mr. McVey was reported as saying that the loss falls upon them and that they will expect to make it good. Mr. Meals, the other member of the firm, telegraphed to Frank Campbell to know if his interests were protected. He was to be up that evening to meet with the contractors and the building committee to get the situation properly adjusted. Also, a meeting was called by the city of O'Neill at the courthouse for the purpose if inaugurating a scheme whereby the town would secure a system of water works for protection from fire, but the attendance was light and nothing was really accomplished except that a seed was sown for water works in the future.
Father Cassidy felt that the fire originated in the basement through the carelessness of the workmen. At the time of this appalling disaster, fourteen thousand dollars has been expended on the building and its hearing plant. Father Cassidy then was informed by the insurance company that they refused to pay for the fire damage on the grounds that the building did not belong to the parish. The insurance policy was made out in the name of the church, but the academy had not been formally turned over to the church by the contractors, hence, the ground for the claim. There still seemed to be no question as to the rebuilding of the academy as the contractors stated they were the loser by the fire and even if the insurance could not be collected, they would have to replace the building. Still suit was instituted in the District Court of Holt County against the contractors and their bondsman to recover the amount paid on the contract, and a judgement for fourteen thousand dollars and costs was obtained. The case was appealed by the bondsmen to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which reversed the judgment of the District Court. The suit was dropped, but Father Cassidy was faced with bills and Mechanic's Liens by Frank B. Kennard Glass and Paint Company, Galena Lumber Company, the Omaha Planing Mill Company, Newell and Lamphear, and A.C. Raymer. These liens amounted to three thousand and thirty-four dollars and fifty-eight cents. But Father Cassidy managed to get through all of this becasue on February 2, 1891, he went to Omaha and mortgaged the whole property for ten thousand dollars, and Felix J. Despecher held the mortgage.
All of this, the calamity, the mortgage, shattered for the time being, the fondest aspirations and most cherished ambitions of the parish, but, severe as the shock was, it did not entirely annihilate the hopes and determination of the people to replace the beautiful structure that had been the pride of their hearts for the day.
In the spring of 1898, the chief ambition of the parishioners was to erect a school building. The great number of children in the parish in need of Catholic education rendered the building of a school an absolute necessity. The men of the parish set to work and tore down the ruins of the first convent and school that had remained since the destructive fire of 1891. The resources of the parish were dependent entirely on the harvest of the summer of 1899 but it fell below the usual yield. The hopes of the people were somewhat dampened, and it was thought best not to being on this new building the following spring, because the parishioners did not want "debt" ranked amount their possessions. But Divine Providence intervened and blessed the community of St. Patrick's in a singular manner and this is recorded in the Sisters' Chronicle of St. Mary's of O'Neill.
The county back of St. Francis Mission, in the Rosebud Agency of South Dakota, has numerous lakes that provide splendid facilities for hunting. Father Cassidy and Patrick McManus, two famous hunters of O'Neill, were accustomed to spending a week each autumn at St. Francis Mission, in order to make use of this region for their favorite pastime. It was during these visits that the Franciscans at St. Francis Mission has an opportunity of becoming well acquainted with Father Cassidy. When leaving for home, he invariably begged Mother Leopoldine to permit some of the Sisters to visit O'Neill. As the result of his pleading, Mother Leopoldine , who was in Europe in 1896, wrote back to the mission that Sister Alexia with Sophia Walking Eagle, and Frances Cut Cut should come to O'Neill for a few days, meet her at the train in O'Neill on her return trip, and accompany her back to the mission. Owning to the fact that Sister had the two Indian girls with her, she did not go to the rectory but to the home of John Hunt, who with his brother Dennis had done plastering at the mission. The Hunts were hospitable and Mrs. Hunt drove most of the homes with Sister so that she met most of the Catholics in O'Neill.
Every afternoon Sister called at the rectory, and it was chatting with Father Cassidy on his front veranda, from which point of the burnt convent was in full view, that Father Cassidy said, "Sister, if your Community will come here and rebuild the Convent, I will give them the lots and everything on them," Sister did not reply but tried to turn the conversation to another topic. After a while Father came back with, "You did not give me an answer to my proposition."Sister answered, "Father, you do not want a German community in this Irish community." But Father continued, "I don't care what they are if they are only good teachers."
On the train going back to the mission with Mother Leopoldine, Sister Alexia told Mother all that Father Cassidy had said. Mother Leopoldine was at once taken up with the proposal and entered heart and soul into having it accepted. She wrote at once to Reverend Mother who had Mother Cecilia and Sister Leonarda, then the business manager, come to O'Neill, meet the school children at the rectory and then send her report as to the advisability of taking over the project. Mother Cecilia and Sister Leonarda came from O'Neill to St. Francis Mission where the assembled community heard Sister Leonarda's report. It was that there was no thought of their understanding to rebuild the school, that it would be impossible, and that the Sisters would starve in such a place as O'Neill. This was the report she sent to Reverend Mother but Mother Leopoldine did not give up hopes and continued to urge Reverend Mother to take it. The Sisters of St. Francis Mission prayed to heaven to have the Sisters accept the new work offered. Father Cassidy was so highly esteemed by Mother Leopoldine and the Sisters that they left no stone unturned and removed all obstacles and comply with his wishes. Reverend Mother's answer came to Father Cassidy: "We shall take O'Neill, for I think if our Holy Father, Saint Francis, were living, it would be just such a place as O'Neill where he would want us to work - a place as where no other religious sisters are working."
And thus the second St. Mary's began. Mother Leopoldine sent Sister Cypriana and Sister Rosalia McMullen (later she was Sister Emily) out to Park City, Utah, to Thomas Kearns, the owner of the Silver King Mine, an O'Neill boy who had gone west with only fifty cents in his pocket. This good gentleman gave the first donation for St. Mary's, on thousand dollars. Then Mother Leopoldine borrowed another thousand dollars from Doctor De Bell, who had a store at Rosebud Agency. She raised funds from various sources to get the work on the school started. The first St. Mary's was built in 1890 at the cost of eighteen-thousand dollars and was to serve as school and a residence of the Dominican Sisters from Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. The parish was unable to raise the funds to build another convent and school, so Father Cassidy pleaded long and earnestly to have the Franciscan Sisters undertake the rebuilding at their expense, and Reverend Mother Ludmilla finally gave her consent to the erection of a Convent to serve as a parish school and boarding school, the latter to be used especially for children of the surrounding country in order to prepare them for their First Holy Communion.
The site, including eight lots and the ruins of the old convent were presented as a free gift to the Sisters and the Sisters would in return erect a new building which would be commodious and in every way suitable to the need of the parish and would conduct a school that would give the children as education cased on Catholic foundation, and at the same time embrace the regular high school course study.
Following the progress of the construction, the February 23, 1899 Frontier newspaper published this article: A force of men commenced tearing down the walls of the academy last Monday. The walls are so solid that considerable blasting is being done in order to get them down. It is expected that the entire structure will be down next week, and as soon as warm weather comes, work will begin upon its reconstruction.
In the autumn of 1899 further agreements were made and it was decided that a few Sisters should come to O'Neill at the beginning of next year, live in a rented house, and support themselves by the teaching of music and fancy work: on April 19, 1900, Sister Mathilda, Sister Catherine, and Mother Kostka bade farewell to Holy Rosary Mission and arrived in O'Neill the following day. A delegation of parishioners met them at the depot and conducted their new home for the present, a modest cottage on the hill west of the burnt convent.
On the way to the cottage, the Sisters stopped at St. Partick's Church and kneeling at the communion rail offered themselves to God, reminding home that he called them and they were in O'Neill to do his bidding. On arrival at the cottage, a hearty greeting was given to the Sisters by Brother Stander, S.J., and architect from St. Francis Mission, who in answer to a petition from the Sisters, had been permitted by his supervisor provincial in Buffalo, New York, to take charge of the building, the work, and the laborers need for its erection. Brother Stander took up his residence at the rectory and had the free hospitality of Father Cassidy. The temporary home of the Sisters consisted of several small rooms with a smaller kitchen, and the furniture boasted of having three old beds, several wash tubs, a supply of bed clothing, a generous supply of baking soda and then dollars worth of groceries on the table, all supplied by kind-hearted parishioners. Everything spoke of extreme poverty and the first cupboards, small tables, and prie-dieux were made by the Sisters out of dry-goods boxes.
In the meantime, the plans for the new Convent and the foundation itself in 1900 received approval of the highest authorities of Franciscans' Congregation in Europe and in Buffalo, New York.
On May 4, 1900, a parish meeting was secretly called to honor Father Cassidy. The parishioners found out that Father was going to Europe. A committee called upon Father and presented him with a well-filled purse containing well over four-hundred dollars, and the following address: "Beloved Pastor: Having learned of your proposed trip to Europe, we take this opportunity of paying you our respects before your departure. Fourteen years you have been the parish priest of this congregation and during that time, you have endeared yourself to all who have come in contact with you; and to us you have been a spiritual adviser and faithful friend. You have been a devout and untiring laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, and while we all very much regret that we are to be separated from you for the next few months, we still are more than compensated by a knowledge of the fact that it will be to you a season of needed test and recreation. It is our sincere wish that your entire trip will be one of pleasure and that you will return to us in the autumn with improved health and vigor for the work before you. We know how badly you need a vacation, and we sincerely trust you will be able to put aside all cares and fully enjoy your tour in Europe, and particularly the visit you have in view to the land of your birth. We hope to receive word from you from time to time, and you may rest assured that although we may not be present with you in body, our best wishes and thoughts will follow you in your sojourn abroad. As an evidence that your work has been appreciated and that the seed sown in your labor among us had not all been cast on sandy ground, and as a token of personal esteem, we present you a purse, the contests of which we trust will help defray the expense of your trip, the recollection of which, we hope, may be a pleasant memory during your absence. Signed in behalf of the congregation, O.F. Biglin, Chairman of the Committee." Father Cassidy had a loving place in the hearts of the people and this was deeply exemplified on Sunday when he bid adieu for a time and there were tear-stained faces in the congregation as he told them of his departure. On Monday, May 7, 1900, Father Cassidy left by train waving goodbye to a large crowd assembled at the depot to bid him a safe trip and Godspeed. He visited Rome, Germany, France, and the famous passion play at Oberammergau. On his return, he spent a month in Ireland and returned on September the first. The building of the foundation of the school continued.
On May 31, 1900, the Frontier carried the following article: Work on St. Mary's convent is being pushed forward rapidly. John Hunt has the contract for the brick work and has seven bricklayers to work. He expects to have the brickwork completed by August 15.
On June 11, 1900, the plans for the new St. Mary's were shown and it was to contain four schoolrooms on the first floor, four school rooms on the second floor, with a dormitory in the roof which would be sufficient to accommodate on hundred pupils with sleeping apartments. The basement has a ten-foot ceiling, eight feet above the ground; the ceiling of the first floor was twelve feet, and on the second floor, eleven feet. The intention was to have it completed by September 1, 1900, with the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the corner stone to the new school was laid by Father Opava, the temporal pastor, in the absence of Father Cassidy. Work on the new building progressed rapidly, and on October 7, 1900, the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary, a statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (the official title of the new convent) - a gift of Doctor Corrigan of O'Neill, was solemnly unveiled and dedicated, and on the following day was erected in the niche above the main entrance to the convent. Not a single accident occurred during the entire time of work on the construction of the building. During the summer months though, several Sisters arrived as an increase to the community which then numbered ten. On September 10, 1900, following a High Mass in honor of the Holy Spirit, the first school in Saint Patrick's Parish begun. One-hundred-and-six pupils were enrolled the first day. With the permission of the Bishop, two classes occupied the church, the Blessed Sacrament having been places in the sacristy. A third class took up its abode in the City Hall (skating rink), a favor of the city Mayor Edward F. Gallagher. As the small house in which the Sisters lived temporarily did not provide sufficient room for all, several Sisters slept in an unoccupied house near the new convent. It had been offered generously for their use, gratis, by kind neighbors. By the end of October, one wing of the new building was sufficiently completed to permit the Sisters, in case of necessity, to dwell init, although there were as yet no banisters on the stairways, no plastered walls, no finished floors, etc. On October 29. after spiritual exercises were ended, the statues and pictures belonging to the Sisters were carried to the convent and after seven o'clock that morning, generous and kindhearted people appeared with horses and wagons and transported all the belongings of the Sisters from the cottage to the new convent. The Sisters were delighted to be united again under their own roof.
The school continued toward its building completion. After a lapse of several weeks, the new classrooms were gradually finished and ready for occupancy. On December 12, 1900, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the convent and school were solemnly dedicated by Father Cassidy. A solemn High Mass was celebrated and Father Cleary, a renowned speaker from Minnesota, delivered a most eloquent sermon on the occasion. He outlined the benefits of a Catholic education and reminded the people of O'Neill that they were deeply indebted to the Sisters for providing these benefits for them. The rather large chapel did not furnish sufficient room for all who attended the services. The O'Neill Public School gave a free day to permit teachers and pupils to attend the solemnities. Many people wept through joy and gratitude at seeing their desires finally fulfilled. The Sisters and the people had given up many of the things that make life easy to see the school completed. The Stations of the Cross in the Sisters Chapel and the "Ave Maria" (the bell in the tower) were gifts of Mrs. James Gallagher - Alla Dailey Gallagher. The following inscription was upon the bell: "Ave Maria, Auxilium Christianorum, Protect All the Inmates, Bless the Benefactors, Pray for O'Neill, Assist Us In Death." On Christmas Eve, 1900, the Angelus was rung for the first time from the convent tower and Mother Kostka, Sister Alcantara, Sister Crescentia, Sister Laurentia, Sister Mathildae, Sister Sophie, Sister Geralda, Sister Norberta, Sister Eberharda, Sister Antoinette, and Sister Arsenia were the Franciscan Sisters of O'Neill.
In April, 1901, Bishop Richard Scannell came to O'Neill and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to two hundred-and-thirteen children. He expressed his surprise at the splendid achievements in such a short time at O'Neill. He inspected the new convent and was moved by seeing the poverty of each Sister's cell. He promised to send a second priest to O'Neill so that daily Mass could be celebrated in the convent chapel. And as the fist school year closed, there were two-hundred-and-ten day students and twenty boarders.
On June 18, 1903, the initiatory commencement of the Academy of Our Lady of Perpetual Help took place at the opera house in O'Neill. Seven young ladies (Margaret M. Barrett, Agnes F. Clark, Rose E. Grady, Margaret M. McGreevy, Florence E. Mullen, Anna S. O'Donnell, and Mary M Hagerty) received the first diplomas from the Academy which was hailed as one of the finest educational institutions in the state and is a credit to this part of Nebraska and was the pride of O'Neill and Holt County. And the younger students of the school presented the entertainment which consisted of a "dumb-bell-drill" and a "flower circle" by the lower grades, a military drams "Rising of the Man" was also presented and appreciated by the large audience, many of whom has come many miles to be present at these exercises.
In November, 1904, the pupils of the school contributed a quilt to the fair. It was artistically made of silk materials with the signatures of the O'Neill citizens worked on each block. The quilt was raffled off and won by Miss Maggie Cullen and the ten dollar gold piece was won by D.A. Doyle. Events such as these were aiding in planning the new church. In 1907, Father Cassidy bought the Sisters a gasoline engine and machinery for mixing bread at the Academy. Mixing by hand all those large quantities of bread needed for the convent and school was a tedious process and the machinery would greatly reduce the amount of labor in this line.
1908 brought a new dimension to the school. It was approved for a Normal Training program which produces certified teachers at the end of two years. It was for Juniors and Seniors and the program was incorporated into the regular school curriculum. This year also saw the formation of a St. Mary's Alumni Association with 51 members.
A new addition was being added to St. Mary's Academy yo make more room for the boarders. But it was a severe winter and this progress was slow and a severe storm hit with high winds and blowing snow on May 1, 1911. Bishop Keane did make it to O'Neill from Cheyenne to confirm 227 persons even though were outbreaks of measles and small pox. But the new addition was finally completed and dedicated.
Bishop Harty, who succeeded Bishop Scannell (died in January, 1916) as Bishop of Omaha, visited O'Neill on October 27, 1916, and confirmed eighty-eight children. The Bishop received a gift of six thousand dollars from the parish for the purpose of helping build a new cathedral in Omaha. Spanish Influenza (Black Flu) in 1918 and scarlet fever in 1920 caused much discomfort in O'Neill and its schools.
In 1923, financial conditions were difficult as shown by the Sister's Chronicles: The opening of the new school year did not predict the happiest sailing, for many pupils did not return after Christmas to the Academy. The financial condition of the farmers hereabouts and of the people of the neighboring villages and towns, was not such as to permit them to send their children back to us. They were not even able to pay up their debts for the last year. On July 2, 1923, a tornado from the northeast hit the Academy, tearing slates from the roof and killing 50 baby chicks in the chicken yard
1925 was the second year for boy-boarders at the school and it was the Silver Jubilee of the establishment of Saint Mary's Academy. Three-thousand dollars were contributed by the Alumnae and the members of the parish and the money was presented to the Sisters in commemoration of this event. The celebration lasted three days and it brought together many of the former Sisters and former Alumnae of the Academy.
The year 1926 was a dry year and the crops failed and that which could have survived was beaten by hailstones "the size of hen's eggs."
Plans for another addition to the Academy were unveiled in 1927 for the cost of fifteen thousand dollars, but there were excavation troubles because the previous school site had been filled in with rock. It was the Golden Jubilee Year for the Parish in O'Neill and on July 20, 1927, Father Cassidy was elevated to the rank of Domestic Prelate, which was the title of Monsignor, by Pope Pius XI.
The year 1929 once again witnessed scarlet fever and small pox outbreaks among the people. The St. Mary's Basketball Team won the good sportsmanship trophy at the tournament in Sioux City and received a silver cup from Bishop Heelan.
In this year, Harlan Agnes, William Beha, Ben Clifford, Frank Gallagher, John McCarthy, and Ivan Pruss were the first boys to graduate from St. Mary's.
(to be continued)