Compiled from the 50th Golden Jubilee Program
James A. Buel and John Hoelscher & Notes from Daniel Sieve PGK, PFN, FDD
The national organization of the Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by a young priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, in New Haven, CT.. Its purpose was to strengthen the ties of the spirituality and service to the Catholic Church and to form a system of fraternal insurance to provide financial benefits for the members and their families. From a small beginning, the order presently has over 1.7 million members, in over 12,000 councils in all 50 states and 11 other countries.
The order grew westward and in 1898 the first council in Missouri was established in St. Louis.
Seisl Council #1121 was named in honor of Rev. Martin Seisl, S.J., who was pastor of St. Francis Borgia parish from 1853-1871. Father Seisl began his strenuous ministry in Franklin County shortly after the City of Washington was established.
The acquaint the Catholic men of the parish with the Order of the Knights of Columbus, Henry D. Hibbeler, a KofC member and prominent citizen at that time, obtained the approval of the Rev, Alphonse, and Rev. Valerius Nelles, O.F.M., an assistant in the parish, helped the knights cause along at various meetings and choir rehearsals.
They, with Mr. Hibbeler, dispelled the fears of prospective members by citing the many accomplishments of the Order, and soon many more men became interested. Applications were received from surrounding parishes – Union, Dutzow, Krakow, and New Haven. 55 applications were received and the date for the institution of the council was set for Sunday, May 27th 1906. A mass that morning along with a banquet were held.
Mr. Hibbeler, who had transferred to this new council for which he worked so hard, called a meeting for Thursday, May 31st 1906, in order to elect officers. He was elected the first Grand Knight and was again elected in 1907 and 1908.
The Council held its meeting from 1906 to 1917 on the third floor of the SFB parish building at Main and Cedar Streets. From 1917-1934, the council met on the third floor of the SFB school building at Second and Cedar Streets. The meeting place then changed back to the first floor of the SFB parish hall, Main and Cedar Streets, from 1934-1942.
On Sunday, May 5th, 1907, a class of 40 received the honor of the Third Degree. In the course of time the members from the other parishes who had joined Seisl Council began organizing their own councils. They were: Father Edward Berry #1335 at Pacific, Mo., Mathaushek #1576 at Union, Mo., Hermann #1914 at Hermann, Mo., Father Bertens #1927 at Dutzow, Mo., and Father Verhagen #2547 at Owensville, Mo. Furthermore, councils in Morrison, Warrenton, Eureka, St. Clair, Sullivan, New Haven, Villa Ridge, Cuba, Gerald, and New Melle, all were influenced by Seisl Council.
The year 1920 was an important one. The first State Convention of the Knights of Columbus was held in May of that year. More than 500 delegates and visitors were present. Knights assembled at St. Francis Borgia School and headed by flag bearers marched over the principal streets of the city to St. Francis Borgia Church. A solemn high mass marked the opening of the convention. After services, delegates assembled in the Calvin Theatre for the first session. In the afternoon visitors were entertained and taken on a sight-seeing tour through the city. They visited the Corn Cob Pipe Factory and other places of interest. The second day of the convention a Requiem Mass was said for deceased members.
The Columbian Squires Circle #41 was formed in October, 1936. The grand Knight was Ike Bocklage. This junior organization was for boys ages 14-18. This group back then was one of the few around that promoted activities for boys through sports, civic and community involvement, field trips, etc. The importance of the Circle faded as more and more groups and events were held by other organizations, especially the schools. The circle eventually became inactive. It was reactivated for a short period of time in 1998 under the direction of Grand Knight Dr. Marvin Lakebrink.
In 1941, during the 35 years the Council existed, the question of a home had often been up for discussion. In 1942 Grand Knight Frank Eckelkamp recommended a board be established to investigate plans for a council home. In May 1942, the first building committee was elected and William Marquart was named President. Immediately, the board voted to buy one of the landmarks of the city, the Old Town Hall, later known as the Krekel Building at Second and Jefferson Streets. Today it is the home of the Missouri Photo Journalism Hall of Fame. After much renovation and repairs done mostly by the members the building was dedicated in October 1942.
Also in October 1942, a group of 43 ladies gathered at the KofC Hall and organized the Seisl Ladies Auxiliary to help and cooperate with the men. Mrs. Martha Hettenhaus was elected the first president. There are presently 400 member in the auxiliary. Mrs. Karen Elbert is the current ladies president.
On May 9,10, and 11th, 1943 the Missouri State Council of the Knights of Columbus once again convened in Washington in its 42nd Annual Convention. Hundreds of delegates from all over the state met at Seisl Council’s new home. Father Erwin Huntsha O.F.M., along with His Excellency, John J. Glennon, archbishop of St. Louis, celebrated a Solemn High Mass.
June 1945, the Fourth Degree members established the Seisl Assembly. The first Faithful Navigator was Sir Knight Arnold Vahlkamp. There were 34 charter members, comprising Sir Knights from Mathaushek Council, Union Mo. And Seisl Council, Washington.
In 1960, the name of the assembly was changed in the honor of one of its most inspiring member – Msgr. George Hildner. The assembly has over 360 members fro the area. The Msgr. Hildner Assembly has organized the Fourth Degree Chalice Fund, to which every paid up Fourth Degree member belongs. A chalice with the Sir Knight’s name engraved is presented to the family of the deceased Sir Knight who then designates a priest or Mission to use this Chalice in the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Robert Elbert is presently server as Faithful Navigator.
In 1948 the council needed a larger home, therefore a recreation hall and kitchen were added to the building. In August 1949, the building as it now stands, was dedicated.
In 1965 the council purchased 65 acres of land in the southwest part of town, off Pottery Road, with the hopes of one having a new facility and grounds for its members. The Grand Knight then was Donald Maune. The Board President was Louis Swoboda.
As the council flourished and grew, the dream of a new modern council home also grew. In 1981, 31 acres of land was sold to the St. Louis Archdiocese, and St. Francis Borgia Regional High School was built there. In 1982, at the strong urging of Ray Eckelkamp, the membership voted to build a new council home on its Pottery Road property.
Groundbreaking was held in 1983 for the new building. Dan Sieve was Grand Knight. Steve Lochirco was Board President. The Council now boasts of being the largest in the State of Missouri and one of the largest in the entire order.
Through the years the council has remodeled its lounge, expanded its parking lot, completed its athletic fields for softball, volleyball, and horseshoes, expanded the conession stand, built a new storage and barbecue building, erected a new entrance sign and completed its basement area into the council room.
The council hosted the Fourth Degree Exemplification in 1989 and 1991. Large classes of new Sir Knights were initiated in both.
In 1991 Father Seisl Council was featured in the Supreme Council’s training and recruitment tape “Surge with Service”, which is still widely used throughout the entire order.
During all its years of existence the membership has never forgot the principles of the Order – Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. From its first picnic in 1906 that netted $10.43, to donations to the St. Francis Hospital Fund, known today as St. John’s Mercy, or to $100,000 donated to the St. Francis Borgia Regional High School Endowment Fund, Father Seisl Council continues to take the lead in charitable endeavors. Activities and programs the Father Seisl Council participates in, not only for it members, but also in the area of church, community, family and youth include, helping the handicapped, blood drives, pro-life programs, vocations, and Catholic education.
Since Father Seisl Council #1121 has donated over 1.2 million dollars to charitable causes in the Washington Community.
This, then, is the history of Knights of Columbus Seisl Council #1121. It has grown in these one-hundred years from a small, but determined band of some fifty-odd fervent Catholic men to 1,300 members and the largest council in the state. It has flourished through ups and downs, through wars and a great depression, and by extolling the virtues, under God’s law, on which the order is founded.
The success of Seisl Council #1121 is due to dedicated time, effort and energy of many members down though the years. It is dynamic force within our community. We look forward to the future, to continue the good example set forth by our predecessors, and may the men who will write history for the next one-hundred years say that they are as proud to call themselves Knights of Columbus as we are.
Respectfully Submitted by:
Sir Knight Timothy M. Mathews