Rev. James J. Barry since his ordination as a priest of the Catholic Church had been identified with various Kansas missions and pastorates, and in the fall of 1915 became pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at Humboldt.
Organized Catholic services were first held in Humboldt in 1866. The first church was begun in that year, though not completed in detail until 1868. The old church was replaced by the present substantial brick edifice in 1911. This is situated on the large grounds owned by the parish at Fifth and Central avenues. There is also a substantial rectory. The parish had sixty families and includes territory five miles north, eight miles west, six miles east and five miles south of Humboldt.
The old building during the ’60s was superintended in its construction by Fathers Shoemaker and Ponzizlione. Colonel Thurston, a prominent pioneer, took the financial responsibility and bought the ground on which the church now stands. The original grounds comprised forty acres. The few Catholics then living in the vicinity of Humboldt lent all the aid they could toward the building of the original church. In 1869 Bishop Miege sent Father Heller to take charge of Humboldt and the surrounding Catholic community, but Father Heller gave up the task at the end of 1870. After that St. Joseph’s had no resident pastor for several years, though occasional services were held by Father King, who was then staying with the Carmelite Fathers at Scipio. In 1876 Father Bierhurst became resident pastor, and was succeeded in 1877 by Father Diesterman. Both of them were compelled to leave owing to ill health. Then Father Scholl had temporary charge of the church, but on the arrival of Father Perrier he removed to Independence, where he built up a large and prosperous parish. In 1878 Bishop Fink sent Father Kearful to Humboldt, Father Perrier then returning to his own diocese at Concordia. During Father Kearful’s incumbency the deed which Colonel Thurston held on the church property was turned over to Bishop Fink for a consideration of $2,700 dollars. That deed forever secured the church and the five acre tract of land to the members of St. Joseph’s congregation. In 1887 Father Hardis became pastor, but soon left on account of ill health. In November, 1888, Father Shultze became pastor at Humboldt. He was succeeded in 1893 by Father Hudicek, and he in turn by Father Hundt, who remained until 1896. The pastor from 1896 until 1900 was Father Weikman of Ellinwood. Then came Fathers James Donohue and John J. MacInerney, the latter continuing until January 4, 1903. Father MacInerney was author of a history of Humboldt called “Past and Present” and published in 1910. This history includes a substantial account of St. Joseph’s Church.
Father Barry was born in County Wexford, Ireland, February 9, 1886. He attended the National schools until the age of fifteen, then continued his education in the classics and in rhetoric in St. Joseph’s College in County Cork, where he was graduated in 1905. After that he spent four years at Lyons, France, a student of theology and philosophy in the Seminary of African Missions. Returning to Wexford, he remained for two years as a student of course in September, 1909. He was ordained June 10, 1911, and almost at once set out for America.
In September, 1911, Father Barry arrived at Wichita, Kansas, remained there as assistant four months, was temporary pastor at Garden City from January to June, 1912, was pastor of Seward from June, 1912, to September, 1913, and then gave up his regular pastoral duties to pursue post-graduate work in the Catholic University at Washington, District of Columbia, where he remained until 1915. That institution awarded him the degree A. M. On October 1, 1915, Father Barry took up his duties as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church at Humboldt.
Father Barry is a son of James Barry, who was born in County Wexford, Ireland, in 1853 and had spent his active life as a farmer. He now resided at Saltmills in County Wexford. His father was also James Barry, passed his life in that part of Ireland as a farmer and merchant, and married Ann Drennan. James Barry, Jr., married Mary O. Molloy, who was born in County Wexford in 1854. Besides Father Barry their children are: John, who was attached to the Jesuit University at Dublin, Ireland; William, a farmer in Wexford, Ireland; and Mary Ann, still at home with her parents.