Father Philip Colleton, S.J.
1821 - December 1, 1876
Philip Colleton was born in Donaghmoyne, County Monghan, Ireland in 1821. At the age of 33 he was ordained a Jesuit priest. He came to Osage Mission in 1869 from St. Mary's to serve under Fr. Schoenmakers.
Fr. Colleton worked tirelessly to promote and improve the Mission. He opened a school library in 1869 and purchased books to be distributed to scattered families. (This was probably the first library in the state of Kansas). He promoted a system of Catholic settlements and opened elementary schools, entrusting them to local families. In the 1870s, Fr. Colleton drew up plans and supervised the erection of new structures being built on Mission property.
Sister Mary Paul Fitzgerald wrote, "If Father Colleton is judged by his labors he certainly deserves a niche in Kansas history." This statement refers not only to his effort within the Mission, but also his wide-ranging missionary work. Fr. Colleton is credited with establishing 15 mission stations in Kansas, at least four with churches. He is also recognized for being the first Catholic priest to tread on Montgomery County soil.
Fr. Colleton's missionary feats were not limited to Kansas. Between August and November, he lived mostly from horseback. It was during these months that he made his southern circuit through Indian Territory to the northern line of Texas; then, west to Colorado by way of Fort Dodge. While monotonous and dangerous, this route exposed him to scores of Indians, railroad construction gangs and soldiers. Fr. Colleton traveled as far west as Pueblo, Colorado to meet with railroaders.
Ironically, Fr. Colleton's most legendary feat in Kansas may have occurred nine miles east of the Mission. Caught in a horrendous hailstorm he pledged to God that if spared, he would build a church on that site. Today, a historical marker, at the site of church ruins, depicts the story of "The Legend of Greenbush."
Fr. Colleton's brilliant work came to an abrupt end in the summer of 1876 following a railroad handcar accident while traveling from Ladore to Parsons. For six months his condition was critical, then improved.