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First Settlers – Mary Ryan Burke - St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Hodgeman County, Kansas

The oldest members of the St. Mary’s community were the Burke and Gleason families. The Burke family story begins with James and Mary Ryan Burke. Both were born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1820 and 1826 respectively. They were engaged in Ireland and emigrated to America in 1847. Shortly after their arrival, they were married. They were blessed with seven children: Mary, John, Lawrence, Johanna, Bridget, James E., and Alice Cecilia.

In 1853, the Burke family moved to Illinois where James found work in a mill. Unfortunately, James died of appendicitis in 1882 and is buried in Illinois.

Their oldest daughter, Mary married Emmett Mooney and moved to Kansas in 1878 because of Emmitt’s health. They settled south of Hanston in Hodgeman County. They were the parents of 10 children.

Being impressed with reports from the Mooney’s and already friends with the Gleason’s, Bridget, Lawrence, and John arrived soon after. Mary Ryan Burke brought the remaining children, Alice Cecilia age 19, and James E. age 12 to Hodgeman County in 1885.

John married Mary Gleason and had two sons, James Daniel and infant Michael. Mary died in 1890 during the birth of Michael, who died a month later. John’s mother, Mary Ryan Burke moved in to assist with the upbringing of her grandchild. John did not remarry.

Lawrence returned to Illinois and married Bridget Moran. They are buried in Maple Grove Cemetery. Johanna married John Lynch and remained in Joliet, Illinois. James E. also returned to Illinois and married Julia Hefner in 1908. She passed away five years later. Alice Cecilia married Michel Gleason and were the parents of six children.

Bridget married John Gleason and they were blessed with eight children. John had donated land for the St. Mary’s Church and cemetery. He was killed tragically in 1904 when his horse team pulling a drill and a load of wheat became frightened, ran away and he was run over. John was the first burial in St. Mary’s.

Mary Ryan Burke passed away on January 30, 1910 at the age of 83. She and many of her children and descendants are buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Note: Mary’s brother, Larry, accompanied Mary and James. He died during the six-week crossing and was buried at sea.

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