How We Started
The Shawnee Knights of Columbus Council 2332, one of the largest in the state of Kansas, was formed November 21, 1921, with a charter class of 70. Most of the members were members of St, Joseph’s parish. Michael Keating served as Grand Knight, chief executive officer of the council, and the Rev. Hugh A. McDevitt as chaplain.
Several prominent Shawnee citizens served in other first year offices: Andrew J. Pflumm, Deputy Grand Knight and Financial Secretary; Adolph B.Chown, Chancellor and Trustee; Jeremiah Keating, Recorder; William Bousman, Treasurer; Robert H. Miller, Advocate; Henry Vogel, Warden; Richard Keating, Inside Guard; John Lally, Sr., Outside Guard and Trustee; and Fred Hauser, Trustee. All of these men are remembered as leaders in the city and parish in the decade of the 20’s and their names are still recognized on some Shawnee streets.
The early meetings of the council were held in the coal bin of St. Joseph’s old stone church and continued there until a new brick Knights Hall was erected on the site of the present building. It was occupied on Columbus Day 1948 and as usual in such projects, the hall wasn’t quite ready for the Grand Opening Dance. That was held later on January 10, with Virgil Bradley’s big band at a cost of $40. Times were simpler – and cheaper then.
The water bill for October was $1.38 and the light bill $1.96. A whopping $48 was paid for the building’s cornerstone, and it may still be seen under the kitchen serving bar where it was reset following hall remodeling in 1967. Before the council opened its own club rooms it held many social affairs, dances and dinners at Quivira Lake or at the old Grange Hall in Greenwood – not the current brick Grange Hall on the same site but in the dilapidated wooden shack preceding it.
Starting in 1953 council members were forced out of their own hall for all practical purposes, as they offered it free for five years to the parish for use as two class rooms as the parish fought to handle the horde of increasing students at its own grade and high school, a number which reached nearly 1100, overwhelming the now long gone obsolete old stone school.
During this period the Knights held their meetings in cramped style, crammed into grade school desks, and there was no thought of holding dances, shrimp dinners, banquets or other social events, now a hall mark of the present council. It was with a sigh of relief when, with help from its members, the parish opened its new grade school in 1958 and the Knights recovered their club rooms.
As membership in the council grew so did the need for more room, and in 1967 the council more than doubled the size of its clubhouse with its current structure. The hall is named in honor of the Rev. William T. Dolan, who served 26 years as council chaplain from 1966 until his death in 1992.
The Knights held summer picnics sporadically throughout its entire existence, sometimes on the parish grounds and sometimes in the old Shawnee Square which was then a shady grove dotted with trees and a gazebo for summer concerts. Today it is the Shawnee City Hall and parking lot.
Aquiring Starwood Park
A major development of the council was acquisition in 1976 of the old Starwood Park near Zarah, seven miles west of downtown Shawnee, where the current series of council picnics had been held since 1965. Starwood’s history includes Sunday night dances, Chautauqua programs and religious revivals held there since the mid nineteenth century and was focal point of local entertainment until the 1930’s. A street car line ran from Kansas City for the events. The advent of the motor car, movies and radio spelled the end of the park’s appeal and the Shawnee Knights acquired the park for pleasant picnic use, softball and outdoor Masses and recreation.
Shawnee Homes Association
In 1938 the council incorporated the Shawnee Homes Association with Andrew J. Pflumm as president, as an organization consisting of all members of the council holding title to council real estate.
Throughout its existence the council has seen good times and bad. In 1958 it had to borrow $1000 from the Shawnee Bank in order to keep solvent. However it weathered the financial crisis and has grown stronger as the years progressed, and has been a distinct asset in the life of the St. Joseph parish and Shawnee community.
Members of the council have exemplified their principle of patriotism, serving their country as well as their church. Four of them have made the supreme sacrifice: During World War II Andrew J. Pflumm, Jr. died on Anzio beach in Italy, Chester Rieke in France after D-Day and Fred Bauer in Okinawa. Benjamin A. Nicks III died leading a patrol as point man in the jungle of Vietnam. The honor roll of Shawnee Knights serving their country in uniform is long.
The council has been active on the State Knights of Columbus level, supplying four State Deputies: Andrew J. Pflumm, 1940-42; Edward B. Murray, 1970-72; Charles Garrett, 1976-78; and Thomas R. Zarda, 1986-88. Many council members have served as District Deputy. Garrett also was Kansas State Master of the Fourth Degree and Zarda was Vice Supreme Master of the four-state Juan Padilla Province of the Fourth Degree. Many council members have worked as state officers in programming and degree exemplification.
Council members have also been active in local civic affairs. Jeff Meyers, mayor of Shawnee, is a Past Grand Knight of the council as was his predecessor, James Allen. Many other Knights have served and are serving on the city council and in city public affairs.
Our Council Today
Shawnee Council currently has about 500 members, most of them from the local area. Since its founding it has served faithfully the St. Joseph parish and the city of Shawnee. The council promotes many worthy religious and social programs, contributing generously to Catholic education, Catholic seminary students, and Respect Life goals. It collects clothes for the area’s needy in a joint program with Shawnee Community Services, runs an annual basketball free-throw tournament for youngsters, solicits funds for the mentally handicapped in an annual, Tootsie Roll campaign, trains parish altar servers, provides refreshments for attendees at the annual Memorial Mass in St, Joseph cemetery, serves a series of Lenten shrimp dinners and donates to the state Knights Pennies from Heaven project which offers relief to families following disasters. A softball league in the park and polka dances in the hall are offered throughout the year.
Contributing to the Community
It provides workers and money for parish religious and social programs and financially supports many worthy Shawnee city programs such as Old Shawnee Days and St. Patrick’s Day parade. On many occasions the council offers free use of its hall and park for use in parish and civic programs.
Past Grand Knight, Kim Stevermer, said, "Shawnee Knights can be proud of its past. The commitment and dedication of its charter members laid a foundation that has lasted more than 85 years. We see not the bricks and the mortar but the true spirit of the Knights of Columbus dating back to the orders founding in 1882. The present and future members will continue to make the commitment necessary to serve the Church, the community and nation. Thanks be to God."