Our Council History
The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.
Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.
Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 2, Page 21.
Valparaiso Council KofC Owes Its Founding To Labor Of 6 Men; Chartered In 1903
The Knights of Columbus, of which Valparaiso Council No. 738 is a part, was organized in Connecticut in March, 1882, and the Valparaiso council was chartered on March 22, 1903, with a list of twenty-nine members. Its principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism are practiced for the advancement of Catholicity and the development of a better social condition. The society has an insurance feature which is optional with the member and at the present time the members are insured for more than $300,000,000.
Besides establishment of endowments and scholarships throughout the Catholic schools and universities of the United States and Canada perhaps the most notable achievement of the order came during the world war at which time more than $44,000,000 was expended. Approximately $8,600,000 was used in an educational program for ex-service men, including evening schools in more than 100 cities with a total enrollment of 313,916. Scholarships were granted to 403 ex-service men. A correspondence school is maintained for members and their families with instruction in 100 subjects and with an enrollment to date of 31,000.
Valparaiso council was organized largely through the efforts and influence of six men, who, constituting themselves as missionaries, in spreading the gospel of promotion, expounded the desirability of membership in the new organization as a means of consolidating Catholic manhood into a social force. These men, all members of other councils, but residents of the city, were: P. W. Clifford, Rev. W. S. Hogan, Edward P. Clifford, John J. Murray, Thomas F. Hartford and Thomas Howard.
The initiatory ceremonies were held at Knights of Pythias hall on March 22, 1903. Professor John G. Ewing of Notre Dame, state deputy, was in charge. The Fort Wayne council put on the first degree, the South Bend council the second degree, and Professor Ewing and his assistants, the third degree.
The program and banquet were given in Armory hall in the evening, with Rev. Louis A. Moench, of Mishawaka, Ind., former pastor of St. Paul's church, as toastmaster. William F. Spooner, then mayor, and one of the charter members of the local lodge, made the address of welcome. Vocal solos were rendered by P. W. Clifford and Dr. E. J. Ball, of Valparaiso, Daniel E. Kelly of Valparaiso, spoke on Valparaiso; W. A. McInery, South Bend, spoke on "The Papacy", T. J. McLaughlin of Fort Wayne, on "Our Order," and Honorable Patrick O'Keefe, of Kentland, Ind., on "Catholics in the History of the United States."
The charter list as made up of the following: William S. Hogan, Louis A. Moench, Edmund J. Ball, P. W. Clifford, Frank W. Gallagher, Louis J. Gast, Thomas C. Howard, Lewis T. Jaeger, John J. Murray, James H. Stack, John E. Walsh, John A. Bahr, Lewis J. Horn, William F. Spooner, Edward Trudell, Andrew Beyer, Daniel E. Kelly, Jacob Edelman, Anthony J. Gast, Thomas H. Hartford, Joseph W. Murphy, Louis Sprenell, Fred W. Wager, Joseph A. Welsh, Edward F. Clifford, Peter J. Horn, Thomas Stack, Daniel C. Daly and Cornelius Daly.
The first officers installed following the initiatory ceremonies were: P. W. Clifford, grand knight; Thomas Howard, deputy grand knight; Frank Gallagher, recording secretary; Fred Wager, financial secretary; Joseph Murphy, treasurer; Daniel E. Kelly, advocate; Rev. W. S. Hogan, chaplain.
During the early years of the council a number of new members were added through initiations. However, the growth was of a slow and steady order. Like other orders of the day the local council had its ups and downs. No attempt was made at promotional campaigns or artificial stimuli. In the beginning, it was a struggle on the part of the council officials, who labored unselfishly and unceasingly during their terms of office to keep the organization intact.
The old saying that a lull precedes a storm is well illustrated in the history of the local council, for the period immediately prior to the world war was a time of decided inactivity. Efforts toward the revival of the council were underway when the world war broke out. The efforts were, of course, speeded up when the Knights of Columbus entered their war activities. Many members of the local council joined the forces of Uncle Sam, and thousands of soldiers were sent to Valparaiso university for military training.
These events served to inspire the members of the local council. Perhaps the fact that two members of Valparaiso council, John C. Manion and T. P. Galvin, had become secretaries in charge of the Knights of Columbus war activities at Camp Greene, Charlotte, N. C., was instrumental in aiding the awakening. Both these men subsequently entered the service and the great tragedy of the war for Valparaiso council was the death of Brother Manion, which occurred at Camp Mills, New York, during the influenza epidemic of 1918.
John M. Fabing was elected grand knight of the local council during the war period, and he, together with Fred Hartig and others, were instrumental in bringing about a splendid increase in membership. T. P. Galvin returned from the war in 1919, and was elected grand knight of the council at the fall election of that year. The impetus which had been given the council by the war activities and the splendid work of Grand Knight Fabing and others, made the success of the council that year assured.
Grand Knight Galvin was ably assisted by the lecturer, Fred Hartig, who staged a number of memorable social events. It was during this year that Valparaiso council came in for favorable mention at the state convention due to the fact that the council had shown the largest increase in membership during the year. Recognition of these activities was given to the council in that Grand Knight Galvin was elected as a delegate to the supreme convention held in New York City in August, 1920. This honor that was paid the Valparaiso council in the annual report of the retiring state deputy, the late Stephan Callahan.
When Joseph M. Nurre became state deputy in 1920, he conferred further honors on Valparaiso council by appointing T. P. Galvin as district deputy. The new district deputy organized the famous Valparaiso third degree team which spread the fame of the council throughout the middle west.
When Brother Galvin became district deputy he was succeeded by Edward O'Meara as grand knight, and the success of the local council continued under his administration without interruption. The third degree team during the years 1920, 1921, 1922 and 1923, exemplified the third degree for the councils at Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Ben, Mishawaka, Notre Dame, Elkhart, Plymouth, Peru, Hammond, Lafayette and Michigan City.
Among those who served on the degree team at different times were: Rev. E. J. Mungovan, Joseph Carey, Edward O'Meara, Joseph Wilseam, Charles Reagan, August Kinder, Fred Hartig, Leonard Gannon, Frank Cincoski, C. P. Daly, Lawrence Comeford, George Griffin, Frank Reibly and Peter Bentley.
The work of the degree team and the council were further recognized when District Deputy Galvin was elected to attend the supreme convention held at San Francisco in 1921 and at Montreal in 1923, as a delegate from the Indiana jurisdiction, and in his election as state deputy of the order for the jurisdiction of Indiana at the conventions held in 1925, 1926 and 1927.
Edward O'Meara was re-elected for three terms as grand knight, and finally terminated his service in the fall of 1924, when Lawrence Comeford was elected to succeed him. Brother Comeford served two terms as grand knight and was succeeded in the fall of 1926 by Frank Fabing, who had served the council as financial secretary for many years. Brother Fabing was in turn succeeded by Charles Reagan.
During Brother Reagan's regime the council took on new life; meetings were well attended, and new members added. Much of the credit for the success of the council was due to Rev. Edward J. Mungovan, whose loyal support and enthusiasm was a constant inspiration to the members.
The administration of Brother Reagan was marked by the silver anniversary celebration of the council. Upwards of 500 knights attended the ceremonies held by the council. Three outside councils, Plymouth, LaPorte and Michigan City, participated in the program, which was ushered in with mass at 8 a. m., at St. Paul's church. In the afternoon the three degrees were exemplified upon fifty candidates from Valparaiso, Michigan City, LaPorte and Plymouth at Community hall on Indiana avenue. At 6:30 o'clock a banquet was held at the Elks' temple. Talks were made by T. P. Galvin, P. W. Clifford, Edward J. Fogarty, warden of the Cook county jail in Chicago; Daniel E. Kelly and Rev. Joseph Seimetz. Attorney Edward J. Ryan, advocate of the Valparaiso council, acted as toastmaster.
L. F. Beckwith succeeded Grand Knight Reagan in 1928 and was re-elected in 1929. He was followed by Joseph Reibly, who served three terms, in 1930, 1931 and 1932. Francis X. Gast was elected in 1933, and James Scott in 1934 and 1935. James Comeford is the present grand knight, having been elected this year.
Others who have served as grand knight are Daniel E. Kelly, Thomas C. Howard, Edward H. Heilstedt, Thomas B. Clifford, Daniel Kane, John F. Griffin, Cornelius P. Daly, Ralph McGillicuddy and Dr. E. J. Balt.
Valparaiso council has occupied a number of homes since its institution back in 1903. The lodge quarters were first in the Ross and Bannister building on the present site of the Valparaiso post office building. Then they were located in the Gast building, 58 Lincolnway, now owned by the Farmers' bank; over the present VIDETTE-MESSENGER building; Community hall on Indiana avenue; over the old Beach jewelry store; the Morris store, and now they are back to 58 Lincolnway, where they were housed twenty years ago.
Since its founding, the lodge has always celebrated Columbus day and held stag parties on New Year's eve. The latter even was discontinues last year. At the present time the council has 125 members. In P. W. Clifford the local council has the oldest member in the state, he having joined Chicago Council No. 183 on July 10, 1896.
Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook
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