Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Parochial Tradition


In the heart of tiny Polo, South Dakota sits a complex of Spanish mission style buildings known as St. Liborius Catholic church.  These buildings, erected in 1904, were central to the lives of the German Catholics of the area, offering everything except formal education for their children.

George & CasperIn 1923, that would change.  Casper Kluthe, along with his brother-in-law, George Lechtenberg, and William Froning, took the lead in establishing a parochial boarding school.  The parish hall building was converted into a three-room school, with the building between them used as a dormitory for the young scholars.

Casper Kluthe may have been influenced by his own parents’ deep involvement in the church at Olean, Nebraska, where they were charter members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.  The parochial school there was erected in 1893, when Casper was five years old.

School opened at St. Liborius on September 13, 1923, with an enrollment of 68.  The school was administered by eighty-eight Benedictine sisters from Yankton, South Dakota, and after 1960, from Watertown, South Dakota. The school population peaked in the 1970s, and the school eventually became a public district in 1988.


St. Liborius in recent times


Bring on the Pioneers!  History of Hand County, Scott Heidepriem.  1978.
Polo Schools: Where Memories Were Made (All-School reunion booklet)
Undated newspaper clipping on Sacred Heart church history, from the scrapbook of Jennie Schlechter Kluthe

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