A solid century for the “Swinkey” Knights of Columbus


The future looks bright for the Indian Creek Knights of Columbus St. Stephen Council 1971.

The council, chartered just outside Monroe City in 1919, marked its 100th anniversary Saturday, June 15.

“I am part of a legacy that my father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all part of,” said recent high school graduate Blake Hays, who plans to join the group in July.

He becomes the fourth generation of Hays men who belong to Council 1971.

At the council’s annual Palm Sunday breakfast in April, Grand Knight Darin Underhill reminded high school seniors to stick to the group’s values and avoid the distractions and temptations of life as they leave home for college or enter the workforce.

“Outside of the Church itself, the Knights of Columbus is the premier organization for helping Catholic men put their faith into action,” Mr. Underhill stated.

The 100th anniversary celebration included an outdoor Mass at the St. Stephen parish pavilion, followed by a barbecue and music.

It was the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

At the Mass, Father Greggory Oligschlaeger, pastor of St. Stephen parish and of neighboring Holy Rosary parish in Monroe City, likened the combined strength of the Knights to the power of the Holy Trinity.

“Coming together, we can help one another,” he said, citing the Knights’ early mission of helping widows and orphans during the Industrial Age.

Time flies

Little written history of the St. Stephen Knights exists today.

Some think the records, including the original charter, were lost in a rectory fire.

Today’s membership remains strong, with many holding memberships for more than half of the council’s 100-year history.

Bill McClintic is the oldest living member, having joined the order 69 years ago.

Pat Hays has been a member for 62 years, and his brother Nick Hays chalked up 58 years. Both attended the 100-year celebration, along with sons who are fellow Knights.

The Hays brothers’ father, Lamar, served as a grand knight from 1955-57. Today, Nick’s grandson, Donnie Hays, is carrying the family tradition into the fourth generation.

Other long-time members include: Pat Maher, Jack Bodine and Paul Quinn, 57 years; Bill Smith and Matt Spalding, 56 years; brothers George and James Buckman, Donnie Wayne Hays and Dwayne Williams, 50 years.

Dennis Finnigan, Dwight Shuck and Bill Morkin have more than 50 years of membership.

“Vivat Iesus!”

Wilfred Spalding was the St. Stephen council’s first grand knight.

The list of his successors is a litany of local surnames: H. Clay Hays, Ernest B. Hagan, Bob Montgomery, Ernest B. Hagan (second term), Adolph Adam, Martin Williams, Burrel Ford, Matt Blickhan, Clarence Hays, Alfred Parsons, Gerald Spalding, Matt Blickhan, John A. Smith, Steve Williams, Johnny B. Yager, Lamar Hays, John Paul Adam, Earl Crowley, Richard Adam, Greg Buckman, Walter Quinn, Paul Quinn, Joe Loren Hays, Nick Hays, Lee Anderson, Matt Spalding, Dennis Spalding, Dwayne Williams, Keith Hays, Danny Adam, Bill Smith, Ralph Lemongelli, Bob Quinn, Chris Quinn, Floyd Buckman, Scott Hays, Sam Smith, David Hays, Ed Born, Shane Spalding, Danny Sims, Frank Lemongelli, Matt Hays and Eric Keller.

Where there is charity

Today, the members remain true to the Knights’ purpose of charitable acts by spending long hours raising funds for worthy causes.

They sell concessions at the annual K of C Basketball Tournament for local fifth- and sixth-graders each year. They accept donations for Tootsie Rolls at the town’s only four-way stop to support the Sheltered Workshop employee summer field trip and other causes to help children with disabilities.

They also fund their pledge to Holy Rosary School’s playground equipment fund, the parish’s vocation fund and the Adoration Chapel.

Members also help support pro-life efforts. They offer paper roses for parishioners to sign and send to lawmakers to remind them of the value of human life.

Through the Knights Missouri State Council’s Meet Life Campaign, they also help provide ultrasound machines for local pregnancy help centers.

The St. Stephen Knights also sponsor “fun raising” activities such as an Easter egg hunt after Easter morning Mass, horseshoe tournaments and a friendly, highly-competitive rabbit hunt with members of the neighboring Holy Rosary council.

The Knights also provide support for the state’s oldest church picnic — St. Stephen’s Swinkey Picnic — each July.

Filled with grace and power

Council 1971 is an integral part of St. Stephen Catholic Church at Indian Creek.

Catholics settled the community in 1830, many of them arriving on horseback or by wagon train from Kentucky.

Most were English; a few were Irish.

Father Peter Paul Lefevere, a missionary and future bishop of Detroit, visited the community and offered the first recorded Mass there on Jan. 5, 1833.

The parish received its name for the martyred St. Stephen, namesake of Stephen Yates, who donated a small tract of land for the church and cemetery.

Parishioners built a log church in 1838 and held the first Mass there in August.

Today, Indian Creek — or “Swinkey,” as it is affectionately called — remains a blink-of-the-eye spot in the road where a handful of residents live peacefully.

Yet, on Sunday mornings, the town swells to several hundred faithful churchgoers, a mix of families tracing back to the original settlers, with a sprinkling of campers and boaters from nearby Mark Twain Lake.

Three, and sometimes four, generations of a family sit in the same oak pews where their ancestors prayed.

The welcome sound of crying babies frequently drowns out the priest’s voice, a sign that the parish’s future remains bright.

Humble beginnings

The Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic fraternal service in the world.

Founded in 1882 as a mutual benefit society for Catholic men, the order grew to nearly 2 million members and 15,900 councils by 2018.

Established before most government safety-net programs, the Knights supported widows and orphans.

In 2017, it donated $185.6 million to a broad range of charitable causes.

Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney, an Irish immigrant, and a group of men in St. Mary parish in New Haven, Connecticut, founded the first Knights of Columbus council.

Fr. McGivney saw the sufferings of widows and orphans in his largely immigrant community.

He had suspended his own seminary studies in order to care for his mother after his father died.

The Knights’ Charter of 1899 included four statements of purpose, including: “To promote such social and intellectual intercourse among its members as shall be desirable and proper, and by such lawful means as to them shall seem best.”

Faith and family were benchmarks of the group’s members. The order also expected its men to take an active part in fatherhood and childrearing.

The order’s first three degrees promote charity, unity and fraternity.

In 1903, the order’s directors officially approved a fourth degree, focused on duty to God and country.

The order expressed a “desire to receive within its ranks only the best” and declared that members should be practicing Catholics.

As one measure, each candidate was required to submit a certificate from his parish priest attesting that he had received Holy Communion within the past two weeks.