Liebenthal, Kansas

J.S. and S.W. Aber

Liebenthal, a small town in west-central Kansas, was founded by German-Russian emigrants from the Volga region of Russia in 1876. It is the oldest of several similar settlements in Ellis and Rush counties. As devout Catholics, religion played a large part in the lives of the early inhabitants of these communities, and they built several impressive stone churches. The cornerstone for St. Joseph's Kirche (Church) was laid in 1902, and the new church was dedicated in 1905. Subsequent additions included a parish house and school building. Unfortunately the church and parish house were destroyed by fire in 1917. These were rebuilt, and the present church was dedicated in 1921.

Liebenthal is located next to Big Timber Creek, a tributary of the Smoky Hill River. This vicinity is part of the Blue Hills physiographic region, which is underlain by chalk, limestone and shale bedrock. The Fencepost Limestone is a chalky limestone bed that was quarried widely for construction purposes, including thousands of fenceposts and many buildings, bridges, towers, and churches. This limestone is relatively soft and easily worked when first exposed; after drying, it becomes a handsome stone that endures the relatively dry climate of western Kansas quite well. It is the primary stone of St. Joseph's Church and other German-Russian Catholic churches of the region.

In May 2006, we visited Liebenthal for kite aerial photography. We found a flying place at the cemetery about a quarter mile west of the church. Late afternoon lighting toward the east gave excellent illumination of the town and church. With a large rokkaku we photographed the town, church, cemetery and surrounding farmland with the Canon S70 digital camera. We used both the wide-angle and telephoto zoom modes for different fields of view.

Overview of kite flying situation. Town of Liebenthal appears in upper left corner, and edge of cemetery is at bottom of scene. The kite line leads down to the authors standing next to our car in the corner of the cemetery parking. Notice the stone fenceposts along the field boundaries.
View over the town of Liebenthal. US highway 183 crosses the scene from left to right, and a county road runs eastward into the distance. St. Joseph's Church stands next to the highway on right side; water tower to left front, and sewage treatment ponds in left rear. Trees follow meandering Big Timber Creek behind the town.
Closeup view of St. Joseph's Church taken with the zoom lens extended to long focal length. Even in this mode, cars moving on the highway appear to be stopped in place.
Stone construction of St. Joseph's Church. Detail of arch over main door. Typical weathered appearance of Fencepost Limestone; note the drill marks on each stone showing how the bed was quarried by hand labor.
Vertical overview of St. Joseph's cemetery. Note the distinctive shadows cast by tombstones in the late afternoon sun.
Closeup vertical view of the cemetery. Person (SW) is standing right of scene center next to the gravel path. Many burials are marked by darker green rectangles in the mowed lawn.
View toward the southeast over agricultural fields. Distinctive contour plowing and terraces curve across the sloping landscape.
View toward the west over agricultural fields. On level ground, rectangular fields and straight plowing is evident.

Related site

Text and images © J.S. and S.W. Aber

Return to KAP gallery.
Last update: July 2006.