Fr. Joseph Kundek
Ferdinand Distinguished Citizens
FATHER JOSEPH KUNDEK
Father Kundek was first Distinguished citizen of Ferdinand, Indiana to be selected to start the Corner of Distinguished Citizens in the Ferdinand Library.
He was born 24 August, 1810, in Ivanich, Croatia (then Astro-Hungary) now Yugoslavia. His father died when he was one year of age. He and his brother were raised by his mother. In school/seminary he learned German, French and English. After his ordination, through the Leopoldine Society, a generous contributor toward missions in the USA, he became acquainted with missionary work in this country. He was accepted into the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, by Bishop Rt. Rev. Simon Gabrial Brute.
In 1838 he was sent to Jasper, Indiana, where he founded St. Joseph's Catholic Church. In 1840 he founded Ferdinand; in 1843 he founded Celestine, Ind. and 1847 he founded St. Pius in Troy, Indiana, and Fulda, Indiana, in 1848. History tells us that he bought the land in Ferdinand and sold only to Catholics whom he convinced to come to settle in the area.
Early immigrants (in Cincinnati, Ohio) worked to buy land to settle in Indiana. These and other immigrants took boats on the Ohio river to Troy, Indiana, and then north to Jasper, Indiana, going through the area of Ferdinand. Those who came by way of New Orleans came to Troy by boat up the Mississippi and Ohio River – Evansville on the west and St. Mary's of the Knobs on east. During his travels he conceived the idea of establishing two rest stations (Catholic towns) along the bumpy and lonely road between Jasper and Troy, a distance of 30 miles. One station was in the area of Fulda (9 miles north of Troy) and the second station in Ferdinand (12 miles south of Jasper).
George R. Wilson, historian in Dubois County considered "Father Kundek, probably the most remarkable man that ever had lived and died in Dubois County."
In 1853, Indiana law, authorizing Board of County Commissioners of each County to appoint 1-3 school examiners. Father was appointed for Dubois County.
He was instrumental in getting Benedictines in Switzerland to settle and set up a seminary to train men for the priesthood (now Saint Meinrad Archabbey).
He was instrumental in rebuilding the County Courthouse in Jasper, Indiana, in 1844 after the original structure was destroyed by fire.
He was involved in the forming of the church in St. Meinrad (along with the Monastery breaking from St. Ferdinand at this time).
Father Kundek displayed a Slavonic love of bright colors, pomp, and ceremony combined with the German liking for military display of song, voice, and trumpet. He also loved 4th of July celebrations, escorting the arrival of celebrities, Corpus Christi celebrations, and processions through town.
In 1988, the Ferdinand Historical Society and town officials arranged to have 9th street from Main St. east to the church steps named Kundek Street in honor of Father Kundek. A Kundek marker was installed on the corner of Kundek and Main Street. It was designed by Alice Kemper. Wayne Seufert and Association donated the land and Landscaping. The marker was part-donated by Schum Monuments of Dale, Indiana; Albert Hassfurther donated welding of steel supports.
In 1989, the Ferdinand Historical Society created copies of the original Town Plat that Father Kundek took to Europe to entice immigrants (German-speaking) to settle in Ferdinand, Indiana. The copies of this plat were available for sale from the Historical Society. The original Town Plat shows the land Father Kundek bought around Ferdinand — and sold only to Catholics.
Leading up to the Sesquicentennial celebration in Ferdinand in 1990, the Ferdinand Historical Society set up September 10, 1989, as "Kundek Sunday" recognizing Ferdinand as location of settlement for his flock of German Immigrants. He laid out the town on a plat, nailed a sign "Ferdinand Stadt" to a tree in area of Kundek and Main Street and advertised his "New Town" in papers in Europe, the first step in a long, hard journey of settling the area of Southern Indiana. Kundek Sunday included activities open to the public. President of Town Board, Charles Schuler, proclaimed Kundek Sunday at 2:00 PM following 11:30 AM luncheon at the Ferdinand American Legion. An interesting, informative and enjoyable slide show (funded by Indiana Commission for the Humanities) was presented for those present.
Father Kundek died in March 1857 and is buried in Jasper, Indiana.
One hundred years after his death throughout the USA and Europe, the Kundek Centennial was proclaimed. The religious celebration of Kundek Centennial was observed on the Feast of Immaculate Conception on December 8,1957.