Boniface Frederick Verheyen was born on 22 May 1844 at house number 16 in Qualburg and baptized on 23 May 1844 at St. Martin’s Catholic Church in Qualburg, Rhenish, Prussia. He was the son of Johann Verheyen and Bartholomea Zadelaer and grandson of Herman and Eva (Josten) Verheyen and Fredericus and Margaretha (Thunison) Zadelaer.

In 1849, he left Germany on the Oregon from Le Havre, France, along with other members of his family and the Verhaalen, Wells, and Boll families from their community. After a voyage of fifty-three days, they arrived in New Orleans on 27 April 1849. The family traveled upriver to St. Louis, then to Milwaukee, before returning to St. Louis shortly after the Great Fire in May of 1849.

Records at St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Louis reveal that his father died on 14 August 1850 and was buried the following day. Six weeks later, his mother married a recent widower, Joachim “Garms” Gamers, who was from Rees, Germany, close to Qualburg.

On 30 March 1856, Frederick made his First Communion and was confirmed at St. Joseph’s Church. The 1860 census shows him living in the Joachim Gamers household with his mother Eliza, brother Herman, and half-sister Louisa, in the 8th Ward of St. Louis. He had no occupation, although later records indicate he worked in a planning mill with his brother and was a carpenter’s apprentice.

On 22 November 1862, he went to St. Benedict’s College in Atchison, Kansas, to begin his classical studies. In 1865, he went to St. Vincent’s Abbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to begin his novitiate to become a Benedictine monk. There, he made his profession of vows on 15 August 1866 and continued at St. Vincent’s to study philosophy and theology. He was ordained on 26 August 1869 in Atchison.

At St. Benedict’s College, in 1869, he taught English grammar, rhetoric, elocution, and geography. He continued teaching there until 1875, when he volunteered to become a chaplain to the soldiers serving on the frontiers of Kansas, the Indian Territory, and Texas.

He returned to Atchison where he was pastor of St. Benedict’s Church from 1877 to 1878, while also teaching at the college. Outside of this and a few other short stints as pastor, he served as a professor at the college his entire career. According to his superiors, he lacked the ability for fundraising and was too easygoing to effectively function as head of a parish. However, this deficiency benefited the college where he taught history, literature, homiletics, physics, and chemistry during his fifty-year teaching career. He was affable, warm-hearted, and intellectually curious. He was a noted English scholar, historian, scientist, and translator of several works, among these, The Rule of St. Benedict.

While at St. Benedict’s, he was appointed as the first prior of the abbey in 1876, a position he held on and off during the ensuing years. During his early years as a priest, he rode on horseback to serve the missions in the surrounding area on Sundays.

He kept in touch with his family in St. Louis as evidenced by his baptizing his nephew and namesake, Boniface Frederick Verheyen, son of Herman and Mary Crancer, on 6 August 1871 at St. Joseph’s in St. Louis. He also officiated at the wedding of his niece, May Verheyen to Henry Kissel on 9 June 1908 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in St. Louis.

His fellow monks honored his Golden Sacerdotal Jubilee on 26 August 1919 at St. Benedict’s College with a Solemn High Mass, grand banquet, and musical program followed by a baseball game. He died suddenly at the abbey on 23 December 1923 of “diabetes and weakness of old age,” with burial in the cemetery on the college grounds.

Written by Joe Armour
March 2019

© 2019 St. Louis Genealogical Society


Boniface Verheyen, 1864
Father Boniface Verheyen, 1864
Photo in the collection of Joe Armour
Used with permission
Boniface Verheyen, 1886
Father Boniface Verheyen, 1886
Photo in the collection of Joe Armour
Used with permission

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Last Modified: 04-Feb-2021 16:58