St. Patrick Emerald has historically been a small Catholic community capable of some truly amazing accomplishments. Its history dates back to 1856 when Anderson County was established as part of the Kansas territory. The early settlers were Irish immigrants who settled along Iantha Creek and Northwestern Anderson County.
A Belgian missionary named Father Scott presided over the first Mass, which was held in the home of Edward Reddington, in May 1859. Shortly afterwards construction began on a log cabin church. The church was located on prominent hilltop acreage donated by Henry Collins. Logs were hauled from as far away as Garnett. Work was done "at the risk of peril" as threatening prairie fires and border ruffians were a constant danger to the frontiersman. Once completed, Father Schnacht, a Carmelite, would regularly ride from Scipio to Emerald on horseback to say Mass.
The Homestead Act became law in 1862 and brought additional settlers to the territory. Shortly after the Civil War the log cabin church was no longer adequate for the growing community and a new 55 x 35 foot stone church was constructed. Railroads made it possible for pioneers to acquire the "finer things in life" however shortages of building material still existed. Native stone was quarried, but sand for the mortar was not available. Consequently, parishioners manually crushed rock into sand. John Hoffman, a Burlington stone mason did the masonry work and the church was dedicated on August 15, 1870.
During the 1870's and 80's large numbers of immigrants flowed into Kansas. Soon Emerald became an Irish–German community. By 1895 Emerald had more than 75 families attending church. Forty years after the first Mass a magnificent 55 x 100 foot Roman style church was dedicated. Brick was used for the structure and the foundation was constructed of granite rock from Texas. A majestic dome, which resembles the dome in the Statehouse at Topeka, was visible for many miles away. St. Patrick's became known as the "Cathedral of the Plains." America's economy turned from agriculture to industry before the fire in 1939, in the 20th century. By 1936 Emerald had dwindled to 48 families. The stock market crash, bank failures, Dust Bowl and economic decline of the Great Depression made life difficult for the farm community. It is impossible to imagine how devastated the parishioners fell when lightning struck and guarded the church on September 29, 1939.
With $50,000 in damages ($650,000 today) and only $10,000 in insurance, the tiny parish was confronted with a challenging situation. Repairing the church was a monumental task. With their fore-fathers can-do pioneering spirit and determination, the church was restored to its present state by November 1940.
After World War II Emerald's young parishioners returned home and started families of their own. In 1953 Father Jack Herrington arrived and laid plans to renovate the church. Major work included: plumbing, heating, and new plate glass windows and doors. In 1955 construction of the parish basement and kitchen began. The basement was completed in time for the 1960 Centennial Celebration Dinner, still used extensively today.
In 2009-2010 St. Patrick's Parish held their 150 Sesquicentennial Celebration.