Visible for miles and founded in 1847 as the Catholic Osage Mission to educate Osage children. Romanesque Revival building has five altars and numerous stained glass windows. The grounds include gardens, statues, stone bell tower, and walkway. The bell in the 1947 bell tower was brought to the mission in 1847 and is believed to be the first church bell used in Kansas.
The first schoolhouse in Crawford County was a log cabin built at the same location in 1867. Classes began in 1867 and continued through 1955. The Cato Historical Preservation Association maintains the schoolhouse as a historical attraction, with free admission, as a symbol of education.
The still standing one-room, vernacular stone, school building was constructed in 1869 with classes being held there until 1955. The Cato School is in the Historic Public Schools of Kansas multiple property submission as an example of the one-room country school property type dating from the early statehood period (1861-1880).
Founded in 1854, Cato is believed to be the first community built in the Southeast Kansas area, and it has the distinction of having the first grist mill in Crawford County, the first coal mining operation, the first school in the county, and the first County Fair. Cato was never a large town, reaching its peak population in 1910 with 112 residents.
An old, one-room, stone school house built in 1869 is on the National Register of Historic Places. The stone school house, the Cato Christian Church built in 1915, and a stone bridge that was once on the stage coach route, are all that remain of the community.
Each year the Cato Historical Preservation Association spends one weekend reminding residents and tourists of the pioneer days. The festival includes tours of the pioneer era community, live music, food, and re-enactments, occasionally “including a shoot-out between Missouri border roughians and Kansas lawmen”.
Landscape paintings “Autumn Symphony” and “Wild Horse Creek” by Birger Sandzéns decorate the entrance foyer of McCray Hall on the campus of Pittsburg State University.
Sven Birger Sandzén was born in Blidsberg, Sweden on February 5, 1871. He immigrated to Lindsborg, Kansas at the age of 23 to teach at Bethany College. He taught French, Swedish, German and Spanish until 1899 when he become the principal art instructor at Bethany.
A true Renaissance man, he was the tenor soloist with the Bethany Oratorio Society (1896-1901 and 1903-1905) and gave many recitals with his wife, Alfrida Leksell Sandzén, a talented pianist. Sandzén was an accomplished writer as well, contributing articles and folktales to Swedish-American newspapers for many years. As a professional artist, Sandzén produced oils, watercolors, and prints which now hang in homes, schools and galleries throughout the United States.
In the early twenties and thirties he exhibited extensively, including two exhibitions at the Babcock Galleries in New York. In addition to his Kansas landscapes, he is famous for his paintings of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, Utah and the Southwest. Birger Sandzén died in Lindsborg, Kansas on June 19, 1954.