Tuesday, 08 January 2008
The FBI Has Nothing on St. Labre
By Nancy Leitz
One day in the mid 1950s, a letter came to our home on Greenway Avenue, Darby asking us for a donation to help the Crow and Northern Cheyenne children in a school run by the Catholic Missions. The school was called St. Labre and was in Ashland, Montana.
St. Labre had been started in 1884 by the Ursuline Nuns of Toledo, Ohio. The Bishop of Montana had begged them for help for the unfortunate Indian children who, at that time, did not even have a reservation to live on and certainly no school to attend.
The Sisters answered the Bishop's call and made the long journey to Montana to help the children. They started the school and began the daunting task of raising enough money to keep the school afloat. By 1954, only 64 children were enrolled and the current Sisters knew that many more children needed a place to live and an education. So, they began to send letters out asking for help.
We were a struggling young family with not much money left over after our own expenses but surely we could afford a Dollar or two for these poor children who so desperately needed it. We sent a few dollars when we could each year and started to receive small hand made gifts from them. We would receive a little "dreamcatcher" or a plastic tepee. Anything to attract your attention and interest you in their cause. So, until 1962 we were regular contributors to St. Labre.
In 1962, we moved to Hampton, Virginia and although I had a difficult time getting the post office to acknowledge our move from Darby, St Labre's fund raisers had no problem at all finding us. Theirs was the very first letter I received addressed to our name at 20 Bedford Court.
So we were back in the system and the wigwams and moccasins started to flow to Virginia and, because we were slightly better off financially, we were able to send them a few extra dollars each time we heard from them.
In 1964, we moved across town to a new house at 6 Maume Circle , Hampton and although the Bell Telephone Company, Virginia Power and Light, and all the rest took over two months to "catch up" with us, to St. Labre's it was a piece of cake. They had a tepee in the mail before the moving van left.
After several months in the new house, we became friendly with our neighbors and one of them had applied to become an FBI agent and had used our name as a reference. That was fine with us but we had just been informed by our employer that we were being transferred back to Pennsylvania in May, so the agency would have to keep track of us in our move because we had no idea where we would be going. We had already sold our home in Darby so we would have to buy a new property. But where?
We did have a little cottage in the woods in Arcola, Pennsylvania, and thought we could squeeze in there for two months while we found a permanent home. We had always spent our summers there, so the people in the area knew us. So that is where we
We packed some clothing and enough pots and pans and dishes to live in the cottage, and had the moving company take everything else to storage.
When we got to Arcola and began to unpack, the first thing I found was the paper with our forwarding address on it. It had never been mailed to anyone informing them of our move. It was a bad mistake on my part, and I mailed it a few days later when I went to the Arcola (population 50) post office to let them know we were back.
Mrs. Dyson, the postmistress, gave us a very warm welcome and our first piece of mail. Can you guess who it was from? Yep! It was from St. Labre. Can you believe it?
The next morning, a knock came on our screen door and two men in dark suits and sunglasses asked if they could come in to check a reference that they had been given by a prospective agent. It was the FBI. They told me they had had a difficult time tracking us down there in the woods, but that they were the FBI and never failed to find their man.
I didn't have the heart to tell them that they were beaten to the punch by the Indian Orphans of St. Labre School.