Home | Mission & Goals | Meeting Schedule | Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

The Story of the Mountain
Mount Saint Mary's College and Seminary

Mary E. Meline & Edward F.X. McSween

Published by the Emmitsburg Chronicle, 1911

Chapter 13 | Chapter Index

Chapter 14: 1826-1827

There is no formal record of the election of Fathers Egan and McGerry as President and vice-President, although one of Father Brute's notes informs us that his vote elected the former who had been in charge of the parish. The latter had been on the mission in Washington, but whether he had then returned or not to the Mountain does not appear.

Quoting Father Brute's jottings we find "17th 7ber, 1826; agreed that M. Egan is our President. 9bre, M. McGerry is Vice President. 4th 7ber, 1826

  1. 1818. Tried to sell away all.
  2. 1826. Tried a college ‘a la maison des pauvres.
  3. M. Hickey might have been president, but he was removed to Emmitsburg.
  4. M. Dubois Bishop of New York: it was thought all would be broken made a Military Academy made a Protestant Institution.
  5. The Sulpician M. Deluol to come, or we to keep the place for them.
  6. The Jesuits ditto.
  7. A firm of which I was to be a member.
  8. I had already spoken to sell my library to the Archbishop and to St. Sulpice to save all.
  9. M. Egan failed at the Jesuits. . . .
  10. I found that M. Egan wished to be rather the president; that I yield most willingly. . . . M. Dubois repeatedly insisted for my succeeding him. I would never consent unless absolutely necessary, ..." and so on.

As we understand from Father Brute's observations the principle of Dubois was "'firm will, no mercy.' Trust not his (Dubois') deeds," he writes to the Archbishop, "the best men forget; have them reviewed."

Father Brute’ wrote about everything to the Archbishop, telling him also that "as his Grace himself had agreed and STORY OF THE MOUNTAIN, seen evidently necessary I was beginning the class of divinity as usual."

He refers to the "enormous load," but says that they will be all" 'one heart and one soul' in so great an affair," and he hopes the Archbishop who had been consulted all along, would "trust and bless" those who undertook the charge when others refused it. He reiterates his regret at being separated from St. Sulpice, but would not consent to remain a member if "what the Archbishop himself wished to preserve "should be destroyed. He would not consent to the provision expressed in the Archbishop's reply to Dubois that the Ordinary should nominate the head of the proposed society, saying that neither St. Sulpice nor the Jesuits nor the Sisters accept their Superior in this way, but by their own constitutions.

The following documents speak for themselves:

A question: By the concession of the inclosed articles, would the Most Eev. Archbishop, in any manner implicate or endanger the interests of St. Sulpice?

The decision of this question will help to determine him in his resolution, in the present crisis of our affairs and we solicit an answer to it, as soon as it can conveniently be given.

Signed. Michael De Buego Egan, & J. F. McGerry.

7ber 24. 1826.

The answer: Leaving aside the question whether it will be favorable or not, to the interests of St. Sulpice, my opinion is that, all circumstances being taken into consideration, the Most Rev. Archbishop will do well to grant to Mr. Michael De Burgo Egan and Mr. J. F. McGerry, the petition they presented to him last Saturday morning ; and that the Society of St. Sulpice will not take umbrage at it.

Signed. John Tessier, S. S., Supr.

Sept. 25, 1826.

In this opinion we concur with our Revd-Superior: L Deluol & S.S, M. F. Wheeler S. S.

The articles referred to were these:

Articles of agreement between the most Revd. Archbishop Ambrose Marechal, Archbishop of Baltimore on the one part, and the Revd. Mich'l De Burgo Egan, and the Rev. John F. McGerry on the other:

The Establishment of Emmitsburg and its Directors shall be considered by the Archbishop as a Petit Seminaire, that is, a Literary Institution in which all the branches of Education will be taught from the Elements of Grammar to Philosophy inclusively. Its end will be principally to cultivate in those young men called to the Ecclesiastical State, the habits of Piety, innocence of manners, application to study, etc., etc., and to form young men destined for the world to' literature, to the knowledge and practice of the duties of their holy Religion.

But as such an establishment cannot exist without a sufficient number of competent professors, the Archbishop agrees to grant to its Directors out of the subjects of his Diocese brought up by them, those who shall be deemed necessary during a reasonable time, that is, proportionate to the expenses which the institution has made for their education.

The Directors will determine that time with the young men, to whom they gave or are to give, partially or totally a gratuitous education, and the Archbishop will see that the contract so made be fulfilled by the subjects of his Diocese, either before their course of Divinity or afterward.

The Directors will retain a number of young men of other dioceses as teachers according to the rules of distributive justice, and this for a time equivalent to the expenses made on their behalf, for the burden of teaching cannot be laid on the subjects of the diocese of Baltimore alone.

General Principles.

1. There shall not be a permanent school either of Dogmatic or Moral Theology in the Institution of Emmitsburg.

2. The Archbishop agrees that a School of Holy Scripture and Sacred Eloquence be opened in the Seminary of Emmitsburg.

Exceptions to the above:

General Principles.

That for five years at most Theology may be taught in the Seminary of Emmitsburg, to enable the said Revd. Mich'l De Burgo Egan and the Revd. John P. McGerry to receive sufficient compensation from said students for the ministry whom they would raise at their own expense, not only from other dioceses, but also from the diocese of Baltimore, whenever they will declare they cannot do without their services ; well understood also, that the said Revd. gentlemen will do their best to keep such only of the diocese of Baltimore as they cannot do without.

It must be understood that although the young men of the diocese of Baltimore have permission from the Most Revd. Archbishop to continue their Theological studies at the Seminary of Emmitsburg, they will be obliged to remain in the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Baltimore for as long a term before ordination, as the said Archbishop may think proper.

The said Revd. gentlemen of the Seminary of Emmitsburg do obligate themselves to endeavor so to provide that at the end of five years the teaching of Theology will cease. They will of course make arrangements in the meantime that such cessation of Theology may not injure the interests of the Establishment.

The Most Revd. Archbishop agrees that the Revd. J. Purcell, brought up and sent to France at the expense of a member of this Institution of Emmitsburg, shall on his return, devote his services to the good of said Institution.

Done this 25th day of September, 1826.

AMB..A. B.

Mich'l De Bubgo Egan

J. P. McGerry.

Other articles: The following agreement entered by and between the Right Revd. John Dubois, Bishop Elect of New York on the one part, and the Revd. Mich'l De Burgo Egan and the Revd. JohnF. McGerry on the other witnesseth:

That the Right Revd' John Dubois, Bishop Elect of Mew York, wishing to promote the interests of the Seminary of Mount St. Mary's of which he has been for so many years the Superior, and to aid the Revd. Mich'l De Burgo Egan and the Rev11' John F. McGerry his successors in that establishment, in discharging the debts with which it is embarrassed, hereby engages himself:

  1. To consider the Seminary of Mount St. Mary's near Emmitsburg as his Diocesan Seminary for the term of five years.
  2. That he will not erect any Seminary or College in the diocese of New York during the space of five years, as it would evidently prove detrimental to the interests of Mount St. Mary's.
  3. That he will not remove any of his subjects from the Seminary of Mt. St. Mary's, whether they have finished their Theological studies or not, without the consent of the said Revd. Messrs. Egan and McGerry; when they remonstrate to him that the subject is not ready or fit to be ordained, or that such removal would prove too great an inconvenience to the Seminary.
  4. That he will ordain no subject of his diocese, who will have made his studies in this Seminary, without testimonials from the Directors of the Seminary that such a subject is worthy by his moral conduct, piety and ecclesiastical instruction, to be promoted to Holy Orders.
  5. That when he establishes a Seminary or College in the Diocese of New York, he will receive no young man from the Seminary of Mount St. Mary's without the approbation and recommendation of the President or Directors of said Seminary of Mount St. Mary's.

Meanwhile John Hughes was leaving his Alma Mater to take up his life-work. He accompanied Father Dubois, who was also departing.

Mr. Hughes to Mr. Egan.

Frederick, Oct.6th, 1826.

Dear Sir: We have got this far at 1/2 past 10 o'c. I had not the pleasure of taking leave of you in the manner I intended as I expected to see you this morning. It was my fault not to have applied to you for expenses and I suppose it was because you forgot, or expected to see me this morning, that you did not offer. I am, however, in good company with the bishop of New York in the stage and three dollars and a half in my pocket.

Be pleased to send me fifteen dollars to Baltimore as soon as possible. If this sum should appear too much, you may add what you think enough for the house to pay to the bill of my cassock and I shall pay both as soon as I am able. But please to send it as soon as you can, as I may have to go on to Philadelphia next. M. Dubois requests you to send his "Following of Christ" by the first opportunity. You will find it in his room. No more but remember us at the altar.

On the back of this letter, in pencil, is the note: "The Following of Christ has been found!" Mr. Hughes to Mr. Egan.

Baltimore Seminary, Oct. 12th, 1826.

Rev. and Dear Sir: I have just received a letter from the Bishop in which he requests me to be in Philadelphia to be ordained on Saturday and Sunday according to his former appointment, which you saw . . . It is in St. Mary's the ordination is to take place . . .

Whether I shall obtain permission to return to the Mountain or not, be assured its prosperity will be one of the dearest wishes of my heart. I have not time to say all I think on the subject at present. If this reaches you before Sunday morning, let the Sisters know—they promised to think of us in their communion on the day of our ordination. I have endeavored to prepare as well as I could for the short time I have had : bat I have great confidence in the intercession of those who have been more faithful to grace in times past, than I have been. You will not forget us. Mr. Bnute’ will not forget as and I hope oar former companions will recommend us to God in their communions on the most important day of our lives. Give my love to all.

Mr. Hughes, afterwards Archbishop of New York, writer of the above, was ordained priest on the 15th of October, 1826. Mr. Parsons (Hilary Parsons, a seminarian, afterwards a priest and procurator at the College) to Mr. Egan.

Baltimore, Oct. 17,1826.

Revd. Sir: I am afraid I have done wrong to send the horse home with a view of going up with whoever might come to the consecration. Revd. Mr. Dubois has not as yet received an answer from New York and cannot therefore say when his consecration will take place. He thinks it cannot take place next Sunday, but will let you know in time for any who wish to come from the Mountain. Mr. Kelly requested me to tell you that you can get a Spanish teacher in New York but does not know what his charge would be. If you want him you had better write to Mr. Kelly respecting him . . .

Father Dubois to Father Egan.

Baltimore, October 18, 1826.

My ever dear child and friend: The day of my consecration is fixed at last it will take place here, on Sunday the 29th of this month. I need not tell you how happy I will be to see you here, my Revd. Brethren, and as many of our young friends as can come. But let me not put you to any inconvenience, or bring confusion if this must be the consequence of their giving this last mark of affection to their old friend. I was thinking that by starting the Friday before, after dinner, and returning homewards Sunday after dinner, one extra day only

would be lost, as, at any rate, they have a promise of one recreation day for me who refused them so many. But, I repeat it, recommend me to their prayers and do otherwise what you think best. Your ever devoted father and friend, J. Dubois.

P. S. All goes well in New York but Rev. Mr. Powers Administrator of New York approves very much of the consecration being here all would go wrong in New York for want of conveniences and knowledge of ceremonies. As the Seminary here will most likely be crowded. I will speak to Mr. Elder to keep a place for you where I know you will be very comfortable if you come. Bishop Conwell, Messrs. Powers and Taylor will be here and I know but two or three vacant rooms, with the one I occupy. Mr. Taylor will preach and Mr. Powers be assistant in the place of Bishop Fenwick, who could not come before the 1st of November, on which day the Archbishop cannot be here, being under an essential engagement with the French Minister at Washington.

Archbishop Marechal to Mr. Egan.

Balt., 18 Oct., 1826.

Rev. and dear Sir: By a letter I have just now received, it appears that Mr. Vanhorsigh is not necessary in Norfolk, a part of the small congr. having fled from that city and few very likely will ever return to that place. If you wish to obtain the cooperation of that Rev. gentleman, as you testified to desire it when in Bait., I will permit him to join you. One line of answer by the next post . . . (Some plague has probably struck Norfolk.)

Father Egan to Mr. Parsons.

Mt. St. Mary's Sem', Oct. 18, 1826.

Dear friend: ... If Mr. Dubois were to be consecrated on the 22nd some of the young men would go—but if it be deferred till the 1st of November, it will be impossible, as we cannot change our arrangements for the Jubilee which has been delayed too long already—however, if it be possible, some will go. Write to me soon how you come on, and when you will return. If you can do nothing else, return by Gettysburg. But finish first what business you can. A———— owes a balance of $306.93 3/4-B——— of $67.57—0——— $614.58 ½—D——— $263.50

M. Deluol arrived here last Monday [These debt-balances are suggestive.]

Clarke, in his "Lives of Deceased Bishops," gives an ac­count of Bishop Dubois' installation in New York: "Mr. Dubois was at that time over sixty years old ; time and labor had told on his once vigorous health. Ever obedient and undaunted by the prospect of labor and trials, he bowed to the mandate from Rome. The illustrious Charles Carroll of Carrollton presented him with his Episcopal cross and ring. . . . He was installed in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Nov. 9th, in presence of the clergy and of four thousand of the faithful, who crowded around the altar to get the new bishop's blessing. The following account of his inaugural sermon is taken from a journal of that period (the 'Truth Teller'):

"The Right Rev. Prelate said: 'There should be but one heart and one soul between the bishop and his clergy, and but one heart and one soul between the bishop, his clergy and the congregation. They should on every occasion act in unison, and by pursuing such conduct the Catholics of New York might almost work miracles.' As a proof that his first step was for the benefit of his congregation, he stated to them that he had selected and brought with him three clergymen, whose only duty it should be to attend to the catechetical instruction of the children of his congregation. Addressing himself to the Irish portion of his hearers, he observed that he entertained for them the liveliest feelings of affection; he reminded them of the persecutions they had undergone in the defense of their religion, of the sacrifices many of them had made in leaving their native country, and conjured them always to manifest that ardent attachment to the religion of their forefathers which had hitherto so preeminently distinguished them among their brother Catholics. To the French he delivered himself in the most feeling manner, and concluded his address by a solemn prayer to the throne of mercy imploring a benediction on the congregations of his diocese."

On entering his diocese, which then embraced the entire state of New York and part of New Jersey, now, 1908, subdivided into six dioceses, he found a Catholic population of one hundred and fifty thousand souls, with eight churches and eighteen priests. New York City contained about thirty-five thousand Catholics, with three churches and six priests. Among the laity there were not wanting some who, forgetting the Catholic spirit of the Church, and their own relations and

duty to the divinely constituted rulers of the One Fold, and encouraged by the circumstances of their possessing as trustees the control of the temporalities, did not scruple to wound the heart of their loving father by their conduct. But he soon showed by a pastoral which he issued that he was determined to maintain his own rights and those of the Church, and to bring the discipline of the diocese to the standard of the sacred canons. His struggle with the un-Catholic system of lay-trusteeism cost him many trials, but he resisted manfully to the full extent of the limited means within his control. On occasion of a difficulty with his trustees regarding some diocesan arrangements, the latter refused to pay his salary unless he acceded to their demands. The bishop listened to all they had to say, and then quietly but nobly replied:

"Well, gentlemen, you may vote the salary or not, just as seems good to you ; I do not need much ; I can live in a basement or in a garret, but if I have to preach from the top of a barrel on the street corner, I am still your bishop."

But at first all was rose-color as this letter testifies:

Bishop Dubois to Rev. Mr. Egan:

New York, November 11th, 1826.

My dearest child and Rev. friend: . . . My reception here has been most gratifying. The clergy, the trustees, the people have vied with one another which would show me most respect and attention. The trustees of St. Patrick's have voted $500 to furnish my house and, unsolicited, entered into a resolution to pay my salary from the date of the Bull, which will add upwards of $900 to my present resources. I see before me a most flattering prospect thousands of well disposed souls who want only encouragement. The very first Saturday after my arrival I had upwards of forty confessions and many communions. No vestments fit for use Still my enthronization was most solemn the most admirable order and piety seemed to prevail in that immense crowd which filled the church to overflowing. Still I have no house secured yet a suitable one is hard to find, but I have one in view, which probably I will take tomorrow. Tell Mr. Berry, Henry Thompson and Sumter and Daingerfield to have patience for a few days yet I will write to them Every thing is very dear here. My house rent will not be less than $600; choice meat costs 16 cts. per lb. &c.

More will I write to you after some time. Meanwhile you and my other Revd. friends unite in prayer that I may correspond faithfully with the designs of Divine Providence in this most interesting part of his Vineyard.

Your ever devoted friend, —— ——.

All parties appear to unite to give me a welcome.

Meanwhile affairs were progressing quietly and in their usual routine at the College. Mr. Hughes's course was watched by his friends at Mt. St. Mary's with most affectionate interest. Father Brute’ writes:

My dear brother: . . . God bless such wise and prudent beginnings of your holy ministry amid such difficult and perplexing circumstances as it has pleased Him to try them by. May He bless such worthy sentiments as expressed in your letter. I would never have others ... A breviary, an altar, heavenly independence on earth! . . . We are much concerned to hear that Mr. Mayne is so ill; he has, I think, a good constitution, but you have all so much labor that you cannot stand it. Do, my dear Mr. Hughes, see prudently to it; for the word of St. Bernard is true, "the greatest zeal without health does little, whilst, keeping a sufficient care of it, much is done by even an inferior degree of zeal." Madame Iturbide, with whom you traveled to Washington, arrived here today from Bedford. She brings her son here.

[Her husband tried to raise himself to an imperial throne in Mexico.]

The new building replacing that burnt in 1824 was now finished and occupied, and a large number of pupils were in attendance, and the Archbishop proposed to visit the college.

The Archbishop to Rev. Mr. Egan.

Balt., 15 November, 1826.

Revd. and dear Sir: ... I see with pleasure that I could visit your Seminary before the winter comes on. Could you send me your closed carriage? My gig seems to me in too weak condition to travel with security on heavy roads, such as those in the neighborhood of Emmitsburg . . .

Tell Mr. Brute to lock carefully his library, for knowing my weakness I am much afraid of taking some of his books to place them in my library.

Rev. John McElroy S. J., all alone at Frederick, writes to President Egan, raising his eyes to the Mountain whence help may come to him:

Rev. Dr. Sir: I begin to despair of seeing your Reverence before Xmas. Your important office, I presume, has thus far prevented you. I hope still for your company for that precious week. Now as to my assistance for Xmas; who is it to be? I shall have to avail myself of your kind offer in accepting one at least, to enable us to have a Solemn Mass. If you can send me a priest to preach and serve as deacon so much the better if not, Mr. Reilly could be spared probably, he would act as subdeacon. Fr. Walsh deacon and myself celebrate. In this case 1 will preach at the first Mass at 4 o'c. and Father Walsh at the High Mass. If a priest comes from the Mt. I would request him to preach at the High Mass . . . My affectionate respects to my Dr. Bros. Brute’ and McGerry to all the young men. I long to see you all again You see I almost got attached to your Mountain and all its edifying inhabitants. [Even along in 1869 he used to spend some of the Fall at the Mountain. ] Pray for me, Key. Dr. Sir, particularly on this sweet festival approaching and recommend me and my flock to your community. Sunday, 17 Dec., 1826, Frederick. At night.

Here is Father Brute's order for that Christmas Day,

Midnight Mass, McGerry. Five o'clock, Brute, celebrant: McG., Deacon; Carrell, Subd.; Egan to preach. Half-past 10 o'clock, Egan celebrant; Brut4, Deacon; Riley, Subd.; Brute1, preacher or else Deluol S. S. (Superior of the Sisters.) Vespers, Deluol.

The theology course seems to have been of four years, as we gather from Brute's notes. He had twenty-nine to whom he taught philosophy, theology and scripture. He seems to have had no share in the business transaction whereby Dubois transferred the property to Egan and McGerry jointly, and in consequence he suffered a good deal of anxiety, while they appear to have studied to gain his approval. But the young Americans had their views and ways which differed widely from the Frenchman's, and as yet there was no regular corporation. Dubois had been sole proprietor; now Egan and McGerry were joint proprietors.

The Bishop of New York's personal effects:

"Mr. Dubois's own handwriting. This is all he asked for and would take with him to New York. J. McC." ) "J. McC." is John McCaffrey.

"4 Albs One made for me in New York One made for me by Martha Brawner the old one I wear every day at Mass, 20 years old and one more I leave here 14 albs 2 amicts one cord and my two surplices.

''2 pastoral stoles, one white, one green.

"One complete suit of red vestments which I had got in exchange for Mr. McCloskey' s vestments and 2 green Tunics which were never used.

"One Summer (word omitted) red I brought from Frederick.

"I leave 2 white pastoral stoles one red one 3 Sunday white suits 2 red ones all the green and all the purple and black and all the daily suits my holy water pot which I got by selling my own chalice to Mr. Wiseman for Emmitsburg and my cruets which I brought from Frederick.

"My pictures not those of Mr. Brute’ the large one was one of the two I ex-changed with Mother Seton for the two on the credences mine, bought by me.

Brute, Nov. 25,1826, gives this list of the priests and others of the house:

Messrs. Egan, proprietor, president, spiritual father of children. McGerry, proprietor, administrator, pastor. Brute’, Theology, Philosophy, Exercises of Seminary, Sisters, bibliotheque, francais. Lynch, Purcell. Sisters: 1st, Superior, Sr. Benedicta Parson. 2, Kitchen, Sr. Sally Thompson. 3rd, Kitchen, Sr. Mary Magdalene. 4, Infirmary, Sr. Madaleine. White women: Polly, Mrs. Nolan, Mrs. Kelly. Girls: Betsy Bigham, Knott, Duffy. Negroes: Clem, Carpenter, Philip.

The following letter, though not bearing directly on the history of the College, cannot fail to be of interest, referring as it does to a condition not infrequent in our institutions. There was a third Fry brother at the Mountain, William, who afterwards became quite well known in musical circles and wrote an opera, "Lenore," which was very favorably received. Mr. Wm. Fry to Rev. Mr. Egan.

Phila., dec. 29, 1826.

Revd. & dear Sir: I have been unable to answer until this moment your several favors respecting the boys. I was apprised by Joseph of his wish, and thank you for your candid communication and very judicious refusal. I have forbidden him to take any such step and he has promised the most perfect obedience. I hold it to be perfectly settled by every principle of family government that children are bound to conform to the religion of their parents, and while I think my religion right it is his duty to follow me. It is, perhaps, not known to you that when I sent Joseph to the Seminary I displeased all his relations and many of my protestant friends that they railed against me, said the child would be made to turn Catholic, &c., &c. But I depended on the pledge to protestant parents that no attempts would be made to change the religion of their children. I still depend on it, and therefore suffer him to remain, but should he, in disobedience to my orders and in breach of his solemn promise, and contrary to the pledge given from the principal of the Seminary, profess a change of religion, it would place him at war with his relations, cut him off from expectations from his grand fathers, and bring on me a load of obloquy and reproach from many that I dearly love, which would drive me mad. 'Tis all nonsense for a chap of his years to talk about his reason and judgment, &c., &c. This is sheer vanity; he has no judgment nor sense in such matters. Let him follow the religion of his family and preserve its peace and my comfort.

S. Be.] I would leave it if they had not another on the same subject in the church if they grudge it to me let them keep it. "My Ivory Crucifix brought to me by Mr. Brute from Mr. Le Gris Duvall. "My own books if Mr. Brute’ will give me some lace for a rochet, I will give him Gibbon's History of the Roman Empire." (So done, S. Be.) "S. Be." means Simon Brute’.

Chapter Index | Chapter 15

Special thanks to John Miller for his efforts in scanning the book's contents and converting it into the web page you are now viewing.