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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 15 | Chapter Index

Chapter 16: 1827

Rev. Mr. Egan to Most Rev. Abp. Mare’chal.

Mt. St. Mary's Seminary, Sept. 27, 1827.

Host Rev. and dear Father: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 17 inst., which I laid before the Council. [This word appears for the first time in its now accepted sense in our history.] I have been engaged in my retreat, which I finished a few hours ago. and owing to this circumstance I have been prevented from doing myself the honor of addressing yon again. I mentioned in my last that it would be a serious inconvenience at this moment to pan with any of those young men who are engaged in teaching, as out of many young men here there are comparatively few who are capable of governing and teaching. But I add that if, after having submitted to yon our real situation and the difficulty we had of parting with them, you should desire to have some who might be ready in the course of a year or so for ordination, we would endeavor to comply in spite of the inconvenience. Consequently we will make arrangements that Mr. Gildea may remove to the Seminary of Baltimore as soon as everything relative to his reception there has been finally settled. You, indeed, do not urge the point any further, nor insist positively on it, yet you express your affliction at not being able to have even one from either Seminary and we would feel too happy to impart every consolation to our good father, even to our own loss, were it in our power. It is our interest to send away all those with whose services we can dispense, and we would cheerfully send five or six instead of one if we could but that would be impossible without ruining ourselves and every prospect of future good. Permit me, however, to observe that several preliminary arrangements will be necessary previous to the young man's departure from this place. Not a word of negotiation has passed between this Seminary and that of Baltimore relative to the reception of Seminarians from this place for a time preparatory to their ordination. Will they be received at all? On what conditions? Will they be obliged to teach? or to pay? If they be too poor to pay, even to clothe themselves, and ill-suited to the task of governing and teaching, will those gentlemen submit to the burden? Of all this we are entirely ignorant. In the present instance, of Mr. Gildea, which being the first will be considered a precedent for the future reception of the other young men, we beg leave humbly to suggest that such arrangements and definite regulations may be established as will preclude all future misunderstandings or altercations on the subject Mr. Gildea is, and has always been, entirely dependent on this house for every thing. If he leaves here he has no means to pay for himself or clothe himself. When entering on the mission it will be the same. If he goes to Baltimore to teach, and is not allowed more time for his theological studies than lie enjoys here, he will gain little, as the spirit of both houses is nearly the same. However, in all this we do but merely submit to you, Most Rev. and dear Sir, the difficulties that present themselves to our minds, without presuming to interfere in the least with your own decisions, being well aware that you are better acquainted with the wants of your flock and also as interested for the good of the young candidates for the holy ministry as we can be.

One point however we respectfully submit to your consideration it regards the ordination. It seems to us that nothing is more encouraging and better calculated to animate the young ecclesiastics under our care to emulation in their studies and zeal in their preparations for the holy ministry, than to witness the administration of the H. Sacrament of Order on their fellow students, to unite with them at times in the exercises preparatory to it, to be reminded thus of the necessity of sanctifying themselves to be in readiness for their own time when the Will of God through their Superiors calls them. Consequently, nothing could be more gratifying to us than that if possible the ordinations should take place here. But we are sensible the state of your health would render it absolutely impracticable until our Lord in his mercy gives you new strength and vigor, for which we continually pray.

We have been made very uneasy by the unfavorable accounts we have heard of your health. Would to God we could contribute in any manner to your restoration. It is a disappointment not to have you amongst us for a while, but if our prayers can be of any avail, they will not be spared. Messrs. Brute\ Purcell, Lynch and Xaupi unite in love and respectful compliments also all our good Sisters . . .

[We have here another specimen of Father Egan's epistolary style, in which his gentle but strong character is also apparent.]

This letter was returned with his Grace's notes on the margins and a postscript, all of which are as follows :

"1. Who are the members of your council? I truly do not know them. Who are they?

"2. They will be received in Bait, as they are in Emmitsburg. Those who can pay will not teach. Those who cannot will teach more or less a few hours, having plenty time to study Divinity. [Italics by the chronicler.] In order that I might contribute to establish harmony between Bait, and Emmitsburg in these temporal concerns, it would be necessary you should send me an exact list: 1st. Of the Seminarists who pay all their expenses and who are not at all employed in any office in the College, and moreover the amount of these expenses. 2nd. Of those who pay a part of their expenses. What are these expenses? What services do you require from them? and for what length of time? 3rd. Of those who pay nothing at all, but who make up for it by teaching and rendering valuable services to the house. How many hours a day are they thus employed? During how many years? Do you require one year of labor for one year of services?

"My heart is the seat of all my sickness. Four physicians (Drs. Chatard, Donaldson, Alexander and Potter) visit me every other day. They appear more afraid than I am. They bleed me more copiously. I feel better, although very weak. Continue to pray for me!"

Father McGerry went to Baltimore and Philadelphia on business at the beginning of October, and Mr. Egan writes to him that the bell is again cracked and is useless, directing him to get a new one. He also tells of the return of Mrs. Henry, who left the Mountain with Mr. Dubois, and whom he (the latter) wishes to remain in her old home during his absence in Europe. She was the housekeeper at the College and went to New York in the same capacity for the Bishop.

Father Brute writes to Mr. McGerry the next day about a matter that agitated him to the last degree:

5 8ber, 1827

My dear brother: Our poor bell very sick very hoarse two days ago now scarcely audible in her last creakings and squeaking a dead bell and the best I think is that you should provide for one in Phil.' or Balt, since happily you are on the spot. It is an indispensable article and I would advise one of sufficient respectability in sound to prevent petitions for the Drum which must come soon, since already the military folly which you and Mr. Peters thought removed to the antipodes of Mt. St. Mary's, rages in the place and, strange, finds all its support in the Mr. President! The story is this, a very serious one.

I warned you Tuesday about that regular salute of guns, ''principiis obsta I'' . . The fire was instantly caught; the whole day, you may remember, was awkwardly spent upon the hill in first essays . . . The day after you went the little plot was mature and the leaders came out with a fine set of rules and articles of military organization nay. officers ready appointed, Brent foremost, Major, Colonel, what you please. Sanval, one of the most active movers, unhappily prevented to share the honors as he goes so soon away, but extremely zealous "to see before this all settled and secured to his friends" (so said). Fine paradings going on, the thing improving every hour; the next was to pitch upon a proper uniform, cask (casque) and full set of regimentals, gold '' epaulettes,'' and to the highest officer " a gold star upon the breast" the whole beautifully written and the muster-roll of twenty-two, I think, put in due order with the officers names was boldly submitted to our good natured President who found no harm in it. Brent, though afraid of opposition from me (you out of sight but the least indeed would have been to postpone till you might be present and canvass for the poor parents the foolish expenses,) came to me. told me "all the gentlemen agree, we hope you won't oppose!" ''I do,'" said I, "my dearest, for half a dozen good reasons which according to Parliamentary usage I claim time to submit before the second and third readings of these fine things. It was Wednesday night Thursday the whole day was drill and drilling the middle size boys falling in the track, and, for want of fowling pieces, holding up their sticks, some the brooms actually so, no harm not a word in the mean time to me but two (I will name to you and one of the prefects) two of the young gentlemen told me that the things were in earnest and to go on no Council called I resolved on proper anticipation thinking that it would be enough if in their impatience they were but to go to town and borrow uniforms, casks, and sabres, and parade in forma, to let go abroad the sad word, "St. Mary's is military."Once the rumor afloat, duly embellished and very difficult to contradict and recover from the awkward shock. At supper then, I said (what I had for prudence written and I will show you) that application having been made to me yet no Council held I requested sufficient postponement of the proceedings to enable me to be heard about it the only means for me to answer the confidence they had shown me and that of such of their parents as I was sure would consider the whole as improper, and from us a kind of breach of trust; such things being enough to thwart their pacific views on their good children &c. (many afterwards were glad and the same prefect particularly). Having thus acted only in an obliging and gentlemanlike manner I hesitated not to go to the room of our dear youths (of which more to say ask it on your return) and found them no way indisposed towards me, but confident that on the contrary their dear pa and ma would be highly pleased and most of all Mr. "Wm. Brent Brent has just brought me a letter he wrote, with plain and complete description of the uniform, according to the beautiful picture of Sanval which, as candidly as every thing else (that is at least amiable) he showed me in the water colors, but fiery drawing and proudest show! On the other page of this letter, my own lines tell in brevi forma my protest, and Brent has left me to submit that double letter to Mr. Egan. I hope he will rather catch the hint, timely oppose in his own character without such appeal to parents 1 But how do I regret your presence, you old disciplinarian, and surely more easily to be impressed with the " principiis obsta" . . . Else this is a beginning what are the consequences to be? . . .if you write before you return request at least that all be suspended till you are present and consulted . . Mr. Egan has come to talk over this prank, Brent having taken his letter to him. All is put a stop to and every thing is quiet all's well "Sine me nil potestis," says our Lord. "Deus et omnia" and we seek for everything but His glory . . .

Were we not aware of the streak of humor in Father Brute's character we would not allow ourselves even to think of Dame Tartlet clucking in a high state of excitement on the shore while her foster-children are disporting themselves in the sunny waves. His spirit will forgive us for smiling. He must have found himself in his element, however, when counseling his distinguished pupil in the City of Brotherly Love.

He thus writes to Mr. Hughes:

Oct. 8th.

How glad I am for the excellent effect of the piece you wrote and which has been so well received [The Controversy with Bedell], It is a great encouragement, with the preceding ones, to cultivate properly that vein of good and to remove occasionally as much as possible the remaining prejudices.

"Again he writes,' says Mr. Hassard, "on a little scrap of paper fastened to the back of his letter, as if he had feared his dear pupil might, in the excitement of controversy, forget the more spiritual occupations of the priesthood: ' My dear brother and friend: I thus insist again on my main thought my only thought, almost, as I grow old :make all things positive good, simple, obscure duty, your principal joy and crown!' " "It was fortunate for Mr. Hughes or was it not rather a special order of Providence in his favor?" continues Mr. Hassard, " that at a period when he was most exposed to he led astray by the blandishments of the world and the praise of men, a devout and loving friend was at hand who knew how to advise him well and had no fear to offend by speaking plainly. ' I assure you,' says Mr. Brute again, ' that I more and more take my whole consolation in adoring, blessing and trusting all in all to our Lord; and so do you much better than myself. . . . How pleased, moved and edified am I at your blessed St. Joseph's I (The church in Phila.) "Gaudium et corona mea," you may say; yet say it not (in any complacency I mean); leave it to your good guardian angel.

Good news from the Capital came in Rev. Mr. Schreiber's letter to Rev. Mr. Egan:

St. Patrick's Church, Washington, Nov. 5, 1827.

Dear friend: . . . The people seem to entertain a very favorable opinion of our College at Emmitsburg. ... I have not yet given up the hope of returning Sister Rose has just bid me farewell. She is going to the hospital in Baltimore, as well as Sister Camilla. The Sister's School here is very large and in a beautiful situation. . . .

Fr. McElroy, writing to Rev. M. Egan, cheers him with good tidings also:

Rev. and altar Sir: I have been looking out for you for some days past. When are you coming, Monday or Tuesday, or by this return carriage? Sr. Margaret has resumed her post in St. John's School and Asylum, to the great joy of all, Protestant and Catholic. [Non-Catholics still frequent the Catholic schools of Maryland, sometimes in large numbers.] ... I often think of your happy Mount, and of the edification and comfort I experienced whilst there in the presence of so many good souls all breathing a great love for God. . . . Frederick, Nov. 17, 1827.

Father McElroy's testimony confirms that of Captain William Seton anent the atmosphere of holiness that was found at the Mountain, and the chronicler has heard and read of it many a time, not of the early days only but of periods half a century later than the one of this chapter.

Thespis had disciples at the College then too, as this graphic account of Basil T. Elder's informs us: "The first year after the completion of the new College the play of ' Montezuma, or the Conquest of Mexico' was performed by the students in the large Study Hall. The stage, scenery, curtains, &c., were designed by Rev. Mr. Butler, and the painting and the decorations done by his pupils and by Father Brute. Rev. Mr. Jamison acted as stage manager. The entire affair was admirably carried out. Mr. Hilzelberger, afterwards a renowned preacher, took the part of Cortez, James Cole was Montezuma, Alfred Sanville was Qualpopoca, &c. (your humble servant was an unpretentious musician !). The costumes of Spaniards and Mexicans were in excellent taste. Muskets from the Armory at Annapolis furnished by the State to a military company of the College were used by the Spaniards, who, first firing (out of a window), then rushed on the stage charging bayonets upon Qualpopoca and his Mexicans with their long lances, which were too much, and the Spaniards were forced back in spite of Jamison's whispered shout of ' give back Indians, fall back.' Spaniards disappeared, reloaded and fired another volley; again charged bayonets, for the third or fourth time. Suddenly Qualpopoca dropped his lance and, with a frightful shriek, struck his hand to his forehead and fell upon his back, hand and forehead bloody!

Screams from ladies in the audience brought the curtain down, the pole of which crossed Qualpopoca's breast, leaving head and shoulders outside exposed to the audience. Yet he lay as dead, until his body was dragged in under the curtain, when he sprang to his feet. He had secreted in his hand a paper pellet of liquid carmine, and at the last discharge of musketry, slapping it against his forehead, he dropped with a shriek. Indians fled and Spaniards crowded on the stage as the curtain fell. Many students and teachers, as well as strangers, were terrified, fearing an accidental ball had got into one of the muskets. Some unsophisticated country people thought they were real Indians, and one good old lady actually asked Mr. Jamison how much he paid them. 'Only a dollar each, Madam/ he answered. 'And do they risk being killed for one dollar?' In the next act when the curtain rises Montezuma is on his throne, as a prisoner under the guard of Spanish sentinels. After a brief pause, he opens a sad soliloquy with the words, ' And am I then reduced to this!' A pause a snicker from several in the audience sounded so ridiculous that a roar of laughter ensued. Jamison in a rage shouted, ' Silence!' and Montezuma was allowed to proceed. But poor Cole afterwards declared he was so disgusted that he could scarce resist the inclination to spring from his throne and stalk off the stage.

"The play was written by Rev. C. C. Pise, professor of Rhetoric. Many copies were made under dictation, by the first writing class, each boy to be entitled to his own copy after the play. During the following vacations I left my copy locked in my desk, yet on my return it had disappeared. Other boys missed theirs in like manner, and we came to the conclusion that Father Pise had purloined and destroyed them! I have never ceased to regret that I did not carry mine home. It was pronounced a classic composition."

We have referred to the difference of policy between Father Brute and the Joint Proprietors, Fathers Egan and McGerry, the former of these being but twenty-five years old on his accession to the presidency, the latter somewhat older, both far younger than Brute whose pupils they had been. The friction between the foreign and the native regime has been found all along down to our own day in institutions founded by foreigners, who have finally been compelled to accommodate themselves to the manners and ideas of the country. "We say "difference of policy," for in the letter to be now given we shall see that the very flower of Christian charity bloomed in the bosoms of the young priests who now had shouldered the honorable but distressing burden of the Seminary-College. The venerable teacher thought and wrote to them that Messrs. Egan and McGerry were " too absorbed by the College and temporal;" he hoped much of the " return of Mr. Purcell for the Seminary;" he himself was " too suspected of strictness, and also manners and language so much against me."

Jan. 29, 1827. St. Francis of sales.

Dear Mr. Brute: The strange distance you have observed towards us these few days is, we must confess, a source of the greatest pain and concern. You appear to have taken great offense at our reply to yr. letter of Thursday. We disclaim again any intention of wounding your feelings in any manner, and for whatsoever trouble we may have occasioned you we now ask your pardon, and beg you to forgive and forget it. Sooner than such an uncharitable division shd exist among us. we hereby acknowledge your right to claim $50 a year for whatsoever purpose you think proper to apply it. We did not refuse it before. We beg you to consider our situation. However, we trust no more will be said about this matter for the future. With respect to the other regulations we beg leave to submit them once more to your cool and dispassionate deliberation before Almighty God. We can discover no reason to change them, but still it does not prevent you from proposing your objections to them in the Council if you think proper.

We beg you to receive this in the spirit of reconciliation and charity. Happily, no one perceives this difference between us, or it might be a source of scandal. Forgive the style and expressions. If it appear cold, the hearts are not.

Yr. Brothers, Mich'l D. Egan, J. F. McGERRY.

Father McGerry's own letter of July 2,1827, we have already given.

The following circular was issued in 1827 and reveals the actual condition of things temporal at the time.

Mount St. Mary's (Circular)

The experience of the past year has enabled those who have the charge of this Seminary, to express themselves with confidence, upon the competency of the Institution for the purposes it has sought, and will seek to accomplish. During this period, the preservation of the purest morals, the establishment of habits of diligence and industry in their studies, and their advancement in the various branches of education in which they have been instructed, have been fully manifested among the pupils. With few exceptions, uninterrupted health has been granted to all; and their cheerfulness and contentment give the best assurances of their happiness.

To the Officers and Professors of the Seminary this retrospect is a rich reward for all the anxieties and labors, by which it has been obtained; and to the parents, guardians, and friends of the students, it furnishes the best guarantee of the prosperous progress of the Institution in succeeding years.

When, in October, 1826, the President and Vice-President of the Seminary, for no purposes of pecuniary profit, but with the ardent and humble hope of doing good, assumed its superintendence and direction, notwithstanding the liberal contributions to its aid by many pioos and generous individuals it was involved in a heavy and unliquidated amount of debt The only sources for the discharge of this incumbrance, were the receipts expected from the students then in the Institution, and from those who, by its increased reputation, might be induced to enter it. A large real estate, and many valuable buildings, exclusively fitted for the objects for which they were employed, while they were ample security for the ultimate payment of the responsibilities to which they were subjected, yielded no income for the discharge even of the annual interest.

The charges for instruction, and all the incidents to a residence in the Seminary, were originally graduated without any view of gain, but for the purpose of promoting and securing the ends of its establishment by enabling it to maintain and continue a course of instruction which would realize the hopes and promises of those by whom it was founded, and of others who were anxiously interested in its welfare. A series of successive years before 1826, under the superintendence of the late President, had, however, fully proved that those charges were not sufficient to indemnify him for the expenditures to which he was subjected; and from this cause, as well as by the cost of erecting the present principal building, the accumulated debt, which was assumed when the establishment passed into the hands of its present management, originated.

From October, 1826, in order to ascertain the actual situation of the Institution, a faithful account has been kept of all the expenditures required for its support; and it has been found that, with the present rate of charges, the debts of the Seminary cannot be diminished, and may increase. It is now certain that the actual disbursements exceed its yearly receipts; and it has therefore become a duty, and an obligation, to communicate this state of things to the parents, guardians, and friends of the pupils, who are under our care.

A new arrangement is imperatively demanded; but in reference to those students who are now here, it is not intended to insist on an increase of the annual

charges; and yet it is but justice to communicate these facts, and submit to their parents, guardians, and friends, whether it is not just that such an increase shall take place. Those who do not, in reply to this communication, authorize the addition, will remain subject to no other claims than those which are stated in the late prospectus. Whatever may be, therefore, the loss to the Institution, we consider ourselves bound by the contracts we have made; and we do not claim to be absolved from them, but by the consent of those with whom they have been made.

All other pupils will be charged according to the rates contained in our new prospectus, a copy of which will be transmitted to you; and we sincerely trust that the alterations which have been made in our terms, will have the approbation of all the friends and patrons of the Seminary. A careful and guarded, and yet a liberal economy will still be required to preserve the Institution, and to en­able it to proceed successfully in its purposes.

The Terms Are:

Boarding and Tuition, payable half-yearly in advance...$150.00

Washing and Mending, and mending materials,...............12.00

Extra Charge for French, ...........................................20.00

Spanish, ............................................................... 20.00

Drawing, ................................................................25.00

Music, vocal and instrumental, ...................................40.00

Use of the Piano, ......................................................8.00

Use of Bed and Bedding, ...........................................10.00

Charge for Pens. Ink. and use of English Reading Books, ...5.00

Doctor's salary, unless parents prefer the alternative of a bill, in case of sickness, ............................................................ 5.00

Parents or guardians who may prefer the payment of a sum which will be received in full for all or any of the branches of education taught in the Seminary, and also to include boarding, clothing, and other expenses, except pocket money, will be charged $350 per annum for each pupil, the same to be advanced half yearly. Michael, D. Egan, President. John F. MoGKRSY, Vice-President.

Chapter Index | Chapter 17

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