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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 17 | Chapter Index

Chapter 18: 1829

Early in the year 1829 Bishop Dubois had a spell of severe illness which it was feared would prove fatal, but he recovered. Meantime anxious hearts were waiting for news from the travelers, or, rather, the traveler, for most of interest centered in the fate of the Rev. ex-President. It took a long time then for letters to arrive from Europe, and therefore one of Mr. Richard Whelan's, written at Havre on the 16th of November, 1828, did not reach the College until the 23d of January, 1829. It is of interest as giving an idea of the pains and pleasures of foreign travel in those days:

Dear and Revd. Sir: You will perceive by the date of this that we are safe in the port of Havre. I say safe, though the fact is, if a sudden gale should spring up we might be driven back into the Channel and detained two weeks longer. We are at present just without the port, waiting for high water to take us in. This we expect in about three hours, at 4 ½ P. M. I suppose that Mr. Egan has given you a full account of our voyage across the Atlantic, so that it would be useless for me to repeat. Most of us were much disappointed in the length of the voyage. From the season of the year and the fine gales which accompanied us for a few days after our first setting out, we all expected to see our port at farthest in twenty five days, and perhaps three or four less. During the whole passage we had contrary winds, so that we were obliged to go very far to the South. We saw the Western Islands on the first of this month and lay becalmed one day near them. We had two tremendous storms, one of which was near bringing us to destruction. Happily we have escaped everything and have not much to fear now. Our vessel was filled with passengers.

I was here interrupted by the bell for dinner, soon after which we got into Havre. We were very near being wrecked in port after having escaped all the perils of the sea. As they were fastening the ship to the side of one of the docks the rope gave way and the tide drifted the ship up the dock. Great care was necessary in steering her, for she went at quite a fast rate, and would have dashed against some of the other vessels had they not thrown out the anchor and hauled up to shore. The police officer came on board and we delivered our passports.

We then landed and trudged for some distance thro' the rough streets to our hotel. The streets were thronged : the greater part appeared to me to be women, who paraded the streets with caps on their heads, without bonnets. Such a chattering I never heard. We all had sore feet by the time we got to the hotel, and when we arrived we did not find things very comfortable, tho' it is accounted one of the best. Each of us had a little private room which was conveniently furnished. All of ours communicated, but otherwise we were secluded, as there was no public room to sit and converse in. You will, no doubt, be surprised when I inform you that the entrance to the hotel is thro' the kitchen, so that the first thing you meet in it is frying fish and broiling beef. We went almost immediately to visit the curate, who we found had just gone out. At 7 ½ o'c. we again went to his house, which was quite convenient, and found him home. He received us kindly, invited us to dine with him the next day, and informed us that Mr. Curby, Mr. Purcell's friend, had removed to Rouen. I am not much pleased with Havre I can assure you. Before we had finished our excursions we witnessed two or three battles in the streets, and the city appeared to be crowded with gens-d'-armes. I would be willing to leave immediately but it is necessary for Mr. Egan to remain. He has almost come to a resolution to depart tomorrow evening; I hope nothing will prevent him. If letters could fly over the Atlantic you should have them, but as it is. they can go bat seldom. During the voyage we were continually longing for vessels to come alongside, so that we might send letters, but we got no opportunity of speaking a single ship. We passed one or two which had sustained some injury from storms, while our ship scarcely leaked enough to keep the pump from rusting thro' disuse. I send a long and earnest farewell to yourself and all my friends on the other side of the wide ocean, particularly Messrs. Brute’ and Purcell and Xaupi. Remember me also to Mr. Marshall and all the young men. My love to David (if he is so hapoy as to be yet at the Mountain) and Francis Lawrenson. I shall expect your prayers for myself and Mr. Egan, and by begging others to remember us in theirs you will confer a great favor on us both. . . .

This year Mr. Gildea, Jamison and some others went from the Mountain to receive Sacred Orders at St. Mary's Baltimore, the "rule of staying there one year" being dispensed with. The Mountaineers felt very much the confinement and want of exercise at that institution. They write that Mr. Tessier asked for cuttings of the vine called Katabar.

In response to a request of Father Egan sent from Lyons, Brute wrote a detailed account of the Mountain Seminary for submission to the Holy See, dating it Feb. 17, 1829, when there were six priests, thirty-four seminarians and eight Sisters, and one hundred and forty lay students, the highest figure yet reached. We select one paragraph: He had seen little of Paris, having been out only three times ; had heard that Mr. Egan was confined to his bed three weeks in Rome, but had recovered, and would probably wait to see the new Pope. Whelan was every day more pleased and more content, though he had not a cent, and expected to land in jail soon if Mr. McGerry did not send a remittance. The seminarians in Paris wore their beards, etc., etc. The letters were intended for all, and in those days of slow mail and few and barren newspapers one can imagine the eagerness and delight with which those happy Mountaineers read every line and commented on it. Whelau's style was very happy and Mr. Brute calls him "that good, funny writer."

On Pentecost Sunday, June 7, the Archbishop blessed the Church on the Hill, which had been enlarged, and gave Confirmation.

Father Brute’ spent some weeks with the Jesuits, and writes from Georgetown, St. John's Eve, 1829, that M. Ryan came on a "begging range," as he had "ventured out of the way for God," and was hard rebuked by those who walked in the "way, alas, of the belly, the way of the dress, of the carriage, of the furniture, and the nameless and maybe shameless delights which swallow the ten and ten times what could help him ; but it is out of the way." etc.

The Visitation Academy is the delight of the Catholics, the wonder and admiration of the Protestants. Eighty-six boarders of that school with four Out-Sisters went to return President Jackson's visit. "Both visits would be a page of pleasing detail." Jackson was "enchante," as he told Charles Harper, and spoke of nothing but " the nuns here, the nuns at New Orleans, their excellent education, discipline, etc." "Pan, pan, pan, a blast, ten blasts from the canal which is at work just below the College." ..."Let us all love God, mind nothing else! So do I make amends for maybe too much of foolish lines the first page. . . ."

On June 30, 1829, at the "Exhibition," speeches and recitations were delivered in Latin (salutatory) by Fitzhugh Dorsey, Md.; in English by James Miller, Del.; John McGlinsey, Pa.; William Hill, Md.; William Hyde, Pa.; John L. Taylor, S. C.; George Barry, Md.; James Meline, N. Y.; Charles Tessiere, Pa.; Jerome Kelly, Md.; Francis Sumter, S. C.; in Greek by Nicholas Maguire, Pa. [he died towards the end of the century an eminent educator in New Jersey] ; in Spanish by John Portal, of Cadiz.

Mr. Hitzelberger writes from St. Mary's, Baltimore, that himself and two other Mountaineers had dined with Abp. on Sunday (doubtless they had assisted at the Pontifical Mass), and he was very affable. "The Mountain is the general topic. Our Commencement did wonders and the fame of it has gone abroad, to do for us all the good our most sanguine expectations can look for. Young Frisby told me of several students in B. who had expressed a determination to come to the Mountain the ensuing year. I feel very anxious that no failure no diminution in numbers may take place, since all eyes are open on us."

News of Mr. Egan's death reached the Mountain in July. Mr. Tappan, the American Consul at Marseilles, wrote to Mr. McGerry informing him of it, who announced the intelligence to the boys at ranks on Saturday night, before night prayers.

Father Brute’ has some notes regarding the death of Rev. Mr. Egan, in his usual detached style and his own English:

"1829. VII Sunday after Pentecost. 26th July. Saint Anne. "Death of Rev. M. Egan.

"'Placebo Domino in regione vivorum.' This is the land of the dying all of us so some marked for their quarter of life some for half some for three-fourths very few the full, 80, 90.

"The land of the living is beyond Death.

"This week twice called to consider on it in saving manner M. Taylor and M. Egan. One in this graveyard, the other in France. What matters it? One duly honored, the other far from his friends. What matters it to their souls ? M. Egan born in Frederick [elsewhere we find Ireland], came a boy, brought up here."

On July 9 Father Brute’ spoke at the funeral of a slave-child, Cecily Lee, aged six years, "interested by her little manners and piety. Father Egan left here a few month ago, the President of the College, so weak that he received the last Sacraments before departing for Europe. He has already gone and found five persons in the other world whom he left alive here : Father Lynch; James Butler; Garesche; Mrs. Kelly and now this child, a saint already in Heaven, while we are giving thanks here for it."

The Chronicler is reluctant to part with "good little Michael Egan," as Mother Seton used to call him. He was a nephew of Bishop Egan and an only son, having an only sister at St. Joseph's. Michael was born Feb. 2,1802; entered college Feb. 8, 1809; made his First Communion in the Old Church on the Hill, Feb. 2, 1813; was ordained priest July 11, 1824. When he was in his loth year his sister lay dying at the Convent. She said: "Don't cry, Michael: You ought rather to rejoice. Our Father's last words were, ' Mary, be faithful to God,' now I give them to you." After his ordination he went on a begging tour to Canada, and succeeded Dubois as President, Oct., 1826. He was a sweet singer, a gentle, prudent and decided man. The Records of the Am. Hist. Society (Vol. I, pp. 29-386) tell that he bought land in Western Pennsylvania upon which to found a house of the Franciscan Order. Perhaps, however, it was his uncle, Bishop Michael Egan, himself a Franciscan, who did that. Under Arthur Egan the Church on the Hill was enlarged. He was very delicate and as we saw resigned his office and sailed from New York in search of health Oct. 15, 1828, by all accounts suffering very much in the quest. Imagine five days on a coasting lugger between Genoa and Marseilles on his return! No wonder he died six hours after reaching the latter port, May 29, 1829.

Father Brute’ intimates in his notes of Aug. 15, 1829, that the divinity course was then two years at the Mountain and one at Baltimore, that is three years in all. As we saw, the College lost two priests and two masters within the year. John (Cardinal) McCloskey returned to the Seminary this year, having tried his vocation outside. There were nineteen Americans and ten natives of Ireland in the Seminary here, and one, an American, in Paris. Five were ordained this year and two left. Dr. McCaffrey's notes tell us that.

From August 15, 1828 to August 15, 1829: "The Prefects of this year were Messrs. Denis A. Deloughery, A. L. Hitzelberger, Francis X. Gartland and Patk. Murray, and " from 1829, Aug. 15 to 1830, Aug. 15: The Prefects of this year were Messrs. Edward T. Collins, F. X. Gartland, L. Obermeyer and Jesse Aughinbaugh. Mr. P. Corry entered the Seminary in the Autumn of this year. Mr. Pellissier, subdeacon from France, entered the Seminary in August or September. In the same Autumn, Rev. J. V. Wiseman came from Charles Co., where he had been for three or four years on the mission, to reside at the Mountain. Mr. John Corry left the Mountain for Boston to be ordained. Mr. McGerry left the Mountain in the Autumn of 1829 for Europe, and Mr. Purcell became President. From the time of Mr. Egan's departure Mr. Purcell had acted as Prefect of Studies, sometimes as Vice-President. Mr. Jamison became Vice-President. He had been ordained in the early part of the Autumn of this year, having made his entire course here. He was nine years in the house."

Again Father Brute':

"17th Aug., 1829. Improvements and suggestions :

"Examinations of the classes of Seminarians, particularly the divines, are absolutely necessary if the essential points of a Seminary are given up, then is the Most Rev. Archbishop in duty bound to provide otherwise.

"The soul of any Seminary is that nothing is required from the students but what the priests of the house, as their standard, do sincerely esteem and practice. Else all seems but a form to them. [This is the essence of Saint Sulpice.]

"It seems to me very necessary to observe, that as you know that our most revd Archbishop has no confidence in me, it makes it the more indispensable that care be taken of the Seminary in a manner that leaves no doubt that its order does not depend on me. I may work in it as much as I can, but the credit and welfare of the Institution, especially as to the raising of the young clergy, must be secured by the responsible exertions of the Board. Take deep notice of this, to meet the deep prejudices which unfortunately militate against us to which, however, we can oppose but our best attention to our duty, leaving every thing else to God."

The Archbishop writes to Rev. Mr. McGerry, under date of August 26, first in reference to a seminarian, Stillinger, and then adds: " I am far from wanting to injure your establishment ; on the contrary, to favor it is my intention, as much as I can, without injuring the Grand Seminary and the Missions; but I must candidly acknowledge that I shall conduct myself by the rules laid down by my predecessor, one of which is that you should send your students in Theology who belong to this diocese, after two years, to study one year in Baltimore, and certainly you might send two now to this Seminary, without any real injury to your College. M. Tessier will agree to take them. The time is not far distant when the other rules laid down by the late Archbishop must be observed. In the mean time it is my duty to request your compliance as to the above."

Mr. McGerry had not yet left the Mountain, or at least had not sent in his resignation, for Rev. Mr. Butler writes to him :

Mountain Infirmary, Sept. 2nd, 1829.

Rev. and dear President: . . . The Solemn Mass for Father Egan was said at the appointed hour today. Celebrant, Revd. J. Purcell; Deacon, Revd. H. Xaupi; Subd. Revd. J. Hickey; Preacher, Rev. S. Brute’. The music was far beyond my expectations. The catafalque had a mournful effect. The Church was quite full. A good many communions and much interest and feeling was shown. I can say nothing particular of the sermon, as I was not able to command my attention to it (too weak and sick). It was much complimented by some, others did not understand it; as it is usual with our dear, good Mr. Brute’, he was much affected more than I ever saw him (I think), in the pulpit at least. . . .

Bishop Dubois sent during this month for Mr. Wm. Quarter, and the latter on reaching New York wrote to Mr. McGerry, September 22nd. ". . . Had I the most eloquent pen, I would still be unable to paint in colors lively enough, the grateful feelings of my heart to you for the truly honorable and generous manner in which you acted towards me from the first moment I had the honor and pleasure of your acquaintance, until the eve on which I left your happy asylum Mt. St. Mary's Seminary. That name is dear to my heart. The very mention of it awakens feelings which none but those who have left that place can ever experience. It amused me exceedingly to hear Bishop Dubois when referring to the past, use the first person plural. . . . Once we were speaking of the sisters, of the great and inestimable services which they rendered the Seminary. I remarked that I was apprehensive lest they should be removed from there altogether at some time or other. He immediately replied with a very impressive tone, ' No! Never!' A significant shake of the head towards me, made me conjecture that he had something in view, and that if when he reached Rome he could do anything to settle them there permanently he would do it."

During the September of this year, Bishop England paid the College a visit and placed his ward, John L. Ogier, there as a pupil. The Chronicler is delighted to find in the Charleston Catholic Miscellany of Oct. 10, 1829, the following account, by a witness, of Bishop England's visit to the Mountain, and trusts that the reader will also be happy to get a glimpse of this great Irish priest, the most renowned perhaps for eloquence, especially polemic eloquence, in the history of the Church in the Republic: "The Rt. Rev. Dr. England arrived at Mt. St. Mary's Seminary on Tuesday evening the 22nd ult. The students, who were anxious to testify their great respect for him by a suitable reception, though taken by surprise, in consequence of his coming a few days earlier than they had been led to expect, assembled in order in front of the College, and after the performance of some appropriate music, Francis B. Sumter of South Carolina, in the name of the whole body welcomed the reverend gentleman in language brief and unstudied, but apposite and heartfelt. ' We deem it,' said the young speaker in the course of his remarks, 'a proud day for us and Mt. St. Mary's, when the prelate who, forsaking the land of his nativity, at the call and in the cause of God, has shed so bright a lustre on the Catholic Church in America, by his talents, his writings and eloquence, has honored us by his presence today." To this the Bishop made a very amiable and condescending reply, and after some conversation with the president of the institution, expressed his happiness at having it in his power to grant them the following day as a respite from their learned labors, and a time of recreation and rejoicing.

"Wednesday morning the Bishop, assisted by an archpriest, deacon, subdeacon and the other customary attendants, celebrated a Solemn High Mass, and gave an eloquent discourse on the duties of students. We thought him peculiarly happy in urging on his youthful auditors the motives which should impel them to cultivate and enrich their minds with science and virtue. On the last topic he dilated in a strain of eloquence such as is seldom heard, and such as none but minds gifted like his could produce. The remainder of the day was spent in the most agreeable manner.

"We accompanied the Bishop on Thursday morning to the sisterhood of St. Joseph, near the village of Emmitsburg. Here he said Mass and at the request of the Superior addressed the sisters and the young ladies under their charge in a beautiful, affecting and instructive discourse. The peculiar duties and blessings of the state of life which the former had chosen, a state in which the active duties of benevolence were associated with the sublime enjoyment of contemplation and divine love, were explained and illustrated in the most interesting manner. After alluding to the good they had already done, looking through the vista of futurity, he pointed to the millions yet unborn, who would owe to their present humble exertions, the intellectual, moral and religious cultivation which would prepare them to shine not only as ornaments of society here below, but as ornaments of a better society above, the society of saints and seraphs, where, like brilliant stars, they would glitter eternally before the throne of God. After the morning service and breakfast the Rt. Rev. gentleman was conducted through all the apartments of the establishment, and expressed high satisfaction at the neatness which everywhere prevailed. The young ladies were assembled to receive him, and one of them, whose name we did not learn, made an appropriate address, to which he replied with his usual felicity. Some pieces of music were then performed on the piano and several favorite selections sung with much taste and modesty. After dining at this place we returned to the Seminary.

"The people of all denominations in the neighborhood of this institution the inhabitants of Emmitsburg, too, and its vicinity as soon as it was known that Dr. England had arrived from Baltimore, had expressed the strongest desire to hear him explain the truths of religion. He was requested to comply with the general wish, and as his previous engagements made it impossible for him to remain till Sunday, Thursday at 4 p. m. was designated as the time he was to be heard. The weather unhappily was cloudy and forbidding, and the bad state of the roads, owing to recent rains, concurred to keep many at home who longed to be present. Still the Seminary Church was crowded. After the beautiful Veni, Sancte Spiritus, composed by Abbe’ Vogler, had been chanted in a masterly manner by the Seminary choir, under the direction of Mr. Gegan, the sacred orator ascended the pulpit and read from the 17th chapter and 3rd verse of St. John.

"Unfolding and keeping steadily in view the words of eternal truth, he proceeded to show that the knowledge of the True God and his Son Jesus Christ must be not a speculative but a practical knowledge, and that it implies the knowledge and discharge of our obligations as creatures to the Creator, a redeemed race to the Redeemer; that the homage which we owe to the Deity is two-fold, internal and external, the homage of the mind and that of the body; that, therefore, ceremonies and ritual worship, though not the essence, are yet a part of religion. The necessity of internal worship was next developed. It was shown that truth is the essential characteristic of the worship required of us by God, who wishes to be adored in spirit and in truth; that we are all bound to believe what God reveals, to do what he commands and to adhere to the institution which He established. Schism or separation from the true religion was proved by examples from the Old Law to have been marked with the vengeance of Heaven. A particular order of men. a priesthood defined so clearly that none could mistake them, were, it was shown, the commissioners from God under the Mosaic Law; hence it was inferred that the commissioners from God to man under the Christian dispensation should be marked by characters equally clear and evident; and such in reality they were, the Apostles and their regularly ordained successors through all time. Their commission was given on earth when Jesus Christ said to them: 'Go ye, therefore, teach all nations, commanding them to observe all things whatsoever I have told you;' and, 'Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world.' This commission was from God : it was to preach, teach and force the observance of all things he had commanded. It was extended to all nations, and was accompanied by the promise that God would be with them at all times to assist them. 'Who,' exclaimed the preacher, ' were the commissioners? The Apostles and their successors. What were the limits of their commission? The whole world. What its duration? All ages.' It was shown then that the Church, formed and established by Almighty God, could never be reformed by man. The proofs of its infallibility were stated. The most conclusive arguments were then produced to show which was this Church, and in what society of men the commission given by Christ was vested. Recognizing the principle on which our Republican institutions are based, to wit. that the will of the majority shall prevail, the principle, too. of our courts of justice, that the testimony of the vast majority of witnesses shall decide, the preacher made its application by showing that the testimony of the immense majority of Christians in our own and all preceding ages established incontestably the claims of the Catholic Church in opposition to those, not of one grand and respectable majority, but of many straggling minorities. The discourse was concluded by a very impressive exhortation for all to seek, embrace and cling to the truth; to secure that rational triumph which the conviction of possessing it infallibly would afford, and more especially to reduce it to practice and obtain the rewards to which it conducts.

"The marked attention and almost breathless stillness of the audience during the sermon proved the intense interest created by the luminous instruction, the powerful reasoning, the glowing language and animated delivery of the learned, zealous prelate.

"This day being the eve of his departure, the students once more made preparations to testify their respect for his character, and admiration of his talents and conduct.

"At 8 p. m. all were assembled in the College Hall; as the Bishop, accompanied by the president and the professors, entered, one of our most animated national airs was performed by the band, after which Francis B. Sumter rose and delivered, with much feeling and elegance of manner, some lines of poetry composed for the occasion. The Bishop had opened his instructions to the students on Wednesday morning by comparing his feelings while enjoying the calmness and repose of their mountain-home to those of a mariner who, after the toils and perils of a long voyage, at length finds security and rest in the long-looked-for haven. This thought was taken up, and its application happily pursued in the address now delivered.

"At its conclusion, Dr. England replied by complimenting the speaker, in whom he recognized a former acquaintance, the son of a man who had well sustained the honor of their country in the field of battle and in foreign courts, and of a lady whose virtues, amiable manners and zealous exertions had proved beneficial to his diocese: he applauded the beauty and sweetness of the poetry, but expressed a sense of un-worthiness of the praise it bestowed on himself. He declared his regret at being obliged to leave so soon a place in which he could spend the remainder of his days amid the tranquil pursuits and pleasures of science and virtue. 'It is true,' said he, 'as my young friend so beautifully said, the pleasing word Welcome was scarce pronounced ere the less cheering sound of Farewell was heard, almost as in echo. Duty, and nothing but imperious duty, could thus hurry me away from you, and I might add to the advice I have already given, that though pleasure has its charms and blandishments and they are alluring and strong yet, viewing ourselves as rational and social beings, the wisest, purest and lasting enjoyments are those which arise from the consciousness of having done our duty.'

"After this the music was continued and some most admirable pieces were performed. The professor of Theology having made a few remarks, Dr. England again arose and expressed his high esteem and respect for that gentleman and the other officers and professors of the institution. On Friday he took his passage back to Baltimore to be present at the Synod to be held there in a few days." [He was Bishop of Charleston, S. C., and Vicar-General of East Florida.]

A writer from Baltimore to the same paper says: " Bp. England has chosen for his theologian Simon Brute’, of Emmitsburg; Bp. Flaget, Francis Patrick Kenrick an Irish­man chooses a Frenchman, a Frenchman an Irishman. . . . There have been attempts to sow jealousy between the two races in our congregations ; may such examples serve to put an end to them! . . . We have seven prelates from five nations: three natives of the United States, one of France, one of Ireland, one of England and one of Italy. . . . Two Mexicans have reached here with credentials for ordination. Who would have believed it fifty years ago, that from Mexico, where now there is no bishop, they should be sending hither, where then there was no bishop, to have their subjects ordained."

Francis Sumter of South Carolina, mentioned in the account of Bishop England's reception is thus rated as an orator by his teacher John McCaffrey: "He affords constant pleasure by his exhibition of talents, application and success. Beading a beautiful voice, properly governed, richness and variety of tones; a great deal of taste; judgment constantly ripening. In speaking displays more fully all these advantages easy, graceful, correct and manly in his gestures. In composition collects his thoughts from books, but selects with judgment, and couches them in appropriate language of his own. Style runs into verse. If to his external advantages he adds a sound and richly cultivated mind, he will make the 'perfectus et omni laude cumulatus orator,' when grown up. Manners becoming and pleasing: Conduct good; of late I think better than formerly. Temper quick, but governed. Talents very good. J. McCaffrey.

"Sumter probably offers the type of oratory in which the South excels. His grandfather did yeoman service during the Revolution, and his father in 1812. Francis became a lawyer, fought in the Mexican War, refused to approve of Secession, and died without any religious profession in 1863, unmarried.

Chapter Index | Chapter 19

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