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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 23 | Chapter Index

Chapter 24: 1832-1833

As we saw in a previous chapter, the Archbishop of Baltimore had fixed upon the month of April for his visit to the Mountain as the time for giving a final decision, upon the matter, so important to its existence, of permission to teach theology at the College.

On April 13, 1832, the President, Mr. Purcell, wrote to his Grace, as the letter shows, with an anxious heart:

Most Rev. and Honored Father: Happy at every opportunity of recalling myself to your paternal remembrances, and presenting you with fresh assurances of my most sincere and respectful affection and obedience, I now write at the instance of the Council, to beg the communication of your decision respecting this College and Seminary. Rev. Messrs. Brute’ and Jamison whom we deputed to speak to you some time since on this subject, informed us that we might expect your final determination to be made known by the 1st. of April of the present year.

We forbear many observations which might be urged as our apology for addressing you, perhaps, importunately again, upon this matter. An anxious wish to know, through you, Most Reverend Sir, the will of God, you will, we hope, readily believe, one and the first of our motives. Should we have reason to expect the honor of a visit from you in the course of a few weeks or as early as you find convenient after Easter, we should prefer to save you the trouble of a long letter. But in this as in everything else, we pray the Holy Spirit of God to be your light and our guide in the knowledge and accomplishment of his Divine Will. "With perfect respect and affection, J. B. Purcell.

In anticipation of a visit of which there is only this record, this address was prepared By the Faculty:

Most Revd. Archbishop: The Council of Mount Saint Mary's College having for gone time anticipated the honor of your present visit and anxious to obtain your sanction of their continuance as a body, beg leave humbly and respectfully to state to you the only conditions on which after their most serious, solemn and united consultations on the subject, it will be possible to maintain the existence and prosperity of the Institution which they direct.

1. That the Archbishop allow all his priests now resident at Mount St. Mary's, the priests from other dioceses who have devoted themselves to the service of Almighty God in the promotion of the Literary and Religious objects for which the Institution was originally established; and the teachers not yet in Priest's orders, who are willing to unite with them for the same holy and useful purposes and who belong to the Archdiocese, to continue here.

2. That he allow them to petition for an Act of Incorporation to give the legal sanction necessary for their existence.

3. That he allow them to teach Theology to as many tutors as will be neces­sary to discharge the duties of Prefects and superintend in time of study and recreation the discipline and morals of the Students.

The motives of these several conditions, already frequently submitted to the Archbishop, they beg leave to repeat in this authentic Instrument, their united act and deed.

They are briefly as follows :

1. The impossibility of supporting an Institution, comprising in one. both a College and a Grammar School, with fewer than its present number of Teachers.

2. The necessity of securing the services of these Teachers, by rendering them an equivalent therefor, by affording them all the required facilities for prosecuting their Theological studies.

3. The fiscal embarrassment of the College which incapacitates them to pay salaried Teachers in their stead.

4. The extreme difficulty, if our funds warranted this additional expense, of finding Teachers uniting all the moral, religious and literary qualificalious for the preservation of the piety and innocency of life, for which the students of Mount St. Mary's have ever been distinguished.

John B. Purcell, Francis B. Jamison, A. Louis Hitzelberger, Thos. K. Butler, Edward J. Sourin, Hilary parsons, J. McCaffery. Mt. St. Mary's College, 8th May, 1832.

[Brute's name never appears in formal documents.] The Archbishop replied:

Mount St. Mary's, 8th, May 1832.

In a conversation with the Revd. Mr. Purcell, President of St. Mary's College of this place, I agreed to permit that Theology should continue to be taught here during two years more, commencing from next September. And moreover, as I most sincerely wish well to this noble establishment, and desire to see the day when it may be freed from the incumbrance of debt and from the danger of ruin, I add that were it absolutely necessary to continue Theology longer, that sooner than see the College fall to destruction 1 would never prohibit its being taught. But still my opinion is that no such evil would follow.

I also approve that the undermentioned clergymen continue to direct and assist in conducting the College as long as I shall consider them necessary to the institution, viz: The Rev. John Purcell, Francis Jamison, Alexander Hitzelberger, Richard Whelan, John McCaffrey, and Henry Parsons I also highly approve that Mr. Brute’ continue to teach Theology, Mr. Xaupi teach the classes of French, Spanish, etc., etc., and that the Rev1' Thomas R. Butler, Priest, and Edward Sourin should always remain in Mount St. Mary's College, as they are allowed by their Ordinary, Bishop Kenrick, in a letter to the President of the College dated 14 February 1881 in which he wrote concerning them : "Ut sese devoveant in perpetuum si ita velint, Religioni et litteris colendis in Seminario vel Collegio S. Mariae prope Emmitsburgum in Marylandia, in illius Collegii vel Seminarii utilitatem."

I also learn with satisfaction that Mr. John (Cardinal) McCloskey, who has received his eieat from the diocese of New York, has expressed his wish to join with the above-mentioned in promoting the good of religion and the prosperity of a College in which I feel highly interested.

James. Archbishop of Baltimore.

I have no objection that an Act of Incorporation be solicited by the Revd" John Purcell President and Francis Jamison Vice-President of the College and others, to secure all the legal rights necessary and useful to the institution. James, Abp. of Balt.

In the following letter we have an inkling of the state of things in Ohio and other parts of the then diocese of Cincinnati. Bishop Fenwick writes to Father Jamison :

Cincinnati, 25th, May, 1832.

Rev. and dear Sir: Your favor of the 17th inst. is before rue. I sincerely and cordially congratulate you all on the pleasing and happy result of the Archbishop's last visit. My warmest wishes for the prosperity of your establishment are gratified the prayers of the good Sisters and your real friends have been graciously heard. The Blessed Virgin, Mother of the afflicted and St. Joseph have, I think, proved to be your friends and intercessors. I feel as much gratified as if such a favor had been conferred on myself after the many and long trials you have had.

I had a severe spell of chills and fever which has reduced me much I am now, I hope, better, having missed both these three last days. I shall probably be absent in Michigan about the time Father Collins might be here if health will permit me after Pentecost, I shall visit my Indian Missions. His services are really much wanted here, for the College and the congregation, and in my absence he will be as cordially received by my Vicar General, Mr. Re’z’e and by Messrs. Mullen, Wiseman and Delonghery as by myself. Rev. M. Wiseman ('23) does well, gives me great satisfaction, edifies all by his regularity and piety. I have constituted him Superior of the Seminarians; he conducts them well, teaches a Latin class and Spanish and bookkeeping, preaches alternately and hears confessions . . .

The Commencement of 1832 was particularly brilliant and the press spoke very highly of the performances, especially of Sumter and James Meline. Francis B. Sumter, of South Carolina, and Wm. B. Hill, of Maryland, were the graduates. The Melines, James and Florent, left at the end of this session; James received a certificate of excellence in all his studies (he would have graduated the next year) and both accepted positions as tutors in "The Athenaeum," or College, of Cincinnati, to which reference has already been made.

Here is the program as issued:

Commencement Mt. St. Mary's College, June 28, 1832.

Grand March. Distribution of Premiums. Overture "La Gazza Ladra" Rossini.

  • Conferring of Degrees. Overture Figaro - Mozart.
  • Latin Salutatory - James A. Miller of Philadelphia.
  • Oration on the Superiority of republican government - Thos Evans of S. Carolina
  • Polaeca full orchestra - Meyerbeer.
  • Greek hymn to the Muses - Eugene Giraud, Charleston, S. C.
  • Attila, or the fall of Aquileia - John McGlinsey Philadelphia.
  • Overture Fra Diavolo Auber.
  • French address on the Advantages of public education Arnold Bodin
  • Overture in C. 174 - Kuffner.
  • Apostrophe to Mary Queen of Scots - Charles S. Fry Philadelphia.
  • Supposed speech of General Castanos to the Spanish Army before the battle of Bayden (In Spanish) - Joseph Precios of Barcelona.
  • Polaeca - Bishop.
  • Crescentius, the Roman Martyr (poem) - Jas. F. Meline, New York.
  • Oration on Civil War - Wm. B. Hill, Marlborough, Md.
  • Zauber-flaute - Mozart.
  • Oration on the literature of the age of Louis XIV Valedictory address - Francis B. Sumter of South Carolina.

The Exercises will commence at 1 o'c. P. M. All the addresses have been written for the occasion by Alumni of the College ; and those in Prose are the composition of their respective Speakers. The Music will be performed by the St. Cecilia Society of Mt St. Mary's College.

The following letter shows the liberality of Bp. Kenrick or of Father Hughes or of both. Mr. Sourin to Father Jamison.

Philadelphia, July 5, 1832.

... I had yesterday the pleasure of hearing an oration delivered by Mr. Chas. Ingersoll of this city in St. John's Church My gratification however was less than I expected. The composition was more of an essay than an oration and was besides read, unaccompanied by a single gesture. From the varied talents and acquirements of the Speaker I felt almost certain of the highest gratification. The most perfect order and silence prevailed during the whole time. Revd. Mr. Hughes made a beautiful prayer at the opening of the ceremonies, about half past eleven A. M.. and concluded with the latter part of Archbishop Carroll's "Prayer for the Authorities" etc. Whatever unfavorable impression the concession of a Catholic Church for such a ceremony may make upon the minds of some, it is still a convincing proof of the higher stand which Catholicity has taken of late within Philadelphia. Ten. or perhaps even five years ago, many of those who yesterday filled the church " would have blushed to be caught within a Catholic Church", and as for requesting a Catholic Priest to officiate, it would not have been thought of. Such is the view which I heard several gentlemen of high respectability and weight take of the grant. Whatever injury it may occasion, I still think a refusal would have occasioned more. The Speaker was very severe upon the French, to whom however he paid also many compliments.

President Purcell to Vice-President Jamison.

5th, St. Phila., July, '32.

. . . Mrs. Lajus is exceedingly kind. Her carriage, her table, her house are all turned over to Mountaineers. I stay at Dr. Kenrick's, who has three seminarians in his own house, and plenty more offering daily. Will have to preach here every Sunday all say it would be rushing into the jaws of death to go North. No cholera here . . .

Mr. Jamison to Mr. Purcell.

Mt. St. Mary's College, July 12th, 1832.

My dear brother: . . I have to meet our note in bank tomorrow ! This I will have to renew but several men are pressing me for money, so that if you have spare funds do help a poor sinner. Mr. Brute1 was taken suddenly ill at St. Joseph's on Friday last; got home yesterday, fixed his room, and has returned to spend the week at St. Joseph's. Intends to make his own retreat. God bless him. Dick Whelan (future bishop) is worth his weight in gold. He stands by me and lends a helping hand at every call ... I had to borrow $100 yesterday to send to the Susquehanna river for plank. We are all well at the College, but I have had four or five sick calls in the country and my horse is saddled to go to Mary Ann Kupers as soon as I finish this letter. I rec'd. the Abp.'s mandate and published it on Sanday. I expect this will add to my labors. The yard is nearly finished. We have only twenty fire boys ; all behave well, every one, sisters, servants, boys, masters and all doing well all happy no trouble, thank God, so far. Bishop England is going to Rome and offers his services while there. In the words of our old frd. Horace, but with more Christian principle, let me give this parting advice, 'tis wholesome: "Carpe Diem," for you have a year of study, care and trouble, etc., etc., before you as usual, for verily I do not believe (he cholera will make us all a jot better than before. Take care of yourself and pray for one who sincerely loves and esteems you and who does not think it blarney to tell you so ...

[Purcell was from Cork]. Mr. Gegan to Mr. Purcell.

Baltimore, July 19, 1832.

Revd. and dear Friend: . . . Cholera panic is visible on the countenances of many of our citizens. The most active measures for cleansing our city of every species of filth have been faithfully carried into execution, the rest we leave to God. Wishing you a full and virtuous college . . .

Hilary Parsons, theologian, was tired of the treasurership, which, he claimed, was wearing him down and distracting him utterly from his preparation for the priesthood, and begged to resign it.

In McCaffrey's notes we find that the prefects for 1832-3 were Rev. Richard Whelan, Patrick Reilly ("Dr. Pluck") and Edward Baxter. (Of Patrick Reilly, founder of St. Mary's College, Wilmington, more anon). Messrs. McGarrahan, Michael McAleer, David Whelan, Daniel Byrne, James Dargan and Thomas McCaffrey entered the Seminary Aug. 15, 1832.

The cholera had commenced its ravages with much violence in Canada and its immediate extension to the United States was anticipated. Father Brute wrote to the Most Rev. Archbishop of Baltimore, offering his services when it should reach that city. In Aug. the Rev. Deluol, S. S., visited Mt. St. Mary's in order to withdraw Mr. Hickey from the College and Father Brute returned with him. Immediately on his arrival in Baltimore the latter had a violent attack of intermittent fever, and was obliged to return to the Mountain, but as soon as he had recovered, he set off again, without saying a word to anyone, for Baltimore and labored there until his services were no longer needed.

F. Purcell writes of the cholera in Philadelphia in '32. Doctors had their different opinions. "Burgundy Pitch Plaster" on the abdomen up to the chest was thought a sovereign prophylactic. This heroic remedy was made famous by a song that was sung for a generation after, and the refrain was this:

Sheepskin and beeswax, gum and pitch, a plaster, The more you try to pull it off, the more it sticks the faster.

Jan. 7, '3'2. As showing the difficulties of trade: a gentleman encloses two five dollars bills of the bank of Gettysburg as they are not taken in Bryantown, Maryland, and he thinks they may be negotiable here. Checks were written, not printed, and were frequently drafts on private individuals. Many beg time till a piece of land is sold or till crops come in or goods are sold, or jewels, or till money due themselves is paid, etc.

Jan. 12,'32. A Cincinnati father hopes that some one will beat Gettysburg to see that all the boys get into one slage for Pittsburg. where they will take steamboat for home. "I think twenty five dollars will take my two boys to Pittsburg."

Mar. 13, '32. A son writes to his mother that he had "done something

very wrong and that he had been locked up and fed on bread and water for six

days."He" does not object to the justice of the punishment, which is certainly

an excellent one, far better than flogging"

Mar. 6, '32. One father: " John tells me he has left off his Greek class for want of time; I prefer that he leave any or all his other classes, Latin excepted ..."

Same date another father: "This new world requires practical knowledge, I wish James to give up Greek for which he says he has no fondness."

Dubois vs. Patton's heirs, of date Apr. 17, 1832. we find a letter about land twenty miles from Romney, Va. (West Virginia) on the North Fork of the Potomac near Cresop, Md. Reference has already been made to this.

June 2. '32. "My father, General Sumter, died suddenly yesterday. He was on horseback the day before. He was 96 or 97 years old. Please don't tell my son until after the examinations. T. D. Sumter, Statesburg, South Carolina." A statue to this illustrious soldier of the Revolution, after whom Fort Sumter was called, was raised in 1907, the general government assisting to do honor to his memory.

June 12, '32. A father writes: "Willie is 14, and has learned very little; swearing, horse-riding, hunting is the most he knows, and with all my sermons cannot succeed to engage him in studying." "When a boy, especially one who lived at a distance, was reported to his parents for drinking or, as sometimes happened, was expelled, it is painful to read the letters in which the parents and sometimes the boy express their disappointment and sorrow at the fault and the disgrace of expulsion.

Father Purcell writing 14 July. '32 says: "McCloskey (Cardinal) is a heart of mountain oak. God bless the Mountain! What fine fellows it produces! And must it after all perish in that ever-widening chasm of debt ?

June 16, '32. " I intend to visit Alfred during vacation. This will make the spending it at College less irksome. I suspect that it is not considered fashionable to pass the vacation at college and that the boys look unfavorably on those who do." In this case home was 700 miles away.

Aug. 1, '32. The College bo't a brass seal for $35 ; two steel dies for $20; eleven gold medallions for $55 ; eighteen gilt-silver ones for $45. These medals must have been for prizes.

Aug. 20, '32. The father of one of the boys writes from Montreal that the cholera raged up there. The Sulpician College suspended studies in order that the professors might attend the sick. They were stationed throughout the city and relieved every twelve hours like sentries. Not one of them, nor the nuns who were nursing the patients, caught the disease, though the population was thinned thereby.

Sept. 24, '32. " It is well for Henry to get a small rifle since the boys are allowed to go hunting, which is an excellent and healthy exercise."

Father Oildea, stationed at Harper's Ferry, took sick of the cholera Sept. 1, 1832. Many people died there of the disease and people were flying in every direction. One Mr. Jamison writes that many died without the rites of religion and asks for a Mountain priest.

Sept. 8, '32. The Dept. of State asked for a prospectus to be sent for a public purpose to the American Consul at Havana. All the Catholic Colleges were asked for the same.

Feb. 24, '32. A mother writes expressing surprise l: at Peter's extravagance," she thought there was no opportunity to spend at the Mountain." She wants him taught economy.

June 12, '32. The students going home by way of Balto. used to breakfast at Taneytown. They had to start about 3 a. m. from the College in order to get to Balto. that night. There was a horse railway from Frederick to Balto. but of course that was out of the way.

New Orleans, Dec. 29,'32. " Very dull Christmas Day. The pavements and streets were covered with water like a lake and we could not step outside the door . . " So inconvenient was traveling in those days that the father of one of our boys writes from New Orleans that he and his wife had not seen their son for six years. Cholera, yellow fever and the cold plague were all raging in that city at the same time. It was a voyage of 31 days by sea from Philadelphia.

Betsy Peterman came to the College in 1832 at "common wages, that is fifty cents a week. If she will not take that, Arnold says he will give her two pairs of shoes of any kind she may choose." She stayed her whole life and men wept at her death forty years later.

Sept. 8, '82. "A great many encomiums have been passed on the Emmitsburg sisters. The Protestants in Baltimore, it appears, cannot say enough and think they can never repay them for their kindness during the cholera ..." In fact the City Government passed formal resolutions in acknowledgment of the sisters' services.

Sept. 10,'32. Cholera in Baltimore. All business suspended. Pastors told people to make their wills, as death used to follow in a few hours after the attack. It was bad at Frederick, but we do not read of it at Emmitsburg till twenty years later, 1853.

Sept. 23, '32. John O'Brien writes from the West Point Military Academy that he is obliged to go to " an Episcopalian" church.

Dec. 15, '32. A Southern mother is "very unhappy" at the "insult" offered her boy, whom the prefect "slapped on surmise of his having been concerned in what he (the boy) styled an ingenious trick, etc.," and will not have peace of mind until she gets the President's assurance that her sons shall not be subject to the degradation of being punished in this contemptible manner.

Dec. 15, '32. " I think it a great advantage in after life for a young man to graduate, as it gives a confidence in the solidity of his education which he would not, I think, otherwise possess ..."

Matches were first made in the United States this year by Jacob Weller a blacksmith of Thurmont. He asked 25 cents a hundred for them.

Dec. 18, 32. "My man Bill will reach the College in the evening with a horse for John, (whom I wish to come home for the holidays) so that they may start early in the morning on their forty mile ride."

Chapter 25 | Chapter Index

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