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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 28 | Chapter Index

Chapter 29: 1835-1836

The following circular was issued at this time:

Mt. St. Mary's Theological Seminary Fund Association.

The Directors of the Ecclesiastical Seminary and College at Mount St. Mary's, Emmitsburg, appeal to the zeal and benevolence of the friends of religion and literature for aid in support of an establishment which has been for twenty-five years laboring in the cause of piety and learning, with no other resources than the individual exertions of the Reverend gentlemen who have successively directed its interests.

In bringing the establishment to its present advanced state of usefulness debts have been contracted, which have been much increased by the gratuitous education of many young clergymen, as also of many poor young men and orphans; so that, notwithstanding the present flourishing condition of the College, we cannot expect to be liberated from the burden which the zeal of our predecessors has left on us, or hope to extend as widely as hitherto the benefits of the Institution, unless generously aided by the liberal contributions of the faithful. By order of the Council and Faculty of the Institution. T. K, Butler, President.

Mt. St. Mary's, Emmitsburg, April 30, 1835.

Approbation. The useful character of the above-mentioned Institution, and a recent examination of its present state, induce me earnestly to recommend it to the patronage of the friends of religion and literature.

Given under my hand and seal at St. Inigo's, St. Mary's County, Maryland, this eleventh day of May, 1835. Samuel, Archbishop of Baltimore.

"Nearly sixty priests and three bishops have been sent from its bosom into every State of our Union . . . several of whom have proven themselves to be at once the ornaments and defenders of our Faith." (Catholic Herald.)

Rev. John Walsh gave one thousand dollars; George McCloskey, a thousand;Matthias Bensinger, one hundred; Cornelia A. Howard, fifty; Dr. Gunning S. Bedford, fifty; Denis McCready, fifty; Bp. Kenrick, twenty; Emily Harper became an annual contributor and paid one hundred and fifty dollars; Rev. P. Schreiber paid twenty-five; Rev. John Hughes, twenty; Rev. F. X. Gartland, twenty. [These are all the paid subscriptions found in this place: others may have been listed elsewhere.]

South East View of Mount Saint Mary's, 1835

The circular itself contained the Preamble and Rules of the Association. On the copy before us is another list of Donations and Annual Subscribers' names. Among these latter are Rev. F. B. Jainison, Dr. F. Chatard, Mrs. E. Baldwin, Mary H. Reyburn, Elizabeth Walley, Philip Reilly, John Parsons, Jane E. Martin, and others. Among the donors are Mrs. Elder, E. Marcilly, Charles D. Elder, four members of the Parsons family, and others.

These names were of Baltimoreans, as the circular upon which they are written was sent by Mr. Butler to Sister Clotilda in that city, with a request that she would exert herself to have "the opposite page filled with names."

President Butler being now in Baltimore, Mr. McCaffrey, Vice-President, thus announces the arrival at the College of one whose noble genius was, in after years, to touch Mount and stream and rock unto undying fame, and to gather, by the magic of his pen, the tender memories and graceful ideals about the place and so many of its people:

The Mountain, May 4th, 1835.

Rev. and dear friend: I take the opportunity afforded by Mrs. M———— to scribble you a few lines. She came here accompanied by Mr. Mickle, Cash" of the Union Bank, Bait., who entered his nephew, George H. Miles, and has left him with us. Mrs. M., I trust, will return satisfied with her visit, although I resisted her wish to send Joseph newspapers, and also to keep Spence out of the College all night . . neither of which points she pressed in an unbecoming manner. ... I believe that in the end people are always favorably impressed by perceiving that we have a definite rule and strictly adhere to it. I am sure from what I have heard that Mr. Mickle was pleased with my amiable sternness. . . The number of students of the College who received holy communion on Low Sunday was precisely forty-eight, of whom nine made their First Communion. Yesterday there were six more at this divine Sacrament and next Sunday there will be four or five. Sixty-six (including congregation) confirmed.

Writing June 6, 1835, to Mr. McCaffrey, Bishop Brute’ speaks of his missionary journeys in Illinois and Indiana: "Twenty-four days, five hundred fifty miles on horseback, more than fifty on foot, a new house every night." He expresses his regret that Mr. Barry was not with him to explain his replies when asked concerning religious matters. Barry was a shoemaker at Emmitsburg, famous for his powers in debate. "This day of Pentecost the Apostles started out over the globe. I said thrice : 'nos patriam fugimus.' 'Adieu beau pays de France,' and gave up notre ' ou peut on etre mieux qu'au sein de sa famille?' ..."

He tells of a snake with two tails he had seen, and draws a picture of the animal for " the doctor." We saw how George H. Miles had been entered as a student. In Brownsou's Review of April, 1849, he tells of his coming and his childhood at the College:

"We knew we were going to College to a Catholic College somewhere among the Mountains. We were we speak personally, not editorially too young to know its exact location, or to care much about it. It seems a century ago; but we distinctly remember a dismal aversion to the black-gowned priests of Rome, who were soon to be our only guardians. It was a bright May morning, and as we watched the graceful and ever-varying outlines of the Blue Ridge we caught a glimpse of two white specks in the distance. 'The College and the Church!" cried the driver. We made no reply, but looked with the ' fixed gaze' of Dante on Beatrice, as if even then we had a presentiment of the influence they were to exert on our after lives.

"As we approached, those white specks became stately buildings. And then, after passing through an avenue of noble oaks and chestnut trees, we stood upon a smooth terrace, where a band of youths were slowly pacing, muttering over strings of beads. A tall man in an ominous cassock offered to conduct us to the church. We ascended the hill and a blaze of beauty burst upon us, such as we had never seen before. We knew not which was lovelier the sunset skies above, or the broad, verdant, limitless plain beneath, that looked tranquillity. For a moment homesickness and childish apprehension vanished and all was joy.

"But we descended; and my companion left me, and I stood desolate and lone with the man in the cassock. He soothed me like a father but he could not check my tears. That night how well I remember it! I knelt by my little cot and prayed to all the genii of Aladdin to transport me far away. And it was not without a hope of being heard; for I had read the Arabian Nights until I half believed them. However, I woke exactly where I lay down, and rose a student of Mount Saint Mary's College, Maryland, doomed to a most matter-of-fact breakfast of dry bread and coffee.

"The first day was, by prescription, dedicated to a ramble over the Mountain. There were numerous flower-gardens very small and very pretty scattered at intervals along a shady ravine, through which a clear, cold stream, abounding in crawfish, went merrily trickling. And what surprised me most was to find, in almost every nook, three small wooden crosses planted in beds of green moss bordered by round, white pebbles. All along the slope of the hill were neat and durable paths, some broad, some narrow, frequently intersecting each other, and many of them terminating in a time-worn grotto. I was told they were made by Mr. Brute. I did not know that I was treading on hallowed ground, and for some time regarded Mr. Brute as a good, old, industrious day-laborer, who had been well paid for his work. I had yet to learn that his wages were not of this world.

"The days went rapidly by homesickness disappeared I went through all the hustlings was initiated into the mysteries of 'Gunjers' and 'The Jug,' and expanded into a regular Mountaineer. How the heart glows even now to review our Thursday joys! to recall the rapture with which we shouldered our guns, and from sunrise to sunset, through creek, and den, and swamp, pursued with unwearied foot the hapless bird and fated squirrel! or the ecstacy with which we cast the seine in the 'Ram's Hole' or ' Crabb's Dam,' and dashed through the waters like hunted otters! And when evening came, those memorable debates in the Philomathian and the aspiring Philalethians! who that has shared them can ever forget them? Then it was an every-day feat to climb the mountain for two miles at a steady trot, and descend at a run with the captive rabbit bait the traps and all in less than an hour. There was no dyspepsia then. And the rag-balls, with 'Friday' for the devil; the concerts, with 'Major's' eye flashing through Figaro; the annual supper and the annual oyster, Christmas, St. John's day, St. Cecilia's and the Twenty-second, each graced with the quarterly turkey; and but I could go on forever.

"I do not write for all; and the emotion that thrills me as I write may appear unwarranted and ridiculous. There are some who will see only an unmeaning jargon in the words that bring back to me and others the sweet, the balmy morning of life. But there are many, here and far away over the waters the gallant, unbroken band of Mountaineers, who have adorned the Sanctuary and the battlefield, whose hands are ever clasped wherever they meet, whose hearts still leap at the mention of their Alma Mater. They will weep tears of joy when others sneer, and feel a meaning where others find none.

"I speak of myself, but not for myself alone; it is a language that sounds from Maine to Louisiana, from Missouri to Florida a language that is heard among the snows of Canada, amid the orange groves of Rio, and in the fair isles of the Caribbean Sea. Would that I could express more worthily this sacred voice of love and gratitude!

"The years went by without a pang, except when idleness incurred the frown of love. The name of Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother of Jesus, became familiar to me, and I could not resist an inclination to pray to her and become an idolater to that extent. Soon I ventured to make the sign of the cross and to respond to the litanies. And at last, by the mercy of God, I knelt before the chapel altar the waters of regeneration were poured upon my head and I rose a Catholic.

"Ever blessed moment! not only for me, but for another who knelt beside me and was received into the bosom of the Church.

"Shall we be sneered at for remembering and repeating this? for clinging to a past that was full of light and beauty ? They are shouting around us 'Begin to live! the realities of life are before you onward to riches, rank and fame!' So cried Catiline. We plunged into the world and tried its maxims ; and we found that instead of beginning to live, we were beginning to die. We tried the realities of life and found them shadows Dead Sea fruits that turned to ashes on the lips. We tasted human applause, and felt that in setting our hearts on it we had incurred the frown of God. We lifted the spangled veil from the face of riches, rank and fame, and saw the cankered Mokanna beneath it. We tried the round of fashion, and detected its heartlessness, its hopelessness, its martyrdom.

"No! in that little chapel where we received Catholicity we began to live and to pursue realities; and the fulfilment of our baptismal promises is still our only reality. And as we look around us and see the true-hearted and the strong-minded groping in darkness for the light we there received as we feel more keenly every hour that Catholicity is our only anchor, our only solace in danger, in despondency, in joy and in death who can wonder that we turn with overflowing hearts to Mount St. Mary's, where our life began, and speak of her with a tenderness that makes the worldling smile?

"Let him read a portion of her history and he will learn to respect her. After studying the lives of Dubois and Brute, he will see the meaning of that immortal line:

"'The world knows nothing of its greatest men."

[Miles's companion that blessed day was George Hay King-gold. His daughter married Edward, a brother of George Miles.]

The brilliant and amiable Father Richard Whelan left the Mountain this year after Commencement, and Dr. Francis L. Higgins, '31, of Norfolk, our first Bachelor of Arts, went to complete his medical education in France. The Commencement was held on June 26th, 1835, John McCloskey (future president), Michael McAleer of Frederick (afterwards a priest in New York), and John Loughlin (Bishop) being prefects at this time.

A layman writes, Nov. 1, to a teacher at the College:

You complain of the multiplicity of your duties. . . . Compared to the monotonous routine of active life, yr. situation is truly enviable, iso cares to oppress, no conflicting interests to oppose, no sudden reversions of fortune to encounter, time passes with you in one unvarying tenor, leaving no burnings of anguish on the heart, no sickening recollections of memory's page, no blightings of affection's earliest flowers. But in "the hum and shock of men" we are in solitudea solitude the more keenly felt as it wears the semblance of tranquillity only to delude. But 'tis useless to repine. In the language of Byron, "Existence must be borne, and the deep root Of life and sufferance take its firm abode In bare and desolate hearts."

There was talk of buying a printing-press this November, one being offered for forty-five dollars, but we have no record of such a thing having been purchased. A similar proposition was made in 1832. The next intimation of such advance we find occurred about 1885, when a plant was to be had for four hundred dollars, and a young printer was admitted to the College to pay his way by his craft. But at this writing we are still in the condition that held in 1835, while our enterprising cousins over Tom's Creek have done neat printing for years back.

On December 3, 1835, "in accordance with the notice previously given," a meeting of professors and students connected with Mount St. Mary's College was held for the purpose of forming a Philosophical Society. At this meeting a temporary organization was effected, officers were chosen, and a committee appointed to prepare a constitution and by-laws for the society. On December 10 the constitution was presented and adopted, and, in accordance with a resolution presented at this meeting, submitted to the College authorities for their approval.

The founders of the society were as follows: (Prof.) Anthony Hermange (M. D.), Rev. John McCaffrey (Vice-Pres. of the College), Patrick Corry, James A. Miller, Leonard Obermeyer. It lasted till March 26, 1840. During 1838 expenditures were made, including one of ten dollars for a rain-gauge and subscriptions to various journals. Many meteorological reports were made, and the society received communications from many of the corresponding members. Many ambitious topics, chiefly connected with physical science, were treated, and among those who accepted honorary membership was the Abp. of Baltimore.

Among the essays preserved in the "Transactions of the Philosophical Society " are: "The Origin of Language," P. Corry; "On Dreams," L. Obermeyer; "The Dead Sea," E. J. Sourin; "Observations of the Aurora Borealis of April 22, 1836," Rev. J. McCaffrey; "Volcanoes," Carroll Spence; "Formation of Dew," Edw. O'Neill; "The Imponderable Agents," Wm. Muller; " Springs," F. A. Larocque; "Locations and Organizations of Irrational Animals," C. Spence; " Porosity," J. A. Dall; "In Relation to the Fine Arts," ——— ——; "Light and Vision," W. H. Elder; "Egyptian Hieroglyphics," D. Byrnes. There are papers on meteorology, thunder-storms, etc., and a curious story of " a live snake caught and hung in a spider's web." This incident is related by Father Obermeyer, who says he was an eye-witness of the very interesting event, which evidently happened in the "Church on the Hill."

Some attribute the enterprise which caused the formation of this and similar societies to the absence of newspapers and magazines, which furnish so much ready-cooked literary and scientific pabulum, that individual effort and research is discouraged or rendered superfluous. The result is perhaps lowered character and inferior scholarship in later students.

The following is apropos: Charles Carroll Harper, grandson of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, writing on the 30th of December and sending one hundred and fifty dollars, the annual contribution of his sister Emily, says:

"I recollect that when I was at the Mountain we used to pick up in a field bordered by woods, and somewhere between the College and Tom's Creek, large bits of amethystine quartz, rock crystal of a blue color, which would have been very acceptable to a mineralogist, though we boys attached no value to them. Being now something of a mineralogist and engaged in forming a collection which is already respectable, I should be glad to obtain as many specimens of that substance as can be had. and I shall be very much indebted to you if you will request some of the young gentlemen under your charge to procure them for me if they can. I am sorry that my dim recollection of the localities prevents my giving a more distinct account of the place where they used to be found. It was an old field, I think. I need not say that any other mineralogical specimens from your neighborhood would always be acceptable. If your are forming a cabinet I may be able to send you some in return."

In those days they expended a great deal of patriotic feeling and gunpowder over February 22d, the natal day of George Washington. The college cadets wished to assist the pupils of St. Joseph's in doing honor to the occasion, and Father Butler made a request for permission to visit the sisterhood, to which Father Hickey replied:

Rev. Sir: I am very willing and grateful that your young soldiers should pay us a patriotic visit. Mother Rose says No, but still leaves it to me, who say Yes. Her fears will subside, no doubt, after having witnessed the good behavior of the military students. Your Obt. Sert., J. Hickey. Monday morning, 22nd, Feb., 1836

The experience of the boys at St. Joseph's was similar to that of their successors in 1890. A brass band had been formed at the College and the members were anxious to serenade the girls at the Convent. This was, of course, out of the question. Permission was given, however, to go over and play their brief repertory on the lawn in the presence of the pupils and their teachers. They boys blew their prettiest, as can be imagined, but not the slightest sign of applause did they receive. Think of their feelings! A few days later a sister of one of the boys told him how much the girls had admired the performance and how grateful they were to the boys, but that it was against the etiquette of the house to show their appreciation or express their feelings.

Historical data are found at this period indicating uneasiness in the governing body of the College, and on August 22, 1836, Archbishop Eccleston writes to President Butler: "You have failed in your application to the Sulpicians. What think you of the Jesuits ? You have my approbation to offer the establishment to them on certain conditions which will be acceptable to them if you can only frighten away the bugbear of your debts."

April 11, 1835. " I do not mean to encourage my son Frederick in the practice of borrowing money from his friends and shall not consider myself bound for his debts." It is a father that writes this, of course.

Franklin and Paca Sts., Baltimore. A house belonging to the College was offered for sale May 29, 1835, but was withdrawn.

June 9, 1835. Troubles of the procurator: "Neither the Banks nor the merchants of Baltimore will take the Cincinnati bank bill, and the Lottery man wants 5% for cashing it." Lotteries were vast and profitable concerns in those days arid before and for a long time after, even up to 1900. They had agents everywhere. Private lotteries, too, were gotten up for every purpose, sacred and profane.

June 16, 1835. "Every day I stay here I become more and more disgusted with this College, for I am always comparing the two places together and thinking of the happy moments I have spent with you." Thus writes one exiled from the Mountain.

Mr. McCaffrey went on a begging tour through Baltimore in July, 1835, guided by William Henry Elder. He visited also Philadelphia and New York ap4 got many students.

A South Carolina boy who had become a Catholic at the Mountain wrote a pathetic letter, July 13, telling how he had been exposed to the greatest trials in professing his faith, and having no priest to help and guide him, while all his people attended some heretical meeting, he had either to remain in his room alone or hear constant abuse lavished on the Church. He proposed going to Charleston to buy some books of instruction, and asked President Butler's advice and help.

The old Indian burying-ground on the Gibsom farm, east of the sisterhood, was ploughed under at this period: "From human mould we reap our daily bread."

Edward A. Lynch, a Catholic of Frederick, counsel for the College, informed them Jan. 16, 1836, that they might recover back taxes from 1829.

Father McCloskey (Card.), in a letter from Rome (1835), says: "Emmitsburg stands alone as to the disinterestedness of its professors."

Chapter Index | Chapter 30

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.