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

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

Mary E. Meline & Edward F.X. McSween

Published by the Emmitsburg Chronicle, 1911

Chapter 32 | Chapter Index

Chapter 33: 1839

Lawyer Edward A. Lynch wrote from Frederick, Jan. 21, 1839, saying that he had long felt, and still felt, and had expressed to Father McCaffrey's predecessors, "deep anxiety on account of the manner in which your property is held." The memorial volume of St. Mary's Seminary (Baltimore, 1891) tells that Dubois in the beginning Bishop Carroll permitting handed over his house and church to the Sulpicians. Then Dubourg and Dubois, the latter being now a Sulpician, as the former was, bought in the name of this society about five hundred acres. In 1819 Father Tessier, afraid that the debt of the Mountain would involve Baltimore, handed the Mountain property over to Father Dubois to hold it in the name of the society, as he himself had done. In 1826 the Superior General of the Sulpicians gave it all to Dubois, on the sole condition that he should pay the debts. Dubois, leaving for New York, made it over to Egan and McGerry. The latter surviving Egan left it to Jamison, who deeded it to Butler, Sourin and Whelan. Mr. Lynch advised that the legal owners "at once transfer the property to. 'The President and Council of Mount St. Mary's College,' and give the Archbishop, who should be elected a member of the corporation, a direct negative upon the alienation or transfer of any of your property, and make his assent in all cases absolutely prerequisite."

Ex-President Butler wrote from Baltimore Jan. 18. saying that Miss Emily Harper wanted to pay Brute's bill for Rev. M. Vabret and others (and she did so), and to continue her subscription of $150 a year if still desired. "She is very much attached to the Mountain and should be regarded as one of its friends and benefactors. She asked me to call and select from some pictures and church furniture she wishes to present."

They had "new" Catechisms then, too; he continues:

I have scarcely a moment to write, so don't even regard this as a letter. I have Tianded to Wm. Elder for you a copy of the new Catechism it is to be generally introduced as soon as possible. Respects to your esteemed confreres and be kind enough to send the half sheet on the other side to your venerated neighbor, Mother Rose. Tell Father Flaut to hasten down and have his head refitted with such ivory garniture as will make him thunder from the pulpit as strongly and distinctly as he could desire. We have a near neighbor, Dr. Laroque, who has a very perfect way of fitting in whole sets of teeth most firmly by atmospheric pressure without springs or pivots or hinges, as in old times. . . .

On Jan. 28, 1839, Bp. Brute’ wrote again about his alleged indebtedness to the College, and about his books. It seems the College sent him a bill for four hundred and sixteen dollars, etc. He acknowledged two hundred dollars, but called for arbitration on a larger sum.

Father Butler writing to President McCaffrey about the property question, Feb. 4th; promised to send the "minutes of Father McCaffrey's election by the Corporation, and referring to the death of "Mr. Curran "speaks as follows, and the paragraph lets in some "kindly light" on his own character and on the time we are describing: I was very sorry to learn the death of your worthy Mr. Curran. It is another of those peculiar Mountain blessings which are both bitter and sweet at the same time. Happy for the blessed one who is called, and hard indeed for those who are left to labor. Yet, my dear friend, the Mountain is a blessed spot for a happy death, for amidst all its cares and privations and labors, with all its little, loving quarrels about family government and duties, there is a spirit of sacrifice about it which must bring blessings if not for the ultimate and evident prosperity of the loved spot at least for those whose motto is practically, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Professor Beleke published in 1839 his German Grammar, among the first issued in this country, as Prof. Lagarde told the chronicler September 20, 1905.

The large new church at the sisterhood, in the building of which Mr. Butler had been greatly interested, was dedicated on St. Joseph's day, 19th March, of this year 1839. The bell which hangs in the steeple was brought to this country from Spain during the ascendancy of Espartero, when human progress found another illustration so common with our political radicals in the spoliation of the Church and her holy institutions. Several of the bells were for sale in Baltimore, and in the selection of one of them for the sisterhood at Emmitsburg, a singular coincidence presented itself which deserves to be recorded. In order to judge of the tones of the different bells, Father Butler as the agent of the institution, stationed himself at a distance from the place where they were suspended. They were now rung one after the other, and were distinguished by the numerical order in which they were sounded. Mr. Butler having chosen one that appeared to him adapted to the purpose, found upon examination of the inscription which it bore, that it had been cast at the very time of the establishment of the sisterhood and had been "baptized" by the name of St. Joseph, who was the chief patron of the institution and chapel in the valley.

Rev. Mr. Butler having been accepted by President McCaffrey as arbiter in the case of "Bishop Brute and Books, vs. The Mountain Seminary," decided that the charges for the maintenance of the three seminarians from the Vincennes diocese, should be reduced from four hundred sixteen dollars to three hundred eighty-two. Brute’ accepted the verdict, and wrote in his usual vein, April 9,1839, beginning with Auspice Maria, and giving an account of his contribution to the Vincennes Historical Society, etc. He then goes on:

I am glad to feel acquitted toward you and now ask you to forgive my petty-fogging about the affair until I could find issue to it. Good Mr. Berel [one of the priest whose 'Board’ bill was cause of the difference] was at the point of death a few days after M. Petit's immense Joss. Judge of my trial! I administered him Holy Viaticum all in the usual procession and his Credo and Te Deum said in his surplice and stole, but so beautifully calm and ready. What a good lesson rehearsing so for me for some of these days! Only pray for that unworthy Bishop your friend. Simon Be’ Bp of Vincennes.

The last letter of Brute’ to McCaffrey is of date, Vincennes, 6 June, 1839, and we quote a few words from it:

Dear Friend: I am very ill; my memory does not help me any further. I hope to receive the Holy Viaticum tomorrow. Sacred Heart, I ask, beg most tenderly your prayers; there is danger enough but to-night becoming more. Oh! Will! Recommend me to the prayers of St. Joseph's and Fathers Hickey and Xaupi: I thank you for your kindness; excuse in my past all that was not properly patient. Your old friend always, Simon Be’ Bp of Vincennes.

I acknowledge my many errors at the Mountain and St. Joseph's these many years, and I ask pardon for them.

How many have been astonished and edified by the heroic patience, forgiveness, human and divine love of this "Angel of the Mount" as revealed to posterity in his acts and his writings! It is with regret that the chronicler finds himself obliged, respecting their private character, to give only selections from these.

The self-forgetting apostle now realized that the end was near. During his journey to Baltimore to attend the Council of 1837 he had caught a severe cold from riding on the outside of a stage-coach ; this fastened upon his lungs and developed into consumption. He had been slowly dying ever since.

The spectacle of such a life spending and spent in the service of God, may well make us weak ones tremble when we look into our own and find them so empty of the spirit of mortification. Surely with Bishop Brute death now approaching was but translation. The chronicler is loath to tear himself away from the contemplation of this beautiful soul, and from rehearsing the evidences of his sanctity, which he would impress on the mind and heart of every Mountain ecclesiastic.

Brute’, predisposed as he was to consumption, which finally carried him off, traversed on horseback all Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, his vast diocese. The roads were mere tracks through forest and over prairie. He carried in his saddlebag corn meal and salt to make porridge. He slept in his overcoat on the earth, or on a bench in the log-churches, or on the floor. When his red children banqueted the Great Father of Prayer, they served a chowder composed of fish, venison, turkey and coon all minced together, with broken cranberries and maple-sugar for dessert, but this was once in a great while. He would have but one room in his house for himself, no carpet, the plainest furniture; for he would not be better off than his priests, to each of whom he wrote every few weeks.

No species of inconvenience could induce him to fail of any engagement he had made for a visit to any of his clergy at the appointed time. On one occasion he commenced a journey of four hundred miles in such a state of bodily suffering that he was unable to sit upright on his horse. He leaned forward over the neck of the animal, yet completed the journey without the interruption of a single day. Wheresoever he went, he engaged in all the duties of an ordinary pastor said Mass in the miserable shanties, preached, heard confessions, administered to the sick, etc. On his last visit to Madison, made on horseback or on a flat boat, the fourth he had made within a year, a short time before his death, though so weak and attenuated that he could scarcely support his tottering frame, he, in the absence of the pastor, answered three distinct sick calls on the same day, and himself dying, administered the consolations of religion to those who appeared not nearer dissolution than himself. This was his last visit in his diocese. Strange to human seeming was it that his lifetime friend and fellow laborer at Mount St. Mary's should fail of his vital powers at the same time. The ending of these two lives were in accord with the whole tenor of them; the one bowing with sweet submission to the decree of his Creator, spending his last days in tender thoughts and loving services towards his flock; the other, unyielding in his decrepitude, clinging to his authority and unwilling to acknowledge that he had lost the physical and mental power for its exercise yet with his whole heart anxious for the honor and service of his Divine Master, Bishop Dubois' sterner, more imperious nature made him the greater sufferer.

We cannot do better than follow Mr. Hassard in his account of the last years of Dubois. He says: "A long standing dispute between Bishop Dubois and the trustees of the Cathedral had reached the point of open warfare. Bishop Dubois was too old and too feeble to carry on the contest, but he rightly judged that his coadjutor had all the courage and firmness which the occasion demanded, and he committed the whole matter to him. Bishop Hughes felt that the battle must be a decisive one. It was not an affair of the appointment of school teachers or the payment of salaries ; it was practically the question whether the Church should be governed by the bishop or by the legislature. If the charter of incorporation could give laymen the right of interference when the bishop deemed it necessary to inflict canonical censures upon one of his clergy ; if it entitled them to appoint catechists and expel from the premises anybody who did not please them ; why might it not go further and commit to the trustees the entire management of the spiritual concerns of the congregation? If they might demand the services of a suspended priest, why not of an excommunicated priest? of a Methodist minister? a Jew? a pagan? an atheist? The trustees, in fine, were acting on the Protestant principle, which puts all church matters into the hands of the people; they may call whom they please to preach to them, and if they do not like him, may send him away and call another. The Catholic principle supposes that pastors are sent by God to teach and govern their flocks.

"On the 10th of February, 1839, a constable was employed to eject the bishop's catechist from the Cathedral Sunday-school. The next Sunday Bishop Hughes spoke of the occurrence from the pulpit in such a tone as to invite an apology from the trustees and smooth the way for a reconciliation. No apology, however, was made. On Sunday the 24th he read to the congregation a Pastoral Address, written by himself but signed by Bishop Dubois. It called upon them to disavow the cause of their representatives, and threatened with ecclesiastical penalties those who persisted in their insubordinate conduct. It told them in effect that the bishop ought to be and would be master. The law gave them control over the church edifice and the revenues, but it gave them none over the clergy or the sacraments. They might do what they pleased with the building, but unless they acted in perfect conformity with the canons and spirit of the Catholic Church the priests should all be withdrawn and the Cathedral laid under an interdict. The pewholders were invited to meet Bishop Hughes in the school-room the same afternoon. At this meeting, which from five to seven hundred attended, Bishop Hughes spoke, but in no uncertain tones; he laid the case before them in plain language, and by some happy allusions to the State Church of England, "a gilded slave chained to the crown," and to " poor Ireland, who upheld the freedom of her faith at the sacrifice of all that men held dear besides, " carried the hearts and minds of his hearers, and the field was won. He decided afterwards to give a course of lectures upon Church government, and for materials and assistance in searching out references for these lectures, he had," says Mr. Hassard, "some help from Bishop Brute’. Weak and sick as the latter was, he drew up for his dear pupil a catalogue of all the principal schisms and disorders which had arisen from the trustee system in this country, and sent it to him with a number of pamphlets and a characteristic letter dated ' Vincennes, 28th March, 1838, the very Holy Thursday, the day of all apostleship, priesthood and Christian blessing for all Christians.' Full of joy ' he says ' as I read your letter of the 20th and that triumph of true, divine principles over those of the gates of hell. A review of cases or of general principles is more easy than the truly delicate task now before you. Treat it with piety and charity, with a view to instruct, not to humble, to rail. Let it be evident that the whole purpose is of a superior order, settling here the Church on its proper grounds and securing Catholics in the enjoyment of their religion against designing or misguided men. So will you succeed.' He writes again April 19, only a few weeks before his death, to congratulate Bishop Hughes on the success of the lectures and the excellent effect of the pastoral letter of their " common father and friend, Bishop Dubois: 'I finish reading your first page delighted God's own Spirit and promises to his Church all the true mixture of firmness, prompt action and charity given to you from above. But you are too kind to remember me, and grant me such an excellent letter second and third page my increasing consolation. What you say of Bishop Dubois affected me to tears. I love him and respect him and you, now so faithful to him and to your God, with increased affection.'"

What was the remark about Bishop Dubois at which Dr. Brute’ was so moved, we have no means of knowing; but it is not difficult to conjecture. Repeated paralytic strokes had produced their natural affect upon the venerable prelate's mind : he was no longer the clear-headed, far-seeing, energetic man that he had been. He became ready to trust and quick to be deceived; his confidence was continually abused; and the mournful conviction forced itself upon the minds of those about him that the interests of the Church required his retirement. Bishop Hughes wrote to the Cardinal of the Propaganda describing the evils which resulted from Dubois' state:

. . . He is now better, now worse. His faculties both of mind and body are impaired, his memory especially fails him. Devoted to him with my whole heart, as he is to me, I have made no attempt to interfere in the government of the diocese, except in the way of advice and persuasion, which are of little avail, because he is very set in his purposes. I write of those, most eminent and reverend father, not that any authority for governing the diocese may be taken away from him or conferred on me; but in order that you may be informed of the state and circumstances of ecclesiastical affairs. On the contrary, I should be deeply grieved if anything should be done or ordered by the Holy See to diminish his authority or dignity. I know that it is my part to assist the venerable Bishop of New York, so far as he himself wishes, and I know not whether I ought to have said what I have. If I have done wrong, I beg your Eminence to hold me excused.

Financial matters at the College had been improving of late. We find this statement of the reduction of the debt of Mount St. Mary's upon a sheet of paper with neither preface nor remark:

"1838, March 1st. By an estimate of the debt of the College made out under this date it was found to be $51,505.82. Subsequently other bills came in and errors were corrected by which the amount was increased $2,166.15, making the total cash debt $53,671.97.

"1839, March 1st. By the annual statement of the cash debt of this date it is shown to be $47,599.84. From which it appears that the debt has been reduced in one year's time $6,072.13. There are due the house debts, which probably will be collected, amounting to about $14,000.00.

L. Obermeyer, Treas. Col. April 17, 1839.

['Tis a pity that this diminution did not continue.] The venerable founder of the house was about to visit it once more, for, in a letter to Rev. M. McCaffrey of April 23d, 1839, Rev. P. Danaher writes from New York : "I was glad to hear from Mrs. Dr. Shorb and Mrs. Agnew such flattering news from our beloved Mountain. My affections are still chained to it, and ever will be. Bishop Dubois starts about the first week of May for Emmitsburg. He goes by Washington. The good old gentleman's spirits are high at the idea of a visit to the child of his zeal and at the warmth of the reception he is sure to meet with. Rev. Mr. Starrs goes with him. Bishop Hughes starts at the same time to take a circuit of the diocese. Bishop Dubois's visit to the Mountain will receive notice in the 'Truth Teller.' Rev. Dr. Power feels warm towards the Mountain since you became President." We find no record of this visit or of the reception and honors paid the venerable founder on his arrival. But we can imagine the scene. He came again three years later.

The Commencement of 1839 was on June 27. There were four orations and a poem, besides an address to the Philomathian Society. The day before, June 26th, the saintly Brute’ had breathed his last at half-past one o'c. a. m. Rev. Mr. Vabret wrote of the sad event to Rev. M. McCaffrey:

J. M. J. Vincennes, Le.29 June 1839.

Man cher Monsieur McCaffrey: By announcing to you the death of our dear and holy Bishop I mean to associate you with us in sorrow and grief; and I have no doubt, dear Mr. McCaffrey, you will sincerely condole with us for the loss of our beloved father. Dying as he had lived, he sweetly expired on Wednesday last, at half past one, a. m., in his perfect senses. In the midst of his sufferings he always preserved that calmness of spirit which is the peculiar privilege of the just. He predicted the day of his death. I do not know if God had revealed it to him, but he had given orders for his tomb to be made several days before he died. He received all the rites of the Church opportunely last Friday. He was a great deal better and we had conceived great hopes of his soon being recovered; the doctor told him he was much better and he hoped he'd soon be out; "Yes, doctor," said the Bishop, "I shall be better these three days." Indeed, it was so Friday, Saturday and Sunday last, he was able to walk about, but the night of Sunday to Monday was a restless night for him, and in the morning he was so much exhausted that he could hardly move; Tuesday the eve of his death he grew weaker, and being with him about half past nine a. m., he told me: "Oh my dear child, I have the whole day yet to stay with you, to-morrow with God in heaven." Then he requested me not to let him die without having said for him the prayers for the dying; having asked him for the time he wished to have them said, he told me that I would have time enough after supper. He answered to all the prayers; how great was his devotion, his affection for our Divine Saviour! His zeal for the salvation of souls was constant with him to the last moment. Six hours before he expired, with much pain and difficulty he wrote a letter to several ladies to entreat them to reenter into the bosom of the true Church from which they were separated. I do hope it will have its effect. However interesting and edifying would be the details of his illness and of his death I find myself obliged to confine myself to the few which I have given you. There are several letters that must be written today and tomorrow. I hope, my dear Mr. McCaffrey, that you will recommend him to the prayers of the seminarians and the children, as well as to the congregation of the Mountain, to whom he was so much attached. My respects, I beg of you, to Messieurs Xaupi, Flaut and Borgna, my love to your brother and Mr. Be’le’ke’. The funeral took place yesterday at six o' clock in the morning. The ceremony lasted one hour and a quarter; we did all we could to render it as solemn as possible. The route was through the principal streets of Vincennes. There was a great crowd, more than twelve hundred people, yet the most perfect order. They stood in two ranks; Protestants, and even those the most opposed to Catholicity, did not pretend to conceal their tears. The loss is greatly felt by all the inhabitants of Vincennes ; how much more, then, by us you may imagine, you who knew so well the father we have to mourn. I send you a Vincennes paper, in which you will find a short article written by one not only a Protestant but even an infidel; you will see by it how our good father was loved. What this gentleman says is the voice of the public; "all the world reveres and honors his memory." According to the resolutions passed by the authorities of Vincennes, all the public offices are to be draped in mourning for thirty days. If you wish details of the death of Monseigneur, you can obtain them from Mother Rose, to whom Sister Benedicta lias written circumstantially.

In another letter to Rev. M. McCaffrey, Father Vabret gives some more particulars of the last days of Bishop Brute. It is of date September 10th (1839):

". . . Last winter at midnight, hearing that a black man who had divorced himself from his wife was very sick, he immediately went to his house to entreat that poor man to reflect on his soul, and this he did on his knees and embracing the hands of that man. As well as his life, his last moments were those of a holy man. His resignation to the will of God was perfect; his calmness, his patience and cheerfulness among the most severe suffering, admired by the Protestants who visited him at his last moments, were astonishing. When he suffered much he requested one of us to read for him some passages of the sufferings of Christ or some other. One day, as he had a great fever, he wished to drink cold water, but when the person sent for some delayed in bringing it, he conceived he was about to become impatient, but remembering the word Sitio of our Savior on the cross, when brought he would not drink it. I need not tell you that his extreme humility caused him to render us the meanest services. As to his charity, it was universal and unbounded; he often returned without a shirt, and often he went on the mission sick and staggering through weakness, whilst the most lively joy was on his countenance; his devotion to the blessed Virgin was so great he never closed a letter, as you know, without adding these words Auspice Maria, and he tried to inculcate in all that devotion, and a few hours before he died he spoke to all present on the obligation of cultivating devotion towards the Queen of Heaven. He was speaking of his death as a day of triumph. Time has in nothing diminished our regrets; we feel deeply the void which he has left. His memory is held in benediction even among Protestants. Yesterday a Presbyterian went with others to see Monsignor's library, and on entering the room he could not restrain his tears, and this was not the only one. ..."

As soon as possible arrangements were made for the Requiem of Brute’ at the Mountain, and it took place Aug. 19, after the opening of the school. "It seems fitting," says the historian, "that the spirit of the dying Summer should preside at the obsequies of him to whom nature in all her moods was such an inspiration, and who had wooed and won her to impress so much of her beauty upon the spot he loved so well, to whom every tree and shrub, every rock and streamlet which made the place so nearly Paradise, was so touchingly dear. The zephyrs of the Mountain whispered in that soft August air

And now their mingled voices say, "The passing of a soul away: Tenderest of the Sons of men Our good King Simon of the pen"

away into Eternity which had always been in his thoughts, away to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, whom he had so warmly loved and so earnestly served, observing " the first and greatest commandment" and "the second" which "is like unto this." Thus does Mary Meline part with Brute’.

Father McCaffrey had the honor and happiness of speaking the eulogy of the holy Bishop, and of this oration and that on Dubois, both of which will be found in the Memorial Volume

of the Semi-Centennial, Abp. Bayley says, "they are two of the most beautifully written and interesting discourses of this character in the English language."

The College, nursed and cherished by those great priests, was valued by the existing occupant of Carroll's See, and the following letter contains so striking an endorsement of the teacher's calling, honored and sanctified by Dubois, Brute and their disciples, that it seems to claim a place in this history.

Georgetown, D. C., April 7, 1839.

Rev. and dear Sir: Your letter having been forwarded to this place, I take the earliest moment to reply. Although I had projected some arrangements in correspondence with Rev. Mr. Obermeyer's wish to be employed on the mission, I still leave it with him to remain at the Mountain, if on reflection he deem it better. In my estimation a clergyman is nowhere more usefully employed than in a well-regulated Seminary or College, where his talents and taste incline and fit him for that life.

I approve of your suggestions relative to the Theological department, etc. The details I must leave to your discretion and the inspiration of circumstances, relying on your sense of the importance of combining the suaviter with the fortiter.

I am not a little gratified with the statement of your improved finances, and almost as much so with your agricultural statistics. I write as you perceive in haste, but I believe that I have omitted nothing essential. I shall feel anxious to-hear from you, when your arrangements are mature . . .

The sentiments of Abp. Eccleston harmonize with those of Pius IX, who is quoted to this effect: "I know of no more-apostolic work than that of the gentlemen of Saint Sulpice."

On Oct. 2d, 1839, the Archbishop writes: " Can you not manage to give me some of your men occasionally? I am not dead to Mt. St. Mary's or its cherished inmates and conductors. ..."

John McCloskey was first prefect in 1839-40, and with him mirabile dictu! were three other Johns; Maguire, Harley and Hackett. The first of the quartette was destined to be the eighth president of Mt. St. Mary's, the third the second president of Fordham College.

Chapter 34 | Chapter Index

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.