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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 37 | Chapter Index

Chapter 38: 1844-1846

In the Summer of 1844, the row of log buildings which formed the dormitory, etc., of the early College was torn down, and the sisters transferred to the "White House," that stood to the south. The razed buildings occupied the ground now covered since 1852 by McCaffrey Hall.

St. John's Day (Dec. 27) was the great domestic feast of the college, probably because it was the name day of the founder, but several of the succeeding Presidents also bore the name, Purcell, McCaffrey, McCloskey and Wattersou were so called, so that its celebration became more and more appropriate as time went on. This is to explain the allusion with which William Henry Elder opens a letter to Dr. McCaffrey from which we make a few extracts:


Rev. and dear Sir: A happy and thrice happy festival to yourself and to the Mountain. This is a day sacred to reminiscences of my old home and I intend this year to double the enjoyment and transport myself as effectually as I can to the midst of the happiness and merriment in which I was so long accustomed to spend it-by holding converse with yourself . . .

Of your new Hall and its splendid opening, I had already received some account from my brothers; but my pleasure was increased by your information regarding the expenses and regarding the prospects of accommodations for a large number of seminarians . . .

The writer then, who is none other than William Henry Elder, was studying theology in Rome at the World College of the Propaganda, goes on at great length to argue the need of higher learning for the clergy and the necessity of making a specialty of study. The letter is a fine piece of English, full of deep and high thoughts, remarkable in so young a man on the subject of clerical training, and giving promise of the great future that was before this splendid specimen of the Mountain ecclesiastic.

Mr. Elder in his letter relates an interesting fact of that day which illustrates the union of church and State. "A physician neglected on several occasions to warn his patients of the danger of death that they might prepare, although he was bound not only by charity but by law and by the oath which he took when receiving his diploma at the University. He was admonished three distinct times, but he laughed at it. He was then called to the Inquisition without any public arrest, and being convicted was ordered to confine himself three months to a certain monastery, at the end of which time he was released and is now practicing again."

Mount Saint Mary's College, 1846

Sisters from St. Joseph's, Emmitsburg, went to take charge of the domestic department at St. John's College, Fordham, in 1844. Another newspaper was started at Emmitsburg this year, "The Star." It lasted several years.

Joseph Taney, uncle of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, died at his home near the village, Nov. 24, in his 90th year and was buried on the Hill. He was held to be an honest man and filled public office for many years.

Professor Dielman soon introduced the custom of waking the boys with his Adeste Fideles on Christmas morning if he did not merely revive it. This was a delightful novelty for the new boys who were never told of it in advance, and woke as if roused by the Angels of Bethlehem.

Among the carefully preserved treasures of the College Library are several records of the different societies ,mainly the debating ones, and a writer in the Mountaineer, entertains us with specimens of their contents. "Their original constitutions are still extant, and remain as monuments of the zeal of the students of the early days of the Mountain." In every case these documents are written by hand and are excellent specimens of penmanship.

But it is not with the constitutions we have to deal; it is with the records of the Philomathian Society for the period beginning February 15, '44, and ending in March, '45; it is to be regretted that we have not a complete set of the records of our societies from their inception to the present time. The volume from which we take these extracts begins on the former date and ends in '48. We may feel assured that the secretary felt his position no sinecure, for if he made omissions in his records he was liable to a fine, as witness the following minute of March 14, 1844, "Mr. O'Brien, the secretary, was fined for omissions in the minutes."When appointed to serve on committees the members were liable to a fine if they refused to serve. On Feb. 15th of the same year "Mr. McCormick was fined for resignation from a committee." Punctuality was inculcated by the same means, as records similar to the following are quite numerous : "Fined for absence exceeding ten minutes."

It was the custom for some speaker of prominence to deliver an address before the society at Commencement. In the minutes for February 29, 1845, is the following: "The election of a speaker for exhibition then came on, and resulted in the election of Rev. J. (Cardinal) McCloskey." In the meeting held April 13, Father McCloskey's declension was announced, and M. Carroll Spence, '37, was chosen. But the latter gentleman declined and at a special meeting held on April 29th, Rev. E. S. Sourin, '28, one of the most honored of the Mountain Alumni, was selected. On the 29th of February 1844, "it was moved and carried that a committee of one be appointed to see the Rev. J. McCaffrey concerning the celebration of the 10th of May."

That the meetings of the society were serious is evidenced by the attention given to debates and declamation. Not to know one's piece for declamation was to subject one's self to a fine, as was also the case if one did not take part in the debates to which he was assigned. Scattered through the minutes we come upon records like these; "fined for reading a book during the meeting," "fined for talking during the meeting." On April 24th, '44, Mr. Cooper the secretary was reported as sitting in the window whilst reading the minutes." He was fined for this offence in the meeting of May 2, in which meeting he was also mulcted " for not rising to address the Chair."

On June 13 a member named McCann proposed, as honorary members, Daniel O'Connell and Queen Victoria. The secretary omits the debate which followed, if any, but likely there was, as the latter name was withdrawn. On the 30th O'Connell's name was withdrawn, possibly to even up matters. The society exercises a paternal care over its members as regards their habits, for in April "Messrs. McCormick and Cooper were fined for chewing tobacco." In September a "Committee was appointed to see about spittoons." Same Committee was requested to see about a stove." We do not find anything further about this committee, but another was appointed on November 31st "to buy 3 spittoons." This must have been a vast undertaking, as at each of the following six meetings we hear a "partial report."

On November 28th a motion was made " that a Mountaineer be published," but the ringing of the bell prevented any further remarks upon it and it was withdrawn." On December 19th, a committee was appointed " to see the President of the College" about this matter, but was discharged on Jan. 2, 1845.

There are in the archives several numbers of this manuscript Mountaineer, which used to be read in the Study-Hall. We give a specimen from its pages.

An ode on tobacco.

From a Manuscript Mountaineer of the Middle '40's. "Notaeque per oppida buceae." Juvenal. "Their cheeks so large from chewing grown, Through all the place they're quickly known."

The gods, we are told, In council of old, Besolved that no power divine Be permitted to feed

On tobacco's foul weed, Save Pluto and dark Proserpine.

They thus did decree That if god there should be Who'd bring that cursed weed into heaven, Bight down he should go To the regions below, Nor again see the other eleven.

Then Jupiter sware That should any god dare The floor or the walls of Olympus to stain, The same he'd expel To earth or to hell, And no longer, with gods, should the savage remain.

"Then Argus," he cries, " I'll have use for your eyes, To keep a sharp look for each deity here, And spare not a soul Whether half god or whole, But make them to my mandate adhere."

Soon Vulcan he caught And to Jupiter brought, Who, raising his sceptre with terrible stroke, The limping god hurl'd Roaring down to the world, For defiling the skies with saliva and smoke.

Thus Vulcan detected, Keen Mercury suspected, That Jove, if he caught him. would him, too, expel, So the cunning god hid And swallowed his quid, Nor chewed ever after on earth or in hell

And some even say That this was the way That Ixion was kicked from above For daring to speak With a quid in his cheek To the wife and the sister of Jove.

Yet had Jove known the use Of tobacco's sweet juice, Of snuffing or smoking, more delicious by far, He had long left his nectar And ambrosia, by Hector, And wrapped high Olympus in smoke of cigar.

Had he known what a grace Had been lent to his face By a large rolling quid finely curving each jaw, When the Muses he sported Or the Graces he courted, How gracious he'd look with the weed in his maw.

Or when with a look Huge Olympus he shook, And thundered through earth and through ocean afar, What terror a sneeze Would have added to these, And volumes of smoke from a flaming cigar.

Wonder not then That mere mortal men Should love so devoutly cigar, quid and snuff,

Or suffer privation Of their recreation, Since gods left Olympus for sake of a puff.   Pindar.

The Archbishop visited the Mountain about the 14th of May, 1845. Mr. McFarland of the Faculty had left it a short time before and was raised to the priesthood by Archbishop Hughes, in the Cathedral of New York, on the 18th of May. From pastor at Utica, N. Y., he became Bishop of Hartford in 1858. He was noted for his studious habits and for his zeal in the cause of religion. Was very dignified in office, albeit retiring and modest in private. His diocese prospered greatly during his administration. He died on the 12th of October, 1874, thirteen bishops and a great number of priests attending his funeral on the 15th of October that year.

Mr. E. Louis Lowe, afterwards Governor of Maryland, addressed the boys on Pilgrims' Day, 1845.

The Baltimore "American" of July 9, (fourteen days later) contains an account of the Commencement held on the 25th of June, and says that the "new and beautiful Doric Hall (Brute Hall) is considerably larger than any in Baltimore and much more elegantly furnished. The address of the President to the graduating class, seven in number, was the shortest and best we ever heard. The students numbered two hundred twelve. Among the audience were gentlemen from Louisiana St. Louis, Buenos Ayres, Florida and Massachusetts. So exquisite was the mountain-rock water at the dinner, that it was not without a struggle we exchanged it for the Pale Sherry of Pomaar."

The Archbishop wrote Sept. 3, 1845 ... "I could not ordain Mr. B. until he has gone through a good course of Moral Theology. ... If either must be postponed, let it be Dogmatic Theology. In this country every missionary has obvious and effectual inducements to acquire a sufficient knowledge of the doctrines of his church. . . . Hence give, I entreat you, a decided preference to Moral Theology. ..."

On the 29th of the same month Father David Whelan, brother of the bishop, wrote from Richmond, endeavoring to obtain a professorship at the Mountain, and Dr. W. E. A. Aiken became again professor of Physics this Winter, Mr. F. P. Giraud having gone to Texas.

The following letter throws some light on the " peculiar institution " of the South, and sets forth the manner of Holy Mother Church in the premises.

May 3rd, James McSherry, '38, historian of Maryland, writing to a New York paper, May 3, 1845 describes the First Communion at Father McElroy's Church of St. John, Frederick, Maryland. ..." There were about seventy young persons who had the inestimable happiness of approaching the Holy Sacrament for the first time and eight adult converts, some of whom, if not all, were baptized the evening previous. The students of St. John's literary institution first proceeded to the communion rail, and here occurred one of those little incidents which mark the spirit of the Church and the equality of all human souls in her eyes. There were some half a dozen or more colored boys, slaves, prepared for their first communion. As the students proceeded first to the railing they went to the extreme left when an open space remained on the right, which was soon occupied by the negroes, who humbly remained kneeling in their pews until directed to proceed by a motion of one of the officiating priests. Thus the poor, lowly slave received first into his bosom Him before whom all men are equal. . . . This little incident reminds me forcibly of the expression of Bancroft on a similar occasion : ' Beautiful testimony to the equality of the human race: The very Body and Blood of Our Lord, all that the Church offered to the princes and nobles of the European world, was shared with the humblest of the savage neophytes.' " When the Old Church on the Hill was enlarged the slaves occupied the gallery which was considered by some the most desirable part.

Among the graduates of 1845 was Andrew H. Baker. This gentleman founded Calvert College at the village of New Windsor, Maryland, about 20 miles from Emmitsburg. It had a complete faculty and flourished till the War of Secession, when it went down, as did other border colleges, and Mr. Baker came to teach at the Mountain. The Winter session at Calvert College was of 26 weeks and the Summer one of 18. The pension was $125 a year, Music $30; Drawing $20, Ethics, Logic, French, German and Spanish were taught as well as the preparatory branches.

Bishop (Cardinal) McCloskey invited Dr. McCaffrey to be his theologian at the coming Council, saying " there is no one whom I would be so desirous of having as yourself."

During the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore, held in May, 1846, Bishop Hughes received a letter from the Hon. James Buchanan, Secretary of State, asking him to visit Washington to consult with the government "on affairs of importance." It was rumored in Baltimore that the bishop was to be asked to go as a special peace envoy to Mexico, the war with that country having just begun, and the news of the beginning of hostilities reached the capital the very day the Council began its session. An intimation of some such request to be made to him induced Bishop Hughes to ask the advice of the assembled prelates. They recommended him to refuse the mission unless granted full rank and title of a diplomatic representative.

"The ostensible purpose for which he was summoned to the Capital," says Mr. Hassard, "was nothing more than to give his advice respecting the appointment of Catholic chaplains for the troops in Mexico; but this business transacted, the subject of the embassy was broached. 'It occurred to the President,' says Mr. Buchanan, to whom I am indebted for the particulars of the affair,' whilst the bishop was in Washington, and most probably at an earlier period, that should he consent to visit Mexico, he might render essential services in removing the violent prejudices of the Mexicans, and especially of their influential clergy, which then prevailed against the United States, and thus prepare the way for peace between the two republics. In this I heartily concurred. Independently of his exalted character as a dignitary of the Church, I believed him to be one of the ablest and most accomplished and energetic men I had ever known, and that he possessed all the prudence and firmness necessary to render such a mission successful.' The matter was discussed in several private interviews between the President and the bishop, but the bishop finally refused the proposed mission. 'The President,' says Mr. Buchanan, 'much as he desired to avail himself of the bishop's services, could not at that time offer him anything more acceptable. He could not appoint him envoy to the Mexican government so soon after they had refused in an insulting manner to receive our former minister.' Paredes was at that time the revolutionary president of Mexico. He owed his elevation to his extreme and violent hostility to the government and people of the United States.

"The bishop often alluded darkly to this affair but he would not tell the whole story, because he thought it would not be proper for him to repeat anything of what transpired in a confidential interview with the chief officer of the government. Even with his most intimate friends he used to make a little mystery of it."

It was during the summer of this year, 1846, that the separation of the New York Sisters of Charity from the Motherhouse took place, much to the disappointment and regret of Archbishop Hughes. Mr. Hassard gives the lively correspondence on the subject. Mr. James McSherry, '38, of Frederick, delivered this year the oration on the "Landing of the Pilgrims."

There was but one graduate in 1846, but at the commencement there was a salutatory in Latin, one French and four English orations, besides the valedictory, and an "Address before the Literary Societies" by Father Sourin, '30.

The prefects of 1846, five in number, included two future bishops, William McCloskey and Richard Gilmour, and one bishop-elect, John Byrne. Rev. William Henry Elder returned from the Propaganda, Rome, and began again to teach at the Mountain and direct the Seminary.

There are in the College archives many letters from George H. Miles to his affectionate godfather, Dr. McCaffrey, which breathe a grand spirit of faith, admiration for religion and love for the Blessed Virgin. In one of them, Sept. 29, 1846, the poet tells how he was assaulted one night by two men, whereupon "I went to Confession and unburdened my conscience, recognizing God's grace in the whole incident, whereby was broken the spiritual apathy in which I was plunged. . . . In the Cathedral this morning I saw the school of the Christian Brothers, more than a hundred little boys, all well-behaved and attentive to the Divine Mysteries. Philanthropy ! Philosophy! Fie! Hide your diminished heads! What have you to do with moderating the passions? Reason is your province, human respect your magic wand. Religion, God's true Religion, alone can cope with rebellious flesh and blood. . . ."

"Toil, ye Christian Brothers toil, ye John McCaffreys omit no opportunity of planting Catholicity deep in the hearts of all those under your care. You rescued me from the big boys' playroom to the retreat when fear of laughter kept me from the chapel." [What a lot of non-Catholics there must have been then!] "If my soul is saved, be yours the glory. You have had many such opportunities and you have not neglected them. ..."

July 28, 1845. Bishop Hughes writes from New York: " I am driving on the work at the Fordham College, . . . but through all I feel the same interest in the Mountain and the same regard for its distinguished President that I did in olden times."

A Sister tells of her journey from Emmitsburg to Cincinnati: "Nov. 3, 1845. To Frederick by stage. Then by rail to Cumberland. Then two nights and a day staging to Wheeling. Then boat at 5 p. m. for Cincinnati, two full days. I couldn't bear to go to bed and have those cockroaches running about all night, and so sat up. We ran on sandbanks frequently and the passengers swore at the officers, saying they wanted their money back, they were not going to stay there a month, etc. . . .

James McS. writes from Frederick, Jan. 26, 1846, to the Freeman's Journal of New York telling of things in his time at the Mountain. It seems there was a "Chamois Band that claimed exclusive possession of, and dealt in rabbits, possums, pheasants and partridges."Then the little boys would make" little traps of cross-sticks with a figure 4 trigger, catch snow-birds and roast these at the playroom fire. ... If you, Mr. Editor, should ever chance to wander up the Old Mountain do not fail to visit the Devil's Den. If you should be in a pleasant mood, let the season of your choice be spring, when the dogwood blossoms line the sides of the glen and the wild laurel is in bloom and the glorious foliage of the forest is waving joyously, while the air is sweet with the perfume of a thousand wild flowers and vocal with the music of many birds. If your spirit is sad and you would wish a fitting scene of meditation, go there in November. Your path will lead you by the old graveyard where the sons of many climes are sleeping priests and seminarians from the land of France, from the isle of Erin, from the far South some who have come back to repose at the home they loved, some who have laid themselves down to rest, before they could be called forth into the busy and anxious struggles of the world; and here and there you will see a tablet to the memory of some fondly remembered one whose earthly remains are mingling with the dust of distant lands. Under the shadow of that primitive oak is the tomb of young Iturbide no visions of an imperial crown disturb the young boy's slumbers. Head yonder marble tablet placed upright against the wall of the cemetery and breathe the prayer it asks for the soul of her whom it commemorates. She was a daughter of St. Joseph's; she sleeps in the far South, but two tablets bid the 'Mountain' and the 'Valley' remember in their prayers her who, in dying, turned her last parting look to these distant but well-remembered spots. ..."

On Jan. 22, 1846, the sisters were recalled from the College. Dr. McCaffrey writes the same day to the Mother that he hopes the decision will be revoked, as it is " based on a misapprehension and would be an irreparable calamity."

A writer in the U. S. Catholic Magazine for May, 1846, says that for many years the average number of lay students was "about one hundred," of seminarians about twenty-four; so it may be that the writer in the newspaper quoted a little back was in error. He says that Dubois' first house up the hill, the one in which Mother Seton lodged, was removed "some years ago."

We give here the concluding letter of the correspondence between Bishop Hughes and Rev. Louis Deluol, S. S., Superior of the Sisters of Charity at Emmitsburg, concerning the separation referred to, of the New York and Emmitsburg houses.

New York (midnight), 1846-47.

Very Rev. dear Sir: In the hours of deep night, during the silent interregnum between the going out of one year and the coming in of another, I write to acknowledge the receipt of your last two letters, to which I will add a very few words. The most painful controversy of my life has been that just closed, as I hope (painfully or otherwise), in which you, according to your sense of duty, were or seemed to be my opponent, not merely on your account or on mine, but still more on account of innocent and, in some measure, helpless parties. That is now all past; on reviewing my share of it, I regret that I have used expressions, and a certain pungency of style towards you, which at the time seemed not only justifiable but almost expedient. I regret them. They must have given you pain. They gave no comfort to me. At all events they were unnecessary, and I regret, I retract them. . . . After what I have said, the object of this is to advise you of our purpose, present and future. . . . One other wish of which the sounding midnight reminds me, as it does of the nugac fugacet that fly with time, is to you that of a happy New Year, which I trust you will not reject, quand meme. . . From your sincere servant in Christ, John, Bp. of N. Y.

Archbishop Hughes was the "Lion of the Fold," and wielded a sharp pen as well as a cutting tongue; but as that letter showed his Christian humility, so these hymns prove that his was also the gift of elegant composition:


Magnificat! Inspired word, From Mary's raptured bosom poured, My soul with Mary, bless the Lord. Magnificat!

Magnificat! Oh! whence is this, That God should heed my littleness? Henceforward all my name shall bless. Magnificat!

Magnificat! Praise God alone! The mercy of my Saviour own; For He hath mighty wonders done. Magnificat!

Magnificat! His wondrous grace Is manifest from race to race Of them who fear before his face. Magnificat!

Magnificat! He hath brought down The proud man from his lofty throne, And lifted up the humble one. Magnificat!

Magnificat! Grace for the poor! The poor who plead at Mercy's door; The scornful rich shall have no more. Magnificat!

Magnificat! In me behold Fulfilled the promises of old To Abr'ham and the Fathers told Magnificat!

Magnificat! The song of praise To Father, Son and Spirit raise! One God throughout eternal days! Magnificat!


Christmas Vesper Hymn.

Depart awhile, each thought of care; Be earthly things forgotten all, And speak, my soul, thy vesper prayer Obedient to that sacred call, For hark ! the pealing chorus swells: Devotion chants the hymn of praise, And now of joy and hope it tells, Till fainting on the ear, it says Gloria tibi Domine.

Thine, wondrous babe of Galilee! Fond theme of David's harp and song, Thine are the notes of minstrelsy. To thee its ransom'd chords belong. And hark! again the chorus swells, The song is wafted on the breeze, And to the lis'ning earth it tells. In accents soft and sweet as these. Gloria tibi Domine.

My heart doth feel that still He's near To meet the soul in hours like this, Else why, O why, that falling tear! When all is peace and love and bliss. But hark! that pealing chorus swells Anew its thrilling vesper strain, And still of joy and hope it tells, And bids creation sing again Gloria tibi Domine.

Chapter 39 | Chapter Index

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