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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 38 | Chapter Index

Chapter 39: 1847-1849

New York was attractive to its denizens even sixty years -since. Bishop (Cardinal) McCloskey writes to Dr. McCaffrey from New York, February 4th, 1847, saying that he had tried in vain to get him a French teacher. "They consider it a wondrous sacrifice to give up city pleasures. If I meet one with a greater share of self-denial, I shall immediately apprize you. ..."

"I am myself quite astonished at the ill-success which has so far attended all my inquiries. There are plenty willing and anxious to teach, but none of them willing to leave New York. There seems to be something so wonderfully attractive about this goodly city, that people cannot find it in their hearts to relinquish or abandon it. And when pious Sisters of Charity love it so much, you must not complain of worldlings. To go to Emmitsburg and leave New York! why the thing is preposterous "quite impossible, Sir! Excuse my undignified letter. I quite despair of ever becoming dignified." [Yet they say it was his quiet dignity that attracted the notice of Pius IX, who made him a cardinal.]

The Rev. John F. McGerry, the third President of the Mountain, having finally, after many wanderings, joined the Congregation of the Mission, writes from Donaldsonville, Louisiana, to Rev. John McCaffrey, under date of April 28, 1847:

Rev. and dear Sir: Long since I should have written to you to thank you for your kindness to me during my last visit to Mount St. Mary's. How time flies! Already eight years and here I am the same Mac., my head as white as wool and my face as fresh as thirty. But God knows I have had troubles enough to blanch my head ten times. My last step was the best I ever took. I met kind friends in the West. As you have heard, after I left you I went direct to the house of the Missionaries of St. Vincent de Paul in Missouri. After six months I entered the novitiate and with the blessing of God I went through it. Poor Larkin was my fellow novice; he lived only a few months after his ordination and profession. He was a great loss to us, as we are so poor in members who speak English. Well since my novitiate I have been for four years the Prefect of the College. Since two years I have been in Louisiana, eighteen months at the Theological Seminary of this diocese, and for the last six months stationed at Donaldsonville with Rev. Mr. Boutlier. I have enjoyed excellent health but suffer much from the great heat of the South but you know we must have some penance in this world or else ... I have been very busily employed in missions since I came to Louisiana and will you believe it? I have even the presumption to preach in French. This is to punish me for having so often criticised the poor French who murdered the King's English. Now the French pay for it. I meet here many of my old schoolmates and some of my old scholars, either of Baltimore or of Mount St. Mary's. [He had studied and taught at both institutions.] Among others Mr. John Elder, at whose house I say Mass once every month he is a credit to Mount St. Mary's. ... It delights my heart to hear of the prosperity of the old Mount my dear Mountain home. The old ones all gone Dr. Dubois, my old father. Dr. Brute', my more than father! Father Duhamel my old confessor. My own dear Egan! no morel Ah me! Dear Egan! his death was my death! I loved him too much and myself too little! Well perhaps all for the best, God has been good to me beyond all measure; unite with me to bless and to thank Him for His many mercies to me and to pray for our many departed friends of the Mount, Dr. Dubois, Dr. Brute', Rev. Mr. Duhamel, Rev. Egan, Rev. James Lynch, H. Parsons and my good old friend and companion of Capitol Hill, Washington, Rev. James Lucas. And my poor Taylor whom I loved so dearly (you remember he died at Bedford and was brought a corpse to the Mount). My best respects to your brother, to Rev. Mr. Xaupi and to your family not forgetting Mrs. Agnevr, Mr. McBride and all my old friends in general. . . Be so kind as to present my best respects to Rev. Mr. Wm. Elder. . . How did I forget my good old friend Rev. Geo. Flaut my best respects and love to him and I beg his good prayers . . .

The graduates of 1847 were four in number, besides one honorary. Dr. McCaffrey himself made two addresses, one at the opening and the other at the close, this to the graduates.

Bishop (Card.) McCloskey was transferred to the new see of Albany, N. Y., this July. William McCloskey, future Bishop of Louisville, was first prefect, and Father John McCloskey, vice-president, writing from New York in December, 1847, says : " The Mountain has a great many friends here : it seems to be a pretty general sentiment that there is no place like it. ... "

The Mirror of February 28th, speaking of the Washington's Birthday celebration this year, says: " We were never present at any Mountain celebration where the speeches did not breathe a healthy, manly tone. ..."

George H. Miles, '43, delivered the address on May 10th, Pilgrims' Day. The Emmitsburg Star, quoted in the Baltimore Sun of May 18th, says it was masterly and took one hour and twenty-five minutes to deliver.

The Catholic Telegraph, June 3, telling how Midshipman Shubrick, of Delaware, was the only officer killed at the bombardment of Vera Cruz, and that he was a Catholic and a pupil of the Mountain, calls attention to the " Washington Union's" invitation to our fellow-citizens to despoil our churches. The " Know Nothing" spirit was rampant in those days.

Father George Flaut, '30, had been for twelve years caring for the congregation, though living at the College. He was a native of the Blue Ridge and paid no attention to weather. Once on the feast of the Epiphany, then a holiday of obligation, he was going up to offer the divine sacrifice as usual on the hill, when meeting three of his parishioners, they suggested that there should be no Mass, as the snow was so deep. He insisted, and the "three mighty" went with him. They were William Elder, James Cretin and George Warthen. He preached, and called them the Three Wise Men. They were the whole congregation. He left the Mountain this year and the cause of his departure was thus given by Hampton Taylor: A certain man was suspected of selling or giving tobacco to the students, and was searched in the church on the Hill by the President and Vice-President, who, finding the article on his person, put him out of the building. Father Flaut may have considered this an interference with his pastoral rights or objected to the extreme measures used. At any rate he left the parish and took a place in Baltimore.

For 1848 there is recorded only one graduate, Alexius Baugher, of Frederick. Bishop Purcell, of Cincinnati, writes to Dr. McCaffrey, Oct. 20, 1848,

about a boy who got sick on his way to the Mountain, by way of the lakes! . . . Our Mt. St. Mary's is rising slowly but solidly from its foundations. It will command a horizon of fifty or sixty miles. May it have a still higher and better resemblance to its "Alma Mater." Bishop Smith, of Glasgow, a most interesting, zealous, pious prelate, as well as "cannie" Scotsman, is here a-begging. We are now cut off apparently from all hope of getting any more pecuniary aid from Europe; and not only this, but we must begin to pay back in pretty large instalments what we got from there. Well! God give us the ability and the will, for this interchange of charity is admirable.

All our folks again send brotherly greetings to yours. Let us get prayers in return especially for our retreat to be preached by "Dick " (Bishop Whelan), who is doing wonders at Wheeling the first of bishops and hard to beat, as the West Virginians say of him. Please ask Father Xaupi if he says those 7 Glories and Hail Marys devoutly? And ask Father George Flaut or Brother Billy (Elder) if I may venerate a droll kind of relic I lately received. It is a piece of General Washington's breeches. And the way I came by it was this: A grand niece of the old General, residing on a farm inherited from him at Ravens-wood, Virginia, on the Ohio, after sundry letters and loan of books, came here to spend a week, to study the Catholic faith which she embraced, receiving Baptism (conditionally), Penance, Eucharist, Confirmation, Nuptial Benediction (already married), and having six children, all brought with her to the faith, gave it to me. It is a purse made of the mentioned unmentionables, which itself was made of the wool or hair of the llama of South America, and was sent as a present from Ferdinand VII. of Spain to the Father of his Country. Is it not to be prized under such circumstances?

But adieu; I forget that I am not chatting with you, "enjoying," as Mr. McMasters and Cummings would say, "a post prandial cigar," but inflicting on you a piece of bad writing. Once more, respectful remembrances to all the fathers. Please accept this volume. Yours in our Lord, J. B., Bp. C.

Frederick Nelson, of the county bar, tells of a slight rebellion that occurred in 1848. It appears that the prefects not being able to discover the guilty boys, punished a whole dozen, whereupon these ran off to Emmitsburg, but were induced by Prof. Beleke to come back. The point of the story lies in the inducement offered by the distinguished master, one that the temperance sentiment of today would by no means sanction.

In 1849 Mr. Henry McMurdie, so long and so favorably known at the college, came introduced by the following letter:

Liverpool, 17 February, 1849

Very Rev. and dear Sir: When I had the pleasure of enjoying your hospitality at the Mountain on the occasion of my preaching at the consecration of St. Joseph's church, you stated that you would be glad at any time to receive in your establishment any candidates for the ministry whom I might recommend and who would be fit to meet the regulations of the college. I recollect also, that I should interest myself in the selection and recommendation of such persons whenever an opportunity should occur. It is with much pleasure that I have to introduce to you the bearer, Mr. McMurdie, whom I have advised to proceed to Emmitsburg in consequence of the promise I made to comply with your kind invitation. This gentleman is a convert to the Catholic Church and now feels a vocation for the ecclesiastical state. His change of creed and the kind of life to which he aspires takes from him all co-operation on the part of his relatives. From all I know about him I am sure that he is worthy of every attention, and that he will be a valuable acquisition to any establishment with which he may become connected. My words would fail to express the esteem which he has earned by his pious and gentlemanly demeanor. Rather than allow his vocation to be nullified by difficulties and disappointments in this country, I have induced him to take the necessary steps for embracing the American mission for which I think he is admirably suited. I have informed him about the regulations of the college, viz., that he will make himself as useful as possible to the institution in consideration for the support and studies which it will afford him until the time of ordination. As I have already stated. Mr. McMurdie has forfeited all claim on his relatives and being himself personally without means to meet expenses, your college is just suited for him. Please to accept my sincere and grateful regards for yourself and brother.

Yours most sincerely, P. E .Moriarty

[This was Dr. Moriarty, 0. S. A., pastor of St. Augustine's, Philadelphia, one of the churches burnt in the riots of 1844.]

In March or April of this year, 1849, the father of the Revs. John and Thomas McCaffrey died at the College. He had been making his home there for some time before. We find in an old scrap-book the following reminiscences, written about this time concerning him and some other notables of the period:

. . It seems but yesterday, though many eventful years have since elapsed, that a kind-hearted old man caught us in his arms with a father's love. He was old, but his eye was bright and his step firm and his laugh was full of mirth. Though the wind roared and the snow drifted high, they could not keep him to the house. Bartholomew McCaffrey scorned the weather. "We saw him afterwards; the thickening frost of old age had impaired his activity and he moved more slowly and his hand began to tremble. At the earnest solicitations of his sons and friends he forsook the cares of business and occupied a room at Mt. St. Mary's. But increasing infirmity could not diminish the innocent joy that broke forth from a heart overflowing with kindness and charity for all inspired by Catholic hope and faith. He murmured not; his face was ever calm and ready to assume the sweet' smile that won at first sight. About the middle of last March he was evidently unwell. He said he was going to die, and was not only resigned, but cheerful was merry. Like [blessed] Thomas More, he would jest about his death. He sent word to an old and bed-ridden companion 'to hasten, or he would beat him in the race.' Almost up to the last moment of death he was praying audibly. The seminarian with him yielded to his entreaty to lie down and take a little rest, but soon noticed the cessation of his prayers, and on examination found that life had fled. Apoplexy terminated his existence, yet so gently there was no struggle. After a long life of great virtue, unvarying and most fervent piety, which increased to the end, manifesting itself in his most beautiful dispositions when looking momentarily for his dissolution, he has gone to reap an eternal reward.

"He leaves behind him living monuments to perpetuate his virtue and usefulness and minister around the altar at which he loved to kneel. Whether we contemplate his life or death, we see that beautiful Catholic spirit which has no existence out of the Church; that joyful trust in God, complete submission to His will, and detachment from life and the things of earth, which can nowhere else be found. Fiction can invent nothing so pure and heavenly as Catholic reality, and the creations of human poetry sink into insignificance beside the grandeur and beauty of a truly Catholic death-bed. Memoirs like these make the Mountain doubly dear, and when we revisit her peaceful shades we feel that we tread on hallowed ground. ..."

The Seventh Provincial Council of Baltimore, held May, 1849, petitioned that New York be made a metropolitan see and John Hughes its first archbishop. Among the new dioceses was Savannah with Francis Xavier Gartland for its first incumbent.

On the 27th of June the commencement took place and four discourses in English were delivered, with one in French. There were four graduates, the valedictorian being William A. Saunders. Richard Gilmour, afterwards Bishop of Cleveland, was one of the prefects of 1849-50.

Out of fifty sisters of Mother Seton's foundation that found themselves in New York, thirty-one, including his own sister, had joined Bishop Hughes' new local organization, the others returning to Emmitsburg. On July 7th, 1849, the Emmitsburg community united with the French order, Filles de la Charite, adopting its rule and garb, while the New York one retained the constitutions and habit of their townswoman and foundress, Mother Seton.

Father Mathew, the immortal Apostle of Temperance, visited this country this year, 1849, and was for ten days the guest of the city of New York, after which he stayed with Archbishop Hughes, and thus it fell to a Mountaineer to be the first ecclesiastic to entertain this priest whom the United States rose up to honor.

"We unite here a number of items belonging to several of the past years and throwing light on the course of things at the College and in the country:

Rev. David McCubbin Whelan, whose name appears twice in this chapter, was ordained in Paris June 1, 1844. He taught at the Mountain in 1856, and died in Cincinnati, Dec. 18, 1867. He was a brother of Bishop Whelan.

Jan. 29, 1845, the Treasurer was directed to take three thousand five hundred dollars stock in the "Emmitsburg and Frederick Pike."

May 20. Seminarians were to be discouraged from leaving the College at or during vacation; while locks were to be procured for hall-doors, and these to be locked at ten p. m., and recreation to be on Thursday morning instead of Thursday night.

On Nov. 11 it was resolved that seminarians having private rooms should have fire in their rooms. This was the first concession to modern luxury found in these annals.

1846, May 6th. The Treasurer presented his financial statement. The "Duhamel" and "Dubois" springs were to be improved. Which is which no one knows today.

1847, March 7th. Bev. William Elder was elected to the Council, and the collection for the famine-stricken Irish was supplemented so as to make it two hundred dollars.

The President proposed a plan by which certain seminarians should have a year devoted to theological studies, care of sacristy, etc.

Crosses were to be placed on all graves in College lot of God's Acre.

Father Flaut, pastor of the congregation, started a school south of the College and worked on it himself, aided by volunteers, but it was taken off his hands by the School Commissioners. There had been a school at the Elder Chapel before this, maintained by the Catholics, but no State school. Indeed the population of the Mountain district was. and continues to be (1908), almost exclusively Catholic, and no distinctively Catholic public school existed from 1847 till 1898, when Father John B. Manley, an ex-professor at the College, pastor of the parish, opened a school in the Benevolent Society's Hall, which they donated, opposite the new church of St. Anthony.

May 5, '48. Permission was given to Edward Minott, a "colored man," to marry Josephine Dryan, a " colored woman belonging to the College," on payment of two hundred and twenty-five dollars for the unexpired time of Josephine. This expression "colored" instead of "negro" shows that anti-slavery sentiment was advancing or does it mean a quadroon, octoroon or mestizo?

Seminarians were forbidden to smoke, and boys became liable to expulsion for using tobacco.

The treasurer was allowed to take one thousand dollars stock in Westminster and Emmitsburg Pike.

The College clergy had had charge of Emmitsburg congregation from the beginning of the former. On Aug. 26 of this year Rev. Thomas McCaffrey, brother of the president, became its pastor and had to attend sick calls, etc., in the Mountain district also, Dr. McCaffrey agreeing, as Father Flaut had gone away, to hear confessions pro tern, on the Hill. The Mountain parish had, in fact, been separated from the College for the previous twelve years, though the clergymen in charge of it, just as the pastor of Emmitsburg, lived at the College and was a member of the Council. Indeed, back in 1826 we find that Father Egan had been pastor of the congregation, and after him President Butler.

The infirmary in those days was in the upper floor of the White House and the refectory in the cellar. On Christmas Day the most popular boys, elected by ballot, served the table, and the venerable Father Cook, '43, of Ivy Mills, Pa., kept till death some of the ballots, which were caricatures and very comical.

The "Society of the Students' Library and Beading Boom" had a constitution approved Sept. 20th, 1849, and the same or another approved 1855, June 25. It was governed by the first prefect and an elected board of directors, who chose officers from among themselves. The initiation fee was one dollar and a quarter, the annual dues one dollar. The reading-room and libraries were closed before vacation and the keys handed to the President of the College. There is a great variety of provision in the constitution and by-laws, regulating every de­tail even to the shuffling of papers, spitting on the floor, etc., and various fines are laid down, the officers being mulcted in higher sums.

Minutes of the weekly meetings of the "Sodality of the Blessed Virgin " for the boys show that the main feature was the recitation of the Rosary. The attendance was very irregular, and the "remarks " of the director are very frequently interrupted by the ringing of the bell, which requires immediate adjournment. The saying of the Rosary on the back terrace at 5 o'clock by volunteers is probably a tradition of these Sodalities.

This hymn by Father Sourin, '28, set to exquisite music and very popular in Catholic schools in the middle of the last century, makes a graceful ending to this chapter:

O blest for e'er the Mother And Virgin full of grace, Who bore our God, our brother, The Saviour of our race! Sweet Jesus! low before Thee We bend in fear and love; O grant we may adore Thee In Thy bright realms above!

Pure as the light of heaven In meekness neatest Thee, 'Tis Thou hast Mary given Our guide, our friend to be. Sweet Mother! Tears are falling From hearts that love thy Son. Then hear thy children calling On thee and bless thine own.

Chapter 40 | 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.