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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 42 | Chapter Index

Chapter 43: 1853-1854

In the spring of 1853 an event occurred that was the occasion of an outbreak of ignorant bigotry which the more sensible non-Catholics blush to remember.

Monsignor Bedini, Archbishop of Thebes, Apostolic Nuncio to the court of the Brazils, was charged by His Holiness to deliver, on his way, a complimentary autograph letter to the President of the United States. He was also to hold conferences with some of the bishops upon matters religious and to make a report of the condition, prospects, and wants of the Church in this country. The horrible snake of Knownothingism was sleeping or scotched, not killed, and the sight of the purple robes of the Monsignor caused it to raise its loathsome head once more. The Nuncio was at Frederick on July 19 at th » Convent Exhibition and came to the Mountain, next day doubtless, but the College had broken up for the year on June 29, and we have no details of his visit. On account of his imperfect knowledge of English he depended on others to reply to addresses made him.

Quite a correspondence passed between Archbishop Hughes and the government at Washington, whither he had conducted Bedini, relative to a residence of the Nuncio in a diplomatic capacity at Washington. But it was thought contrary to the spirit of the Constitution to receive him in his religious character, and so the project was dropped. During his tour of the states he was repeatedly mobbed, and even his life was threatened. The Nuncio thought it better under the circumstances to leave New York privately, and did so that same fall, a thing that displeased very much the Lion of the Fold, Abp. Hughes, who doubtless would not have been sorry to show the Pope's ambassador, as Bishop Whelan had shown him in Wheeling, how bravely the Catholics would fight in his defense.

There were six graduates in 1853, including Francis Silas Ghatard (afterwards president of the American College at Rome and Bishop of Vincennes) and John Lafarge the artist. (Six members of the Lafarge family are found in the records about this time.) Dr. Brownson delivered an address to the Philomathians on the advantage to be derived from liberal studies.

Of John Lafarge, who fifty years later became famous in two continents as a colorist, Prof. Lagarde tells this story : One day the " surplice of sleet," as Father Ryan would call it, covered every branch and branchlet of the forest, making one of the wondrous spectacles of the winter. The boys were ascending the hill to Mass. "O look!" cried the young genius to his companion. He was reported for breaking the inflexible rule of silence. Father McMurdie pleaded for the boy-artist with his eye for color. "Sir, would you excuse a breach of discipline?" was the reply of Dr. McCaffrey. Tableau.

It was proposed at this Commencement to remove the White House as soon as McCaffrey Hall, then a-building, was completed, but the old house stood fifty years longer.

A rumor went around at this time that St. Joseph's Academy was to be discontinued. It was contradicted in the Mirror of July 23, but a like report went the rounds thirty years later.

The historian finds in the correspondence of Dr. McCaffrey several letters which indicate very pleasant social relations, uniting the President and other members of the Faculty with the Catholic residents of the neighborhood. Indeed they exhibit many other and strong reasons why the Mountain was so agreeable a dwelling-place and why they who had gone from it still turned as they dragged the "lengthening chain" that bound their hearts to home and friends. The Miles family at Hayland, the Tierses at Thornbrook, the Mannings at San Marino, the Shorbs at Clairvaux among others opened house and heart to the professors and their visitors. Bishops and priests came to stay for a spell with those families, and at least at Thornbrook there was a domestic chapel in which the Divine Sacrifice was offered. The Shrivers later with their delightful dramatic entertainments, the Dielrnans with their classic concerts, and Dr. Shorb with his dog and gun made life around Mt. St. Mary's glide peacefully and pleasantly along, while conversazioni of the clerical and lay teachers after dinner were often supplemented by similar professional reunions at the houses of the professors, as well as by the large hospitality of the Vincentian priests at the village. Add to these the plays and musicales of the students, as well as the great excitement, activity and joy of Commencement Day, with all it implied in those anti-railroad days, in receiving and caring during several days for visitors throughout the neighborhood: all these were more than enough to dispel whatever monotony might try to steal over the quiet scholastic atmosphere and religious peace of the Mountain.

On August 9th, 1853, William Miles, father of the poet, and himself likewise in the consular service, writes to Dr. McCaffrey, whose brother, Father Thomas, had died August 5 of the cholera caught at his native Emmitsburg:

"Poor Thomas ! His heart was as warm and true as his words. He had no art, no reserve on any subject. He was born, reared and stationed in the village of his birth ; it was his only mission, I think; he died where he was born, and there lies buried. Who has anything to say ? His life was public, his course patent to the little world he lived in. He did not turn his back upon the place of his only pastorate, but though displaced (shall I say so ?), turned at the moment of danger to face it and minister to loved ones, and those who loved him less, for Christ's sake and love of mankind. He had no obligation to do as he did; the mission was in the hands of those who did not flinch ; but the sick loved to see Thomas, and Father Thomas never turned his back upon danger. I cannot grieve for his death. It was a happy one. Did he go with his pockets full? Alas, no ! he labored with or without pay, as it might occur so much so as to make me angry at his carelessness of himself and of those he loved so well; but I am proud indeed of the grand close of his life; I never knew a man so unselfish, never. He had no home, no money, no clothes, no hoards of any sort but of the love of the villagers of all sects. He seemed almost to disregard his own salvation, he was so joyous, gay, heedless. He was so little ascetic in appearance as to make one anxious for his crown of justice.

"But the gallantry with which he gave his life and services, a self-sacrifice to love, consecrate the recollections of him. If he was genial, he had a true devotion to the Blessed Mother of God, and was always at his post and ready for every duty.

"Well done, Father Thomas! we will pray for you and cherish the recollection of you. You died just as we should have wished a brave man to die. . . .

"I have no consolation to offer. I suffered when I lost my Robert at the village. But I am proud of Thomas' death. It was glorious, if it is not improper to say so. ... "

Father Thomas McCaffrey lies buried on the hill. He had been a professor at the Mountain College, where he was educated, and then pastor for some years of the church at Emmitsburg built by Rev. Dr. McCaffrey, his brother (the present, 1908, church). He left this in 1853 when the Mission Priests took charge, and returned to the College, but when the cholera broke out went to visit some of his former parishioners and townsmen who were taken down. He caught the disorder and died at the College, a martyr of charity, the glory of the Mountain village. Strange to say, his death was the only one on this side of Tom's Creek.

George Miles had designed and announced a life of Brute, to which he refers in a letter to Dr. McCaffrey, Sept. 7, 1853, wherein he tells of his intention to visit Vincennes when returning from his lecture engagement at Cincinnati. William Miles, too, on the 11th of the same month, addresses the President:

"You must arouse yourself to the consciousness of your position, and that of your College. Mr. Everett is after you through me. Your own character and accomplishments are known; Mr. Rives spoke to me in Paris of you and your College. You are becoming known to the country. You must brush up ; rise faster than your reputation.

"Bishop Brute will soon walk before the country, Saint Simon Gabriel! as I believe. Founder! Yes, Brownson is right it is I that am right George has told Brownson my theory and he and B. have adopted it.3 Books: I Dubois, II Brute', III Mountain.

"Take rank; be wide awake. I want to bring you into correspondence with Mr. Everett, also Archbishop Hughes. Will you if I don't care to tell you, your powers have never been taxed to anything like your capacity. ..." One of the first men of the age,' as Dr. Brownson calls you, should not yield to depression and lean upon his fellows. ..."

Mr. Miles then describes the typical graduate of the College as a "conservative" young man, a lover of liberty but a lover of God; liberty governed by order; science regulated by just criticism; and the learning of right scholarship, based upon our holy religion, and not the restless and uneasy teachings of false philosophy. . . .

"I want Mr. Brownson to be a professor there and reside near, and let us begin to have literary society near the College. The Review may appear at New York or Washington. George, if he can't do anything else and can live by his pen, had better reside near the College. McSherry is near. Resigned and learned bishops will go thither to end their days, and learned priests to close there the evening of life. . . . We will have a library, a bust of Dubois, an oration from Bp. Hughes a Catholic University! . . . "

On Oct. 30, 1853, John Loughlin, '40, was consecrated for the new see of Brooklyn, N. Y., and on the same day, James Roosevelt Bayley, Mrs. Seton's nephew, for the new see of Newark, N. J., while on Nov. 1, George A. Carrell, '27, became Bishop of Covington.

Sept. 14. William McNulty, fortified with a letter from Abp. Hughes' secretary, applied and was admitted to the Seminary. He was afterwards known as Dean McNulty, the "First Citizen of Paterson," New Jersey, and renowned as a champion of temperance and law against drunkenness and anarchy. He celebrated in 1907 the golden jubilee of his ordination, and the year after attended the centennial of the College.

Right Rev. Francis Xavier Gartland; First Bishop of Savannah, Ga.

The "Mountain Cadets " were reorganized this year. The members all had to sign this "pledge": "I promise on my honor that I will obey promptly, faithfully and without reply all orders of any officer appointed over me; and in case I shall think myself aggrieved by any such order, I will reply for redress on an appeal to the company in the manner and form prescribed in the constitution." One hundred and sixty-two signatures are found on the roster from 1858 to 1866, when the company seems to have disbanded. Many are found in the list who afterwards became priests.

Charles O'Leary, '51, was engaged to teach Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Greek and Latin for three hundred dollars a year.

We read of a discussion "about attaching seminarians more to the Institution," perhaps with the project now and then revived of forming a regular community.

Persons visiting colleges and communities generally have at times noticed a lack of attention on the part of the members, unless indeed the call is on an individual, the reason being that "what is everybody's business is nobody's." The Council decided to search for a suitable person "to serve as janitor, and also to receive visitors, show them the house, attend to departure and arrivals, etc. . . ."

The courtly Vice-President himself was the author of this motion. The Council also decided to divide the boys into three distinct and totally separate divisions.

In addition to the many jottings so noticeable in this chap­ter and throughout this chronicle we add the following:

Jan. 29, '53. A judge writes about the dismissal of his son for "using tobacco," the culprit having two weeks in which to withdraw if he please before sentence. "I admit the justice of the sentence. . . . I am ashamed that my oldest son at his early age is so slavishly addicted to the offence that he acknowledges he is willing to give up for tobacco his education, which, with industry, will be his entire capital at the outset of life. ..."

James McSherry, '38, the historian, writing June 10, 1853, apropos of his "Catholic American Biography," says, "Most Frederick people feel a considerable pride in the two institutions of the Emmitsburg district," but he himself does not mention them in his history of Maryland.

William Miles, '36, writing from Baltimore, June 23, says: "Here rowdies rule, and may shoot me or kill my boys any day. Our council dares not take the firemen's property, though it belongs to the city. ..."

George H. Miles, writing from New York, Sept. 6, 1853, says: "Brownson considered Brute1 the founder of the American Hierarchy and Mt. St. Mary's the fountain of all that is American and National in our Church. ..."

Sept. 11, 1853. William, father of George H. Miles, writes to Dr. McCaffrey: "What think you of a press at Emmitsburg, a periodical or small effective newspaper the best in information in everything, household words, true advice and true scholarship? "

In 1853 Mgr. Bedini, as we saw, visited the Mountain, and in 1857 Dr. McCaffrey wrote to him when Secretary of the Propaganda requesting his influence in diverting the mitre from his head.

Father Raymond, Superior of the Seminary at Angers, wrote, Oct. 17, 1853, saying how much he liked America, '' such a beautiful, promising country, with so much good to be done and so few clergymen to do it, whilst in France clergymen are so numerous that there is scarcely room enough for them all. . . . We have sixty excellent clerics in this house. I wish I could go to America followed by all of them. ... I am sure that a good many would go if the Bishop allowed them. ..."

The roads in those days were very poor and full of holes. In 1853 a plank road was made from Westminster to Mason and Dixon's line, but when it began to wear out things were worse than ever. There was no pike near the College.

Prof. Theodore Blume, Vice-Pres. of Calvert College, New Windsor, Md., who had taught French and German here 1847-49, was received into the church Sept. 14, 1853, by Dr. McCaffrey and made his first communion in the College chapel next day.

Bp. Chatard, who graduated this year, was a pupil at St. Francis Xavier's Institute (Sisters of Charity) before entering the College. So was John Lee Carroll, Governor of Maryland. The institute stood at the southwest corner of the cross-roads opposite the toll-gate, one mile south of Emmitsburg. The well may still be seen.

Chapter 44 | Chapter Index

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