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 45 | Chapter Index

Chapter 46: 1857-1858

Archbishop Kenrick writes to Rev. John McCaffrey, of date July 1st, taking it for granted that he will no longer refuse the mitre:

Rt, Rev. and dear Sir: By a letter of the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda date June 3rd, I am directed to urge you to accept the responsible dignity conferred on you by the Holy See. This new manifestation of the will of God will, I feel assured, overcome the repugnance which you experienced, and outweigh all other considerations. I can assure you that I did not at all suggest this course to the Sacred Congregation, but wrote in full confidence that your resignation would be accepted.

Expecting a prompt acquiescence in the will of God, so clearly marked, I remain, Your devoted brother in Xt. Francis Patrick Kenkick, Abp. Salt.

P. S. I suggest Sunday 2nd August for the day of consecration and the Metropolitan church as the place, as Dr. Barry is urged likewise to accept. Dr. Byrne [John B. Byrne'38, Professor at the Mountain] had resolved to await another letter from Dr. Cf Connor (Bishop of Pittsburg), but probably will be consecrated at the same time. The preacher may be agreed on between yourselves. Only two bishops act as assistants, even when several are consecrated, but many may be in choir. In case two only are consecrated, each can choose one. Nothing is said in regard to Dr. McFarland.

Bishop O'Connor, writing from Rome, Aug. 1, 1857, says "the American College here is, I believe, a fixed fact. . . . Do you know any one who would make a good president for it? ....

Father Sylvester Malone, of Brooklyn, N. Y., sent a contribution to the new church,"on account of his many Mountain friends." He was afterwards very prominent as a Union man during the War of 1861, became a regent of the University of New York, and was a staunch friend of Rev. Dr. Edward McGlynn during the latter's troubles. (Smith's History of the Catholic Church in New York.) Father Malone contributed also, as we shall see, very generously to help us in 1881.

Bishop Wm. Geo. McCloskey, of Louisville, tells in a letter to the chronicler, Nov. 20,1905, how the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Thurmont, then called Mechanicstown, was built about this time, friends here and there aiding, and how Dr. McCaffrey preached, Sept. 30, 1857, at the cornerstone laying, and again at the dedication " gave us another of those magnificent sermons of his." The previous sermon, also, in the open air was " superb," and the vast crowd, estimated at 3,000 persons, "didn't miss a word of it." The seminarians assisted at both ceremonies. On Easter Sunday previous Mass was said at Stanislaus Walter's house, near Graceham. There were about one hundred and twenty souls in the district Catholics. Father Flaut made the altar, and professors and students all contributed towards this new church. Among the subscribers to the new church at the College are bishops, priests and laymen, several Jesuits and one Redemptorist, as well as the people of the parish. The subscriptions recorded amount to eleven thousand six hundred and twenty-seven dollars and a magnificent book with gilt title holds the names.

Richard Kelly, of Catoctin Furnace, three miles south of Thurmont, told the chronicler, Mar. 13, 1908, that about 1840 John Brian, or Breen, a Catholic owner of the furnace, built the stone edifice thereby, which still stands on the McPherson farm. He designed it for a church, but it never reached dedication nor was Mass said in it, as Mr. Brian died before carrying out his project. There were ten Catholic families there at the time; in 1863 about twenty-five. In 1908 only two Catholic families remained in the locality, the furnace now standing cold.

Abp. Hughes writes, Oct. 19, 1857, expressing the great pleasure it will give him to be at the Jubilee the coming year, but on account of health and "thirty years' chasm" cannot be the "orator of the day."

Bishop Carroll, of Covington, writes Oct. 27, 1857:

. . . The bearer of this, Jno. Mackey, is a young man of fine talents. . . . The Superior of St. Thomas' Seminary always reported favorably of him, with respect to his application, success and exemplary conduct. In one of his letters he says, '' this young man's faculties have undergone an extraordinary development." Last July he wrote that he was ready for theology. ... I am quite willing to leave him with you for three, six or nine years. He will make a good teacher. I am much pleased with his clear and distinct enunciation, his facility in explaining things to the boys and making them understand whatever he taught them. His great application at St. Thomas' somewhat impaired his health: the bracing air of Mt. St. Mary's will, I hope, perfectly restore him. . . . Mr. Brandts, who is all for the "Mountain," would like to pay you a Xmas visit if possible I will let him go. He is above all praise and is my great consolation.

We shall see the name of Rt. Rev. John Mackey again in these pages when, in the dark hour of his Alma Mater's threatened downfall, he put forth his strong hand to her support. He became rector of the cathedral of Cincinnati, then rector of the seminary, Mount St. Mary's of the West. Father Mackey collected sixteen thousand dollars for the College when this was in distress in 1881.

Most Rev. William H. Elder

Rev. John B. Byrne preached Oct. 11 at the Pittsburg cathedral, prefacing his remarks by allusion to his future relations as coadjutor-bishop.

We saw how Rev. William Elder was in 1857 made Bishop of Natchez. He was consecrated May 3 in the Baltimore Cathedral by Abp. Kenrick, Dr. McCaffrey preaching on the occasion in his usual forceful way. His apostrophe beginning, "Go, William!" was often recalled by those who heard it. Anticipating dates and events in the life of this illustrious son of the Mountain, we give a sketch of his grand career:

William Henry Elder, Archbishop of Cincinnati, died there ten minutes before the feast of All Saints, 1904, in the eighty-sixth year of his age, the fifty-ninth of his priesthood and the forty-eighth of his episcopate. He was almost twenty-five years Archbishop of Cincinnati. A Baltimorean by birth, he was a descendant of that William Elder who, in 1728, seeking religious liberty, left St. Mary's County, where his family had been settled for a century, and settling at the foot of the Blue Ridge, called its Catoctin spur Mount St. Mary's. Archbishop Elder's father lived to be ninety-seven, and all the children were long-lived. In 1887 the Archbishop and his six brothers had a "group" taken. He was sixty-seven and the youngest, and they stood ranged on either side, he seated in the center, all of them hale and hearty. It was a glorious picture surely and difficult to duplicate. Every member of the goodly group, like their parents, passed the eightieth milestene before leaving the road, and his sister Helena, of Mother Seton's order, died at the age of eighty-five.

The Archbishop was a cousin of the famous Spalding family which, like his own, claims many distinguished ecclesiastics. He entered the College in his twelfth year, when Dr. John B. Purcell was President, whom as Archbishop of Cincinnati he himself fifty years later was to succeed. He was, all his life long, modest, kind, brave and pious, the perfect type of the Maryland gentleman and ecclesiastic Fatti maschi: Parole femmine. Having studied at the Mountain in College and Seminary for fourteen years he went as a deacon to the famous Propaganda College in Rome, leaving it as a priest and doctor of divinity in 1846, but a couple of months before the usual time, in order, as it was reported, that Rev. John Henry (Cardinal) Newman might have his room. Returning home, he taught here and acted as director of the Seminary till 1857, when he was made Bishop of Natchez, where, to aid and encourage the poor, he started a Total Abstinence Society and took the pledge himself with them. They and he suffered much during the Civil War, and the gentle, law-abiding prelate was himself actually imprisoned at Vidalia, Louisiana, July 22, 1864, by order of General Brayman, for refusing to obey an order requiring him to have prayers in his churches for the Union government. He was visited in prison by Catholics and others, and his action was sustained at Washington, which recognized the principle that civil or military officers had no authority in religious matters. In 1878 he went through the yellow fever with his people, visiting the sick himself and caring for them with his own hands. He took the disease, and recovered, but in 1879 would not accept the coadjutorship of San Francisco, saying that he could not leave his fever-stricken people at Natchez. In 1880, however r he was commanded to take the corresponding position in Cincinnati, where his ancient college superior Abp. Purcell was sunk in the slough of financial distress, the liabilities amounting, it was said, to four million dollars. On Sunday morning, April 18, 1880, a small, slender gentleman carrying a satchel in his hand rang the bell at the episcopal residence in Cincinnati and forestalled his subjects in the formal reception they were preparing. He preached at High Mass, and took up the appalling task of restoring order and prosperity, something that he succeeded perfectly in accomplishing. Archbishop Elder celebrated with us in 1887 the golden jubilee of his graduation and entertained the audience with reminiscences of half a century. His evident happiness at being with his Alma Mater, the cordial sincerity with which he acknowledged in the existing Faculty the heirship of his own teachers or associates, and the plain, unvarnished tale he delivered of the heroic early days of which he himself was so sturdy, so graceful, so noble a product, captured the minds and hearts of his hearers. He visited his Alma Mater in the fall of 1903 and walked down with us to the graves of his ancestors on the Clairvaux farm and the site of the house-chapel there where the persecuted Catholics of our part of the Land of Sanctuary used to hear Mass during the century in which they, the founders of religious liberty, were not allowed to build a church in the colony they themselves had thrown open to every Christian creed.

The Archbishop in his will directed that he should be buried "in a plain coffin, with neither silver trimmings nor satin or silk trappings," and thus in his natural simplicity of manners he departed from the sight of men, a model student, priest, bishop and citizen, one of the glories of the Mountain and of the Church in the United States. This great priest was the first president of the "Priests' Total Abstinence League of America."

Another venerable Mountaineer begins his letter thus:

And some are living still, but ah! grey head, How full is thy memento of the dead.

He is Father Merriwether, S. J., who also sent us, May 30, 1906, a most valuable photograph of the first students of the American College, Rome, himself being one of these.

Left Baltimore June 30, 1857, at 4.30 for Frederick, where spent the night. Next day started by stage for Emmitsburg. Incessant rains. Cold, 54 degrees at hotel. Had fire made, but chimney would not draw and was almost stifled with smoke. Bad weather kept me at Emmitsburg till the second day, when I went to the College, and at once felt at home with Mr. C. B. Northrop and his three sons, Harry (Bishop of Charleston), Claudian and Andrew, all at the College. In a few days came "a brother pill," Dr. Francis Silas C'hatard (afterwards Bishop of Indianapolis), who came to make a retreat in order to decide whether he should study for the sacred ministry or not. . . . (Bp. Northrop went to the American College also, but Chatard to the Propaganda.} We rambled about the mountain woods and took long walks. O what pleasant days were those! At the end of vacation the annual retreat for the seminarians began. For me, the exercises, conducted by a Jesuit Father, opened up a new world. To my heart and soul it was a time of feasting and the eight days seemed to go by "swifter than a running post." Classes opened at the usual time. By the 16th Sept. there were one hundred sixty boys and twenty-eight seminarians. Proposed to pay my way in the Seminary, but the authorities said they preferred that seminarians should "work it out." For my own studies I had Latin, Greek and Mathematics, and for my "work" was given the Second Grammar in the Preparatory Department. The class began with thirty-four boys English Grammar, History, Geography and Writing. Took my turn as "Hebdoru" in serving the Mountain Parish Church. Sweeping the church once a week was no light task, and going up to serve Mass on hard cold mornings was no fun. Individual seminarians took out boys on walks. In the winter, the boys had traps and snares in the woods, the game captured being served up to the owners of the traps. In summer, fishing and bathing parties went out, carrying lunch from the College and having the privilege of buying fruit and milk. 1 enjoyed the trapping and fishing, and, on other occasions, had many a pleasant tramp with the boys, and was much edified by their good conduct when out of bounds, never had any trouble with a band, it was in an outing-party that I first became acquainted with Michael A. Corrigan, the future Archbishop of New York. I spent the vacation of 1858 at the Seminary, one of the happiest periods of my life. We made one long excursion on foot, eight of us seminarians in the party. We walked to Cavetown the first day, taking our lunch on top of Black Rock near Pen Mar, and staying that night at the village; visited the cave (sixteen miles from the College) next morning, and walked on to Harper's Ferry, reaching there that night. We spent next day and the night following at the Ferry; then went by rail to Frederick, lunching with the Jesuits and home by stage. I spent thus two years at the Mountain. My diary is a memorandum with mighty gaps, hut to me who can fill those gaps and read between the lines, it is brimful of pleasing, sacred memories, but I cannot tell them with pen and ink. Only this I may say: that everything about the College, its site on the mountain side, its granite walls, its springs of living water, its whole personnel, its very atmosphere, all worked to one end, the building up and confirming and strengthening the Holy Faith to which in God's mercy I had been converted less than two years before my entrance; and that never was there a cloud in my skies during my stay at that dear home; for, from that grand old priest and Christian gentleman, President John McCaffrey to Miss Betsy, the aged infirmarian, I never met with anything but kindness, and never had anything before me but good example. O how I bless our God and Saviour that my training for the ecclesiastical life began at the Seminary of old Mount St. Mary's. . .

This delightful writer tells us further how another of those Mountaineers, who subsequently joined St. Ignatius' Order, Father David B. Walker, '55, still living in 1908, was in charge of the band in that Harper's Ferry excursion of 1858, and was four years first prefect, an extraordinary sign of confidence on Dr. McCaffrey's part. He tells also how another Collegemate, Martin Gessner, never wasted a minute, sometimes even bringing a book into the refectory, and at recreation making rosaries which he would sell to the boys and drop the money into the poor-box. Father Merriwether still (A. D. 1908) uses one of those rosaries and has done so from the day he became its owner. Those who know the pastor of St. Patrick's, Elizabeth, will recognize him in the boy thus described by our Georgia correspondent.

Calling on Father Walker in 1906, the chronicler was entertained with many reminiscences of his days. He told us of a brilliant student from New Orleans who, like many others, left the College to fight for the Confederacy. The youth was killed at Murfreesboro and his Irish mother made her way thither from Memphis, saw General Rosecrans, and obtaining a pass searched for her boy's uncoffined body and brought it home for Christian burial. She was seen by one of the Faculty laying a brick sidewalk in front of her house in the Crescent City with her own hands. "I'm trying to save enough to educate my other son," she explained. This one graduated later, inherited sixty thousand dollars, became a gambler and lost it all.

Father Walker spoke of the honorable sentiment among the boys of his time, when the students were mainly from the South, and we have heard much that makes one admit this noble trait in those below "the Line." For instance, boys reported on one of their companions who concealed immoral books, after they had tried in vain to induce him to destroy them, and one of them gave three successive " lickings " to a student who had kicked a prayer-book round the terrace. On one occasion a gentleman from New Orleans requested on entering his boy that the latter be exempted from the whip. It was of course refused, but the boy spoke so disrespectfully to his father afterwards that the other students, hearing of it, threatened to " kick him round the terrace" (their favorite mode of punishing unworthy members) unless he at once changed his tone.

Dr. McCaffrey always stood up strongly for authority. The story went that he himself when first prefect had torn up the President's (Dr. Purcell's) permit given some boys to have their hair cut because it had not been granted through himself. Walker being in the same office, deprived the students of "talk" on Thursday morning because they had irregularly induced one of the priest-professors to grant this leave on Wednesday, the latter's birthday, and Dr. McCaffrey stood by Walker. On another occasion one of the priest-professors ordered a delinquent student to kneel down. "Sir," the boy replied, "I am ready to obey you in other ways, but I determined on coming here that I would not kneel down." He was told to go see the President, Dr. McCaffrey. He came back in tears after a few minutes and knelt down without more ado.

On Wednesday, Jan. 11th, 1858, the new hall, "McCaffrey Hall," as we call it, was opened and the dinner, delayed till five, took place in the present refectory. Gas had been introduced throughout the buildings at Christmas, and the change from the narrow cellar of the White House made the boys wild with joy. There were speeches on the part of the Faculty and students. Four days later, Jan. 15, there was some disturbance at the College following an investigation into the contents of the boys' boxes, and several boys were expelled. Among those who aided in restoring order was Bush Althoff.

Uncle Bush Althoff, the "Village Blacksmith" of the Mountain, was in the service of the College, man and boy, for nearly sixty years. Still as talking was not his trade, he doubtless carried much interesting historical matter to his grave. Those Mountaineers had to be interrogated closely, as a rule, before they gave up the treasures of their experience, and the chronicler at times scarcely knew how to question them. The old man was thirteen years, more or less, bedridden before he died, 1904 (his father had been so eighteen years), and suffered more than we dare set down, even were it of general interest. He told us that once, needing some money, he called on the treasurer, Father John McCloskey, and boldly asked for two dollars of what was due him. "Why, Bush, what do you want money for?" "I want to buy some whiskey." "Whiskey! Why, didn't you get your whiskey today at the harvesting? You don't want any more whiskey." "Well, Father, I want to have a good old soak of it." He got the money on this pretext, though not before calling again for it. These days of ours are not " the good old times," but we must make bold to say we have improved a little on the subject of whiskey, at any rate, and that neither Uncle Bush nor his descendants would dare to bring that argument forward under later administrations. The old man had a far-away, tearful look when he spoke of those that were gone, and was earnest in his narrative. Telling us once of a celebration on the 10th of May, of the landing of the Maryland Pilgrims, he said that some great man was talking in the old church on the hill, but that most of the people assembled could not get in; whereupon Dr. McCaffrey invited them down to the borders of St. Anthony's Lake " and talked and talked; why, Father, he talked most all day!" We did not tax the old man's memory to tell us what the Doctor said. His services in the "rebellion" of 1858 earned for Bush from Dr. McCaffrey the title of "the noblest Roman of them all."

We may remark in connection with this and other "rebellions" recorded in our history that boys had not in those days baseball and football contests, nor gymnasiums, wherein to work off their exuberant vitality, while at the same time the poverty of their surroundings may have had something to do with provoking discontent and occasional disturbance. Social conditions in the south particularly also account for a good deal of it, for the sons of planters were not accustomed to such severe discipline, and in fine, the spirit of independence was even more rampant than it is to-day amongst American youths, for they were nearer the Revolution.

Toms' Creek

Abp. Kenrick invited Dr. McCaffrey to be his theologian at the approaching Provincial Council, and the President received from Dr. Ferdinand Chatard the following letter dated Baltimore, Jan. 24, 1858:

Yours of the 10th inst. received in due time. ... I was most happy to learn by your letter of the 19th inat. that my son had taken no part in the recent outbreak. I trust that he will always continue to conduct himself so as to terminate his academical career with honor to himself and satisfaction to his teachers. . . I can assure you, Sir, that I deeply regret the recent affair at Mount St. Mary's, for whilst it is disgraceful to the students, it reflects injuriously on the authority of the College. No one is a stronger advocate than I am, of submission to authority and of the necessity of sustaining the teacher during occurring difficulties with the students, but at the same time justice is due to the student. Frequent difficulties with the boys placed under his charge indicate some fault in management of the teacher. St. Mary's College (Baltimore) was ruined by undue deference to the students; an opposite course systematically pursued, may endanger the prosperity of Mount St. Mary’ s. A rebellion took place whilst I was a student there caused by the systematic cruelty of the prefect in carrying out the whipping system. The Rev, Mr. Dubois could not see the faults of the prefect, the rebellion opened his eyes the ringleaders were expelled, the prefect was removed and all was quiet. It would be well for all in authority to recollect that the "Fortiter in re" does not exclude the "Suaviter in modo." If common reports are true, the events preceding the recent outbreak show a sad disregard of this good old maxim. Pardon, Sir, the liberty I take in making these remarks; they are dictated by a sincere interest in the welfare and good name of Mount St. Mary" s. Hoping that many days of prosperity are still in reserve for yourself and the institution over which your have so long and so ably presided, I remain very respectfully yours, F. S. Chatabd.

On March 14th, while the consecration of Rev. Patrick N. Lynch was taking place in Charleston, that of a son of Mount St. Mary's, Rev. Francis P. McFarland, '45, took place in the pro-cathedral of Providence, R. I. Abp. Hughes describes the " exceedingly grand "ceremony, " nine bishops and sixty priests marching through the public streets for the first consecration of a Bishop in Yankee Land. It produced a very deep impression. ..."

Chapter 47 | 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.