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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 46 | Chapter Index

Chapter 47: 1858

In April, 1858, Archbishop Hughes urged upon the Holy See the propriety of erecting the Archdiocese of Baltimore into a Primatial See. The new dignity was, however, says Mr. Hassard, not conferred in accordance with these suggestions, but merely a "prerogative of place" by which precedence is given to the Archbishop of Baltimore in Councils or assemblies of the Hierarchy of the United States.

Archbishop Hughes was particularly interested in the establishment of an American college at Rome; it had been his proposition in 1855, and it was he whom Pius IX first informed of its projected establishment. In 1857 the Pope purchased the ancient convent of the Umilta for 42,000 scudi (dollars) and gave it to the American Church for this purpose. The American bishops were required to furnish it and contribute to its support, and Archbishop Hughes was the first of our bishops to take up a collection for it, but the students were to attend the classes of the Propaganda as did those of other national colleges. The only officers, therefore, would be a rector and vice-rector, to be salaried. The first of these was to be chosen by the Pope from three candidates nominated by the bishops of the United States.

The Umilta being occupied by French troops who were unwilling to leave it, much vexation and delay was occasioned, so that it was not till December, 1859, that the college opened.

Mr. Charles O'Leary having withdrawn from the Faculty of Mount St. Mary's and accepted a place in that of her western daughter, writes thus to "Ferdy Chatard":

Mount St. Mary's College, Cinti., Ohio. April 9th, 1858.

My dear Ferdy: . . . We expect a large school here next year, and shall be prepared to furnish students every advantage they can derive from a College. Two of the Faculty are from the Emmitsburg College. We hope to have a magazine connected with the place . . . and are thinking of introducing an academic costume, the gown and cap of English schools, among the students. Some think it would be very useful near a city. . . .

At the Commencement in June, 1858, the places of Bishop Elder, Rev. David Whelan and Charles O'Leary were yet unfilled.

The prefects were Charles Hone, John Koch, Thomas Lonergan, Thomas McGovern (future Bishop of Harrisburg).

The roll shows one hundred and ninety-six students, of whom five were graduated. The honors were awarded to James M. Slevin, valedictorian; John B. Devereux, Charles V. Luken, Francis Gignoux, John C. Finney, Hugh McAleer, William Burnham, Francis Mudd and Joseph Fitzgerald. The evening previous lectures with experiments in chemistry were given by the students. [This is the first mention of such lectures in the College history, and they continued to take place up to about 1890.] Fathers Mullen, '24, and Rafferty, "25, men of the early days, attracted much interest on the occasion.

"The speeches were distinguished for vigorous and manly thought," says the Mirror, "and were well delivered. The music was by the inmates of the College, led by the Professor of Music. It was well performed, but unfortunately there was too much of it. This surfeit of music is the only real objection we have ever heard to the Mountain Commencements. Music is so very common we hear it at home, in the church, on the streets, at all times, day and night so that when we go to enjoy an intellectual treat at our colleges we should like to have it given to us in minimum doses."

Father Alexius Elder, S. S., writes from Baltimore, Aug. 1, 1858, to Dr. McCaffrey, referring to the forwarding of the Dubois monument, of which mention has been made already in this history, and to marking the site of the first altar in the Elder mansion. He says: "Get a copy of Uncle Aloysius Elder's will to see how he disposed of the graveyard and also copy of deeds from Burke to the Rev. gentlemen, and also their deed to Dr. Shorb." (If he lived today he would add: "and of Dr. Shorb to John Thomas Cretin," etc., etc.) "If Uncle Aloysius willed the graveyard to the congregation or to the College he must have left a right of way thereto, and without this right the spot is useless to us. ... " J. T. Cretin and wife made a deed to Abp. Elder about 1878, but it was never recovered. By it they gave him a large triangle of land north of the graveyard in exchange for the Negroes' burying-ground to the south of it. The Negroes' burial-plot was then plowed under. A survey and map of the whole is in the Cabinet.

Abp. Hughes and Bishop Elder began new cathedrals this year. The former wrote to Rome, Aug. 12, that he expected to avail himself of Cyrus Field's promise and "send a message to the Pope of Rome about the corner-stone of St. Patrick's on the day of its laying, Aug. 15, and receive a reply the same day," for the Atlantic Cable, the first to cross an ocean, was then approaching completion, and Abp. Hughes got the right to the first message after that between the President of the United States and the Queen of England. In the procession celebrating its achievement Abp. Hughes rode in a carriage in which, as he wrote to Dr. McCaffrey, were the British Minister, as well as a Presbyterian clergyman and Edward Everett.

Abp. Kenrick wrote, Sept. 3, 1858, to the President, who had invited him to the Semi-Centennial Jubilee to be held the following month: "I share cordially in your joy at this jubilee of the College established and carried on despite so many difficulties, with such advantage to religion, as well as literature, and pray that it may continue to flourish ad multos annos. ..."

Abp. Purcell had to excuse himself from the Jubilee on the score of health. He writes that he had just sent his contribution of five thousand dollars towards the American College in Rome.

Father Butler, '31, a former President, writes, Sept. 23, that as the Bishop of Covington was going to the Jubilee, he being Vicar-General could not come to " our ever and dearly loved Mountain. . . . May God ever prosper it and endow with His choicest graces and blessings the hearts and minds of those who labor to perpetuate and extend its usefulness and its glory. ..."

Bishop Bayley writes that, though not a Mountaineer in the strict sense of the word, still " on account of the feelings I entertain towards the 'dear Mountain,' as Bishop Brute used to call it, I may be regarded as a sort of ' proselyte of the Gate.' ..."

Rev. John F. McGerry, C. M., Third President, writes from St. Vincent's College, St. Louis, Sept. 24, 1858: "It was on the 6th of October, 1826, that Dubois transferred the Mountain to Michael Egan and J. F. McGerry. ... I entered in 1809. Am now 62, but can still do my forty miles or more on horseback, teach four hours a day, besides being vice-president, etc., etc. Sorry I can't go. ... Did you think of inviting Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte? He was my classmate in Horace with Charles Carroll 3rd. ..."

Bishop Portier, of Mobile, recalls his residence at the Mountain in 1817, but "being too weak to travel and being in the midst of pestilence I must remain to encourage my priests by my presence. ..."

Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, a neighbor, writes pleading his inability to attend owing to ill health. Many other laymen and clergy sent letters of excuse, but of hearty attachment: Edward and Thomas McGrath, of South Carolina; T. E. B. Pegues, of Mississippi; Thomas E. Irby, of Dallas, Texas; James Gowan, of Mount Airy, Pa.; William Fry, of Philadelphia; Alfred Larocque, of Montreal; etc., etc., etc.

We must quote again from Father Mullen, of New Orleans, who regrets that he cannot return to meet his friend of thirty-five years standing:

It was that bond of affection which emboldened me to broach the topic introduced into my last letter, and which still in the existing state of things constrains me to beg for the subject, for the glory of the College, further, deeper and more mature consideration from the loved and distinguished President of the College. It is impossible for him to know to what an extent that portion of discipline so horrible and odious has operated in the south against the institution. Pardon, my dearest friend, but can any justifiable reason be given for this corporal punishment? They have abolished it in the Navy and Army of the United States and the officers with whom I have had opportunity to speak on the subject acknowledged freely that the men were better, more easily managed, and of higher turn of character than before. Try the experiment for a year in the College. Let dismissal be the penalty of grievous violation of discipline. The College, ample as it is, would not contain the postulants for admission under such rule.

Don't say "Pshaw! what is old Father Mullen dreaming of? He must be in his dotage ''' Is o, dear Mac, they are the words of soberness and truth, and you will live long enough to see the truth of them. There are things of that nature done in the College of which I know you never hear . . .

Father T. J. Donaghue, V. G., writes from Dubuque and calls his "devoted friend" Abp. Hughes "Con of the Hundred Battles, who in the race outstript Queen Victoria and her ocean telegram," from which it would appear that Abp. Hughes got in his message to the Pope first on the new cable.

Levi Silliman Ives, formerly Protestant Episcopal bishop of North Carolina, and the second bishop of that sect to re-enter the fold of his fathers, wrote excusing himself as "having a lecture to deliver at Manhattanville," New York City.

John R. Iglehart writes from New York:

Be it a weakness it deserves some praise, We love the play-place of our early days. Dear is the schoolboy's spot We ne' er forget though there we are forgot. . . .

Bishop Barry, of Savannah, acknowledging an invitation to the Jubilee, speaks of " semi-centennial celebration of the foundation of your I must say our national college." He gives as the chief reason for his not coming: "We have three young priests not acclimated, and were they taken down in my absence I would not forgive myself."

Discipline at the Mountain under Dr. McCaffrey's regime was, as our readers will have surmised, of the heroic. The doctor was a forcible speaker, and discoursed, moreover, on whatever subject offered, sometimes talking for an hour and a quarter, but invariably winding up with the Fourth Commandment. In his latter days especially he was verbose, and it was with mingled feelings, of no holy nature, we regret to say, that the boys saw the chair brought out and placed upon the altar-platform, for towards the end of his life he taught literally ex cathedra. But talking of the discipline he "spared not the rod" lest he should "spoil the child." No matter who the culprit was or whence or how big, he had to get on Billy Welty's back and receive his quota of stripes. "We whip slaves in my country," said a proud Cuban to the Doctor. "We whip freemen, too, in my country. Get on Billy's back." The first blow received, the don said, "I am disgraced." "No, you're not; the shame is in doing wrong, not in accepting the consequences and the remedy." In fact, the youth shamefacedly re-entered the study-hall, but was wonderfully relieved to find that no one seemed to pay any attention to him ; he was simply the latest victim. Whatever we may think to-day of corporal punishment, it certainly left an impression, and though at the time it was sometimes undergone with feelings of anger and resentment, yet it was by some at least recalled with gratitude. We know a boy who had been severely punished. He said to his closest chum, as the latter told us years after: "I wish I was out of here; but if ever I have boys, it's here they'll come." A priest who was a child here in the latter 60's related how he was punished for an act of disobedience which every one of his companions considered highly creditable to him, but which was visited with severe retribution, and this at the hands of a prefect who was quite attached to the boy but had to carry out the program. Some time after the child's mother came to see him, and, to her surprise, he asked for a box of cigars to give to his friend the prefect who had been the minister of justice in his case. Whipping, "lamming" and "whaling" was a tradition of "the fathers," and reverently adhered to, just as it is in England to-day, where in the great public schools frequented by the sons of the nobility the latter refuse to consent to the abolition of the rod, at least as far as their own children are concerned, and the boys at Stonyhurst told their foreign prefect it were "stupid" to do so. " It happened once that Dr. McCaffrey punished me severely," said General B———, of New Orleans, " and I wrote to my father, Judge B———, then in New York. He came down as fast as circumstances in those days permitted, to have it out with the Doctor. But the result was not as he and I had anticipated. I don't know what the stern old Roman said to the irate magistrate, but after a while I was called in, and my father said: 'Give him another dose, Doctor!' " It was this incident to which Miles referred in those lines in "Aladdin's Palace ":

Touch the young tyrant like Olympian Jove The avenging sire defends his injured lore, Clutches a cowhide, contemplates a suit, Talks wildly of a martyr and a brute. The worst disgrace his freeborn son can know Is not to merit, but receive a blow; Honor, that prompts the pistol, damns the rod, Let beasts alone divide the scourge with God.

In 1866 a slight insurrection occurred, "on account of nothing, I suppose," said one who was a little boy at the time, and thirteen large boys walked out of the College. Dr. McCaffrey let them go. Some of them never returned, some did come back, and "he whipped them terribly," at least the little boy so understood. That they got a whipping there is no question, and the expounder of the Fourth Commandment was not the man to let them fail to feel the evil results of disobedience. The manner itself of the Doctor was stern and severe. "I had rather be kicked out of the room by Father John MeCloskey," said a former student, "than be bowed out by Doctor McCaffrey." Indeed often was he besought to lessen the severity of his discipline, as may be seen from letters found in the archives. For all that "the Doctor" was human too, as his intimates let us know ; his relations with George Miles show this, and an anecdote related to us of himself by a priest. It seems that long ago they used to have a musicale on St. Cecilia's Day, and it was a trick played on the new boys to send them to Dr. McCaffrey for tickets. "The Doctor gave me an apple," said the narrator.

Whenever one was sent up by the prefect, however, it would appear that punishment was the rule, so much so that this is told of the brilliant and gentle philosopher Father McMurdie: A boy approached him one day when, much to his discomfort, he was left in sole charge of the house. "I was sent, sir, by the prefect," began the boy. "Oh, you were!" the priest replied, beginning at once to use the switch. "Sir," continued the presumed culprit when he got a chance, "I wanted to be­come a Catholic and the prefect sent me to you." Tableau. The boy never became a Catholic so far as known to this anestor.

The "Jug," referred to above, is an institution at the Mountain which all students remember, though some may have passed through the College without becoming, through personal experience, acquainted therewith. Many a time has it happened to the writer to pass by its portal and note the ominous silence of the occupant who was abandoned to its privacy, though so near the prefect's room that a slight movement or call of his would be heard at once. Rarely did the prisoner give audible vent to his sentiments after the door was closed upon him, though sometimes his sentiments found very forcible expression. A distinguished ecclesiastic giving a retreat to the boys some years ago made his "confession" to them, as he put it, and told how he was "jugged " for failure to make a first attempt at poetic composition. "I didn't know how to begin," he said. "At last in desperation I composed a distich

 Poeta nascitur, non fit; The nail upon the head I' ve hit,

and handed it in. Somewhat to his disappointment his excellent teacher of English, the late Father Fallon, of Wil-mington, Delaware, refused to accept this specimen and the prisoner was remanded again and again, and until he "became a regular jail-bird." At last a friend said to him : "Make a try at it, Noll." He made a "try," and to the great astonishment of himself, if not of his professor, succeeded in the very bold task of writing twelve stanzas for Washington's Birthday in the metre of that gem of Miles's, " I am weary of the garden, said the rose."

The philosophy of the "jug" system and its efficiency in helping boys to correct their faults is further illustrated by what one of our students told of another place, where, however, such a feature of discipline was carried to what at the Mountain would have been considered an extreme. It would appear that the best boy in the graduating class had been ensnared by the "what's-the-use-of-Greek" theory, and frankly told the president of the institution that he would not study Greek any further "could not," in fact, his conscience forbidding it. The president argued in vain to convince the student, and then telegraphed to the boy's father, who promptly replied that his son was to do as he was told by his superiors, and was to be compelled to do so. He was, regretfully on the part of all, sent to the lockup, a dark room, with bread and water served at due intervals by the janitor. The prisoner held out for three days, and then requested an audience of the president, who joyfully granted it. "Mr. New-come," said the boy, "I beg to be restored to my class. I see now, sir, that I was doing a rash and unreasonable thing in refusing to be guided by my teachers, by you and by my father. I beg your pardon." Tableau. At the end of the year he graduated at the head of his class. There is wisdom in the "Jug" principle. "Ducam eum in solitudinem et loquar ad cor illius " (I will lead him into solitude and will speak to his heart), says the Holy Bible: Osee, II, 14.

"Billy Welty," as he was familiarly called, had been a fellow-student of " Father John's" and boasted of having once accepted in silence a thrashing which was merited by the latter. He served the College man and boy for some threescore years, faithful to his duty of looking after the lamps and the stoves. He objected very naturally when the boys attached firecrackers to the gas-jets and played other similar tricks, and doubtless was tempted to feelings of exultation when he hoisted them on his back (this being one of his functions) to receive due castigation at the hands of authority. Billy was very methodical, and towards the end of his life administered coal in homeopathic quantities, making it necessary for the professors, like so many Oliver Twists, to ask him for more. A certain professor had a taste for chemical investigation and Billy told us how the gentleman used to stain the windows with all kinds of things. But " he bun awful lot coal, he did." This professor had a room that was much exposed and complained frequently that his stove did not work well. This, however, was in the dark days after the collapse of 1881, when we were all on short commons and half pay, and so nothing was done. It happened that in the spring when the stoves were being taken down a brick fell out of the pipe in this professor's room. Everybody was astonished and it was "up" to Billy to explain this prodigy. "I expect it fall down the chimley," said he. However everything pointed to the fact that Billy himself had placed the brick there in order to check Mr. N's ardor for burning coal. Billy and his consort died about 1896. He was buried with honor, all the members of the faculty assisting at his requiem.

Jan., 1858. There was an emeute at Georgetown also about this time but it did not amount to much. The spirit of secession was in the air.

Letters came to the President Feb. 6, ' 58, expressing surprise that two boys in particular had been expelled. They were those to whom Prof. O" Leary had given his personal testimonial letters and pecuniary aid to get home, thereby incurring the displeasure of the administration and bringing on the severance of his own relations with the College.

Chapter 48 | Chapter Index

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