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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 47 | Chapter Index

Chapter 48: 1858

The Catholic "Mirror's" account of the fifty-year jubilee, celebrated on the sixth and seventh days of October, 1858, in Commemoration of the founding of Mount St. Mary's College.

The celebration of the Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the Founding of Mount St. Mary's College took place on Wednesday last, October 6th, within the College precincts. Half a century has rolled away since the humble beginning of that now famous institution. Only a few of the original students survive to compare its present condition with that in which they first found it. Not only is the College dissimilar to what it was then, but the whole vicinity has undergone a gradual change. From this remark we might venture to except the neighboring pleasant village of Emmitsburg. It seems to stand the test of time unmoved. It has still the same length and breadth it enjoyed when our infant eyes first beheld it. The same stationary number of eight hundred and some odd inhabitants in which it rejoiced in our childhood days still graces, again and again, the decennial census, as it has probably the full term of half a century. It is not disturbed by the sharp whistle of the locomotive, nor does even the crack of the Pitt wagoner's whip any longer resound in it. Railroads, and steam, and turnpikes have invited trade and travel along more enterprising routes. However, what there is of it has improved vastly to the eye. Excepting some old and forbidding fabrics which sadden our entrance into the town, the houses generally wear a neat appearance. A few new ones have been built, and many old ones have been renovated and beautified. Mr. Wile has just completed a large and commodious hotel, capable of affording comfortable accommodations to a great number of visitors. The most gratifying advance we saw in the line of improvements was the capacious and beautiful church, which surmounts the rising ground in the northeastern part of the corporation limits. It is a noble evidence of the zeal of the old school of Catholics, who form the chief part of the congregation, and who are uncontaminated by the fashions and follies which in many places are the canker-worm of genuine Catholic piety. Though large, it is well filled, evincing the continual increase of the faithful in and around the village. In our day a much smaller edifice was large enough for all the congregation. A very fine pastor's residence and a hall for Catholic purposes must also be ranked among the modern improvements. Most of the worthies of the olden time are no more; we saw their names engraved on the marble tombstones in the church-yard! At least one link still binds the present to the past: that is Joachim Elder, Esq., who almost for time out of mind, in spite of political revolutions and under various administrations, has honestly, faithfully and efficiently filled the office of postmaster.

We will mention as one sign of returning vitality in the citizens of this place that practical means have been adopted, and an actual commencement made, to continue the Frederick turnpike from Mechanicstown to Emmitsburg. It will pass within a few yards of the College gate and close to St. Joseph's Academy, affording a comparatively easy and pleasant access, by way of Frederick City, to those institutions.

St. Joseph's, the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity in the United States, situated one mile and a half from the College, had no existence when Mount St. Mary's was founded. It now forms a magnificent cluster of buildings, located in a healthy, beautiful place and surrounded by enchanting grounds. These, with its several hundred Sisters and the nearly two hundred girls in the Academy, speak in no feeble voice the change that has been wrought here since the origin of the Old Mountain.

The environs of the College also attest the improvement which half a century has effected. It is true Carrick's Knob lifts its majestic head no loftier, nor does it view with more calm dignity the extensive and fertile plains beneath it than it did in days of yore. Tom's Creek winds its clear mountain water between its grassy banks as it did when the first College boys followed its course to catch frogs, suckers and sunfish. The Indian Graves, the Grotto, the Devil's Den, and the Hermitage, now classic, maintain their immovability. Even the autumnal leaf of Mary's Mount displays all its gorgeous colors of brown and red and yellow, with an intermingling of green, as it did when long years ago we gazed upon it with melancholy pleasure, or strayed away amid the oaks and chestnuts and maples whilst the fallen leaf on the wings of the plaintive wind went rustling by. These are unchanged; but look around and see where once the lowly log farm-house stood is now an elegant mansion, bespeaking the comfort and competence of its inmates. Lime and deep ploughing have made the soil generous in its yield. Orchards have grown up, and even vineyards are gladdening the heart of the thrifty cultivator.

Fifty years ago the College itself opened in a small farmhouse with seven scholars, gathered together by the then Rev. John Dubois, the venerable founder of the institution, who was a missionary priest ministering to the spiritual wants of the faithful there in what was then called the Catholic Settlement, as well as to those in surrounding missions. Now a range of spacious architectural stone buildings forms the material part of Mount St. Mary's College. Nearly two hundred are at present trained in piety and in learning within its walls. Thousands have gone forth from it in bygone years, and still bear an affectionate remembrance of their alma mater, as is demonstrated in their every-day avowals, as well as by the number who have come to unite in the College Jubilee.








St. Anthony's Lake. Church on the hill.

According to the published program, the festivities were to be continued two days, so as to give time to encompass the several points intended to be commemorated. This will make October the 6th and 7th, 1858, memorable days in the annals of Mount St. Mary's. None who enjoyed the privilege of being present will ever forget them or fail to hand down to their descendants the events connected with them.

On Monday and Tuesday preceding the celebration, as well as on the morning of the day itself, stage load after stage load of visitors arrived within the College bounds, and were greeted with a hearty Mountain welcome by the inmates of the College and the earlier comers among the visitors. Public and private conveyances performed the transportation service in good earnest, as well as with speed and safety. As soon as the arrival of bishops, particularly that of Archbishop Hughes, was announced the College bells were rung long and merrily. The current of the Alumni and friends continued thus to flow in until nearly two hundred had received the warm-hearted welcome of the conductors of the institution. Many also took lodgings in Emmitsburg and in the neighborhood of the College. It did an old Mountaineer's heart good to see one after another of his former fellow-students and companions arrive on the spot which witnessed their competition in the race of literature and science. The earnest and prolonged grasp of their friendly hands bespoke the feelings of their hearts. Some had not met since they parted within the walls of their Alma Mater, which, in not a few cases, had been over a quarter of a century ago.

The proverbial hospitality of the Old Mountain was severely tested and nobly maintained, so as to win the admiration of all. For several days the walls of the institution were filled with friends, who were amply provided with comfortable lodgings and sumptuous fare. Many of the students and professors took delight in putting themselves to temporary inconvenience in order to make the visit and stay of strangers as pleasant as possible. Some of the students we know gave up their sleeping apartments to the visitors and took less commodious ones for themselves. Honor to such students; they will yet be a credit to their Alma Mater and will perpetuate her fame for the happy influences she exercises on the head and the heart of her sons.

Apart from the residents of the place, the number of persons who participated in the celebration must have been at least three hundred. They were gathered together from near and distant parts of the United States—from the Gulf of Mexico in the south to the confines of Canada in the north. They consisted of every class of persons, clerical and lay, professional and otherwise, alumni of the College and others friendly to the institution. It is wholly out of our power to give a complete list of all who were present, so that, against our will, we are compelled to confine ourselves to the names of those who came within the range of our observation. We will now attempt at least that much.


Most Rev. John Hughes, Archbishop of New York; Rt. Rev. George A. Carrell, Bp. of Covington, Ky.; Rt. Rev. Wm. H. Elder, Bp. of Natchez; Rt. Rev. John Loughlin, Bp. of Brooklyn; Rt. Rev. John McCloskey, Bp. of Albany; Rt. Rev. Francis P. McFarland, Bp. of Hartford ; Rt. Rev. James F. Wood, Coadj. of Philadelphia.


Revs. Andrew Bohan, Brooklyn; Robert Byrne, New York; F. Burlando, Emmitsburg; John F. Conroy, Albany; Wm. Cook, Philadelphia; Michael Curran, New York; Thomas Doran, Albany; Alexius J. Elder, Baltimore; John Hackett, Tarrytown, N. Y.; Thomas Heyden, Bedford, Pa.; John F. Hickey, Baltimore; Alex. L. Hitzelberger, Frederick, Md.; Michael Hackett, Salina, N. Y.; John Kelley, Jersey City, N. J.; Bernard Keenan, Lancaster, Pa.; James Keeveny, Keesville, N. Y.; Edward D. Lyman, Baltimore; Michael McAleer, New York ; George McCloskey, New York; James McGarahan, Mobile, Ala.; Edward McKee, Philadelphia; John McGovern, Philadelphia; Thomas McLoughlin, New Rochelle, N. Y.; Patrick Moran, Newark, N. J.; Michael F. Martin, Philadelphia; Daniel Mugan, Ellenville, N. Y.; Daniel Morgan, Ulster Co., N. Y.; L. Obermeyer, Baltimore; Edward J. O'Brien, New Haven, Conn.; Thomas O'Neil, Taneytown, Md.; Charles C. Pise, D. D., Brooklyn ; Patrick Rafferty, Philadelphia; James Rolando, Emmitsburg, Md.; John Shanahan, New York; Edward J. Sourin, Baltimore.


Hon. Judge Champeny, Lancaster, Pa.; Hon. Jacob Kunkle, M. C., Frederick, Md.; Hon. Franklin Clack, ex-U. S. Dist. Atty., New Orleans; Hon. Patrick Kelly, Mayor of Emmitsburg; Capt. William Seton, 2d, U. S. N., Clairvaux, Md., one of the survivors of the early students; Prof. William E. A. Aikin, Baltimore; Prof. Theodore Blume, Vice-President of Calvert College, Carroll Co., Md.; Prof. Joseph Gegan, Baltimore; Capt. Eugene Cummisky, Baltimore; Patrick Donahoe, editor of the Pilot, Boston; Col. Outerbridge Horsey, Need-wood, Md.; Dr. Dominick A. O'Donnel, Baltimore; J. W. Baughman, editor of the Citizen, Frederick, Md.; Dr. Wm. Patterson, Emmitsburg; George H. Miles, author of Inkermann and various other works; James McSherry, author of the History of Maryland and other productions; Robert Mickle, cashier of Union Bank, Baltimore; John Lilly, Conewago, Pa., one of the three survivors of the boys who first entered Mount St. Mary's fifty years ago; Dr. James Eichelberger, Emmitsburg; also John Honeywell, Patrick McLaughlin, Basil F. Elder, Basil T. Elder, Wm. Geo. Read, Patrick Henry Bennet, James L. Ridgely, Francis Elder, Laurence Puzenet, T. Parkin Scott, Alexius Baugher, Chas. Monmonier, Michael Roach, Francis Chatard, Thomas F. Roach, Isaac Hartman and John Boyle, Esquires of Baltimore; Hugh McAleer and Charles W. Hoffinan, Esquires of Frederick, Md.; John D. Ewing, Edward Tiers, John Elder, Joshua Shorb, Joseph Mc-Devitt and Joshua Motter, Esquires, Emmitsburg; William Seton, 3d, Dixon, Illinois; Joseph Fry, Philadelphia; John F. Ennis, Esq., Washington City ; Douglas Clopper, Esq., Montgomery Co., Md.; C. G. de Garmendia and Francis Torres, Esquires, Cuba ; Thomas Elder, A. Dufilho and Lewis Carr, Esquires, New Orleans; Mr. Lyons, reporter of the Herald, New York ; and many others.

The spiritual exercises of the Jubilee granted by the Holy Father being in progress in many of the dioceses, prevented a large number of the reverend clergy, who were anxious to be present, from leaving their parishes. The absence of Archbishop Purcell, Bishop Whelan and Bishop Young, all alumni of the Mountain, was especially regretted by their numerous friends. Of the bishops present, all except Bishop Wood were educated at Mt. St. Mary's.

At 10 o'clock a. m. on Wednesday, the 6th, the literary part of the exercises commenced in the large hall. It was crowded with an intelligent audience, numbering about five hundred, counting the college boys at nearly one hundred and seventy. The life-like portrait of Bishop Dubois and the bust of Bishop Brute, founders of the institution, decorated the rear part of the stage. The room was otherwise well arranged for the occasion. The priests and the laity occupied the main body of the hall in front of the platform. The orchestra was between them and the rostrum. The stage was occupied by the bishops, the officers of the College, the orator and poets for the occasion; also by Capt. William Seton and John Lilly, Esq., as survivors of the students with which the institution commenced. The President of Mount St. Mary's, Rev. John McCaffrey, D. D., presided, assisted by the Rev. John McCloskey, Vice-President. Prof. Dielman conducted the musical department with great ability and to the entire satisfaction of the company. The five Pyrenees Mountaineer Singers were within the orchestra and sang some of their songs at intervals, much to the pleasure of the assembly.

The exercises were opened by the President, Dr. McCaffrey. After the prolonged applause that followed his concluding words had subsided, the President introduced the orator of the day, James McSherry, '38, of the Frederick City Bar. His address was much and deservedly cheered. We hope at an early date to lay before the readers of the Mirror this elegant address, as well as the poems delivered by George H. Miles, Esq., of the Baltimore Bar, and the Rev. Charles C. Pise, D. D., of Brooklyn, both of which are of a high order of poetry and gave unbounded satisfaction.

The band played " Auld Lang Syne," after which Dr. McCaffrey said: "My friends, I thank the audience for their participation in our exercises here to-day, but I have now a regret to express. I have asked Archbishop Hughes to say a few words on this occasion" [Here a tremendous burst of cheering drowned the speaker's voice and he soon retired. Archbishop Hughes then advanced and the cheering was continued with renewed vigor.]

When silence was at length restored the Archbishop said : " My friend concluded his brief observations by expressing a regret, but he did not quite express it; he has left that to me, and I regret that in consequence of a sore throat I am prevented from making any extended remarks. I return my thanks for the good will you have evinced towards me, and I will take this occasion to say that the associations of this day are of the pleasantest and at the same time of the most melancholy character, missing, as we do, many who a quarter of a century ago met in this hall devoted to science and religion. In future let us hope that others, even more distinguished than those of previous years, will go forth from this College to adorn religion and promote science." [Applause.]

The Mountaineers then sang La Retraite suivie par la Marche Nocturne, which was loudly applauded, and this concluded the exercises.At four o'clock the company sat down to a substantial banquet in the refectory of the College, a fine room, which accommodates three hundred. About two hundred guests partook of the hospitality of the College on this occasion. The President, Dr. McCaffrey, occupied the chair. The bishops sat on his right and left. After the dinner the President proposed, as the first toast, The health and long life of Pope Pius IX, preceding it with man}* happy remarks. Archbishop Hughes was loudly called upon to respond, which he did at considerable length, to the evident delight of the guests, manifested by repeated cheers. The second toast was, The President of the United States, to which Hon. Jacob Kunkle, member of Congress from the district, responded in an excellent speech, eulogizing the President and the Democratic party. The Memory of Dubois and Brute was then drunk in silence and standing. Hon. Franklin Clack, ex-U. S. District Attorney in New Orleans, and several other gentlemen spoke with much applause when called out. William George Read, Esq., drew attention and won golden opinions by concluding his address with a Semi-Centennial Ode to his Alma Mater, which he sang with great feeling and effect. At 7 o'clock the company rose from the table and withdrew in the utmost good-humor, everything having passed off in the happiest manner. We ought to add that the Mountain Singers, in the midst of the dinner festivities, took a stand in the center of the room and sang some songs in their vernacular, to the gratification of all who heard them.

In the evening, a little after eight o'clock, the inmates of the College, the visitors, and a few of the neighbors assembled in the College Hall to listen to a vocal concert by the Pyrenees Mountaineer Singers. They made their appearance in a peculiar costume, consisting of white pants, blue blouse frock coats faced with white collars, and reaching nearly to the knees. Their heads were covered with white woolen caps, broad at the top and inclining to one side, with a long tassel hanging down. As soon as they reached the hall they marched in single file up to the front of the bishops who now occupied seats on the hall floor before the orchestra. Having arranged themselves in a line facing the bishops, they all knelt down together and asked a blessing. Archbishop Hughes stood up and blessed them, upon which they rose and one by one took him by the hand and kissed his ring, genuflecting at the same time. This whole proceeding was so edifying and reverent that it produced the happiest effect on the spectators, who applauded them long and loud.

The singers took their stand on the platform in a semi-circle facing the audience and sang several French songs in their peculiar style. They also sang the Credo throughout. One unusual circumstance was that they sang entirely from memory, having no books, prints or guides of any kind near.

In the interval between some of the pieces the Rev. Dr. Pise took his stand on the platform and read a beautiful translation into English verse of his Latin poem delivered in the morning.

The cupola of the College has within its open parts a large cross. This is hollow and filled with gas. Along its length and breadth are thickly-set jets, from which the gas can emanate. During this College festivity it was lit up every night and presented a beautiful spectacle. It not only throws a flood of light on the premises of the institution, but it is seen for many miles around. We all admired its brilliancy, as well as the good taste which caused it to be erected there.

The morning of the 7th broke upon us in the midst of a severe storm of wind and rain. A heavy mist brooded over the surface of the ground, hiding from view every distant object. The autumnal leaf was whirled from its bough and driven amid the forest trees. The poet's idea and description was vividly brought to mind:

My life is like the autumn leaf, That trembles in the moon's pale ray.

Fortunately, about nine o'clock the rain ceased, a bright and beautiful day followed, and we were enabled to make the contemplated procession to the church. At 10 o'clock the seven prelates, in rochet and mantella, and one hundred priests and ecclesiastical students dressed in surplice, formed a line of procession and marched along the winding path up the mountain-side to the venerated Old Mountain Church to participate in the solemn service of the Requiem Mass about to be offered for the repose of the souls of Bishops Dubois and Brute, the reverend founders of the place.

The church was appropriately fitted up for the occasion, and there were in attendance many of the neighboring Catholics, as well as the visitors and students of the College. The capacity of the sanctuary was increased by opening the sacristy doors and by placing suitable seats just in front of the railing, which afforded ample room for the priests and seminarians who had no special duty to fulfil around the alter. Archbishop Hughes, who was to have celebrated the Mass, being too unwell, the Bishop of Albany supplied his place and discharged that function. The venerable Father Hickey, one of the old stock of Mountaineers, acted as assistant priest, and the Rev. Alexius J. Elder, another of the same kind, was deacon and the Rev. F. Burlando sub-deacon. The Rev. Messrs. Keenan, Moran, Sourin and Obermeyer, robed in sacerdotal vestments, were assisting priests and occupied a conspicuous place in the sanctuary. The six bishops, including the Archbishop, assisted on the Gospel side in their episcopal dress and beretta. There was no instrumental music on the occasion. The students of the College and the Seminarians had been taught and trained to sing the Mass; these, together with the attending clergymen, amateur singers among the visitors and the regular choir of the church, sang the Requiem Mass throughout, including the whole of the Dies Irae. The union of these more than a hundred voices in chanting the solemn and impressive notes of a Mass for the dead produced a powerful effect upon the feelings, softened every heart and left few eyes tearless. The five Pyrenees Singers were present but took no part with the others. At two different times, however, during the service they filled intervals by singing some hymns in their own style.

The sermon was preached by the Rev. Alexander L. Hitzelberger, S. J., of Frederick, Md., an old aluinnus of the College and Seminary. His discourse was elegant in composition and appropriate to the interesting occasion, deeply affecting the preacher, awakening in the minds of the old Mountaineers many sacred and happy recollections, and presenting to the rising ones for their guidance good examples and principles, as developed in the lives of the great and good Dubois and Brute.

Upon the conclusion of the Requiem service the long-drawn procession returned in silence to its starting-place by the same route it went. With this terminated that impressive service.

The interesting spot called the Grotto was illuminated every night during the festivities with chandeliers and burning candles. Around the image of the Blessed Virgin in particular was the illumination brilliant. We went to enjoy this sight and were exceedingly edified. As we approached, the burning lights seen through the tree branches made a deep impression. Many youthful clients of Mary were there, singing her hymns and litany with great fervor. There, where no human voice could reach them nor human eye see them, in the midst of the darkness of the night, their sweet melody rose on the evening air. The continued songs of the katydids and the music of the murmuring brook were their sole accompaniments, save when the hillsides gave back a gentle echo. From our heart we blessed the spirit that animates those to throw an interest around this charming place.

The dinner on Thursday, October 7th, was, according to the program, the last of the Jubilee festivities. At three o'clock we entered the refectory to enjoy a sumptuous repast, arranged in the most tasteful manner. What seemed to us the most gratifying was the fact that all were there together. Bishops, priests, professors, teachers, students, alumni and friends of the Mountain, seated side by side at this memorable banquet, was a grand spectacle, showing it to be a time of general rejoicing and for the enjoyment of all. As soon as a few verses had been read from the New Testament, according to invariable custom, we were greeted with one of the merriest clappings of hands college boys ever gave. At the close of the meal proper, the proceedings were of the most affecting character. Prof. Dielman entered the room with violin in hand and advanced to the front of the table occupied by the bishops. As soon as the vociferous talking which re-echoed through the hall had subsided, he struck up "Auld Land Syne" and played it with much effect. Professor Joseph Gegan then yielded to the loud calls made upon him to sing the Exile of Erin. It was heard with the deepest emotion and elicited rounds of applause. With one voice, then, the Rev. Edward D. Lyman was called on for a song. Unable to resist the continued cry, he gratified all by singing the Harp of Tara. This was followed by Home, Sweet Home, sung in chorus by a large number of voices. At this advanced stage of the proceedings, the hearts of the assembled throng being mellowed by the inspiration of scenes around them, as well as by memories of the past, a general call from all parts of the room was made to sing, in united chorus, before we should separate, the Auld Lang Syne. It was done. Its effect was overpowering. It was a moving thing, and one to be remembered for a lifetime, to hear the three hundred voices of those present singing, with all the strength of their lungs and from the depths of their hearts, the touching words of Auld Lang Syne. It struck responsive chords in every breast, awakened the memory of bygone days, opened the well-springs of the affections, and made tears flow down many an aged and many a youthful cheek from the venerable Archbishop to the youngest stripling. The scene can never be forgotten by those present, and the warm hearts of all true Mountaineers were more than ever melted into one.

Soon after the last notes of Auld Lang Syne had died away at the parting dinner the visitors prepared for their return home. Many stage-coaches and other vehicles were in waiting for them.

But the painful ordeal of separation was feared. The few happy days now passed with old classmates served to recall former times and, in some sense, to renew our youth. We parted, in most cases, to meet no more. It was saddening, then, as each one stepped into the coach, to press the hand of an old friend and to bid him farewell. Every one felt within himself more than he could utter.

It was suggested by some of the Alumni, before separating, that the memory of this Jubilee should be perpetuated in a substantial form. This idea was gladly received, and many thought it would be proper not only to publish a history of this event, but to include a succinct history of the first half century of our Alma Mater. We hope that this movement may take a living form. We trust, however, that, like the names of the illustrious few, the name of Mount St. Mary's "is not born to die."

On Feb. 18, 1858, Professor O"Leary '51 left the institution. We shall read more of him further on. He died in Providence May 1, 1897, an eminent physician "extremely honest and charitable to a fault." A Greek Grammar of his was highly praised by the Dublin Review of this year, which hoped that it would be introduced in England.

In May it was agreed to give freedom to these ''slaves of the Corporation:'' Susan, wife of Stephen Green, and their children Anne Green, Ferdinand Green, Aloysius Green, Martha Green. (Ferdinand Green is still in the employ of the College, 1908.)

Amongst the graduates of '58 is John Grogan. He became a priest and laboring in Chicago, came often to revisit the dead and the living at the Mountain. Dying he would be buried near "his friend and father, Dr. McCaffrey," and they brought him forty years after his graduation in an oaken coffin one stormy night at eleven o'clock. "Blessed is the corpse that the rain rains on." Next morning after Mass we laid him where he had desired to be.

As an illustration of the difficulty of verifying historical facts James H. Meline, who was here in 1857-8, writes us from Washington City, May 15, 1907, that he had borne the name of Florent, but that it had been changed afterward to James H. After Father Hitzelberger' s .Jubilee sermon, as he wrote to Dr. McCaffrey, Abp. Hughes took him by the hand and tried to speak but could not: "He grasped my hand and burst into tears."

In September Bulls arrived from Rome naming Edward Purcell, '31, Coadjutor to Pittsburg, but he respectfully declined.

A Memorial Volume was published containing a complete report of the exercises, the sermon, the speeches, poems, etc., with Dr. McCaffrey's orations on Dubois and Brute’.

Chapter Index

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