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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 56 | Chapter Index

Chapter 57: Relapse of the College

With all respect and even affection for poets, we feel called on to remind our readers that our object is to present the actual succession of events, the annals of the college, a journal, as it were not to weave a romance; to deliver a "plain, unvarnished tale" of sober history, garnished, however, with some of those literary flowers that spring up and are cultivated on the mountain sides, the dales and glens and fields and groves and "banks and braes" of the Cotoctin Spur and the Monocacy Valley. Departing for the nonce from strict chronological order, we shall think aloud for our readers, admitting them into our confidence as far as may be prudent in writing of things not yet quite ancient history, and shall discuss men and things collegiate under the McCaffrey regime, chiefly about the time of the Civil War.

Father Xaupi, so often mentioned Baron d'Estangel in Provence was a simple, devoted priest, a long time attached to the Mountain, where, as we have seen, he had Archbishop Elder for one of his penitents.

Alphonse Van Schalkwyck de Courcelle, one of our earliest students, whose acquaintance we made a few years ago and who died in his ninety-ninth year in 1906, told how, on his last visit to the College, in 1856, he noticed pasted upon the wall opposite Father Xaupi's desk a slip which read: "Sachons donner quelques moments aux pauvres, car ils ont toute la journee pour souffrir " (Let us not grudge a few moments of our time to the poor; they have all day to suffer). He inquired about the note. "Ah!" replied the priest, "one day a poor man wanted to see me and I kept him waiting. Father Brute’ was noticing. I went down at last. When I returned to my room Father Brute had gone, but the note you see was left on my table. I pasted it where I could always see it."

Priests' and Students Plot in the Mountain Graveyard

As we are in the company of lighthearted Gauls, we set down here another anecdote which would keep Frenchmen laughing for a year and a day.

When the Alphonse just mentioned was a student at the Mountain in 1818 he had been bathing in Tom's Creek, and just as he got out of the water he saw one lone yellow crab-apple on a tree near the fence. He climbed up and got it, and was about to take a bite, when the boys called him and told him that Father Dubois had given money for all to go and see an elephant, the first one ever brought to this country. He put the apple in his pocket and ran with the boys to the show. Just as he reached there the huge beast singled him out, moved clumsily among the crowd, forcing it to make way, and pushed Alphonse into a corner. The little boy was trembling from fear. The brute swung its trunk into his pocket and taking out the apple ate it amid roars of laughter. This monster created much excitement in the United States, and every one was soon asking every one else, "Did you see the elephant?" which became a proverb. To return to our annals:

The action of the College Council April 12, 1869, already referred to, would imply that the older members, seeing how Fathers Elder, William McCloskey and others had left the institution, and fearing doubtless the avalanche of debt which they knew to be there and which was all the more dreadful because they did not know its extent and seemed to fear inquiring into it, were losing confidence in their ability to conduct the College much longer as an independent concern, and so expressed their willingness to hand it over to the Hierarchy. The strain of the Civil War of 1861-5, with its result in diminishing so seriously the number of students and even in a greater ratio the revenues, for the Southern boys could not be expected to pay in those dreadful times, added to the vastly increased cost of the necessaries of life, and to the depreciation of the currency the government paper greenbacks selling at one time two dollars sixty-five cents paper for one of gold produced a condition that became more and more unreliable.

That we may get a better idea of the state of things we quote from the "Calendar of Mount St. Mary's College,'' printed in 1837 and 1838. The number of lay students in 1837 was 131, of clerics 19; in 1838 boys 118, clerics twenty. In those days classes were called first-year, second-year and so on up to the highest, seventh-year. No printed year-book is found after this till 1855, when we find the classes named collegiate first to fourth, and preparatory first to third, the lower number designating the higher class. About 1890 the old Catholic nomenclature was restored, and the undergraduate classes were styled freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. In 1855 we find 198 boys on the roll, but the seminarians are neither numbered nor named this year, nor in fact till 1861. In 1856 we find the highest number of lay students recorded in any year up to it, 210. In 1857, there were 204; in 1858, 196; in 1859, 162; in I860, 173; in 1861, the first year of the War of Secession, there were 127 boys and 30 seminarians; in 1862, the numbers are 67 and 28 ; 1863, 97 and 27; 1864, 126 and 23; 1865, 105 and 24; 1866,105 and 26; 1867,102 and 29; 1868, 112 and 35; 1869,116 and 31; 1870, 122 and 28; 1871,129 and 19; 1872,141 and 32; 1873, 144 and 32; 1874, 182 and 34. See how long it took to recover from the effects of the War. The marked increase in this last year was owing doubtless to the opening of the minim department in the fall of 1873.

Dr. McCaffrey, philosopher and poet that he was, never cared to be bothered with pecuniary matters, and his associates doubtless were of like mind, as professors are wont to be. This to explain why they so long neglected to insist on getting the treasurer's report, and to explain likewise why the latter was not ready or willing to make it. That the members of the council were unwilling to assume business responsibilities or could not work well together in so doing, is evident also from the fact that Father McCloskey was in 1872 elected President, Treasurer and Prefect of Studies, having as Vice-president the philosophic and utterly unworldly Father McMurdie. In fact even Father John would not appear to have been possessed of the positive qualities needed for battling with the world, as we of to-day understand it. The Chronicler has great satisfaction however in publishing these extracts from a letter of Rt. Rev. James E. Duffy, '60, of Albany, N. Y. referring to those men and those days:

Jan. 27, 1906.

" . . . . John McCaffrey may have been in the best sense a Leo (magnus major or even maximus), but never an Ursus Major." [This in reference to accusations of harshness made against Dr. McCaffrey] John McCloskey was the meekest of men. George Miles, who knew the different shades of meaning of English words as few did, used to turn to us on the terrace as Fr. John passed, and with emphasis and love exclaim: ' That blameless priest !' Asa' business man,' all I can say is the students' accounts were always correct and in first-class shape and I never heard of parents having aught to complain of. As to the financial collapse (of 1881) Mgr. Byrne can tell you better. I know that Father John, like many other priests of pure hearts and clear heads, had an inheritance of debt dating back to the original ownership of the College. That, with the war losses, was more than any honest man could manage, unless he adopted modern 'insurance methods.' As to ' government,' Parton, in writing on historical persons and facts, which to our way of thinking are inexplicable, somewhere says in effect, that to form anything like a fairly just estimate of them we must live again in their times and circumstances. Antebellum days saw conditions social, religious, governmental, etc, which a later generation cannot understand. In the secular schools and academies which I attended in the fifties, no master (there were no schoolmarms) could get employment if he would not' thresh.' Fear was the predominant factor in preserving order. Where that did not exist there was anarchy. In colleges where expulsion was not resorted to frequently, there was no discipline. Georgetown and the Mountain were the only Catholic colleges which had a national reputation in those days. They moved along ex aequo in scholarship and discipline. Georgetown threshed more, the Mountain expelled more. There were floaters then as now, going from college to college, no longer than one year at each, sent as to a reformatory, leaving hastily or expelled, only fit for state prison. . . . Slavery existed. Seventy-five per cent, of students came from slave States. John McCaffrey during the war, like almost all the Marylanders, was in sympathy with the South. That in his relations to the students he favored that section is calumniously false. The case of those expelled in 1858, who were practically all from the South, is one refutation. He was the most impartial man I ever knew. He expelled his own nephew. ' Fiat justitia ruatcoelum' seemed to be his motto. I had abundant opportunity to know whereof 1 speak. I was first prefect during the critical period of the war, was an intense opponent of the South, and talked on every conceivable subject with the G. O. M. As to alcohol, there was as little then as now ; less, far less, than in any other institution of the day. . . . Was theology well taught ? According to the standard of those days it was. and, I rather think, better than in most seminaries. But with the advance all along the lines, as we have things to-day, it was not. Two years was the rule in all institutions except Baltimore, where it was three, and the Mountain, which required four years. In the college there was more hard study I think than today. Latin and Greek were taught better, I verily believe, than today. As I stated above. Georgetown was the only other college that had the same course. . . . John McCaffrey in his day, like N — in ours, was a big man, too big for the ordinary run, capable of carrying his fellows in a side pocket, incapable of small things. ..." So far, Monsignor Duffy.

The esteem as well as the affection felt by the mountaineers of old for the College is shared by their successors, but can never reach the same pitch of fervor. The College in those days, when communication was difficult and expensive, became the very home of the boys, many of whom stayed here not only the year long, but for several, even many, years; and for such, all the memories of "happy childhood" were associated with the Mountain, their very dependence, too, imposing on the authorities the necessity of making it a happy abiding place by providing entertainments, festivals and amusements, which are less called for now when vacations are so long and so frequent.

Consulting the records for the courses of study, discipline, etc., we find Dr. McCaffrey 's name as Vice-President in a Calendar, issued in 1836-1837, but his name is not found at all in that of 1837-38, from which latter we copy the course of studies. The classes then were designated first-year, second year, and so on to the seventh or final year, and the subjects and authors studied were as follows:

First Year. 6th, Latin, Phsedrus. 7th, Greek : New Testament and English:Murray's Grammar — Arithmetic: Writing, Geography.

Second Year. 5th, Latin: Viri Romae, Nepos, Writing Latin. 6th, Greek: Graeca Minora, Exercises — English Grammar and Exercises — Arithmetic, Writing, Geography, Map Drawing.

Third Year. 4th, Latin: Caesar, Sallust, Bellum Catilinum, Ovid, Exercises, Mythology, 5th, Greek: Graeca Minora, Lucian Xenophon, etc. English Grammar, Pope's Essay on Man, Ancient Geography. 3d, History.

Fourth Year. 3d. Latin: The whole of De Senectute and De Amicitia, First book De Officiis, Virgil's Pastorals, JEneid begun, Exercises and Prosody (Alvarez). 4th, Greek, Graeca Majora, Xenophon, Herodotus, Thucydides, Iliad, English Composition and Elocution.—Plane Geometry. 2d, History.

Fifth Year. 2d, Latin: In Catilinam, etc., Livy, Aeneid, Epistles and Satires of Horace, Exercises, Koman Antiquities. 3d, Greek: Demosthenes, Xenophon's Memorabilia, Plato, Iliad, Graeca Majora. Odyssey, Hesiod, Plane Trigonometry and Mensuration, Surveying, Practical Engineering, Solid Geometry, History, Natural Philosophy.

Sixth Year. 1st, Latin; Odes of Horace, Juvenal, Pro Milone, etc. 2d, Greek: Longinus, Aristotle's Rhetoric and Ethics, Graeca Majora, Moschus, Bion, Theocritus, Pindar, Anthology. Conic Sections, Differential and Integral Calculus, Spherical Trigonometry, Natural Philosophy, History, Evidences and Principles of Christianity.

Seventh Year. Class of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, Blair's Lectures De Oratore, Quintilian, Tacitus, Persius. Logic, Intellectual and Moral Philosophy. Chemistry. 1st, Greek: Sophocles, Euripides, Pindar. Lectures on the Philosophy and Literature of the Greeks. Use of Globes. Astronomy, Dialing and Mechanics. Evidences and Principles of Christianity. French, Spanish and German are optional. Students are required to use these languages at stated times in conversation.

The students of Ethics and Logic are also required at certain times to explain in Latin the subject of study. One hundred and forty students could be accommodated in 1837. Nothing is said of religious instruction or practices, except the phrase about Evidences and Principles of Christianity in the last two years.

Notes were read publicly in presence of professors and tutors, and reports made to parents once a year. In the reading-room the best scientific and literary periodicals might be consulted during recess. Although the names of instructors in music and drawing are given, no reference is made to these branches. Term included vacation, during which parents had the option of leaving their children at the College or taking them home. Board and tuition, including modern languages, doctor's salary, washing and mending, the use of bed and bedding, cost one hundred eighty two dollars a year. Music was forty dollars; drawing twenty-five. Medicines at apothecary's prices.

The next catalogue printed after 1837-8 appeared in 1854-5. In it we find that "all the pupils are instructed in the doctrines and trained to the practice of the Catholic religion." "Applicants may be received at any time." Reports to parents sent twice a year. Two hundred boarders can be accommodated. Vacation begins on the last Wednesday of June and continues until August 24. There is no recess at Christmas or at Easter.

The Classes are now styled Preparatory and Collegiate. The First or lowest Preparatory had Latin Grammar, Latin Reader, English Grammar, Arithmetic, Reading, Spelling, Writing, Geography, Elements of History.

Second Preparatory. Phaedrus, Caesar, Greek Grammar and Reader, English Grammar, Beading, Arithmetic, Writing, Geography, History.

Third Preparatory. Nepos, Ovid, Sallust, Prosody, Anabasis, English Grammar, Arithmetic, Writing, Geography, History.

Collegiate Course, First Year. Latin : DeSenectute, DeAmicitia, InCatilinam, Virgil's Eclogues and Georgics, Prosody, Latin Exercises, Greek, Cyropaedia, Iliad, etc. Algebra, English Composition, Reading, Declamation, Ancient History and Geography, Natural Philosophy.

Second Year. Livy, Aeneid, Prose Composition and Versification, Roman Antiquities, Herodotus, Demosthenes, Iliad, Prosody, Greek Antiquities, Plane and Solid Geometry, English Composition and Declamation, History from Constantine to Charlemagne, Natural Philosophy and Chemistry.

Third Year. Cicero's Orations, Tacitus, Horace, Juvenal, Thucydides, Longinus, Euripides, Sophocles, Mathematics continued, Mechanics, Astronomy, Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, History, Mediaeval and Modern, Logic, theoretical and practical, Chemistry.

Fourth or Final Year. Latin and Greek studies continued. Philosophy, Metaphysics, general and special, Ethics, Modern History, Rhetoric and Oratory, French, Spanish and German: Translation, writing and speaking. Penmanship. Drawing, Music, vocal and instrumental.

Terms: Board, tuition and doctor's fee (but not medicines), two hundred dollars a year.

Music and drawing, forty dollars each. Modern languages, twenty dollars each. Vacation board, twenty-five dollars. Vacation from last Wednesday of June till August 24.

The "Library and Reading Room Society" had seventy members. Several of the principal journals of the United States, with some foreign papers and magazines, are regularly received; an advance on 1838.

1856. This year we are informed that in the last two years, in addition to Classics, Belles Lettres, Chemistry and the higher Mathematics, particular attention is given to Logic and Metaphysics and to the study of Ethics, including the fundamental principles of Civil, Political and International Law; while for resident graduates and others, who may have time for such studies, there is a course of Civil Engineering, and one of Agricultural Chemistry, Geology and Paleontology.

All who enter the College are required to follow its prescribed course of studies.

1858. Book-keeping is set down amongst the specialties for "resident graduates and others."

The Summer vacation was extended by four days; school reopening Aug. 28.

1861. All reference to post-graduate course is omitted, but book-keeping is classed with music, drawing, etc., to be taught if desired.

This year we find religious instruction in the course of studies for the first time (with the exception already noted), the Catechism of Perseverance being taught in the fourth collegiate (freshman) class, and Church History in the sophomore and junior classes. In the preparatory classes no mention of it is made, the study of the small Catechism being doubtless a matter of course.

1863. This year an "English and Commercial Course" was announced, with "Book-keeping and other branches that may fit young men for mercantile life and business pursuits generally," under special direction of Rev. John McCloskey, Vice-President and Treasurer of the College. This course "for youths not intending or unable to graduate " was no doubt established to attract students, for the attendance in 1862 was the lowest found in the history of the College for fifty years.

Rates increased very much in 1864. Three hundred twenty-five dollars is charged, besides five for medical aid and medicines, six dollars for use of piano, five dollars for use of scientific instruments, sixty dollars for music or drawing, and thirty each for modern languages. The previous year the charge for board and tuition was only two hundred dollars. No student is allowed to have money in his possession. Five dollars per session is all the pocket-money that any student may need or can spend judiciously, and it must be left with the treasurer.

This year we read in the catalogue for the first time that the use of tobacco is forbidden, and "no student is received who is unwilling to abide by the prohibition." Fifty dollars extra was charged for vacation board.

The general rate was lowered in 1865 to three hundred dollars per annum and remained fixed at this figure till 1906, when rooms were rented to students desiring them at one hundred dollars for a single and seventy-five dollars each person for a double-bedded room. The fee for vacation was raised to sixty dollars in 1867 and remained at this figure till 1906, when it was made eighty.

In 1869 Professor Lagarde, who came that year, was required to teach not only in the morning, but also from five to seven, and from half-past seven till a quarter to nine in the evening. The reason for this was the difficulty found by the Prefect of Studies in keeping the boys busy or quiet in the study-hall. And no wonder, for the four-o'clock lunch had passed out of use, and the boys were particularly restless between six and seven. It was only in 1898 that the supper hour was made six and a short recreation was allowed afterward.

The College was and is still governed by prefects chosen from among the seminarians, usually four for the senior department and two for the minims. These have a code in which are set down the punishments to be inflicted for faults and misdemeanors of various kinds, consisting usually of learning by heart a certain number of English, Latin or Greek lines on the back terrace during recreation hours. He was allowed to recite fifty lines of Greek or one hundred of Latin or one hundred fifty of English, as he preferred, and the preference varied considerably. An amusing result of this system was that unruly boys sometimes developed surprising memories and became authorities on United States and on Bible history.

The switch, as Mgr. Duffy tells us, was much used formerly here as it was in all schools, but latterly is very seldom found necessary.

While things went on as a rule very regularly under the prefects, of course the superior officers and other members of the Faculty were always at hand for advice or appeal, so that chronic abuses were impossible.

The prefects themselves have always deserved and received full recognition for their help in carrying on the school. Their position is hard and brings out the rarest quality in a man, that which constitutes real superiority, the art of governing. In the course of this work are displayed several illustrations of the difficulties of their office, but a large book indeed would be required to narrate its inner history, their manner of treating boys and youths of different characters, their recovery of raiders and runaways, etc., etc. The respect in which many of them were and are held by the students, in addition to the confidence and esteem of the Faculty, constitute the highest earthly reward for their indispensable services.

Chapter 58 | Chapter Index

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