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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 57 | Chapter Index

Chapter 58: Traditions and History Surrounding Mount St. Mary’s

Tradition as well as history tells us that in early days the boys trapped and fished and hunted with guns. In the sixties and previously they used to have an annual fishing excursion to Maxwell's Dam or the Monocacy, about five miles from the College.

However, there are fits and fads among children as well as amongst their elders, and at times one finds the boys catching rabbits, possums and coons quite successfully; then the craze dies out, and they are not ashamed to buy the animals from the country boys at ten or twenty-five cents apiece, forgetting or ignorant of the delight of trapping. Even the ball alleys are sometimes neglected. All the games of the day, town-ball, prisoners' base, hand-ball, etc., were played, base-ball coming in about 1855. Along in 1880 or thereabout intercollegiate matches began, and though our boys were never allowed to remain away over night, they played many an excellent game at home and on the fields of the neighboring institutions, at Gettysburg, Westminster, Frederick, York, Carlisle, Dickinson, Penn State, etc. In 1896 they went to Washington, led by Edward Kenna, '99, whose father's statue graces Statuary Hall of the Capitol. They rode to Frederick in a 'bus, but being delayed in leaving Washington, where they had made one run in a match with the Washington League team, our players had to travel all night, riding thirty-six miles in the stage, from the Potomac home. A more pitiable crowd than that which arrived at the College at six a. m. cannot well be imagined, and then they had to go to class at eight. Foot-ball was introduced in 1891; Rev. Peter A. Walsh, of the diocese of Boston, then a student, being the first "coach." November 11, 1892, the Georgetown team visited us and were defeated, eleven to nothing. Father Walsh has taken much interest in the boys and at different times bestowed medals for athletic contests at the Barbecue.

The Barbecue was, up to the first centenary, celebrated in the month of October. On the first day after breakfast a "paper" was read, which the senior class had spent several days out of class in preparing. It was prose and jingling verse, of varied excellence, and consisted of witty but good-natured allusions to the peculiarities of the different students. Afterwards the king, queen, royal family, jester, et al., in fancy costumes, proceeded to the field in a chariot drawn by the multitude, and the sports began. These varied with time and taste. Anciently an ox or a calf or a pig or other animal was roasted whole, out in the field (an operation lasting for many hours), and was eaten without plates or forks, a butcher carving from the subject. Greased-pig chasing, greased-pole climbing, three-legged races, tug of war, mile races, jumping, leaping, etc., followed. If a ball match could be arranged it was considered a great point, and a play or a minstrel show took place in the evening. Three days of the week following were devoted to spiritual exercises, usually conducted by a priest who had had experience as a teacher in a Catholic college, and the Society of Jesus has been for many years, and in this centennial year, very courteous in providing the retreat master.

Rev. Thomas J. Fitzgerald Vice-President Mt. St. Mary's College 1880-1882

The boys in common say morning and evening prayers, go to High Mass and Vespers on Sundays and Holidays, and to low Mass on Thursdays. They go to Confession when and to whom they choose, but if any are observed not to receive this sacrament once a month or so the President takes occasion to bring them quietly into line. Many of course besides the seminarians communicate frequently, and many of the seniors and all the minims belong to the Sodalities of the Blessed Virgin, while a great number are enrolled in the Sacred Heart League, as well as the Total Abstinence Society, and the first Fridays are observed regularly by special exercises, which all attend. A great number of the seniors, volunteers, and all the minims, say the Rosary after the afternoon recreation. Although there is a select choir, as well as an orchestra, still many of the other boys join in the singing, especially of popular hymns, and the effect is very devotional. There are also several novenas during the year. The senior and junior classes keep watch during the Forty Hours. During the month of May services were held every evening, but in 1907 this was modified and benediction was given Monday, Thursday and Saturday evenings, while the boys were encouraged to go to Mass every morning, and the Sunday sermons were directed to promote devotion to the Mother of God.

Ecclesiastical conferences were held at the College semi-annually, at least from April, 1871, the president being also pastor of the parish, and were occasions of great usefulness, not only for promoting professional study and knowledge, but for bringing the country clergy nearer in social relations. We are told that in those days of no railroad they would last all day and cover much ground, Dr. McCaffrey presiding with much impressiveness. It was not so easy to get to Baltimore formerly, and the traditions of missionary labor and mutual assistance were still fresh ; hence the clergy easily and gladly attended these reunions. The pastors and assistants of Emmitsburg, Hagerstown, Frederick (where the Jesuits then had charge), Taneytown, Westminster, Liberty, Buckeystown, Petersville and the clergy of the College used to attend conference, all dining at the College. Gradually interest lapsed and in the spring and fall of 1899 no conferences were held. In the spring of 1900 only four outsiders attended; in the fall only three. A discussion took place as to the expediency of requesting the Ordinary to call the members to Baltimore for Conference, but no action was taken. In 1905 an attempt was made to revive the Conference, but only three members attending, a similar discussion took place with the same result. Rev. John Gloyd, pastor at Westminster, was Secretary of the Conference until made pastor in 1889 of St. Stephen's, Washington, D. C., and different professors of the College Faculty presided. Revs. John T. Delaney, Theodore Mead and B. J. Lennon, each and all successively pastors of Taneytown, were secretaries, one after the other.

As the chronicler was strolling with Archbishop Elder one day in 1890, he asked when he had been last at Cavetown. "Never heard of the place," was our shamefaced reply. Then he told us how sixteen miles across the historic South Mountain was a cave from which the town took its name and to which they "used to go on horseback" before the railroad was built. We visited the spot several times thereafter and an account of it by Rev. Hugh Smith, ex-'92, will be found in the Mountaineer for June, 1896, from which we take the following: "Archbishop Elder in a recent letter says: 'We had a good deal of curiosity to know whether the cave extended beyond the water which we met far within, but there was no boat there in my time. The year before I went there a party of ladies and gentlemen, visitors at the College, thought they might see something beyond by setting fire to some straw or paper and pushing it out on the water; but the smoke had no other way of escape than to roll back on them and past them, so they had serious difficulty in getting out alive. My brother Basil was in the party.' "

A few years ago, about 1900, a representative of the Smithsonian Institution, Mr. J. B. Maguire, had several men at work digging in the cave, going down from one to fifteen feet. The most important find was a stone slab, on which was cut the profile of a white man holding a gun in one hand and pointing with the other to a hole in the slab. It was evidently the work of Indians and possibly was placed at the entrance to warn members of different tribes that the cave had been discovered by white men and was no longer safe as a hiding place The relics found filled several large boxes, which were shipped to the National Museum. They included pieces of Indian pottery, arrowheads and spearheads, stone skinning-knives, tomahawks and stone pipes. Teeth and bones of bear and elk were found, as well as charcoal and wood ashes, about two feet below the surface, demonstrating that the cave had once been occupied. All of the different things were found in the large room near the entrance, Mr. Maguire explaining that Indians never entered far into caves for fear of coming in contact with wild animals.

Our venerable alumnus went on to say that formerly the seminarians as well as many of the boys used to stay during vacation and amuse themselves by excursions, and that this continuous abode at the College made it the scene of all their simple, holy pleasures, and accounts for the singular love they of old had for the Mountain.

One day the Director of the Seminary (this was the Archbishop himself, who was a priest at the College for eleven years after his ordination), started out with three seminarians for a long walk. Dean McNulty, Paterson's "first citizen," was one of them, as he told us. They struck across the mountain for Sabillasville and Pen Mar, then visited the cave and kept on to Sharpsburg, taking meals along the way, and finally after midnight reached Harper's Ferry, over forty miles. The light from the iron furnaces and the picture of the canal along which the weary party tramped that night, made a strong impression on us, as the Archbishop, with a revival of the ardor of forty years a gone, told of them. They aroused the boniface at the Ferry, which was destined to be immortalized by the John Brown raid and the events of the War of Secession; and after some very simple refreshments they were accommodated with straw mattresses laid on the floor of an empty attic, and gladly sank to sleep. Father Elder would not break his fast, however, but said Mass in the morning. The Ferry is across the lofty gateway by which the Potomac and the Shenandoah united burst through the Blue Ridge. Next morning they took the train to Frederick and made themselves at home with their friends, the Jesuits. Other members of the Faculty later used to tramp with a band of boys over the mountain, going even to the top of Mount Quirauk, above Pen Mar, and back again to the College between breakfast and supper. The scenery is beautiful and historic, two of the great battlefields of 1861-65, Gettysburg and Antietam, lying east and west respectively of this Ridge, while to the mind of one, at least, Sabillasville recalls Nazareth and lends a sacred charm to the locality. The walk around Mount Eagle itself, going by Owing's creek and returning by Turkey run, or vice versa, is a delightful excursion through Eyler and Harbaugh valleys, and the nine miles are easily made between breakfast and dinner; indeed, for time, the distance has been covered in 110 minutes. Tradition has it that in a scuffle between Eyler and Harbaugh the former put out the latter's eye and by way of compensation gave him half the valley. Hampton valley and Annadale Glen, two or three miles north of the College, and beneath Indian Lookout and the Indian graves on its right shoulder, make a very pleasant route for a couple of hours' stroll. Other favorite walks are from the College eight miles one way due east to the Monocacy and Keysville, where is Francis Scott Key's home, this being done in an hour and a half going and two hours returning; south to the high bridge over Hunter's creek, seven miles; north to Zora, four and three-quarter miles, or to Fairfield, eight miles from the College. All these are done between dinner and supper. We have known boys to walk to Gettysburg and back, twelve miles each way, between breakfast and supper, and once two young men went on foot to Frederick, twenty-two miles, during the Christmas holidays, getting back at 2 o'clock after midnight. The adventures of the latter two were painfully interesting, and their hearts as well as their heels were as heavy that night as they had been light that morning. One fact strikes the observer, however: boys do not always seem to recognize the beauties of Nature spontaneously and hence have to be tempted to these excursions and must needs have those beauties pointed out to them, as they do the graces and elegancies of art and literature.

One of the pleasantest of the "long walks" of the students is that to "Mason and Dixon's " famous "line," which runs about four miles north of the College. It will be remembered that this line was a result of a dispute between the States of Maryland and Pennsylvania over their respective boundaries as described in their charters, and prior to the Civil War was popularly accepted as the dividing line between the free and the slave States. In the days before '61 many a slave was rushed across it in a load of hay or a barrel or box or the false bottom of some conveyance. The boundary was marked by mile-stones, every fifth one having the arms of Lord Baltimore engraved on one side and those of William Penn on the other, while the ordinary ones had M. and P. on opposite sides. The boys from Pennsylvania usually suggest that the rest salute the Keystone State by imitating them and doffing their hats on crossing the line, a suggestion which is not always received with a response calculated to please those who make it. However, all is taken in good part, the new generation seeming to have forgotten what a chasm was marked by this historic "line." The ravages of time and of relic-hunters make sad work of the stones, and when some years ago, 1898, the legislatures of Maryland and Pennsylvania decided not to allow the famous boundary line to lose its markings and drop out of existence, so far as visible signs of its location are concerned, they undertook a work that proved very difficult and tedious.

The surveyors were obliged to cut a path across the mountains and they found many of the old markers and crown stones displaced. In Adams county one stone was used as a door-sill in a dwelling, another in a church, some were doing duty in bake ovens and others were lying at considerable distance from their original places. All were recovered, although not without vigorous objection on the part of people who were using them.

The work of reestablishing the line was very carefully done, and the old stone posts set along its course after Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon marked it out in 1763 were set up in solid cement bases, and iron posts were substituted in places where the old posts had disappeared.

Francis Scott Key's homestead is pleasantly situated near a hamlet called Keysville, not far from Maxwell's dam, on the banks of the Monocacy, and within two or three miles of Taneytown. This latter place takes its name from the Taney family, whose most distinguished member is Roger Brooke Taney, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He married a sister of the author of the "Star Spangled Banner"; and both the judge and the poet are buried at Frederick, the former in the Catholic cemetery, the latter in the public one. A beautiful statue of Key meets the visitor who enters this beautifully situated resting-place of the dead. It is by Alexander Doyle, of New York, and represents the poet in a soldierly attire and lyric attitude, pointing to the national standard which floats nearby and singing his immortal anthem. The house at Keysville, as well as the graves at Frederick, has long been a favorite place of pilgrimage for the students: patriotism is revived at one, faith at the other. It is told of Judge Taney that a priest, once seeing him waiting in the crowd before the confessional, invited him to come in ahead of the others. "No, Father," he said; " let me take my turn. I have no place in the bench here, but must plead my case before the court like the rest."

Many relatives of the Chief Justice reside in Frederick and Carroll counties, one cousin, Augustine, being long a physician at Emmitsburg, and this gentleman's son, Edward, ex-'48, at present a neighbor of the College.

Chapter 59 | Chapter Index

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