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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 5 | Chapter Index

Chapter 6: 1812-1813

"Simon Guillaume Gabriel Brute' De Remur', born at Rennes, in Little Brittany, in France on the 20th of March, 1779. Rich family half ruined since French Revolution; educated at the College of Rennes with all the collegiate honors. Two years studied for the polytechnic school, studied physic went to Paris, 1799, had the premium of the school and was received doctor in 1803. That year 1803 entered the Seminary of Saint Sulpitius. I had made my first communion under Abbe' Caron in 1791 in Paris was of the congregation of Father Delpuits. At St. Sulpitius enjoyed for Superiors and Professors M. Emory, M. Duclot, M. Gamier, Frayssinous, Boyer, etc. Ordained priest on the 10th of June, 1808. Named clerk of the Imperial Chapel with M. Feutres. I declined. Sent Professor to the Seminary of Rennes, same year 1808 . . . continued there until 1810. Then came to America with Bishop Flaget, S. S. Arrived in Baltimore on the 10th of August, 1810. Taught moral philosophy. In 1811 Archbishop sent me for some time to the mission of St. Joseph's, Eastern Shore, to learn practically English. In 1812 was sent to Mt. St. Mary's. In 1814 I was appointed President of St. Mary's College of Baltimore, and for it, in 1815, went to France. Returned a few days before the death of Archbishop Carroll, my venerable benefactor. In December began my charge of President, till February, 1818, teaching all that time natural philosophy, then returned to Mt. St. Mary's near M. Dubois. . . .Remained at the college until 1834, teaching divinity and philosophy and serving the Sisters of Charity as chaplain and confessor and by turn of years the two parishes, Emmitsburg and the Mountain. In 1824 traveled to France for the college, Mt. St. Mary's. Named as Bishop of Vincennes in 1833, but declined. . . . Named a second time, accepted . . . was consecrated in St. Louis on the 28th of October, 1834, by Bishop Flaget, Bishops Eosati and Purcell assistants.

"On the 5th of November, taking possession of the Cathedral of St. Francis at Vincennes, assisted by Bishops Flaget and Purcell, . . . exercised the ministry alone in Vincennes and visited the diocese. On the 16th of July, 1835, started for France, having been naturalized. Returned on the 4th of August, 1836. When in Rome asked Gregory XVI for his blessing to be a good bishop; he said that in 1804 he had knelt to Pius VII in a private opportunity and received his blessing to be a good priest. ' Ut sim bonus sacerdos.'

"1808 ordained priest; made a retreat with M. M. Duclot and Celari, of the Foreign Missions, to go to China. 1821 wrote to Rome to go to New Holland, through Father Kerny, who wrote to me that I was accepted; but Archbishop Mare’chal, being in Rome, opposed it. In 1823, when Bishop Cheverus was gone to France, Bishop Dubourg, of New Orleans, wrote to me that he had sent my name to Rome to replace him as Bishop of Boston. I wrote most earnestly to Bishop Dubourg against it; showed him how unqualified I was, particularly to succeed a man of such prudence. Bishop Dubourg wrote that either my name had not yet reached Rome, or if it had, no consequence would take place. My father was director des domaines du Roi en Bretagne; died in 1786, 57 ans.; an honest man and fulfilling his main Christian and Catholic duty. Mother had a printing office, bookstore and extensive commerce. I owe all to her. She died in 1823, eighty-seven years old."

"In 1793-4 thought it best for the time being to give me a trade two years I tried printing and succeeded as a compositor." The following was probably one of his first attempts to write English; it is addressed to Bishop Flaget:

"Day of St. Francis of Chantal, Baltimore, being there these few days Je suis exile’ sur l' Eastern Shore of Maryland, where I serve with M. Monally, at St. Joseph's, Talbot Co. I went there the first days of vacation. I am trying to learn practically my English. I have said Mass and preached, bad preaching as it may be, in six different places. This must force this dreadful English into my backward head, or I must renounce forever to know it. I have seen M. Marechal only a moment; he is gone with the Archbishop (Carroll) to Carroll Manor. He will come back on Monday, but on Monday I will be making English and blunders on my Eastern Shore."

In point of fact, this eminent scholar never succeeded in mastering English. He was a doctor of medicine before studying for the Church, and was fifteen years younger than Dubois. He visited Mt. St. Mary's and St. Joseph's in 1810, soon after his arrival in this country. How we must regret that there is no pen-picture of the meeting of these two, Dubois and Brute’! While on his Eastern Shore it was that he received the letter directing him to go to M. Dubois's assistance at the Mountain.

From Left to Right: Founder of the College RT. Rev. John Dubois, RT. Rev. Simon G. Brute', and Rev. John Hickey, the First Priest Ordained at the Mountain.

Says Archbishop Bayley ("Memoirs of Bishop Brute’): "This favored spot became from this time, until he was transferred to the Bishopric of Vincennes, with the exception of the interval 1815-18, the theater of his zeal and holy influence, where all the advantages of his most amiable character, his extensive and profound learning and eminent Christian and priestly virtues, were exerted with the most beneficial effects. He could never have hoped to do as much good amongst the inhabitants of India and China by the exertion of the highest apostolic zeal as he was permitted to do in this country. . . . It is no disparagement of those holy and eminent men who have adorned the annals of the Catholic Church in this country of a Carroll, a Cheverus, a Dubois and a Flaget to say that no one has ever exerted a more beneficial influence in favor of the Catholic religion than Bishop Brute’. If Mt. St. Mary's, in addition to all the other benefits it has bestowed upon Catholicity in this country, has been in a remarkable degree the nursery of an intelligent, active, zealous priest hood, exactly such as were needed to supply the peculiar needs of the Church in this country, every one at all acquainted with the history of that institution will allow that the true ecclesiastical spirit was stamped upon it by Bishop Brute. His humility, piety and learning made him a model of the Christian priest, and the impression his virtues made upon both ecclesiastical and lay students surpassed all oral instructions. The Catholic religion alone can produce such men, and hence their example confirms the Faith and elevates the character of all who come in contact with them. The name of Bishop Brute has been, and ever will be, associated with that of Bishop Dubois, as common benefactors to the infant church in this country."

And in a note he adds: "I have often heard old students of the Mountain say, that when they served Bishop Brute's Mass they were overawed by the quiet, subdued, but enraptured fervor with which he said it; at the moment of consecration in particular he seemed to be carried entirely out of himself."

Makes notes of one of Father Dubois' Sundays :

"M. Dubois' Sunday (no date): His invariable meditation. Then confessions in the church on the mountain; Mass at eight o'clock ; again confessions in the church till eleven o'clock. At eleven o'clock High Mass by M. Brute’. M. Dubois there, at the Sermon. These six hours spent in that cold church. Dinner; we talked. Three o'clock Benediction, then confessions one hour and a half. At six o'clock Catechism of the higher class (Mr. Hickey, the younger one) three-quarters of an hour. Supper at half past seven. Class in Latin Jamison, George Elder, Alex. Elder, Grim one hour; and so on for his Holy days."

There are no dates to these notes, but names and references time them to these years. The Faculty of 1812 comprised: Rev. J. Dubois, President; Rev. S. G. Brute’; Messrs. Hickey, Smith, Byrne, Chauzel, Britt, Morancy, Moynahan. Mr. Dussein, Agent (Superintendent of Farm). There were seventy-six pupils, among them Roger Brooke, a cousin, doubtless, of Roger Brooke Taney. In a note in Father Brute's handwriting is the following estimate of the financial condition of the college:


  • In 1812 wages were yearly (a list of employees)........... $1,213
  • Besides food &c and nineteen masters put at $175 apiece,
  • save some who paid partly............................ $2,745
  • Mrs. Brooke $500 by M. Dubois ........................ $500
  • Part of the dead load. (Soon the $800 [to Mrs. Brooke] came.) An overseer at $130.) But I find the nineteen masters above a great mistake say eight more.......................................... $1,300
  • $5,758

As was said previously, Father Dubois was to pay five hundred dollars of the eight hundred annuity to Mrs. Brooke, and after a few years the entire sum was left for him to pay. "Masters" are seminarians employed as teachers whose board, etc., was estimated to cost $175 each. It will help further to get from the value of money an accurate idea of the burden the annuity was, to know that in 1812 Michael Devoy, the "taylor," received one hundred dollars in wages.

"Note well that M. Moynahan had much more, in fact $300. And the income was only of fifty-two paying at $125 - $6,500. Add the profits, if any, on the bills of clothing, etc. But add to charges of $5,758 the clothing too, etc., of so many officers, etc., etc. add interest of the old debts.

O Providence! that a cart so over-ladened did not stop in the mire yet it came out, with loss indeed! It wants hammering and screwing and mending."

Archbishop Carroll knew the piety and the vast learning of Brute’ and would have retained him at the Baltimore Seminary, but Providence ordained otherwise and by his presence the labors of the saintly founder of the Mountain were greatly lightened ; still the responsibility remained. As can readily be understood, the building of the rows of log houses was not completed at once ; nor did the garden and orchard arise as if by the stroke of an enchanter's hand.

Theology was not taught at first in Abbe" Dubois's school; it was simply a " petit se’minaire," where candidates for the ministry were carried through the humanities and then transferred to the Sulpician establishment in Baltimore, St. Mary's. After Abbe Brute's coming this arrangement was altered, and those of his pupils who felt a drawing to the priesthood were instructed by him, but we shall see later what contention arose on this account. On the 8th of October. 1812, Archbishop Carroll conferred tonsure on John Delany, William Byrne, Francis Grandchamps, George Elder, Alexius Elder, George Boarman and Chauzel. This was the first ordination at the Mountain. Of these Alexius and George Elder became priests. John Delany died in 1813, and is buried on the Hill. When they told him of his dangerous condition, this boy of sixteen said: " Is my sweet Jesus to come for me, my Father? " As he was a cleric, they placed his corpse within the little sanctuary during the Requiem. Boarman and Grandchamps returned to secular life. Not one of the original sixteen named further back is found in this first batch of clerics.

In Dr. Chatard's memoirs we read of the accident that befell Theophilus Kauffmann of Philadelphia, a boy of 12, in whom it seems Mother Seton was interested, for, besides Father Brute's circumstantial account of his wounding and subsequent condition, in which the physician so plainly shows himself, and we are reminded that the writer was that before he became a priest, we find a letter from the Infirmarian and notes in Mrs. Seton's own handwriting. It would appear that the child had not yet made his First Communion, and the extraordinary faith, fortitude and intelligent piety shown by him during his three days' agony made a deep impression on all who came near him or heard the reports from his bedside. Father Brute, stayed with him all night, prayed with him, heard his general confession and gave him the Holy Viaticum, which was the boy's First Communion, on Tuesday of Holy Week at one o'clock in the morning. The holy priest took down what he called the "depositions" of Peggy McEntee, Mr. and Mrs. Devoy, Mrs. Steadman and other witnesses of the child's conduct and his words during his last illness, and thus makes record of this the First and Last Communion.

"Mount St. Mary's, coming to my room half-past one A. M. "The Thanksgiving of Theophilus Kauffmann who being very sick makes his First Communion, the Holy Tuesday, 1814, at one o'clock in the morning. He received our Lord with utmost peace and love shut his eyes and placed his left hand to cover his forehead and his brows silence. A moment after he asks: 'What shall I say? ' ' My dear boy, what your heart suggests; express it only by repeating lovingly My God, my God, my Jesus, my Saviour.' Then he begins: ' O my God, my God, my God, my God, my Jesus, my Saviour, my Jesus, my Jesus! My God, O my Lord, my Jesus, my Saviour, my Jesus, my Jesus, my sweet Savior ! My God, my God, my Saviour, my Jesus! ' Then continues repeating thus in a very low voice, and mixing in whisper among the hundred names a few words of which I catch very few from the lips ' My God, O my God what shall I ... My Jesus! O look down upon a poor little boy! O my God, my Saviour, give me a sign that I have . . . O my God I have done my best, O my Jesus, my Savior, my sweet Saviour !' (Lengthening tenderly the blessed word ' Sweet Saviour') other times his ' O my God ' swelling gently the whisper and coming from the breast with such impassioned accent as love only have uttered for the whole I catch only by kneeling down by him to unite to this precious thanksgiving, and leaning my head over his breast under the edge of his left hand so amiably covering the poor eyes of his mortality shut to such an interior spectacle that faith alone can behold and enjoy! O Eternity, O our Jesus in Eternity! O look down on a poor little boy and on me! Theophilus Kauffman lies on the right hand of Picot, who lies on the right hand of Chauzel. J. M. J."

We may insert here an episode of the childhood of Brute himself. During the horrors of the French Revolution, when the clergy were in constant danger of public execution, priests in various disguises managed to visit the political prisoners in order to give them the consolations of religion before death. One, brave and devoted beyond others, used to visit the local Bastille in the garb of a baker. When the prisoners gathered around his basket of bread, he heard their confessions and gave them absolution. A little boy of angelic beauty always accompanied the supposed baker, and bore, suspended from a cord around his neck, a pyx, in which rested the Blessed Sacrament. Thus was the disguised priest enabled to give Holy Communion to those prisoners, doomed to a dreadful death. The boy was afterwards the priest of whom we write. Father Brute’.

We have already stated the terms for tuition; but a memorandum is before us of pupils who were received severally on condition of giving "a horse, a slave, and five hundred dollars worth of grain."

In 1812 there were forty-six pupils paying the regular charge of one hundred and twenty-five dollars; four paying one hundred dollars, and three at fifty dollars. Eight paid as above stated in what may be called merchandise. Three paid fifty dollars each, in three years; six externs eleven dollars, and two twenty; four entirely gratis. There were about thirty students of Theology. At first none but Catholics were received, since the object of the institution was to give pupils an ecclesiastical education; a few Protestants were, however, as shown above, admitted.

Father Brute’ was in charge of the Mountain church at the time of the attack on Baltimore by the British in 1812, and many of his flock went to assist in the defense of the city. He made an address to them on leaving and became himself so anxious that he walked to Baltimore, about sixty miles, to join them and render them such assistance as they might require while in the trenches.

Archbishop Robert Seton, in relating his father's (Capt. William Seton's) memoirs of his mountain days, says: "Work was pleasantly combined with study work in cutting down some trees, setting out others, rooting out stumps, clearing off stones, and fixing up things generally around the place; the boys used to have great fun going out hunting through the woods. The general impression left upon my mind by the little conversation which at different times I had with my father about the Mountain in his time was, that the whole place was filled with an atmosphere of reasonable, practical and joyous piety that a halo of religious simplicity, learning and every kind of holiness shone around the superiors and teachers of the institution. He seems never since to have found in any part of the world so much unaffected piety and enlightened religion." (This William Seton, who came to the College September, 1810, aged 18, his brother Richard being 17, became a captain in the U. S. Navy. They were the sons already mentioned of Mrs. Seton.)

Apropos of Father Brute's walking to Baltimore, a son of that same William Seton, his namesake, William Seton, LL. D., also a Mountaineer, who died in 1905, told us this: "One winter evening my father was sitting in Father Brute's room by the bright wood fire when the reverend gentleman's letters and papers were brought in. Among them was a letter or a message from Bishop Carroll, asking information regarding a quotation from one of the Fathers. Father Brute’ glanced up along the lines of his library shelves, rose, reached down a book, tucked it under his arm, picked up his hat and, bidding William 'goodnight' and ‘be a good boy,' sallied into the darkness. The next morning when Bishop Carroll came into his breakfast room he was greeted by Father Brute’ and the book."

If we ask why the boys worked so cheerfully, the answer is in the enthusiastic example of the superiors. Brute’ in particular was very energetic and the seminarians especially rejoiced to work with him. He was a man of utter unselfishness and simplicity. He would go out sometimes without breakfast and take a bite, standing, at the house of Mr. Taylor, in Hampton Valley, or where he happened to stop. One imagines how the people loved him! One time he gave his coat to a poor man and asked Father Dubois for another. Dubois scolded him, saying, "We are as poor as that man." Brute’ then wore for several weeks the coat of the deceased seminarian, which was much too small for him.

Among the notes of Father Brut6 for the first Sunday of Advent, 1812, is "a warning to those who have a yearly habit to be drunk at Christmas." On Christmas Day, 1812, he said Midnight Mass at the Convent, sang Mass at four on the Hill and said another after that." Charles Carroll, of Baltimore, came to the College in 1813; Thomas and Francis Jenkins in 1815. Jerome Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon 1, came Aug. 29th, 1814, being ten years of age." [He was still there Sept. 30th, 1817].

As showing how things were done in those days, we have it recorded that on "April 9th, Easter Sunday, 1813, Richard Elder was buried in the ground of Aloysius Elder, while on Nov. 9th Mr. Blair, born 1725, died and his son buried him in his own garden."

"Baptisms of slaves: Baptized Negro girl at Mr. Base's; Negro boy belonging to Anderson's wife. First Communion : Oct. JO to Negro girl at Mr. Head's; ditto to Charity, Matilda, Dinah. Convert: Betsy, of the sitting-room; John, Negro boy at Mrs. Wilson's. ... On the 19th of Sept., 1813, a meeting of the congregation was held to raise money for a sacristy and confessional. Father Dubois spoke and said that this raising money by subscriptions seemed better for their piety than renting pues, which was but an appeal to pride and made the frequentation to the church less free."

Father Brute tells us that the Prefect of Discipline in 1812 "rises before all others, lights the candle and wakes those who have to make meditation, he making his own privately. He prepares light in dormitory, waits till boys leave, unless some other Master do this while he is in studyhall." The low figure of the college rates seems to indicate that the students at the Mountain, as everywhere in those days, had to attend to their own rooms, fire, etc., and to help in general housework. Father Brute was an early riser, and quotes the distich of the Salernian Medical School:

Sex horas dormire sat est juvenique senique; Nos aegro septem, null! concedimus octo.

He well knew that an hour a day taken from sleep means fifteen full days a year.

No priest at the Mountain, at least up to 1834, ever claimed ''either emolument or compensation," but each clergyman received a "honorarium" of fifty dollars a year or had a right to claim it. This was by way of pocket money.

In the papers of Father Brute’ we find this interesting item: "At Harvard in 1810 board in Commons was two dollars or less a week: instruction nine dollars a quarter for the first two and eleven dollars for the last two years. Other charges as study and rent and incidentals exclusive of clothes, wood, candles, furniture, etc., makes the quarter bills on the average about forty dollars, making six hundred and forty dollars the expense of the course. Entrance examination at Harvard was: Adams' Latin Grammar and the Gloucester Greek Grammar, entire. The five fundamental rules of Arithmetic with Reduction and Simple Proportion, Dalzell's Collectanea Minora and Greek Testament, throughout. Virgil, Sallust, and Cicero's Select Orations. Geography (this is dispensed with for want of a compend.). Mathias Mavis and Lyde Goodwin McBlair, who tell these things, say also that at Harvard Hebrew was recited twice a week in Freshman. Sophomore and Junior."

Chapter Index | Chapter 7

Historical Society Note: In honor of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Grotto of Lourdes we'll be posting at least 2 new chapter every week.

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