Home | Mission & Goals | Meeting Schedule | Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

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 71 | Chapter Index

Chapter 72: 1898

"Billy" Welty's requiem marked the last occasion that the Faculty assembled in the church upon the hill.

To the student approaching for the first time Mt. St. Mary's College, or to the traveler bent on visiting the scenes of the labors of Dubois and Brute, whether he comes from the south over the Emmitsburg railroad, or from the east via the Baltimore pike, or better from the north, following the historic route of the Emmitsburg road from Gettysburg, that which makes the deepest and most abiding impression on his mind is the superb location of the "Church on the Hill." Its white walls and spire may be seen nestling on the eastern side of the mountain spur long before the precincts of the College are reached. It stands like a guardian watching over the College buildings sequestered in the shades beneath. There is an incomparable beauty in its surroundings, gratifying in the extreme to an observer afar off in the valley of St. Joseph's; but when one is permitted to stand upon the plateau on which the church is built, and gaze out upon the vast expanse of fertile meadow-lands and fallow fields spread in majestic grandeur before him and beneath him, then, indeed, is he filled with an indescribable rapture. The gentle undulating hills, the deep valleys, the cultivated fields, the comfortable farmhouses bespeaking contentment all harmonize into one grand whole, the contemplation of which thrills the mind of the beholder with delight.

Such is the site, but feebly pictured, on which stands the "Church on the Hill." The fondest recollections of the Mountaineer are centered in the same spot. Wherever the pursuits of business may lead him, wherever he may cast his lot in life, be it far or near, in foreign lands or at home, the thought of the "Church on the Hill," with its classic environs, lingers as a fond image in his recollection. The ties contracted there are never wrenched asunder.

The following poem taken from the Mountain Eagle of 1878 is from the pen of Kalakora, (Rev. Dr. P. L. Duffy):

The Church Upon the Hill.

The listless current of my thoughts, So wont to wander slow, And shimmering through fair Lotus-lands, Now glides in deeper flow ; And swifter, straighter speeds to thee, Thou haven safe and still, Of tempest-tossed and weary souls, Old Church upon the Hill.

The pious farmers far below Look up at noon and hail Thee throned upon the mountain side, Mute guardian of the vale Morning's first rays dart up to thee And setting sunbeams fill Thy chancel with a splendor then. Old Church Upon the Hill.

No Raphael's genius put a soul In thy old lifeless walls. No Angelo gave grace to thee; But skies beam, starlight falls, Kind breezes woo all lovingly; Glad birds their tributes thrill, And angels hover over thee, Old Church upon the Hill.

Fond hearts can paint where art has not, And Beauty's spell infuse; And ours have colored thee, old Church, In rarest, fairest hues; And these young hearts grown staid with years With thoughts of thee will thrill We love thee still through smiles and tears, Old Church upon the Hill.


The old church was abandoned in the fall of 1897, when the new one was opened below on the hillside. Mass was said in it at odd times in the summer, but at last, about 1900, it was declared unsafe, and remains in dignified desolation awaiting its return to dust.

On the 13th of May, 1898, Neil and Hugh O'Donnell, of New York, gave five thousand dollars to found a burse for an ecclesiastical student.

The students asked leave to go out in cap and gown and without a prefect, as well as to send representative teams to the intercollegiate contests in Baltimore, and join the Oratorical Association of Maryland Colleges, but action on all these matters was deferred.

It was agreed that the President might accept membership on the Board of Directors of the Emmitsburg Railroad, provided the College incurred thereby no financial responsibility. President O'Hara reported a gift of twelve thousand dollars from a party who desired to remain unknown, and stated that a further sum of fifteen thousand was coining later. Interest at the rate of 5 per cent was payable on this amount during the life of the party. This was incomparably the largest sum ever received by the College, the scholarships of five thousand dollars each being rather liabilities than assets and imposing a perpetual obligation.

On Tuesday December 20, 1898, a fine national flag, thirty feet by twenty was raised on a staff one hundred and seven feet high, planted on the College terrace. Michael O'Rourke of Philadelphia who had four boys here, donated the pole, and Rev. Thomas F. Ryan, '86, chaplain U. S. Volunteers during the Spanish War, made the presentation speech and blessed the flag. Mr. O'Rourke then said a few words to which the President replied, accepting the splendid gift; another reverend member of the faculty made an address, Thomas Meighan of Pittsburg, a student, recited "The American Flag," a poem by Rev. Dr. Charles Coustantine Pise, a Mountaineer of the 20's and Chaplain for two years in U. S. Senate.

The formal address:

Fellow Citizens: We are assembled here today for a holy and wholesome purpose. Through the magnificent public spirit and generosity of a citizen of the land of William Penn, and of that city which had the honor of being the earliest capital of the United States, we are enabled to gather here and raise aloft on this firm-set and graceful staff, this beautiful banner blessed by the priest of God, the glorious flag of our Union. It is a holy purpose, for it is an act of consecration to love of country. And what words did the Holy Ghost put into the mouths of the exiled children of His chosen race? These: ''If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten! Let my tongue cleave to my jaws if I do not remember Thee! If I make not Jerusalem the beginning of my joy!" (Psalm cxxxvi) The United States is our Jerusalem. This is God's larger Promised Land. It is a wholesome purpose. For the love of country is a duty rising immediately out of the Second Commandment of the Law: "Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself;" and the sight of this flag always recalls us to this duty, on the doing of which salvation depends.

O fair and eloquent banner of our country! How brilliantly thy stars, like the blazing jewels on the brow of night, gleam on thine azure field, reminding us of the sisterhood of states, banded together in sincerity, mutual confidence and love! How candidly thy white stripes offer peace and goodwill to all nations! How terribly thy red ones remind an enemy that the young men are ready to pour out the hot crimson of their veins in defence of their rights and the rights of humanity!

The boys of the Mountain have fought and bled beneath this flag of their native land. Let him who accompanies Michael O'Rourke on this patriotic errand it and for all! I have the honor to refer to our old pupil, who volunteered as chaplain, and exposed his life on the tented field of Chickamauga, and salute with all my heart, and in the name of you all, the Rev. Captain Thomas F. Ryan '86. The girls of St. Joseph's have done service beneath this flag, aiding and comforting with their gentle and powerful womanly care, the wounded "boys in blue," at Montauk, at Tampa, at Huntsville, at Lexington, at Jacksonville. How lovingly the folds of her country's flag clasped the coffin of that young Sister, Private Caroline Wolf, Hospital Corps, U. S. V., who gave her budding life for God and her neighbor! And with what true instinct the choir of St. John's Church, Baltimore, having no musket-squad in attendance to give the military farewell, sang the "Star Spangled Banner" over her early grave.

The bravery of our soldier-alumni on the bloody heights of San Juan, and in the fever tents of Florida, the chivalrous service of our Mountain priests in Georgia and the Philippines; the gentle and strong devotion of our Sisters on the field and in the hospital; these facts speak so eloquently the spirit of this College and of that Convent, that our poor tongue retires in very shame to silence. God bless the living that served under this glorious flag, and deal kindly with the dead who have been wrapped in its folds! And may the deeds of both revive in the hearts of every child of this Mountain and of that Valley, the strong and true love of country, and the determination to imitate, when our turn comes, their sublime Christian patriotism! And the Star Spangled Banner, O long may it ware, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Dr. Pise's poem was composed in 1855 as an indignant protest against Know nothingism. It runs as follows:

They say I do not love thee, Flag of my native land, Whose meteor folds above me To the free breeze expand: Thy broad stripes proudly streaming And thy stars so brightly gleaming.

They say I would forsake thee Should some dark crisis lower; That recreant I should make thee Crouch to a foreign power: Seduced by license ample On thee, blest flag to trample.

They say that bolts of thunder, Cast in the forge of Rome, May rise and bring thee under Flag of my native home; And with one blow dissever My heart from thee forever.

False are the words they utter, Ungenerous their brand, And rash the oaths they mutter, Flag of my native land. While still in hope above me Thou wavest and I love thee.

God is my love's first duty, To whose Eternal Name Be praise for all thy beauty, Thy grandeur and thy fame ; But ever have I reckoned Thine, native flag, my second.

Woe to the foe or stranger Whose sacrilegious hand Would touch thee or endanger Flag of my native land! The some would fain discard thee, Mine should be raised to guard thee.

Then wave thou first of banners, And in thy gentle shade Let creeds, opinions, manners In liberty be laid I And there all discord ended Our hearts and souls be blended.

Stream on, stream on before us Thou Labarum of Light, While in one general chorus Our vows to thee we plight Unfaithful to thee ? Never! My country's Flag forever!

V. Rev. Doctor O'Hara in a closing address thanked the donors of the banner and flagstaff, and the boys sang the "Red, White and Blue" accompanied by Prof. Iseler's band, giving afterwards three cheers for Father Ryan and Mr. O'Rourke, and then the college "yell" for themselves and the rest of mankind. So the proceedings terminated. The speaking was from the foot of the flag pole, facing the northwest corner of the upper terrace and the acoustics were perfect.

Of noteworthy events this year, in addition to what has been given, we have that Rev. Thomas L. Kelly, '79, became editor of the Providence Visitor, and Rev. Patrick Garvey, D. D., '65, rector of the Philadelphia Diocesan Seminary.

John Jerome Rooney, '84, President of the Alumni Association, received the Cross of the Order of St. Catherine from Guy de Lusignan, Prince Royal of Jerusalem, Cyprus and Armenia, in recognition of his writings in aid of the oppressed Armenians.

Rev. Dr. Gauss, of Carlisle, visiting the College, noted the absence of College songs, and offered to compose the tunes if some one else did the rest. Strange to say it seemed practically impossible to get the boys to make or keep songs, notwithstanding the excellent poets and musicians we had. Edward B. Kenna, '98 ; John B. Connolly, '94; Denis Behen, '94; Rev. John McCloskey, '94, etc., not to name others who came later and not forgetting the brilliant writers of previous decades, wrote very cleverly.

In July died Rt. Rev. Thomas McGovern, '59, Bishop of Harrisburg, a typical Mountaineer, strong, bright, rugged, witty, manly and unfaltering in his attachment to Alma Mater. He built the wooden Grotto at which on Saturday, July 16, 1898, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was celebrated at the College in a most delightful and edifying way. At a quarter before six in the bright and not too warm morning a procession of clergymen and sisters wound its way from the College Chapel up the height and along the winding path through the forest, reciting the Litany of Loretto and the joyful mysteries of the Rosary, until the Grotto was reached. The Holy Sacrifice was then offered for the first time at the ancient shrine.

We have referred to the College paper and quoted from its pages. As illustrating a phase of the "emancipation" of women, the following extract from the Mountaineer at this period will be of interest:

Even a cursory perusal of the October exchanges, by the 'Ex-man,' would reveal a remarkable, but obvious fact the superiority of the college papers edited by women. . . .

Major-General Thomas A. Anderson, '57 L.L. D.

The fine presswork of the Althea, a journal issued at the Academy of the Sisters of the Holy Child, Sharon Hill, Pa., was quite beyond anything that boys' schools used to get out, and it, as well as the exquisite literary work, was done in the house by the pupils.

Father Doherty, C. S. P., ex-'92, was now a chaplain in the Spanish War and is the writer of a letter to the Very. Rev. President, from which we quote a few paragraphs:

"Manila, August 31, 1898. " El Gobernador General de Filipinos.

"Rev. William O'Hara, President Mt. St. Mary's College.

"Rev. and Dear Father: Gen. Anderson, ex-'55, of Cavite, learning somewhere of my Mountaineering, sends word that the next time we meet he will fight over the battles of the fifties, for he is an alumnus of the old College.

"I am sure that the Mountain must be proud of the General, who is every inch a soldier.

"Major Kelleher, who had some boys at the College at my time, is on the expedition, and on the night of the occupation we were billeted, soldier-like, in one of the great rooms of the government palace.

"Not recognizing one another, pajamaclad, in the morning the Major asked where Mass could be heard, and I, a stranger to him, suggested the Cathedral, and he arrived in time to hear Mass said by his acquaintance of the morning.

"General Anderson called today and sustained an agreeable conversation in Latin with His Grace the Archbishop."

The College Library has not been in strong light during the course of this history, but in these latter years some effort was made to restore its usefulness. The writer of this extract from the Mountaineer was librarian this year and we let him tell what he had to say about book-worms, a class to membership in which he himself might lay claim at least metaphorically.

"Apropos of a recent article in the New York Sun, concerning the book-worms on exhibition in the Lenox library, it may be of interest to know that one of these rare insects is now on exhibition in the cabinet of Mt. St. Mary's College. This specimen resembles in all details the insects described by the Sun. It is about one-sixteenth of an inch in length, and is of a light buff color, shading to a rich burnt brown on the back. It has a number of 'short, spiny legs,' how many the writer is unable to state, as the glass with which he examined the insect was not very strong, but he counted at least twenty on each side of the worm. The 'burnt-brown' shade on the extreme end of the back seems to be caused by a number of hairs, as a cursory examination of a dead book-worm in the College library shows that that part of the insect resembles a round brush in miniature.

"Although the 'insect curio' is provided with commodious quarters, yet it evidently longs for the home whence it was taken and gives but little attention to the banquet of bread provided for it.

"The book-worm was found in a 'Tabula Sup. Omnia Oper. St. Thomas Aquinatis,' published in Basle, in 1495. The volume shows but slight traces of the worm's activity, as only two pages have been perforated, though there are four holes in the cover.

"The dead book-worm mentioned above was found in a volume published in the latter part of the fifteenth century, and containing between six and seven hundred perforations, some of them extending through the volume. Doubtless the little hermit had had undisturbed possession for many a long year. . ."

Mary M. Meline died this year in Cincinnati. She was a grandniece of President Butler and niece of James and Florent Meline, sons of James Florent Meline, a schoolmate of Napoleon at St. Cyr. James Florent Meline came to this country with Lafayette, served during the Revolution and married Father Butler" s sister. Miss Meline left us the manuscript history she was preparing, and we owe much to her industrious, elegant pen.

Chapter Index

Special thanks to John Miller for his efforts in scanning the book's contents and converting it into the web page you are now viewing.