Category Archives: St. Joseph’s Academy

“Our buildings and very earth trembled” – Day 1, June 29

Image - St. Joseph's Academy

Display case with picture of St. Joseph’s Academy, Emmitsburg, in 1846

Below are the “voices” of Sr. Marie Louise Caulfield and Father Burlando which were read as part of the opening day’s gallery talk.
(Exerpts from Provincial Annals and Letters of Father Francis Burlando used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

“Voice” Sr. Marie Louise Caulfield
[Provincial Annals, 1863]
“It was a Saturday night,” said Sister Marie Louise in giving an account of the fact. “It was a Saturday night, and the Sisters were all retiring totally unconscious of the approach of the army.”
Sister Marie Louise was at that time secretary of the Community, and occupied the same sleeping apartment as Mother Ann Simeon in the Southeastern part of what was called the “Gothic Building.” The Secretary communicated by folding doors always left open, and was merely an extension of this room. The southern and western windows commanded a fair, open view, unobstructed as it is now by the Academy building reared in 1872-`73.
Mother Ann Simeon was in bed, Sr. Marie Louise not yet. She tho’t she heard unaccustomed sounds; she listened; they did not cease. She went to the window, and looked out. The confused sounds became clearer, the neighing of horses was distinctly heard and the flashing of lights seen here and there on the hill towards the tollgate. Mother Ann Simeon was up in a minute, and both dressed hurriedly. They knew the army was upon them. They came silently over to the Academy building. There was no means of indoor communication, as there is now, and they came across the porches, ascending the exterior staircase that led from the lower porch up by the children’s Infirmary. Entering that way they stole quietly up to the observatory over the music rooms, followed by Sisters who had also been disturbed by unaccustomed sounds. There they stood, listening and watching through the dark the lights of the vast army encamping in the fields around St. Lazare’s …
“Voice” of Father Francis Burlando
[Letter to Sisters of the US Province, November 30, 1860]
From various circumstances it would seem that designing fanaticism threatens to sever the union of our beloved Country.
If the Confederacy of the different States of the Republic is preserved, peace, harmony, confidence & prosperity will reign in our midst and Religion will continue to progress, triumphing over error & prejudice; if on the contrary the union be dissolved, disorder, mistrust, poverty & civil war with all their sad appendages will be the almost inevitable consequences …

[Letter to Sisters of the US Province, September 15, 1861]
Emmittsburg Sept 15th 1861.
For some months past you have no doubt, anxiously viewed the gathering storm which is threatening the beautiful horizon of our Country — you are aware of the conflicting opinions which disturb the peace of our Cities & distract the minds of our Citizens — Friend is armed against friend, & brothers, Fathers, & Sons enlist on opposite sides, in the struggle — Our once happy land is plunged in anarchy & confusion, & deluged with the blood of its own sons.

In this sad & lamentable state of things, I think it my duty to remind you, my dear Sisters of the maxim of St. Vincent, which was, to refrain from uttering Political sentiments – this judicious silence he left to his children as a legacy after his death as he had practiced & warmly recommended it during life — You, as his devoted Daughters understand the obligation of adhering strictly to the wise lessons he gave you, & consequently, you will carefully abstain from speaking or writing about political affairs of our Country –

It is not the sphere of the Daughters of St. Vincent to discourse about Politics of which they are, & should be uninformed – Their only duty is to sanctify themselves in the Exercise of charity according to their Rules; they leave State affairs to God & to those entrusted with them – They have no Enemy but pride & the evil spirit – North, South, East or West are alike to them; every afflicted member of society is their friend & an object of their Solicitude, because he represents their suffering Saviour …
… Pressed by the charity of Jesus Christ, they have renounced the maxims of the world & consecrated their life to do good to all whether Christian, Turk, or Jew … Hers is a ministry of love … She is at home wherever there are miseries to be alleviated; pains to be soothed, tears to be wiped away, & broken hearts to be consoled; these are the objects of her solicitude & charity — Let therefore, no Political difficulties occupy your thoughts or your precious time, except before the Altar of God — He alone can still the storm & give us peace …

[Letter to Father Jean-Baptiste Etienne, CM, Superior General of the Vincentians and Daughters of Charity, Emmitsburg, July 8, 1863]
You have been informed, without doubt by the papers that we have been visited by the Army of the Potomac, and that very near us has been fought a terrible battle, the most bloody since the secession. St. Joseph has well taken care of his House, and St. Vincent of his Daughters; we have not been troubled, or at least we have escaped with the slight loss of a little forage and some wooden palings which have served for the wants of a portion of the army.

The evening of the 27th of June the troops commenced to appear upon a small hill, a little distance from St. Joseph’s; regiment after
regiment, division after division, all advanced with artillery and cavalry, and taking possession of all the heights, encamped in order of battle; the 28th, the 29th, and the 30th, we were completely surrounded. St. Joseph, and the little village of Emmitsburg were in the center of a part of the army 80,000 strong. General Howard and his suite took possession of our house in Emmitsburg; General Shultz and his suite were close to St. Joseph’s, in the house which served some time since for an orphanage; the other Generals took up quarters in different houses along the line of army …
For the protection of St. Joseph’s General Schultz gave orders that guards should be posted in its environs, and Gen. Howard did the same for our little place in Emmitsburg. A great number of officers asked permission to visit the House, and all conducted themselves with greatest respect, expressing their gratitude for the services which the Sisters rendered the soldiers in Military Hospitals … During this time I heard a good number of confessions, and our Sisters distributed a large quantity of medals and chaplets, as also, be it understood bread, milk, and coffee.

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Feast of St. Joseph, 1885 fire in Emmitsburg

(Excerpt from Provincial Annals of March 20, 1885 used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincal Archives)

Today is the feast of St. Joseph, to whom St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had a great devotion. On her arrival in Emmitsburg in 1810 Mother Seton named the area St. Joseph’s Valley, and it is known by that name to this day. On the feast of St. Joseph in 1885 a fire broke out on the Sisters’ grounds which destroyed one building and damaged several others. Below is an excerpt from a first-hand account of the fire, found in the Provincial Annals of March 20, 1885.

Provincial Annals (20 March 1885)
The Fire at St. Joseph’s

The morning of Friday, March twentieth broke. A sharp north west wind had been blowing through the night, and from moment to moment it grew colder and colder. The fires were well kept up, for it seemed that the deepest cold of winter was again upon us. Through the morning Sr. Mariana [Flynn] had been haunted by the fear of fire, always so vigilant and preventing on this point, this morning she felt the necessity of being doubly so. Her thoughts flew, however, in other directions, not to the kitchen.

It is hard to tell when or how the fire originated. The whole interior space between the ceiling and roof was probably one volume of seething flame before and human eye marked its presence. John Classen, one of the men, was coming home across the fields from town when he saw the flames or smoke and hastened to give the alarm. At the same instant came a message by telephone from town: “Did we know the house was on fire?” This met Sr. Mariana as she came heading the ranks from Da Pacem. By the time she reached the kitchen, the men, our men, were already there with the hose. It was at dinner time and the whole force of men were at hand.

The fire company of Emmitsburg was quickly on the spot and at work. When it was sought to attach the hose to the Mountain Water plug, it was found frozen up. Hot water had to be procured to thaw it out. This caused some delay. All Emmitsburg, all the neighborhood, all the priests and students of Mt. St. Mary’s came running to our assistance. Still the bells of St. Joseph’s clamored for help. The wind blew fiercly from the N.W., perhaps it was our salvation. It was bitter cold; everywhere the water fell, save in the living flames it was at once converted into ice. The men who fought the flames were literally incased in ice. Still the fire advanced. The refectory caught. The Gothic building was the next, upon it rested all hopes for St. Joseph’s. That attained every building must go. Recognizing this the firemen turned the stream of water steadily on the point of connection. The old dry shingled roof, shingled twenty years ago, seemed to invite the flames. The projecting, dormant window on the N. East corner seemed to kiss the burning building. As Sr. Mariana saw the two first buildings abandoned, she was almost in despair. “I beg you try to save them.” No, Sister, they must go; we must try to save the Gothic building.” Later she recognized the necessity and wisdom of the act …

Mother telegraphed to Baltimore and to Frederick for assistance. Baltimore was too far, but Frederick responded … Between three & four the Frederick Fire Companies, and engine arrived. Every train had been side tracked that the special one might speed on its errand of mercy … At midnight the danger was over, and the Frederick Company withdrew from the grounds, and returned to Frederick on a special train …

During the night telegrams were coming and going, there was no end. Parents inquiring for their children. Benefactors, friends, Sisters sending messages of sympathy and condolence. As soon as the report wildly exaggerated spread in Balt. of Saint Joseph’s burning down, several of the parents hastened to catch the four o’clock train and came up not knowing in what condition their poor children would be found, even bringing clothes for them. As St. Joseph’s came in sight with its appearance of calm, untroubled, quiet for all the fire was in the rear, no one could imagine, they said, the feeling of serenity and peace which descended on the hearts.

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Filed under Elizabeth Ann Seton, Feast Days, Provincial Annals, St. Joseph's Academy

Researcher from University of Delaware / Winterthur

Researcher from U. of Delaware / Winterthur

(Photo used with permission of Alex Ames)
The collections of the Provincial Archives are a rich source for research in many subjects. On Friday, we welcomed Alex Ames a graduate student from the University of Delaware, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, whose research focused on curriculum at St. Joseph’s Academy in the 1820s, in particular the embroidery made by the students there. A few of the embroideries from our collection can be seen in the photo. Alex is seen here taking a digital picture from an early ledger of St. Joseph’s Academy.

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