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HIST 202: Making History: Ireland and the World: Mount History Overview


The Story of the Mountain

McSweeny, Edward Francis Xavier, et al. The Story of the Mountain: Mount St. Mary's College and Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland, Begun by Mary M. Meline ... And Continued by Rev. Edw. F.X. McSweeny. Emmitsburg, Md.: Weekly chronicle, 1911. Print.

Volume 1.

Volume 2.

In the Footsteps of Presidents & Founders

Father John Dubois was the founder and first president of Mount St. Mary’s. He fled the French revolution and arrived in America in 1791. In 1794, Bishop John Carroll assigned him to Frederick, Maryland, where he rode the circuit for several years. He frequently visited northern Frederick County, where Catholics had sought refuge from hostile English law in the mid 1700s. In 1805, Arnold Elder, a son of the first Catholic immigrant, William Elder, donated land for a church, which was built on a terrace on the mountain overlooking the plain below. Father Dubois built his cabin below the church and began teaching the sons of local families, some of whom boarded with him. In 1807 Father Dubois agreed to open a preparatory seminary for the order of St. Sulpice. Mother Elizabeth Seton arrived in 1809 with her followers. The number of students grew as the school and preparatory seminary thrived. Hard physical labor was required of everyone, from the founder of the school to the youngest student. Father Dubois, while a stern disciplinarian in the classroom, was selfless, approachable, and kind, with a love of children. He was hardy, energetic and practical, and led by example, working in shirtsleeves alongside students and workmen. Because of his success as an administrator, Father Dubois was appointed bishop of New York in 1826. In 1842, Bishop Dubois paid a last visit to his Mountain home, and died later in the year in New York.

Father Simon Brute joined the order of St. Sulpice in France, after obtaining a medical degree. In 1810, he left for America and taught philosophy at the Sulpician Seminar of St. Mary’s in Baltimore. Father Brute paid his first visit to the Mount in the summer of 1811. In 1812, he was transferred to the Mountain to instruct the seminarians. He had a gentle, mystical bent and a great love of nature, so he immediately set about clearing and beautifying the land surrounding the school. This is probably when he began work on what would become the Grotto. He was cheerful and selfless, which no doubt made him an ideal companion for the difficult circumstances under which the school and its community were laboring. His piety and mystical imagination struck a responsive chord with Mother Elizabeth Seton. In 1818, after four years in France and Baltimore, he returned to his Mountain home. In addition to his teaching duties, he served also as superior of the seminary, pastor of St. Joseph’s parish in Emmitsburg, and spiritual director of Mother Seton’s sisterhood. He was a fine scholar and a devoted teacher whose learning was vast and whose mind was sharp and penetrating. He taught by example, and lived a cheerful, pious, and fulfilling life. In 1834, Brute was named the first bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes. He left the Mountain for the western frontier, and died in 1839, worn out by his duties as itinerant missionary over a vast see.

   Early Presidents:

   Father Michael Egan
   Father John McGerry
   Father John Purcell
   Father Francis Jamison
   Father Thomas Butler

Father John McCaffrey was born in Emmitsburg in 1806. He began his education at Mount St. Mary’s in 1819, where he would spend the rest of his life. He was named president of the Mount in 1838. His long presidency, from 1838 to 1872, gave the school stability and saw it through many crises and mounting debt. He refused the bishoprics that were offered him and made the school his life’s work. Tall, imposing, iron-willed and decisive, he was a strict, iron-fisted disciplinarian whose every word was law and who brooked no argument. Mary Meline, the author of The Story of the Mountain, termed him a “Southerner of most uncompromising type.” (Vol. II, p. 9) His reign at the Mount was unchallenged even by the archbishops of Baltimore. Father McCaffrey’s encyclopedia memory, his learning, and his eloquence made him uniquely suited to compose a catechism of the Catholic faith. The book, approved by Archbishop Martin Spalding of Baltimore in 1865, was later adopted, with some changes, by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, and became the “Baltimore catechism,” the standard English-language catechism for U.S. Catholics for many generations to come. Father McCaffrey had inherited a debt that stretched back to the school’s founding, and it was aggravated to the breaking point by the hardships imposed by the Civil War. Father McCaffrey tried to maintain official neutrality despite his strong Southern sympathies, and he took the oath of allegiance after the war and urged others to do the same. The war’s end brought increased enrollment, but the new revenues could not stem the school’s massive tide of red ink. Worn down by ill health and worry over debt, Father McCaffrey resigned in 1872, and was named President Emeritus. He remained on the governing council and died in 1881.

Father John McCloskey was born around 1815 and entered Mount St. Mary’s in 1830. He became a member of the faculty upon his ordination in December 1840. He was named vice-president and treasurer of the school under John McCaffrey in 1841, and served in that capacity until the latter’s resignation in 1872, when he himself was named president, treasurer, and prefect of studies. His health was broken and crushed by the burden of debt that dated back to the school’s founding, which had been gravely aggravated by the catastrophe of the Civil War, and he resigned in 1877. However, he has to resume his burden when his successor, Father John A. Watterson, was named Bishop of the Columbus diocese in 1880. After struggling on a few months, he collapsed in November of 1880 and died on Christmas Eve, worn out by worry over the college’s debt. Father McCaffrey preached at the funeral mass of his friend and compatriot, and followed him to the grave the next September. If Father McCaffrey was head of the Mount, Father McCloskey was its heart. Affable and good-natured, with courtly, urbane manners, he was beloved by the students.

Presidents of the Late 19th Century:
Father John A. Watterson
Father William Hill

Father William Byrne was born in County Meath, Ireland, in 1832, where he began his education. He immigrated to America when he was 19, arriving in Baltimore. He entered Mount St. Mary’s in 1859 and was ordained in 1864. He taught Greek and math for a year before he was called to Boston to serve as a parish priest. His skills as an administrator brought him to the attention of Archbishop Williams. Father Byrne was quickly appointed chancellor of the diocese in 1866, and vicar-general, the second highest administrative office in the archdiocese, in 1878. With the permission of his archbishop, a life-long friend, Father Byrne accepted the presidency of the Mount, which had been bankrupted by the debts that had accumulated since its founding. Arriving in June 1881, Father Byrne took on the posts of president, treasurer, prefect of studies, and faculty. Devoted alumni and supporters sent in thousands of dollars, and Father Byrne had to convince the school’s creditors, one by one, to accept 35 cents on the dollar for their loans. The sale of the school’s assets, including stocks, vehicles, horses, and cattle, brought in $8,000. Thus the sale of the school was averted, the creditors were satisfied, and the continued existence of the school assured. In 1884, Father Byrne resigned the presidency, leaving the school on a sound financial footing and with an improved educational program. He remained active in the alumni association, and visited the Mount frequently. His death in 1912 brought an outpouring of grief. The Mount, too, mourned the loss of the man who saved the school, calling on him as “The Second Founder of the Mountain.”

Presidents at the Turn of the 20th Century
Father Edward Allen
Father William O’Hara
Msgr. Denis Flynn

Msgr. Bernard Bradley was born in 1867, and entered Mount St. Mary’s in 1885. S studious and conscientious boy, he received a B.A. in 1888, and was in the Seminary until 1892. After his ordination, he served in the Diocese of Brooklyn for a few months until he was summoned back to the Mount in October in 1892 to join the faculty. Bernard Bradley was an avid sportsman all his life. As a student, he played every sport, but baseball was his favorite. As a faculty member, he coached the students’ teams, and, when he became president, he gave these unofficial student clubs official school sanction and provided them with uniforms and coaches. Young Father Bradley worked tirelessly wherever he was needed. Besides his duties as faculty member and as a coach, he served as Treasurer, Vice-President when Msgr. Denis Flynn grew too ill to fulfill his duties. Praised by President Flynn as “a man who was always working and seldom heard, a man of untiring energy who labored incessantly for the welfare of the college (quoted in The Mountaineer, Vol. XV, N0. 9, June 1908, p. 615), he oversaw the finding and construction of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, the original section of the Seminary, which is now McSweeney Hall and Flynn Hall, and ensured the success of the 1908 Centennial Celebration through his warmth, consideration, and attention to detail. Father Bradley was elected president of Mount St. Mary’s in 1911. He was invested as a domestic prelate, with the title of monsignor, in 1914. Under his administration, a new physical plant was constructed to provide the school with heat and power, water and electricity. He energized the alumni and put the school on a sound financial basis. Enrollment doubled, and improvements were made in teaching and courses offered. A great builder, he oversaw the construction of a new building to house the Minim Department, which was later named after him. One of the longest serving presidents, he helped to refound the Mount, which is his legacy and memorial.

Presidents of the 20th Century:
Msgr. John Sheridan
Msgr. Robert Kline
Msgr. Hugh Phillips
Dr. John Dillon
Dr. Robert Wickenheiser
George Houston

Presidents of the 21th Century:
Dr. Thomas H. Powell
Simon Newman


History of the Halls

History of Halls


DuBois Hall

The first dormitory on campus was constructed in 1808 as an all purpose building, which housed the President and faculty along with the students.  Fr. John DuBois began construction on the first residence hall and classroom in 1824.  The original hall was built where Purcell Hall is currently located. Shortly after being built, due to deficiencies in construction, the building burned down.  After this, construction began on a much safer and more adequate building that currently stands today. It was dedicated on December 16, 1825. Throughout the rest of the century the building housed the seminary until 1907 when McSweeny Hall was built. The cupola at the top of DuBois held the original college bell.  The clock, a gift from Fr. McSweeny, was not installed until 1888. The building was officially recognized as DuBois Hall in 1908.  In 1908, the College Council approved the names for all current residence halls found in the Terrace. It is named after founder, Fr. DuBois, the first Mount president and later the first resident Bishop of the New York Diocese.

Brute Hall

The cornerstone for Doric Hall now called Brute Hall was laid in 1843.  It was built for $9,500 dollars. Originally, this part of the Terrace was used as a study hall.  However, around 1897 the open porches that connected DuBois and Brute were closed in with stone and the study hall became the library. What is currently known as A and B deck served as the library until 1960 when Phillips library was built. The first college degrees were granted in 1832.  For years, there was no place for a commencement service to be held.  When Brute Hall was built it served as the college commencement hall and was first used to graduate 5 students in 1844. In 1908 the College Council officially named the building Brute Hall.  Fr. Brute had joined Fr. DuBois at the Mount in 1812 and served at the Grotto helping to create the paths that are still used.  Fr. Brute also served on the faculty and as a school administrator.

McCaffrey Hall

McCaffrey Hall was built on the site of the original all purpose building.  The original building was a log structure that was demolished in 1844. Although construction of McCaffrey Hall began in 1852, the building was not dedicated and used until January 11, 1858. McCaffrey was originally two stories high and housed the college refectory until 1962.  In 1962 the Cogan Student Union Building was built; now known as Patriot Hall, the McGowan Center, and Cogan Hall. The building was originally only two stories due to a shortage in funds related to the Civil War and so that more attention could be dedicated towards the Gothic style church that was intended to extend from the Immaculate Conception Chapel down to the current location of Patriot Hall. Money ran short on such a large project and construction was never completed.  The leftover stone was used to build Flynn Hall, which is currently the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center. In 1897 the third and fourth floors of McCaffrey Hall were completed and the rooms were considered to be the first deluxe housing found on campus.  The building was named after the 7th President (1838-1872), Fr. McCaffrey.  During his presidency, he oversaw the construction of Brute, McCaffrey, and Purcell Halls, and led the college through the very turbulent times of the Civil war and the battle of Gettysburg that occurred very close to campus.

Basil Hall

Basil has never been officially recognized as a residence hall by the University. It is technically a wing of McCaffrey that has been called Basil after Sister Basil. The history of the wing is surrounded by Mount myth but the story is that Sr. Basil, as a member of the Daughters of Charity, lived in the convent located in McCaffrey.  The Daughters of Charity are the renamed Sisters of Charity that was started by Saint Elizabeth Anne Seton to do charity work and teach in the local community. Their convent was located in McCaffrey and they provided many services to the community such as cooking, cleaning, and giving spiritual guidance to many of the students and seminarians. Sr. Basil would take care of the students and seminarians, along with advising them on a spiritual and personal level. She became a much loved member of the Mount community.  Students and seminarians would simply refer to going to that wing of McCaffrey as visiting Basil. The name stuck and the University has been referring to that wing as Basil in remembrance of her impact on everyone at the University.  When the new Terrace renovation is complete, the name Basil will be replaced with the original name McCaffrey.

Pangborn Hall

Pangborn Hall was dedicated on October 15, 1955 by Archbishop Keough. Pangborn Hall was built as campus enrollment rose after WWII Navy V-5 and V-12 programs left. The building is named after Thomas W. and John C. Pangborn of the Pangborn Construction Company in Hagerstown, MD. At the south end of the Hall is a replica of the Pangborn corporate offices which now houses the Institute for Leadership and the Pangborn memorial room.

Sheridan Hall

Sheridan Hall was opened in 1962 and was built after the Navy barracks were removed from campus. The current location of Sheridan housed the married Navy personnel and their families while they were stationed at the Mount. After the Navy left there was no need for the structure and a true residence hall was constructed. The building is named after Msgr. Sheridan who was a member of the class of 1871, seminary class of 1921 and the president of the school from 1937-1961. Msgr. Sheridan was instrumental in guiding the Mount through the Great Depression and WWII. He also played a key role in instituting the Navy V-5 and V-12 program which kept the Mount afloat as enrollment dropped due to WWII. During Msgr. Sheridan’s time as president, he oversaw the building of Memorial Gym, first annex to the Seminary, Pangborn Hall, the Phillips Library, and Sheridan Hall. Msgr. Sheridan is also the first inductee into the Mount St. Mary’s Sports Hall of Fame and the first to be publicly inaugurated as President.


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