Bishop William Quarter Diary Part II: April 1844 to July 16, 1844

[Note on top of page 11] on the 11th of November 1843 the names of the new bishops, published in the New York Truth Teller – on the 22nd of November, 1843 received a letter from the Archbishop of Baltimore informing he had official information of my appointment to the new See of Chicago.

April 1844

The departure of the Right Rev. William Quarter for the See of Chicago #4

He left New York on the evening of the 18th of April 1844 accompanied by the Rev. Misters Mark Murphy and Lawrence Connely – the latter was returning to his own mission in Rochester [New York] – the former, accompanied the bishop, through friendship, and [illegible word] being his associate vicar (at) the Church of St. Mary in N.Y. On the Friday following, which was the 26th of April, the Rev. Walter J. Quarter, reached Utica from N.Y. and both himself & the Bishop depart for Rochester. Sunday the 28th was spent in Rochester.  On Monday afternoon, they reached Buffalo and on Tuesday evening the 30th of April they sailed in the Wiskansan [sic] for Detroit. They landed in Cleveland and reached Detroit on Thursday morning the 2nd of May about 10 o’clock. On Friday morning they started for Chicago crossing Michigan, part of the way by railroad & and the rest of the journey by stage as far as St. Josephs. Then they took the steamboat Champlain, on Saturday evening, and arrived on Sunday morning, the 5th of May, in Chicago. The bishop said Mass the same morning in the old church [St. Mary’s] & preached in the new one at 10 o’clock – This old church is a long, low frame building, having a small steeple & hall, surmounted by a cross.  The new Church is of brick & is a respectable brick building. Its dimensions are 100 ft. in length by 55 in width. There is a lot of grass [?] adjoining the new church – suppose which may yet be erected a respectable building. There is also a lot in rear of the Church where a free school for the poor Children of the Congregation may in course of time be [illegible word]. There are 10 acres of land a short distance out of town where is now the Catholic burial ground – Here may be built at some future day a charity hospital.  The residence of the Bishop and of the clergy is, at the present time, a small [illegible word] stone frame building – fronting the lake.  There are, at the present, only two priests doing duty in Chicago – the Rev. Mr. [Maurice de] St. Palais – French & Rev. Mr. [Francis] Fischer (German). There are two seminarians. Misters Pat McMahan and Bernard McGorisk and one boy of the age of 15, Timothy Sullivan, who is destined for the priesthood.

2nd Sunday after the arrival of the Bishop, May 12th #5

He preached at the high Mass. Published that the two seminarians named above, would receive Subdeaconshipon the following Thursday (Ascension Day) at 8 o’clock Mass. & that there would be a meeting of the Congregation on Monday evening at 7 to take into consideration the [illegible word] of raising subscriptions to plaster the walls & finish the cathedral. The meeting was held.  A grand spirit prevailed. The City was divided into districts & collectors appointed in each. [Illegible word] with a Central Committee consisting of 5 or 6. Actions (?) of this [illegible word] collectors are to be made in a [illegible word].

[p. 13 Ordinations – the first in Chicago]

“Ascension Thursday” May 16, 1844

Today the Right Rev. William Quarter, Bishop of Chicago, conferred the tonsure, minor orders, and Subdeaconship on Mr. Patrick McMahan, a native of County Cavan, Ireland and the Subdeaconship on Mr. Bernard McGorisk, County Armagh, Ireland at 8 ½ o’clock Mass. The ordinations took place in the Cathedra. The Rev. Mr. St. Palais acted as Archdeacon & Rev. Misters Fisher & Walter J. Quarter assisted. The morning was very wet and unpleasant.

Sunday within the Octave of Ascension, May 19th, 1844 (Feast of St. Peter Celestine)

At half past 10 o’clock Mass the Rev. Misters Bernard McGorisk & Pat McMahan were promoted to the Holy order of Deaconship by the Right Rev. William Quarter, who celebrated pontifically & and preached on the ministry immediately after Mass. The Rev. Mr. St. Palais acted as Archdeacon, The Rev. Misters Fischer and Walter J. Quarter assisted in the sanctuary. The Congregation was large – a number of Protestants were present.  The forenoon pleasant. The afternoon wet and disagreeable. Every day already of this month has been wet and unpleasant.

Today May 20th

It blows and rains much.

Riots in Philadelphia May 9, 10, 11, 12

We have had accounts here of the most [illegible word] riots in the above named city between the Catholic Irish and the Native American party.  Many killed on both sides & two Catholic Churches (namely St. Michael’s & St. Augustine’s) [p. 14] burned to the ground. The homes of the clergymen, attached to both these Churches sacked and burned, both torn into pieces & the libraries of both torn into pieces, & made fuel for the fires!!!

May the 24th, 1844 Friday

Today the Bishop officiates pontifically and raised to the dignity of the priesthood the Rev. Misters Pat McMahan & Bernard McGorisk.

May the 25th

The Rev. Mr. Parodi, C.M. arrived from his mission in Peru [Illinois], is to return next Monday

[May] 29th

The Rev. Mr. Kinsella (deacon) arrived this afternoon, bringing letters of recommendation from his bishop [and] some of the New York clergymen.

June 1844 #6

June 3rd

On this day the new Catholic college of “St. Mary Chicago” was opened for the reception of students. The professors are Rev. Misters McGorisk & Kinsella. Rev. Mr. McMahan will assist when necessary. The college opened with five students. Timothy Sullivan making the sixth. Today received a letter from B[ishop] of Vincennes, recalling to his diocese Rev. Misters de St. Palais, Fischer, Mr. Pont[avice] & Gueguen.

June 8th

Martin John Bradley (nephew of Rev. Mr. Bradley) arrived from Auburn, N.Y. this evening about 7 o’clock and entered the seminary as a student for the Holy ministry.

[p. 15]

June 15th

On this morning the Bishop set out in company with the Rev. Mr. De St. Palais for Joliet with the intention of visiting a portion of the diocese. Arrived at Joliet about 8 p.m. Said mass next day & preached at 10 ½ o’clock. Preached again at Vespers. Met with Rev. Mr. Carroll of Alton.

June 17th

Set out for Ottawa accompanied by Rev. Misters Connolly, de St. Palais, Dr. Pontavice & Mary McMahan, sister of Rev. P. McMahan. Mr. Sutliff of Joliet drove the carriage. The roads were very bad. [illegible word] the homes over the LaSalle river. Stopped that night at Verniets within 9 miles of Ottawa. Reached Ottawa next day early. Had some difficulty in passing the sloughs [muddy or swampy area]. Had to apply rails to lift the carriage over them twice. Found a steamboat ready to sail down the Illinois River. #7

June 19th

Stopped at Peru & walked to LaSalle. Saw the church & the clergyman. Left the next day [June 20th] in the steamboat Rositan. Stopped a short time at Peoria and at the different villages along the Illinois where the [illegible words] are landing. Observed many villages almost entirely submerged in water owing to the recent extraordinary flood.

June 21st

Reached St. Louis on the 21st. The water was up to 2nd street. Remained there until Monday.

June 24th

And then set out for Kaskaskia accompanied by Right Rev. Dr. [Peter Richard] Kenrick and the Rev. Misters de St. Palais and [Father John] Timon. Stopped that night at the St. Genevieve. Set out next morning for Kaskaskia. Found the town submerged with water. The nuns at Col. Menard’s [p. 16] being obliged to quit this community, the waters being as high nearly as the 2nd story. The inhabitants of the village all crowded along the bluff. Witnessed much destruction of property, of animals, by the waters. Chartered the boat Indiana & took nuns & many ladies (boarders) to St. Louis.

June 30th

On this day (Sunday) preached in the Cathedral of St. Louis for the benefit of the sufferers by this flood. Met Mr. Chanche, of Natchez, in St. Louis. Traveled together from there to Ottawa. Catherine Cassidy (housekeeper) & Thomas Aughony (student) arrived this month on the 15th from N.Y.

July 1844

July 7th

Bishop [John Mary Joseph] Chanche preached today (Sunday) in the Cathedral of Chicago.

July 16th

Ordained Mr. Jer[emiah] Kinsella (Deacon) [a] Priest).

#4 + Although Bishop Quarter does not specifically write that he travelled by way of the Erie Canal, his line of travel from Utica to Rochester to Buffalo makes it likely he used the canal. This “eighth wonder of the world” was completed in 1825 and allowed the opening of new markets in western New York, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. Because of the Erie Canal, agricultural surplus from the northern part of the Midwest could now be shipped to New York City and other European ports.

+ In 1844, Bishop Quarter could travel as far as Kalamazoo, MI by railroad from Detroit.

Old St. Mary’s Church

#5+ The town of Chicago was founded in 1833 and incorporated as a city on March 14, 1837. The population in 1837 was 4170. By the time Bishop Quarter arrived in the city, the population had grown to nearly ten thousand. Almost a third of the population was foreign born, with Germans being the largest number, followed by Irish and then Norwegians. [See: Bessie Louise Pierce, A History of Chicago, Volume I: “The Beginning of a City – 1673-1848 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937), 44 n. 4 and 179].

+ There is some question regarding the name of the ship on which Bishop Quarter travelled from St. Joseph (MI) to Chicago. In his diary, he indicates that the name of the ship was the “Champlain.” An initial search on the website of the Maritime History of the Great Lakes revealed that the Champlain had run aground and broken up near St. Joseph in 1840. Walter Lewis, who manages the website for the Maritime History of the Great Lakes, provided through email further information. It seems likely that the “Champion” was the ship on which Bishop Quarter travelled. It ran every day between Chicago and St. Joseph.

+ Old St. Mary Church was established as the first Catholic parish in Chicago in 1833. For further information on the history of this parish see: Harry Koenig, ed., A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago, v. 1 (Chicago: The New World Publishing Co., 1980), 578-588.

+ Father Maurice de Saint Palais and Father Fischer were priests of the Diocese of Vincennes (Indiana). Bishop Quarter was so short of priests that both Fischer and de Saint Palais remained working in the city of Chicago until threatened with suspension by the own ordinary.

+ The May riots in Philadelphia were the first of two clashes, the second on July 5-8, 1844, between supporters of the nativist American Republican Party and Irish Catholic immigrants. For information on these riots see: Ray Allen Billington, The Protestant Crusade: 1800-1860 (New York: Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1952) 220-237.

#6 + Father Parodi, CM., along with Father Raho, had established a Vincentian mission in LaSalle, IL in 1838. The primary purpose of the mission was to provide spiritual and sacramental resources for the Irish Catholic canal workers, who were building the Illinois-Michigan Canal. For a history of this Vincentian mission see: Thomas A. Shaw, C.M., Story of the LaSalle Mission, First Part (Chicago: M.A. Donohue & Company Publishers, n.d.), 17-33.

+ St. Mary’s College was a school for boys, the first of its kind claims one historian of the Catholic Church in Chicago. See: Gilbert J. Garraghan, S.J., The Catholic Church in Chicago: 1673-1871 (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1921), 112. On December 19, 1844, the Illinois Legislature incorporated the University of St. Mary of the Lake. This became the seminary for the Diocese of Chicago. Bishop Quarter did not have a sufficient number of priests. He was following a practice adopted in many other dioceses of establishing a feeder school (St. Mary’s College) for the seminary (University of St. Mary of the Lake).

+ On June 15, 1844, Bishop Quarter set out for his first pastoral visit of the new diocese which covered the whole state of Illinois.

+ The clergy and church visited in LaSalle would have been the Vincentian mission of Fathers Raho and Parodi. It was at the time of this visit that the Vincentians turned over their churches in LaSalle and Ottawa to Bishop Quarter. This was done at the suggestion of Father Timon, superior of the Vincentian Province in the United States. See: Thomas Shaw, 97.

#7 + For further information on the Great Flood of 1844 see:


Contributing to the enormity of the flood was the six weeks of steady rain in June 1844.

+ Peter Richard Kenrick was the brother of Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick (Philadelphia). Peter Richard had been named coadjutor with right of succession to Bishop Rosati (St. Louis) in 1841. When Rosati died in September 1843, Peter Richard Kenrick succeeded. Kenrick would become the first Archbishop of St. Louis in 1847 and remain as archbishop until his death in 1896.

+ Father John Timon, who had worked in Illinois, became the first superior of the American Province of the Vincentians in 1835. Four years later, he was named the Prefect Apostolic for the Republic of Texas. In 1847, he would be named the Bishop of Buffalo. He remained in that See until his death in 1867. See: Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, s.v. “Timon, John,” by Joseph G. Hubbert, C.M.

+ Reference to Mr. Chanche is Bishop John Mary Joseph Chanche, the first Bishop of Natchez (MS). For further information see: Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, s.v. “Chanche, John Mary Joseph,” by Charles E. Nolan.