Bishop William Quarter Diary Part X: January 1848 to May 28, 1848

[p. 68] the land of his nativity, friends & home and seeks to find a new home & new friends in a foreign land he knows well how much needed is sympathy, encouragement and kindly greeting to say nothing of assistance to the stranger landing on a foreign shore altho (sic) the feelings of most foreigners were once sensitively alive to these truths & knew them by their own experience, yet time may have worn off the impression, and they may forget that any heart can feel, that any heart can sorrow & bleed, that any heart can need comfort and consolation and advice, and that any heart can be grateful for any attention received amongst strangers notwithstanding their forgetfulness. It is true there can. Yet it is hoped that selfishness has not taken such fast hold of Irishmen, as to cause them to forget, altho (sic) they may be now affluent, joyous, and happy in the circle of their amiable & kind hearted (sic) friends, that they were once strangers, and then a midst hung around every object that met their view because their hearts were sad, that when they would recall in their heart of hearts the one which gave them a kindly word because they were strangers. The many poor that emigrate need the helping hand of charity. They need too protection from those that might at times unscrupulously take advantage [p. 69] of their poverty. All, of whatever [crossed out] class, that purposed to emigrate desire to have in advance the particulars of that section of the country where they purpose to settle for life and to secure homes for themselves, their children and their childrens (sic) children. They desire to be informed regarding the aspect of the country, its climate, produce & all which information might conveniently be given by the secretaries of the society now in contemplation.

January 11th

Bishop Henni arrived on his way to Rome. Left next morning in stage for St. Louis.

January 12th

Another meeting of the Hibernian Benevolent Emigrant Society held in school room. Next meeting to be in court house on Wednesday evening next, 19th, when constitution is to be submitted and officers elected. Mr. Gregg in the chair last evening. Gregg, Hoyne, and Kinsella appointed to purpose the constitution for society.

February 1848

February 2nd

Misses Mary Kildea & Cath[erine] Donovan received the white veil of Sisters of Mercy in the chapel of the convent. The former is called in religion Sister Stanislaus and the latter Sister Lucy. One a choir and the other a lay sister. Bishop Quarter presided at the ceremony.

[p. 70] March 1848

March 17th

A Pontifical High Mass in Cathedral. The panageric of St. Patrick preached by Rev. P[atrick] McElhearne. The Hibernian Benevolent Emigrant Society had a supper at the city hotel. Rev. Misters McElhearne, McLaughlin, & Scanlan were there.

March 19th

Heard of the deaths of 5 Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh

March] 20th

Steamboat Steamship “Ward” left at 9 o’clock a.m. for St. Joseph. First trip this season. #49

#49 + The reference to the first ship of the season to St. Joseph is a comment made several times in the diary. The sailing of the first ship seemed to be seen by the people of Chicago as “a first sign of spring.”

April 1848

Account of the death of Right Rev. Dr. Quarter, first Bishop of Chicago [written on side margin]

April 10th

Died at his Episcopal residence, Chicago, the Right Rev. Dr. Quarter, the first Bishop of Chicago. On the day preceding his death, the Sunday of the Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, he lectured at the last Mass in the cathedral on the Apostolicity of the Church. We have never heard so powerful a discourse on the same subject. What an open and sincere profession of faith did the Apostle of this young church make the day before he gave up his pure spirit to Him who gave it!!! Shortly before the hour of three oclock (sic) on the morning of the 10th, the Rev. Mr. McElhearne, the clergyman who resided with the bishop and his housekeeper were awaken by his moans. They hurried upstairs to his apartment and found him walking through his rooms. He complained much of pain in his head and heart. He thought there was a necessity of medical aid, but wished for to see Rev. Mr. Kinsella, president of the “University of St. Mary of the Lake.” He began to sink rapidly and the time of his disolution (sic) appeared [p.71] to be at hand; so that the Rev. Mr. McElhearne deemed it necessary to administer to him all those consolations which our Holy Church prescribes to be given to the soldier of Jesus Christ at their dying moments. He lived only a few minutes afterwards. The soul of the disinterested, the zealous, the holy pious Bishop Quarter at the hour of 3 o’c[lock] on this morning fled to his God, whose vicar he was in truth, to render an account of his stuartship (sic) and to receive the great rewards that were due to his truly Apostolic labours (sic).

[signed] Rev. J. Kinsella, President of the University of St. Mary of the Lake #50

#50 + The symptoms described by Father Kinsella, “much pain in head and heart,” are descriptive of several serious medical conditions. From the brief description, a definite cause of death is hard to determine, but the symptoms are consistent with a brain hemorrhage.

+ Further information on the last days of Bishop Quarter is provided by Dr. John McGirr, who in addition to being Bishop Quarter’s physician also served as Professor of Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry, and Botany at the University of St. Mary of the Lake. Dr. McGirr writes:

“During Lent he was engaged in delivering a series of lectures upon the marks of the True Church. — On Passion Sunday he lectured at last mass in the Cathedral on her Apostolicity, and while he, the apostle of this young church, stood in that pulpit, making as it were, his own profession of faith; as the burning words fell from his lips, who could have imagined the catastrophe that was impending?

On leaving the pulpit, he felt very much fatigued; and at vespers, his voice, as he gave his last blessing to his people, was remarked to want its usual full tone; but in the evening he conversed with his friends, in as lively a manner as usual. He ate a light supper, and retired early, remarking, however, to Rev. Mr. McElhearne, who resided in the house with him, that he did not feel as well as usual; but that he thought sleep would revive him.

About 2 o’clock in the morning of the tenth of April, Mr. McElhearne was awakened by his moans, and hurrying instantly to the Bishop’s apartment, found him seated on the edge of his bed. — He complained of a very severe pain in his head. Rapidly his strength seemed failing, and with a prudence worth of imitation, this zealous young clergyman proceeded, having sent for medical aid, to administer to his Bishop all those consolations which the Church affords to her departing children.

Scarce had this duty been accomplished, when having uttered the words, “Lord, have mercy on my poor soul,” the Bishop fell over into a deep slumber. – So thought those around him: but alas! It was a sleep that knew no awakening!

When I entered his room, his devoted clergymen of the city were around him; and though no relative was there to receive his last sigh, there were those beside him who loved him dearly, very dearly. Not a word was spoken as I passed to the bed side. The dear Bishop lay as if in a quiet slumber. I reached for his arm; explored the wrist for the pulse; but there was no pulse, and the cold hand dropped from my grasp. I placed my ear upon his chest, to ascertain whether life might not yet be standing, tottering upon the threshold of eternity; but I listened in shaken off its mortal shackles – had passed the bourne; and that the lately warm and noble heart had ceased its pulsations forever! – the tongue that pleaded so eloquently for the truths he taught, would plead no more.

I knew that for him life’s volume was closed, but how could I speak that knowledge? What a scene of woe would one simple word disclose! Oh how truly it is, that to us is given the power to cause the blush of hope to mantle the pale cheek, or to speak the words that will make it paler still! and how painfully did I feel this as I turned from that bed and whispered the word, “Dead!”– and ere my startled ear recovered from the shock that whisper made on silence, it was re-echoed amid the tears and the lamentations even of those without! He was dead! Yes, there he lay calmly and quietly, as in sweet repose. His spirit had passed away like a zephyr’s breath, and there was a lingering smile upon his cold lip, that told how happily.”

The above passage can be found in John E. McGirr, A.M., M.D., The Life of the Rt. Rev. Wm. Quarter, D.D,: First Catholic Bishop of Chicago (Des Plaines, IL: St. Mary’s Training School Press, 1920), 73-75. McGirr’s book was dedicated to Very Rev. Walter J. Quarter, brother of Bishop Quarter and Vicar General of the Diocese of Chicago. McGirr refers to the book as “this feeble effort to recall the labors and virtues of his deceased brother is respectfully dedicated, as a token of personal regard, by the author. The first version of the book was published in Chicago in April 1849.

+ No details of the funeral are given in the diary, which his brother, Walter, continued until the arrival of Bishop Van de Velde. McGirr does provided fuller details of the wake, funeral, and burial in his book. Bishop Quarter’s wake began the second day after his death and was held in his residence. McGirr comments that many civic officials and Protestant clergy viewed his remains. After two days of viewing the body was taken to the cathedral on April 12th for additional viewing. Over the next few days, Masses for the Dead, Offices for the Dead, and a daily Solemn High Mass were offered. On Friday, April 14th, the funeral Mass was celebrated. Rev. Mr. Feely preached the funeral oration. Bishop Quarter was buried in front of the main altar of the cathedral. See McGirr, 76-78.

Mount St. Mary’s
Emmitsburg, Maryland

April 18th

The Right Rev. Dr. Quarter, first Bishop of Chicago, was born in (sic) Killurine, Kings County, Ireland, on the 31st day of January 1806. He was the 3rd son of Mich[ael] Quarter & Ann Bennett. My parents have 4 sons, John who was the eldest, Walter Joseph, v[icar] g[eneral] to the bishop and now administrator of the diocese, and James who was raised for the Holy Ministry but died before he was ordained. My brother, the bishop, was sent at the age of 8 years to Tullamore to school. At the age of 17, he emigrated to this country, and entered college at Mt. St. Mary’s, Emmitsburgh (sic), M.D. [Maryland]. Dr. Dubois, afterwords 3rd Bishop of New York, was then pres[ident] of Mt. St. Mary’s College. He received my brother kindly. And he ever afterwards loved him as a father w[oul]d a child. And my brother [illegible words]. He was ordained [a] priest in New York by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Dubois on the 8th of September [illegible year][p. 72] and was sent as as[sistant] pastor to St. Peter’s church in the city of New York where he remained for 4 years with the Very Rev. Dr. Power, v[icar] g[eneral] of New York. In the year 1833, he was appointed by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Dubois [as] pastor of St. Mary’s Church, corner of Grand & Ridge Sts. where he remained as pastor, until he was consecrated Bishop of Chicago. He was consecrated on the 11th day of March 1844, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the city of New York by the Right Rev. Dr. Hughes, then and now Bishop of New York. The Right Rev. Dr. Byrne, Bishop of Little Rock, and the Rt. Rev. Dr. McCloskey, Bishop of Albany, were consecrated on the same day, and at the same time. Bishop Quarter took possession of his see Sunday May the 5th 1844. He [illegible word] poor, but gave [illegible word] to bless every thing he undertook. He died on Passion Sunday “as stated by Rev. Dr. Kinsella” on the 10th day of April 1848, the 4th of his episcopacy.

This is a short and hurried scetch (sic) of the life of my brother, the first Bishop of Chicago, but the notes are correct.

[signed] Walter J. Quarter, V.G. [illegible word] Administrator of the diocese pro tem.

[p. 73] [diary continues in the handwriting of Walter J. Quarter]

May 1848

May 28th

Six Sisters of Mercy left here this morning for Galena, in this diocese, to take possession of the new house, which was purchased last winter by the Very Rev. W.J. Quarter by the advice of his dearly beloved brother Bishop Quarter, who is now no more. Mother Agatha O’Brien accompanied them there. The Rev. Mr. McElhearne has charged of the sisters on the road. The Rev. Mr. McGorisk has been appointed pastor of St. Michael’s Church in the city of Galena on today by the Very Rev. Walter J. Quarter, V.G. and Admin[istrator] of the diocese. The Rev. Mr. McElhearne will assist the Rev. Mr. McGorisk.

May 29th

Rev. Misters Donahoe & Rogan came today to assist V.R. W.J. Quarter at the cathedral.