Charles George Deuther.

The life and times of the Rt. Rev. John Timon, D. D. : first Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo online

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February, 1797, and baptized on the 17th of the same month
and year, having for his sponsors John Kuhn and Christina Wolf.

However, before proceeding to enter upon the narrative of his
subsequent remarkable life, it will not be amiss to refer to his
parents again, in order to place in proper relief their virtues and
characteristics, which, in part, Bishop Timon largely inherited.

James Timon, seniorj was truly an exemplary christian.
"Indeed," said a learned divine,* in his panegyric sermon at
the month's mind for Bishop Timon, "Indeed, piety was the

* Rt. Rev. Bishop Lynch, of Toronto, C. W.


prevailing virtue of his father's household." By education as
well as by nature, Mr. Timon was a high-toned, moral Irish
gentleman. He loved his own native land well, and, from infer-
ences drawn from pretty accurate information, we surmise that
he (alas ! like many others,) was obliged to leave it, and emigrate
to a home of adoption, another victim of oppressive legislation
and tyrannical misrule in Ireland. But he loved his religion
too, and more dearly, not only because it was the faith of his fore-
fathers, but also because it was in his estimation the only reliable
pilot to that "bourne from whence no traveler e'er returns." In
the government and education of his children, he had no wealth
to lavish, but the little means with which Providence blessed his
industry, he freely expended for the benefit of their spiritual as
well as physical comforts. He was a man of generous impulses,
and, like every true Irishman, he could not withhold from bestow-
ing alms whenever charity in its many ways presented itself.

An incident, as related by a reliable correspondent, will serve
to illustrate a trait in his character. At one time, Mr. Timon,
having learned that there was in the city of St. Louis, Mo., a
reverend gentleman, whose acquaintance he had in former years
acquired in Ireland, called on him to pay his respects. After a
very pleasant interview of a few hours, in which much was
rehearsed that related to the past, particularly in their own
native land, Mr. Timon rose to depart. As he was leaving the
house, he paused to shake hands with his reverend friend, and
in doing this placed in them a crumpled slip of paper. The
clergyman, not anticipating what was intended by Mr. Timon,
took the slip of paper, without, however, examining it at the time.
Mr. Timon then left, and a few moments after his departure the
clergyman opened the paper, and, to his utter astonishment, found
it to contain a check on a bank for $100. He could scarcely credit
his senses at the discovery, and thinking that Mr. Timon might
have given him the paj^er by mistake, thereby embarrassing
himself pecuniarily, he hastily donned his coat and hat, and set
out to overtake his generous friend. It was an exciting chase,
for Mr. Timon had by this time reached the upper end of the


street, and besides the weather being very warm, it made the
perspiration roll in profuse disorder from the face of the reverend
gentleman. At last he overtook him, and, in a voice breathless
from the briskness of the walk, asked him if he had not made a

Mr. Timon smiled, and turning to his friend, quietly but good-
humoredly observed, " My dear friend, it was no mistake of
mine. I intended it for you."

"But," replied the clergyman, "I have no need of it, as I have
sutHcient means of my own."

" No matter," said Mr. Timon, " if you do not need it yourself,
there are others who are poor and needy. Distribiite the money
among those who most need it, and you will please me more
than to ask me to retake it."

Mr. Timon had other. traits of character besides charity and
piety. In a worldly point of view he was an excellent business
man, of a speculative turn of mind, ready to turn an honest penny
to his own advantage. It was to these characteristics, as well as
an unceasing thrift and untiring energy, that the liberal amount
of wealth he acquired in a few years was mainly due.

Mr. Timon' s wife, Helen, was really a pure-minded, christian
woman. She was faithful to her husband in the discharge of her
marital relations and household duties, and, in the education of
her large family, always endeavored to impress upon her children
the importance of esteeming virtue and the practice of their faith
above every other consideration.

For five years subsequent to the birth of their son John, Mr.
Timon remained with his family at Conevago. During this time,
any occupation that the slender advantages of the country then
alForded, was eagerly embraced to earn an honest livelihood.
There is nothing of special moment to relate of these few years,
except to state that, like every ambitious mind, Mr. Timon
earnestly desired, and resolved to seek, other opportunities- to
better his condition in life. Prompted by these feelings, he
accordingly, in the year 1802, tm-ned his back upon Conevago,
and bade farewell to the friends he had found there, and started


on his journey to Baltimore, Md. As soon as the nide and
imperfect advantages of travel would permit, he arrived in Balti-
more, Md., where he opened a dry goods store in a street then
known and called Howard street. In this new avocation Mr.
Timon, however, met with, no great success. He managed to
save something above his actual wants, but altogether, to an
ambition like his, business was not as flattering as he liked. He
had been established in business a few years, when he found it
necessary to take into his establishment, as a rather young clerk,
his enterprising son John.

"John stood in his store as a clerk," writes a correspondent,
" and by his polite and withal engaging manner, secured tor his
father a great deal of custom." From the year 1802 until the
year 1817, a period of fifteen years, Mr. Timon continued his
mercantile operations with varying success. As time flew by, his
son became older, and in his dealings with customers, as well as
making good bargains in trade, evinced a decided aptitude for
business. Although little favored with the benefits of a good
education, which in the early days of the Republic was an
acquisition not so easily acquired as at the present day, he
managed to acquaint himself with the first rudiments of the
ordinary English branches. By nature he was physically a well
developed young man, and in his bearing and manner was very
polite and handsome. "When he had reached his nineteenth
year," continues my correspondent,* "he had already become a
toast for all aged mothers with marriageable daughters. He
often told me of many eligible and grand ofiers of marriage that
he received, but refused them all, although a star of the first,
magnitude, not only at Baltimore, but also in the most refined
circles of Louisville and St. Louis, particularly among the French
residents of the last two mentioned places."

The success in business at Baltimore, as has been remarked
not being entirely satisfactory, and besides, being lured by those
prospects which, even at the present day, invite the emigrant to
the smiling lands of the west, Mr. Timon concluded to leave
Baltimore and remove to the city of Louisville, Ky.

•Thomas Winstanley, Red Budd, Randolph Co., III. «


Accordingly, in the month of October, 1818, he, in company
with some friends, left Baltimore and began his tedious journey
westward. Traveling at that time, in an unsettled state of the
country, with all the disadvantages of unbroken tracts of lands,
the want of a railroad conveyance, as well as embarrassments
arising from dangers to travel, was by no means speedily accom-
plished. It required weeks and sometimes months to make long
journeys, and hence it was nearly towards the close of the year
1818 that Mr. Timon reached Louisville, Ky. Here he resumed
business, similar to the one in which he had been engaged at
Baltimore, and in a very short time made for himself, by his
candid and fair dealings, many new and warm friends. It seems,
however, that he had again become dissatisfied with his new
position, and concluding to remove still further west, we con-
sequently find him, in the Spring of the year 1819, in the city
of St. Louis, Mo., his future abode and permanent place of busi-
ness. "We say permanent, because he immediately devoted
himself to his vocation with increased assiduity, ITor was his
application to business more fervent than the energy displayed by
his son John. Besides being a general favorite in society, John
had gradually become very remarkable for a display of qualities
that, as they widened by experience, earned for him the general
impression then that he might have owned the greater part of
the city of St. Louis to-day, on account of his energy and shrewd-
ness in turning to advantage the many mercantile opportunities
that bestrew his path, had not Providence, in its mysterious dis-
pensations, seen fit to transfer him to the vineyard of religion,
there to discharge duties that have since stamped him not only as
an extraordinary man, but also pointed him out as a chosen, apostle
in the field of the Catholic Church in America.

To this end, that he might by experience become aware of the
emptiness of worldly gains and aspirations, and at the same time
realize that all labor devoted!; to mammon, in preference to
heaven, would be to him as profitable as to gain the whole world
and lose his own soul, misfortunes began to intercept his brilliant
career, and made him enter into himself to meditate and reflects
Jn the very height of his prosperity came the crash.


This was the terrible crisis of 1823, a crisis the most severe of
any the country has as yet experienced, with the exception per-
haps of the crisis of 1837. So paralyzing were its consequences
upon business, and so ruinous its effects to the merchant that, at
that time, " a $5.00 bill of the best bank of the State of Illinois,
would scarcely procure as much as an ordinary breakfast."
"And," continues a correspondent,* "we may judge how
severely it was felt in St. Louis, when that entire square front on
Fourth street and running through to Third street, embracing with
it a fine stone house, a barn and carriage house, were sold for
$1,500, — and a clear title of them given to Judge Mulaphanty, (a
man deserving to be remembered for his many fine and generous
qualities,) the only man in St. Louis then who could raise money
enough to buy them." This financial crisis brought ruin to
thousands, sweeping like a torrent over the whole country, to
paralyze the arteries of trade and commerce, and hurl merci-
lessly back to poverty many who had already accumulated a
moderate share of wealth. Among many others, Mr. Timon, Sr.,
was not spared from the dire effects of this dreaded whirlpool.
It shattered his fortunes, and pecuniarily destroyed his many
brilliant prospects. His son John also lamented the turn that the
tide of affairs had taken, and it made a deep impression on his
mind. He began to realize how fleeting was man's prosperity,
and how uncertain were the vanities and allurements of the
world. His eyes, hitherto blinded by the glitter and tinsel of
human joys, and deceived by the uncertainty of bright promises
that hung over his footsteps, were now opened. Another and
perhaps more tender circumstance served to increase the afflic-
tion he had received, and, so far as the world was concerned, to
render all his efforts, all his prospects, tasteless.

It seems that during the time he had been engaged as a clerk
in his father's establishment, he had made the acquaintance of
a young lady, the daughter of a wealthy French Creole gentle-
man, Mons. De Gallon, who had fled from St. Domingo, Hayti,
during the ever memorable massacre of 1823, when the blacks

* Thos. Winstanley.


rose in insurrection there, and massacred nearly every white
inhabitant of the island not fortunate enough to escape. Mons.
De Gallon with his family fortunately evaded the danger threat-
ened them, and, after many painful delays and discouraging
circumstances, succeeded finally in reaching the city of St. Louis,
Mo., in safety. '

As has already been stated, his daughter, Mademoiselle Louisa
De Gallon, a young lady gifted with many brilliant accomj^lish-
ments, both by nature and education, had formed an acquaintance
with John Timon, and the favorable impressions made on the
mind of each, after the first introduction, soon deepened into
more tender and intimate relationship. John loved this young
and guileless girl, for the sweetness of her disposition, her piety,
and withal her moral worth, three characteristics in woman that
tend to elevate her above the ordinary level of her sex. As in
all cases of true courtship, they were soon affianced to each other,
J)ut never married. Divine Providence, in its mysterious dispen-
sations, ordained otherwise, and by interposing a barrier between
them, elevated one to the hierarchy of the true Church of God,
and the other, a pure and virgin fiower, to heaven.

Miss De Gallon, unhappily for John, but not for religion, was
afflicted with "falling sickness," so seriously as to prevent the
consummation of their betrothal vows, and very shortly after
they had been wed in spirit, death severed their happy com-
panionship, and transferred the flower to another and better

It was a bitter hour for John, and to a temperament like
his, never unstrung, this was a sad blow. It may seem
strange, however, to some inclined to be over scrupulous, that
a circumstance like this (obtained from a reliable corres-
pondent,)* should be mentioned in connection with the history
of a Bishop in the Church, and no doubt there are those
who may criticise it severely as a levity on the part of the
author, in resuscitating apparently undeveloped frivolities in the
life of a young man; but, in extenuation of the mention of this

* Thos. Winstanley.


fact, it may not be improper to observe that it is considered
necessary to record tbis little incident in the life of the Bishop,
in order to place in bolder relief the reasons that prompted him
to abandon the world, and to devote his energies and soul to the
amelioration of humanity and the service of religion. The
bereavement occasioned by the death of Miss De Gallon, and the
wreck of a fortune of years of labor and industry, scattered
beyond a possibility of ever being able to recover it, were among
the principal influences that lifted the veil from his eyes, that he
might realize the folly of attaching his affections to the tran-
sitory shadows of mundane pleasures and profits. " He passed
through a severe school," and the lessons he received were the
instruments in the hands of Divine Providence with which his
spirit was chastened and prepared for another and greater field,
in which his enterprise, his zeal, and his piety might be directed
towards honoring and serving his Maker.


Joms THE Community op the Lazarists. — Enters the Seminary of the Barrens, Mo«
— Meets Mons. J. M. Odin there. — Early Reminiscences op the Lazarists in
this Country.—The Seminary in 1824. — Incidents, &c. — Industry and Zeal op
YOUNG Mr. Timon. — Promoted to Sub-deaconship. — Correspondence op Col. Creed
Taylor. — Promoted to Minor Orders. — Joins the Order of St. Vincent de Paul.

In the month of April of the year 1823, at the age of twenty-six
years, John Timon renounced the world with all its pomps and
vanities, bade an affectionate farewell to his relatives and friends,
and joined the community of the Lazarists, one of the most inde-
fatigable and zealous in the cause of Christ in this country. He
entered, as a student, the preparatory seminary of St. Mary's of the
Barrens, Mo., then in its infancy, and by no means the imposing
and flourishing edifice of to-day. For two years young Timon
applied himself assiduously to liis true vocation, enriching his
mind with various studies, particularly philosoi^hy and theology.


About tills time, Mons. J. M. Odin, at present Archbishop of
New Orleans, had arrived in this country, almost immediately
after Mr. Timon had entered the seminary at the Barrens.

As, however, the Lazarists, at the time that Bishop Timon
joined them, were just beginning their missions, which have
subsequently preponderated marvelously in the progress of
Catholicity in this country, it will be necessary to digress a little,
and briefly give an account of this zealous order, since the
deceased prelate has been for many years a prominent member of
the same community. The following history is partly from the
pen of the Bishop himself and from other sources equally reliable :

Bishop Dubourg, after his consecration on the 24th of Septem-
ber, 1815, as Bishop of the Diocese of l!^ew Orleans, obtained
from Rome a colony of Lazarists. For a while a part of the
colony stayed in the State of Kentucky with the saintly Bishop
Flaget, and the rest proceeded to the scene of their future labors.
Among these were the Eev. Joseph Rosatti, Felix D'Andreis,
and Brother Blanka, who accompanied the venerated Bishop
Flaget, reaching Kaskaskias, in the State of Blinois, in September,
1817. On the day after their arrival there, they went to St.
Genevieve, where Bishop Flaget proposed to found a colony, but
as he was not altogether satisfied with the oifers he received
from the people, he went to St. Louis, on the 17th of October,
the month following

At this time there was no resident priest at St. Louis. Rev,
Mr. Lavine, curate at Cahokies, on the opposite side of the Mis-
sissippi river, came to St. Louis once every three weeks, to attend
the congregation there. Bishop Flaget made proposals to the
assembled Cathodes to make St. Genevieve the centre of the
mission. But it seems no encouraging ofiers were made in
return. A proposition likewise was made by Bishop Flaget to
fix the seat of the mission at St. Louis, On this proposition
opinion was divided.

In this state of indecision, deputies from thirty-five Catholic
families then at the Barrens came to offer six hundred and forty
acres of land, requesting that the diocesan seminary should be


establiBhed there, which was subsequently done. In the mean-
time Bishop Flaget, with Rev. M. D'Andreis and Jos. Eosatti,
returned to St. Genevieve, whilst Rev. Henry Pratt, cm-ate at St.
Genevieve, went to St.. Louis to attend to the building materials,
repairs, &c.. Revs. Jos. Rosatti, D'Andreis, and Brother Blanka
taking his place to establish a provincial post at St. Genevieve.
The parish embraced a large extent of country, including the
"Mines and St. Michaels" with adjacent counties to a great
distance. Father D'Andreis had to say two masses every Sun-
day, preach two or three hours, hear confessions, visit the sick,
and teach catechism. His holy example, the zeal and unction of
his preaching, however, made a profound impression among the
inhabitants of the settlements. For many years the Catholics of
that district remembered with veneration the holy man.

Late in 1817 Bishop Dubourg, in company with Bishop Flaget,
went to St. Genevieve, having left his clergy (among whom were
some Lazarists,) in Bardstown, Ky., to learn English. Thence the
Bishop took with him to St. Louis that holy missionary Mons.
D'Andreis, where they were both received with great joy.

Almost immediately Rev. Father D'Andreis commenced to
discharge his functions there as curate, and whilst his sermons
were listened to with avidity by the most enlightened, he con-
tinued to devote a considerable amount of time to the
instruction of the poor negro slaves, and the change it wrought
on their moral conduct through him, excited unanimous admira-
tion. Soon after being installed as curate, he sent for Father
Rosatti and his companion in Kentucky to come to St. Louis.
The voyage of this holy priest will be found in the annals of the
congregation. He himself composed a history of the beginning
of the congregation. From that history it may be gathered how
little human help was given to that great work, which embraced
a .tract of unfertile land of 640 acres, that cost the community
then $800, — besides this there were promises of help to build, a
few only of which were fulfilled; under continual obligations,
which a capital of $100,000 would scarcely pay ; nay more, for
many years the congregation had to support and in great part


clothe the seminarians of the diocese without receiving any pay.
That the community did not sink under such responsibilities is
truly a miracle.

In the meantime amidst poverty and great privations, the
seminary at the Barrens continued to exist. It consisted of sev-
eral small log houses. In the largest cabin, one story in height,
vs^as the university. In the north-west corner of the building was
the theology department, for study and lecture; in the north-east
corner was the room for philosophy and general literature; the
south-west corner was used for a tailor shop, and the south-east
for a shoemaker's department.

The refectory was in a small adjoining log cabin, but whenever
the rain fell very heavy, the seminarians often preferred to go to
bed sujjperless, than venture out of the university under such
disadvantages as getting wet and muddy, to buy their scanty
supper. Another house, magnificent for that period, and for that
place, was, however, soon begun. It was a frame building, and
it'StiU remains, serving now as an out-house for servants, although
it remained in an unfinished state until 1834.

Bishop Timon has often related circumstances that happened
to him, as well as to others, connected with his experience at tlie
Barrens at this time. Often, when persons reached the semi-
nary, eitjier to become m.embers, or to share a night's hospitality,
have they been obliged to spread their mattress on the floor,
where they slept well and comfortably ; but, towards morning,
feeling themselves very warm, they awoke to find a heavy coat
of snow on their blankets, which had gathered there through the
openings and crevices of the building. Yet such was the piety
and the resignation of the inmates of the seminary, under the
pious government of Mons. Eosatti, that all seemed to feel
happy, and advance in the way of salvation.

In connection ^vith the seminary, a college for seculars was
opened in the unfinished house. There the seminarians, on an
average, taught three hours per day ; the rest of the study hours
were given them to prepare their own lessons, and recite them to
their own professors of Latin, philosophy, or theology.


On vacation days, and even during the hours of recreation,
the seminarians employed themselves in felling the trees of the
primeval forests, and splitting wood either for a scanty Summer's
use, or an abundant Winter's supply. At other seasons they
could be seen with sacks on their backs, gathering the potatoes,
beans, etc., or driving the ox and cart, well laden with the corn
which they themselves had hoed. All were healthy and well,
and with their beloved Superior at their head, no labor seemed
hard. In the discharge of all these duties young Timon was ever
a ready and willing worker, and the cheerfulness and zeal with
which he sought to aid and improve the condition he had chosen
for his future life, brought notice at once upon his head.

By this time, too, Mr. Timon, who had been busily engaged
in improving his mind with a knowledge of Church discipline
and ceremony, had made a rapid progress in his various studies,
under the tutelage of his learned and talented professors, particu-
larly under his young but beloved bosom friend. Rev. J. M. Odin,
now Archbishop of 'New Orleans.

Mr. Timon pursued his studies diligently in the interim, not
only storing his mind with knowledge necessary to glorify and
preach the sufferings and goodness of his Redeemer, but also by
frequent meditations, prayers and fastings, reducing to submis-
sion the appetites of his flesh and body. Mons. J. M. Odin,
Archbishop of New Orleans, in a letter to the author, observes :
"A sincere intimacy grew between us, which time cemented
more and more, as it was grounded on a respect inspired by his
sterling virtues. I was five years younger than he was, but as I
had completed my studies at an early age, before leaving France,
I was his teacher of logic and theology, especially when our

Online LibraryCharles George DeutherThe life and times of the Rt. Rev. John Timon, D. D. : first Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo → online text (page 2 of 30)