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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good Superior, Bishop Rosatti, was absent from the seminary."

So thorough and rapid was his acquisition of theology and
philosophy, and so familiar had he become with Church discipline
and ceremony, that, continues Mons. Odin, "in the year 1824 he
was ordained sub-deacon, and from this time he began to preach
with great zeal and great success, and to the edification of his


bearers. He accompanied me in a missionary tour through the
State of Arkansas, where no priest had been seen for over thirty-
five years."

Col. Creed Taylor, at the kind request of the Bishop of Little
Rock, Rt. Rev. Edward Fitzgerald, furnishes the following
interesting communication :

"In the Spring of the year 1825, Rev. Mr. Odin, (now Arch-
bishop of ISTew Orleans, La.,) passed through Arkansas on a
missionary excursion, accompanied by a young gentleman a year
or two my junior. The latter appeared to be a traveling com-
panion to the other, who said mass, and preached to a French
congregation in that language.

" Mr. Timon, the young gentleman referred to, served at his
mass. Many children were baptized by Rev. Mr. Odin, and I
was asked to have mine baptized also, but I refused, for the
reason that I understood but little French, and besides, having
imbibed all the prejudices of the sects against Catholicity, I
could not consent to have it done.

"Li about three months," continues Col. Taylor, "the Reverend
gentlemen returned, and this time Mr. Timon, who had been
raised to minor orders, preached the first English sermon I ever
heard. I could now no longer refuse to have my children bap-
tized ; whether I attribute the dissipation of my prejudices to the
winning eloquence of the young deacon, or, whether, in the
mercy of God, the prayers of my wife induced me to yield ; but
it was done, to the gratification of my family.

"The reverend gentlemen were the guests of my father-in-law.
Major Yaugine, for several days, and where I expected a kind
of superstitious priestcraft, I found the greatest humility, the most
profound learning, and captivating eloquence. Most of their
time was spent in saying mass, making their meditations, and
prayers. Mr. Timon was often foimd carrying wood for a poor
old widow, who occupied one of Major Yaugine's cabins, on the
farm. This," observes Col. Taylor, "in my state of mind then,
might have been called afiected charity, but, thank God, I


imputed nothing of the kind to him, for he was so hnmble and
80 kind, that the impression made on me then will go with me
to the grave."

From this simple reminiscence of the Bishop's early life, we
may see in advance the tendency of his disposition, and the
simple charity that he, in an unaffected manner, bestowed on the
poor old woman, was but the foreshadowing of subsequent sub-
lime and ever memorable virtues, that stand to-day recorded
throughout the length and breadth of this diocese, in his various
institutions of charity and mercy.

In the year 1825, John Timon was promoted to the priesthood,
by the Right Rev. Bishop Rosatti. 'Now commenced the most
active period of his life. As priest, he assisted in the two-fold
capacity of Professor at the seminary of the Barrens, and, at the
same time, as Missionary in the surrounding counties, mostly at
Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Mo., where he preached occasion-
ally in the court house.

Here his labors were crowned with great success for the good
of souls, and the conversion of many Protestants to the true
Church. In the discharge of his duties he was indefatigable, and
never spared himself when engaged in doing good for the glory
of God and the salvation of souls. He sometimes met with
opposition from ill-disposed persons, and some even aimed at his
life ; but his patience, his gentleness, and withal his winning
manner, surmounted every obstacle, and paved the way to the
high position he occupies to-day in the memories of those who
knew him, and could appreciate his deeds and virtues. To
complete his sacrifice, he finally joined the order of St. Yincent
de Paul, then in its infancy in this country.

Oh ! what joy was this to his religious fervor, what a delight to
his heart, surcharged -with love for the cause of his Redeemer,
and for the poor and imbecile sinner of society. His zeal
exhibited itself in the multitudes he rescued from sin by his
winning eloquence, in the spread of the Gospel, and in the
general abundant harvest, reaped in a careful culture of the
field of religion.



Surroundings AT the Barrens, Mo.— Mons. Odin and Timon as Missionaries.— Hog
Pen converted into a Chapel.— Start for New Madrid, Texas.— Dangerous
Traveling.— Dialogue with a Lady.— Arrive at the Port op Arkansas.— The
QuAPAW Indians.— Their Belief —Return to the Barkens.— Mission in Illinois.

The great majority of the inhabitants of the Barrens, and
especially those who were rich, were Protestants, and their
prejudices against Catholics were very strong. To that extent
did they evince their bias, that the ministers of some of the
denominations often came to the very doors of the Catholic
church to challenge the priests to controversy. But how great
was the change eifected in a few years. The prejudices soon
were dissipated ; the seminary, a log cabin only twenty-five by
eighteen feet, began to flourish, and seeds of christian doctrine
take deep root in the hearts not only of many Catholics, but also
of many converts. Mons. Odin and Timon were accustomed to
go around the neighborhood in a circuit, to the distance some
times of fifteen or twenty miles, assemble the children to Cate-
chism, visit families far less Protestants than haters of the Pope
or papists, and preach to them whenever an opportunity pre-
sented itself

South of Apple Creek, they began a station for saying mass,
but subsequently transferred it to the present site of St. Joseph's
church. At Apple Creek, the station alluded to, a chapel was
formed from a large pen in which swine had been kept. The mis-
sionaries themselves dug out the dung, cleaned it as well as possible,
covered it with fresh branches of trees, and built in it an altar,
which for its beauty became the wonder and admiration of the
neighborhood. Here they celebrated mass, and performed the
other functions of their divine calling.

God singularly blessed their apostolic excursions, perhaps the
more so because they were made in great poverty and privations,
especially at a place called Bois Brule, where all the inhabitants


were Protestants. Early in the morning after breaklkst, the
missionaries would leave the seminary, seek for lost sheep until
dinner time, and then, wearied with their labor, would retreat to
a blackberry bush or other fruit tree, and there make a dinner
out of what nature gave.

In 1824, Rev. Mons. Odin and Timon (sub-deacon,) set out on
a long mission, and although they traveled on horseback, yet like
the apostles and disciples of old, '■'-sine secula et jpera^^ gave their
first distant mission in New Madrid, Texas, afterwards remem-
bered by the people of that place for a long time. After leaving
Xew Madrid, they were obliged to cross large swamps, attended
with great personal danger, and were necessitated to rest all
night on swampy grounds, where a dry spot could not be seen,
and where water fit to drink could not be found. They were
accompanied by a guide, who, deeming it impossible to proceed,
retraced his steps and left them ; but the missionaries, nothing
daunted by the adverse circumstances that surrounded them and
seemed to multiply at every step, pushed boldly on, swam across
a river, and late next day, in an almost starved condition, reached
a log habitation, where they refreshed and rested their weary
feet. They then continued their journey, which was a continual
mission among a peojjle that had never before seen a priest,
although the missionaries were continually inquiring for Catholics.
At length, late one sultry day, they reached a stately mansion,
and being very tired, approached the house and humbly asked
for a drink of water. To their astonishment, they were kindly
received by the lady of the house, who directed a negro servant
to bring some fresh water and other refreshments, not knowing
the character of her guests.

Whilst the negro servant was complying with the order of
the lady, an interesting conversation ensued, in which one sub-
ject after another was discussed. At length as one of the
missionaries took advantage of a pause to inquire, " Madam^ are
there- any Catholics in this neighborhood?" the kind and
courteous manner of the lady immediately changed, and she
said, " Oh, sir, I don't like Catholics."



" And why, madam," interposed the missionary, " have they
ever injured you ? "

"No, sir ! " replied the lady, "but they are idolaters."
"Oh! madam," interrupted the missionary, "how can yon
think so ? There are so many Catholics in the world, fur more
than all the sects put together, very many of whom are men and
women of cultivated intellect and deep religious feeling, and
how can you believe that so many good and learned men would
be such fools as to adore idols ? "

"Well, indeed," replied the lady, "that thought never sug-
gested itself to me yet, and I am almost inclined to think that
you are right, for, as you say, it would indeed be strange."

The missionary then pointed to a painting of Washington on
the wall of the room, and observed, " Do you adore that picture,
madam? "

"Why, certainly not," said the lady.

"1 thought not," pursued the missionary, "you keep it merely
to remind you of the hero and savior of our country. So do we
keep the crucifix, pictures and other sacred things, to put us in
mind of our Divine Hero and our ever adorable Saviour; or of
those who have served Him best and whom He most loved."
Then, taking a crucifix from his bosom, he continued, " Here is
what those who malign us, say w-e adore; but God forbid the
thought. This crucifix is for us a book with Ineroglyphics of
might and power, to enable us to read in a second, at one glance,
what it otherwise would take us five minutes to read in the
Bible. We have often instructed poor slaves who cannot read.
We have told them what Jesus has done for them, and shown
them the crucifix, and thus appealed to their eyes and ears in
far less time than by any other method."

The lady, who had never before seen a crucifix, immediately
took up another thread of conversation, which proved how difii-
cult it is sometimes by words alone to have a clear conception of
a thing, unless it is made practical, and observed : " Well, it is
possible that what you say may be all very true, but, really, is
that what you call a crucifix?"


" Yes, madam, it represents the Saviour of the world dying
for the sins of men. See here, where his cruel enemies pierced
his hands and feet and side, and thus he hung on the cross three
long hours, dying for you and all mankind. "

At these words the lady became deeply affected, and in a
voice scarcely articulate from the vehemence of her emotion, she
said : "Dear me, how much he must have suffered." She then
called her children, two bright, intelligent little boys, and thus
spoke to them : " Here, children, come and see how much your
Saviour has done for you,"

' The little lads approached, and with eagerness listened to the
details of the Saviour's passion, illustrated to them, then for the
first time, b^'^ means of the crucifix.

When the missionaries had finished, they rose and departed,
thanking the lady for the hospitality she had shown to them, and
feeling confident in their hearts that ever after a missionary
would be well received in that house.

All along their route to the Port of Arkansas they related this
incident, and in every place they penetrated they found tlie same
prejudices against Catholics existed. The general request, how-
ever, after hearing of the incident, was to see a crucifix; and,
after gazing on it, these words would burst forth as if unbidden
from the lips of many, "Well, well, I see that I was mistaken; I
see that I have been deceived."

Finally, the missionaries arrived at the Port of Arkansas.
Here they paid several visits to the Quapaw Indians, a tribe at
that time inhabitino; the south bank of the Arkansas river. The
missionaries erected a rustic altar before the ^\dgwam of Sarasiu,
the chief of the tribe. The Indians assisted at mass, and through
the interpreter, a Mr. W. Keuismere, the Catholic doctrine was
explained to them.

At night the Indian chief and medicine man were persuaded
to explain the dogmas of their faith. In general, however, it is a
dilficult thing to get a clear detail, even of the little they pretend
to know. They are generall}^ afraid of being laughed at, although,
like other Indians, they believe in a God, in subordinate gods.


both good and bad. They have vague conceptions of good and
bad angels, of future rewards and punishments, in which the
Catholic view of a three-fold state are distinguishable. Their
traditions are, that they came from the cold North, and that the
first recollection their forefathers had, was of floundering on the
surface of a vast lake. That a god in white from the South, one
in red from the ISTorth, one in black from the East, and finally one
in motley colors from the West approached them.

The god in w^hite was the suiDerior god. A bird had been
sent out to discover land, but with no result. Then other animals
followed, of which only one returned, with his feet and legs
besmeared with mud. The god in white then led them towards
the spot from whence the animal had returned, and there land
was found. They immediately knelt down to adore and thank
the god in white.

"No, children," said the god in white, "I am sent by the
Great Spirit, Him you must adore."

He then predicted their victories over all the nations they
should encounter, until they reached the sunny South, and that,
after the lapse of ages, they should see white men, who w'ere
children of the god in ^^^hite, and whom they should not injure,
for the sake of their guide.

The Indian chief and medicine man, as well as the other
Indians accompanied the recital of these traditions, (of which the
above is only an abridgment) with strange gestures and wild

From their traditions, however, it will be apparent to the reader
that, besides some vague recollection of early revelation, they
retained a remembrance of Noah's ark, the deluge, and of Noah's
experiments to ascertain whether the waters of the deluge had
subsided sufiiciently to allow him to leave the ark.

During the mission much good was accomplished, both among
the Catholics and the Protestants, by rehabilitating a great many
marriages, baptizing many adults as well as children, hearing
confessions and admitting to the Holy Sacrament, many who, for
forty years before, had had no opportimity of so doing.


After such laborious and sacrificing efforts in the service of God,
Father Odin and Timon returned to the Barrens to resume the
discharge of their duties in the college, which included, as it
formerly had done, their excursions in the neighborhood of the
Barrens for twenty miles around.

By degrees, the result of such zeal began to manifest itself, so
that in 1826 the extent of the missions embraced a wider tract of
country. Frequently Mons. Odin and Timon could be seen
together visiting as far as Kew Madrid, and even for a distance
of 150 miles south of the Barrens. In the State of Illinois, Mr.
Timon, who had already been raised to the priesthood in 1825,
built churches in places known as "O'Hara's and the English
settlements." At Kaskaskias, they re-established an old mission
long abandoned, with such success, that in the vast and stately
log church, (built there years before by the Jesuits, and which
was crowned with a magnificent steeple, more than one hundred
feet high,) there was soon gathered together a respectable con-
gregation, among whom several converts might liave been

At a place called '• St. Michael's, " or " Mine la Motte," as it
was then called, another mission was established. At this station
Mr. Timon baptized the first persons, as the records there will
show, and which are the names of Francis P. Bellenere and P.
G. Chevalier, on the 14th of May, 1827. The two Lazarists'
friends then extended their zealous labors to Potosi and the "Old
Mines," visiting an extent of country, reaching about 250 miles
north and south.



Ordination of John Timon.— Called to see a Murderer condemned to Death.—
Discussion with a Baptist Minister. — Defeats him.— Mission in Cape Girar-
deau. — Conversion of Mr. Ralph Doherty.— Cholera.— Mr. Doherty ill. —
Father Timon called in too late. — ^Baptism of Mrs. Doherty. — A Night with
A Cholera Corpse. — Baptism of Children. — Father Timon and the Irishman.—
Confession on Horseback. — Happy Denouement

E.T. E.EV. Jos. RosATTi, Bishop of St. Louis, in the Spring of
1825, visited the seminary of the Barrens, and whilst there
raised to the priesthood among others Mr. John Timon. It was
a period for which Mr. Timon had devoutly prayed, that he
might be better enabled to discharge the promptings of his reli-
gious feelings, in ministering more freely to the wants of the
people. It was a moment in his life when it seemed he had
reached the zenith of his aspirations, and could, by the aid
of Divine grace, penetrate every locality, irrespective of dan-
ger or opposition ; when he felt panoplied with the truth and the
power to defy the world in the service of the only true faith.

Hence, the circumstances of the preceding chapter reveal the
zeal, the indifference to opposition, and the ultimate success with
which he faced every obstacle. Before his eloquence, evaporated
the prejudices against Catholics; before his logic and theology, fell
the united strength of reasoning of anti-Catholic bigots ; numbers
enrolled themselves under the banner of the cross, converted by
his winning manner, and edified by his holy piety. His names
soon became a bulwark to the cause of Catholicity and a house-
hold word in every dwelling and log cabin for hundreds of miles
around and near the Barrens. Messengers frequently came from
long distances to solicit liis aid. Sometimes it was to visit the bed-
side of a poor dying Catholic ; sometimes it was in response to
the Welshes of a departing Protestant, who during life had been
favorably disposed to religion, but deferred accepting it until


the last hour ; and often, it was to hasten to console an unhappy
victim sentenced by the rigor of the law to be hanged on the
gallows. Early in the Sj)ring of 1828, Father Timon was srnn-
moned to a place called Jackson, at a distance of about thirty
miles from the seminary, to visit a murderer under sentence of
death, who, up to that time, had persistently refused to see a
clergyman of any denomination whatever.

Father Timon started immediately, but it was towards nightfall
before he arrived at the prison door, where, on various pretexts,
permission to see the prisoner was flatly denied. It was
only after the arrival of a Baptist minister named Green, who
was also the editor and proprietor of the village newspaper,
as well as an influential man among the town people, that Father
Timon was allowed to enter the cell of the condemned man. Mr.
Green also entered, accompanied by a band of anti-Catholic
bigots, and when Father Timon appealed to the jailor to clear the
cell and leave him alone with the prisoner, for the purpose of con-
versing in private on the affairs of the latter's conscience, it was
inhumanly refused.

On a bed of straw, strewn over the clay floor, lay the culprit,
chained to a post fastened in the wall.

Finding that he would only be allowed to converse with him
in the presence of the hostile crowd. Father Timon, laying aside
all reserve, resolutely stretched himself on the pallet of straw at
the side of the prisoner, and, in a clear and loud tone of voice,
began to expound to the poor man the great truths of religion,
the Holy Trinity, the incarnation, future rewards and punish-
ments, the redemption and the Holy Sacraments.

When he had finished, he turned towards the prisoner and
found that he who, up to that moment, had laughed at religious
teaching, was deeply affected, and that even tears were flowing
from his eyes. This was the impression Father Timon had
desired to make, and judging it to be more proper that he should
now be left alone to meditate and reflect upon this his first favor-
able lesson, he rose to depart, already fatigued and worn out
with his journey on horseback over a rough road of thirty miles,


not having tasted a morsel from daybreak until nine o'clock that
night. As he did so, however, he once more turned to the pri-
soner, and told him he would end the instructions of that night,
by reciting with him the Apostles' Creed.

The condemned man, with much emotion, complied, and
rej)eated after the priest the Apostles' Creed, word for word,
until both had recited the words, " and in Jesus Christ our Lord."
At these words Green, the Baptist minister, rushed forward, and
in an authoritative manner exclaimed :

" Do not deceive the poor man. Do not make him lose his
soul by teaching him the commandments of men."

Father Timon, thus addressed, slowly turned around, and in
a calm but earnest tone of voice, replied, " Mr. Green, I am
teaching him the Apostles' Creed. Do you not also hold that
venerable creed?"

" Oh," answered Green, " but 3^our Church is that idolatrous
one, that worships images, and that gives to Mary the homage
due only to God."

"Mr. Green," replied Father Timon, "not long since I preached
in the court house of this village, on the very subject you now
touch. I proved beyond a contradiction, the charges against the
ancient Church to be foul calumnies. You were present. I then
called upon any one, who could deny the truths which I an-
nounced, to come forward, and show if there was any flaw in the
evidence which I brought to prove that Catholics had been cruelly
and most unjustly calumniated. You were silent. Surely, then
was your opportunity to discuss and disprove, and not this hour,
in which I am preparing an unhappy man, who has sent for me
to aid him, in meeting a death so certain and so near."

Green was at a loss what to reply, and in his confusion com-
menced some vague and insulting charges, challenging the priest
to meet him next day in the court house, to discuss the merits of
their respective beliefs. Father Timon immediately accepted
the challenge.


Then Green claimed the privilege of saying night prayers, and
kneeling down with his friends, made out a long and extempo-
raneous prayer, in which, among other insulting expressions, he
prayed thus : •

" And, oh ! God of mercy, save this poor man from the fangs
of Antichrist, who now seeks to teach him idolatry and the vain
traditions of men."

Scarcely, however, had he finished, when Father Timon, at the
top of his voice, cried out to the crowd that filled the dungeon :

" Gentlemen, is it right that, in a prayer to the God of charity
and truth, this man should introduce a calumny against the
majority of christians?"

Deep silence followed this remark, and showed that all felt the
truth of the appeal.

It was now late at night, and the sheriff, wishing to close the
jail, required all to leave the cell. On quitting it, however.
Green renewed his challenge, and it was finally arranged that a
meeting should take place in the court house next day.

But it is scarcely worth while reviewing the controversy. At
the hour appointed, the disputants assembled at the place agreed
upon, and the district judge was chosen moderator.

The time for speaking was limited to half an hour at a time
to each disputant. After a discussion of three or four hours,
Green gave up the contest, and withdrew completely out-
generaled by the superior arguments of his adversary. The
indefatigable Father Timon, however, continued to speak and
reviewed for half an hour longer the argument, exhorting
serious and candid men to return to the old, but true religion.
What was the result of this labor ? When Father Timon had
finished and returned to the cell of the poor prisoner, he found

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 3 of 30)