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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Texas of the prudent course pursued by Mons. Odin, and imme-
diately wrote to Rome, to obtain for this most worthy and saintly
deputy, the power of conferring the sacrament of confirmation.
In the summer of 1840, Mons. de Forbin Janson visited the
mission. He was much pleased with the seminary of the Bairrens.
He then w^ent to Cape Girardeau, where he rejoiced at the great
change effected there, and confirmed some of the late converts.
Besides visiting St. Genevieve, the zealous Bishop of JSTancy
accompanied the Yisitor to Kaskaskias, to calm the strife that
grew out of a division of sentiment either for or against their
priest. But the just and strong language of the good Bishop
only served to increase the irritation. Circumstances boded ill,


and remained in an unsettled condition. At length a liappy
thought induced some one to propose leaving the whole dispute
with the Visitor, who had formerly been their missionary priest.
This oifer was accepted by all, and, through the blessing of God,
peace was once more restored to the agitated community.

From Cape Girardeau the missionaries had gone several times
on a mission to Cairo, where a post had been established with
vestments and other sacred things, necessary for the holy sacri-
fice of the mass. But at this time, in the providence of God,
the Yisitor was so fortunate as to obtain from the Hon. E. K.
Kane, and Col. P. Menard, through Mr. Holbrook, their agent, a
lot for a Catholic church. Mr. Holbrook, at his own expense,
commenced to build the church, which was a neat frame building.
In the Autumn montlis following, the Yisitor, in his visits to the
various houses, found that at every point much good had been
done. Occasionally, however, neglects rather in the temporal
than in the spiritual order were apparent. Thus at the Cape he
found horses, wagons, and other farming utensils, purchased at
great expense, but which had been quite idle for several months,
because there were no persons able to drive the wagons. These
wagons could earn twenty francs per day by hauling wood from
the farm, and as a first-class driver would cost less than five
francs per day, the neglect to take advantage of this circumstance
was certainly very reprehensible. This oversight as well as others
was corrected.

At Assumption the evil was of greater magnitude. Mr.
Armangol, who in the presence of the Yisitor was most obse-
quious in his politeness, but who often, in the absence of the
latter, went directly contrary to his advice, had built a new
church and house, within a short distance of the church and
seminary of the Assumption. Of course, this conduct occasioned
disputes between two sections of the mission, that could not be
healed except by a total separation, which the Yisitor was obliged
to make. Still the work of God was going bravely on, and the
congregation increasing in numbers and in general estimation.


On the 1st December, 1840, the Visitor, with a missionary-
destined to aid Mons. Odin, started for Texas. They reached
Galveston on the 5th December. Mons. Odin, at this time was
in Austin, then the seat of government. Again the Visitor
experienced the same difficult}^ in getting a proper place for
Divine worship. But against his zeal the impossibility of ob-
taining a place suitable for mass could not stand. He succeeded,
and as early as the 6th of December, said mass for a large
audience, and preached at the Gospel. After vespers he began
a subscription for building a church ; two thousand irancs were
at once subscribed. He also explained to the people the necessity
of properly supporting their priest. This all promised to do.

At this time a Mr. Treat, who once had been minister from
Texas to Mexico, had died on his passage homewards, and his
body was landed at the wharf just as the Yisitor was about
leaving for Houston. The Mayor called on Mr. Timon, and re-
spectfully asked him to perform the funeral rites over the body
of the deceased man. But he politely informed that gentleman
that his Church forbade him to celebrate any but Catholic rites,
and explained further that she did not wish her rites to be forced
upon Protestants, and perhaps that, even could he reanimate the
corpse, Mr. Treat would repel as an insult the holy water he
must necessarily sprinkle over the body. The Mayor was satis-
fied with this explanation. As the Yisitor proceeded up the
river to Houston, on board the steamer, he met with General
Henderson, who had lately returned from Paris, whither he had
been sent as ambassador from Texas. This gentleman, who had
been present at the conversation between the Yisitor and the
Mayor of Galveston relative to Mr. Treat, introduced himself to
the Yisitor, and said that, though a Protestant, he highly ap-
proved of the principle which induced the priest to refuse his

Soon afterwards they landed at Houston, where the Yisitor
preached in the capitol, as he had done on a former occasion, and
where he convoked an assembly of Catholics, for the purpose of
taking means of building a church.



For an enterprise of this nature, he found prompt and zealous
friends in Mr. N'eill and Donellan, who voluntarily made a dona-
tion of the land on which to build the contemplated temple of
worship. A committee was immediately appointed to solicit
subscriptions for the new building, and leaving the good people
to push forward the noble undertaking, the Visitor started for the
city of Austin, a distance of several hundred miles from Houston,
His journey was somewhat hazardous, as he had to travel
through a country then infested with Indians, and although, as
a general rule, a missionary stands in high respect with an
Indian, being familiar to them under the sobriquet of "Black
Gown," still there are some who, as an exception to this rule,
would not hesitate to harm even a missionary. But, ever
watched over by the guiding hand of Providence, Visitor Timon
bravely surmounted every difficulty, and finally, on the 9th of
December, 1840, reached his place of destination (Austin,) in
perfect safety.

Texas at this time was a republic by itself, having gained its
independence from Mexico in 1835. Mr. Walker, of Mississippi,
in the senate of the United States, introduced a proposition to
recognize Texas as an independent nation on 5th December, of
the same year. Accordingly, as an independent republic, under
a few Presidents, she continued to exist until the time that Visitor
Timon landed at Austin, Mr. Lamar was acting President. To
this gentleman the Visitor brought letters from Cardinal Fran-
sonicus. Cardinal of the Propaganda at Eome, which were also
a virtual recognition of the independence of the Eepublic of
Texas. As such they were hailed with joy. When the Visitor
had arrived at Austin, the President had, on account of ill health,
just started for the United States ; but, as the Prefect Apostolic
had informed him in advance of his approaching visit, the Presi-
dent had left a letter with the Vice President for Mons. Timon.
Accordingly Judge Burnet, the Vice President, received the
Visitor most courteously indeed, read to him the President's
letter, and in turn requested him to translate what the Cardinal
had written, since the letter was in the Latin language. Every


one in Austin combined to render the visit of the Prefect Apos-
tolic very agreeable. Mr. De Salignes, the Frencli Minister to
the republic, was also very kind, and earnestly pressed the Visitor
to become his guest.

But the Yisitor, ever mindful of his sacred calling, as soon as
his public business had been completed, turned his first thoughts
towards obtaining a suitable chapel in which to enable the few
Catholics there to hear mass. As usual he had much difficulty
in obtaining his wishes, but finally, on the 23d of December,
1840, succeeded, and with a heart overflowing with gratitude to
God, said the first mass ever celebrated in Austin. The next
day Mons. Odin also said mass.

In compliance with the kind invitation of the French Minister,
both the Yisitor and Mons. Odin visited his house, and took
dinner there with him, the Yice President, Judge Burnet, and a
few prominent members of the congress of the republic. The
visit was a very interesting one. The conversation at table turned
much on a sermon which the Yisitor had preached the day pre-
vious in the hall of the capitol, in their presence as well as of
other prominent men of the republic. In this discourse, which
lasted two hours, the missionary had given a general view of the
Body of Christ, and the faithful members of that living, mystic
body. He had also explained the sacraments, showing how they
are the veins^ Divinely instituted, to bring a life Divine to every
member of that vast and venerable body. The company at table
were deeply interested in this subject, and so earnestly had the
Yice President entered into it, that he exclaimed :

" Why, if those are the real doctrines of the Catholic Church,
I can easily subscribe to them."

"Yes," continued a prominent senator, "the Catholic Church
has been greatly calumniated. We have heard of this before ;
but now we know it."



Petition to Restore Church Property.— Visitor Timon Preaches in the Senate
Chamber.— Public Complimentary Dinner.— Discussion.— Visitor Timon explains.
—Missionary Excursions in the Colorado River.— Oysters.— Return to Galves-
ton.— First Convert.— Difficult Travel.— Good Results.— The Gospel in St.
Augustine, Florida. — The Visitor parts with Mons. Odin. — Arrives at New
Orleans.— Bishoprics Refused.— The Visitor in Paris.— His Return.— Incident
ON Board Ship.— Burial at Sea.— Arrival at New Orleans.— Visitor Timon.—
Changes. — Appointed Bishop op Buffalo, N. Y.

In the meantime Mons. Odin had prepared a petition or bill
which, in substance, was the restoration of church lands to the
CathoKc Church, of which it had been, at that time, to a great
extent deprived on account of the troubles between Texas and
Mexico. This petition, after having been duly read, was spon-
taneously endorsed by the several prominent gentlemen present,
all of whom declared that justice ought to be done to the Catholic
Church. They even agreed to support the measure, as well as
any other that tended to do justice in the matter. On the 27th,
the Visitor again preached in the senate chamber, where a sub-
scription was started for building a church. Among those
particularly zealous in this step were Col. Porter and Col. Floyd.

The following day the missionaries were once more invited to
a ^mblic complimentary dinner, at which the acting President,
Judge Burnet, as well as several leading senators and representa-
tives, were present. At dinner the conversation became quite
animated ; many topics were alluded to, particularly that of
religion, out of regard to the character and presence of their
guests, the Catholic missionaries. Col. Porter took occasion to
renew the expression of his esteem for the Roman Catholic
Church. This remark provoked a rejoinder on the part of the
acting President, that the Mexicans had not been saved by it,
(the Catholic Church,) and in substantiation of his assertion,
referred to the great degradation of the priests and peoiDle of that
unhappily distracted country.


Visitor Timon, whose extensive information and profound
learning were ever ready to defend the truth, chafed at this
observation of the gentleman, for if he construed it into an insult
personal to himself and his reverend friend, he may not be
blamed, owing to the source from whence it sprung, since Judge
Burnet was a man of ability, of letters, much experience, and
might have entertained other deductions on the subject ; on the
contrary, with the dignity and self-possession so characteristic of
the man, and whilst all were profoundly attentive, he recounted
how the American hero and scholar. General Pike, in 1808, had
traveled through Mexico, and although a Protestant, had given
a glowing account of the high standing and holy life led by the
priests of that country, of their blessed influence upon the people,
as well as the general happiness and morality of tlie population.
But civil war began in 1810. Its evil consequences were soon
felt. After ten or twelve years of civil war, and even absolute
anarchy, independence was declared. Demagogues banished all
the bishops and priests. The poor people were left with very
few pastors ; and to increase the evil, each Indian family that
had received a farm from the Spanish government, whilst it was
exempt from taxation, enjoyed only a perpetual use of their lands
without the privilege of being able to sell them. After the inde-
pendence, however, the possessor was permitted to sell.

Speculators then prowled through the country. Almost every
farm was bought for a mere nothing ; and, as soon as the legal
robbery had been consummated, the Indians were driven from
their homes, or forced to toil for a miserable pittance, in a worse
condition than slaves, on lands once their own. Many were even
driven to the highest slopes of the mountains, near the line of the
perennial snows. Here they could get no spiritual advice, and
thus dispirited and broken-hearted, they soon became utterly
demoralized, and sank far below the cheerful innocence and
sound morality which, twenty years before. General Pike had so
justly praised.

Yisitor Timon continued at some length in a strain of logic and

eloquence that was really irresistible. He demonstrated that the



Church had been unjustly condemned for crimes and injustice,
that owed their origin to other sources. It was very easy to raise
a calumny and make its weight find some minds or brain weak
enough to support it, and thus, impressions once made upon such
people became contaminating. The evil seed once sown begins
to grow, and brings forth its fruit. It was only when an enlight-
ened community had tasted of the fruit, or seen its evil effects,
that reason once more resumed its former sway, and made man
reflect and, to the credit of many good men be it said, obliterated
the injustice they otherwise would unwillingly have done.

From Austin the Prefect, (Timon,) and vice-Prefect, (Odin,)
started on the 31st of December, to visit Mr. Yan Namme, then
stationed on the Colorado river. They reached him on the 1st
January, 1841, where they said mass, and then continued their
journey down along the west bank of the river, on a high bluff,
four miles from the river, and about five hundred feet above the
level of the sea, near the Gulf of Mexico. In that vicinity the
Visitor discovered a rock projecting about three or four feet
above the prairie, on which they found a reef of oysters, appa-
rently as fresh as if the sea had receded but the day before. He
broke off some of the oysters and took them with him, as an
incontestible evidence that the sea had once swept over high
lands now two hundred miles from it.

This missionary journey of the Visitor, in company with Mons.
Odin, perhaps was one of the most interesting we have had to
record. All the way down to Houston it was a continual mission,
and when they arrived at the latter place they again renewed,
with great spiritual fruit, their pious vocation, so that on the lot
which the reader will remember had been given for a church, a
deed was drawn up and recorded, seven hundred dollars (equal
to three thousand five hundred francs,) having been subscribed
for this purpose.

The missionaries did not delay long at Houston, but continued
their journey towards Galveston, where they arrived on the 12tb
January, 1841. Here they found the altar (erected on a former
visit,) still remaining in the same large room in which they


oiFered up the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ. On
the 15th January following, the first convert of Galveston, (a
Mrs. De Lacy,) was baptized, and on the 18th confirmed. The
"Visitor next contracted with Dr. Labodie and Col. Menard, for
building the first church in Galveston.

From Galveston, it became necessary for the missionaries to
return to Houston. Accordingly, leaving the former place on
the 20th of January, they set out on their difficult and perilous
journey. Whilst they were continually doing good in the spirit-
ual order, such as reconciling a family to God, baptizing children,
ratifying marriages, and reconciling many in the sacred tribunal
of confession, they sufiered greatly for conveniences with which
to travel properly. Torrents of rain inundated the country, swell-
ing the river to an extent dangerous beyond precedent. They
were forced to abandon the frail boat in which, by rowing, they
tried to ascend the river. It was only by hiring horses, and occa-
sionally swimming the creeks that intercepted their way, that
they at length reached Houston. From Houston,, they continued
their course to Nacogdoches, through a wild and unbroken tract
of country, never before trodden by priests, making their journey
a continual mission. They were constantly obliged to cross rivers
or creeks, that the rainy season had swollen into torrents, by the
aid of little canoes, at the same time swimming their horses
alongside, or they sought for some logs, or branches of trees that
intertwined from both sides of the river, thus admitting of a pas-
sage from bank to bank across the stream, over which Mons.
Odin, who could not swim, would pass ; whilst Yisitor Timon,
invariably, swam the river with the horses, however dangerous
the ford or pass.

On the 30th of January, the Yisitor having reached iN'acog-
doches, as usual, sought for a place for Divine worship, and in an
old stone house, built over a hundred years ago, he erected an
altar, on which he said mass and preached. January 31st, in the
afternoon, he preached again, when the little chapel was literally
packed with audience. After mass, February 1st, a Mr. Cheva-
lier very generously came forward, and gave a lot for a church.


at the same time ofFerino- his own dwellino; as a shelter to the
priest that might be sent there. At this place much good was
done. Hundreds went to communion, w^ho, for years before,
had had no opportunity of so doing. On the 2d of February, the
solemn blessing of the candles took place, and with great liberal-
ity the 2^eople subscribed for beginning the erection of a new
Catholic church

Leaving this mission, in the hands and promises of the people
to continue to it faithfully, the missionaries then started for St.
Augustine. They were received with unbounded expressions of
welcome by the inhabitants of this place. At first they were
told that no Catholics lived there, but before they left, they found
a great many. Protestants even, who had known the Visitor
and Mons. Odin on other missions, crowded around them, and at
the mass, which Mons. Odin celebrated, the Visitor was forced
to preach for over two hours, in which he explained Catholic
doctrine to those who never before heard aught but the rankest
calumny against the Church. For several days the Visitor
preached to a willing people, many of whom were the principal
men of the place. God blessed the holy zeal of the zealous Laza-
rists, for by their piety, their eloquence, and withal their sincere
zeal, manifested in the cause of the poor sinner, such men as Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Cansfield, Judge Hanks, Dr. Griffen, Mr. Donald,
Mr. Border, Mr. Frames, and many others, all leading minds of
St. Augustine, Florida, at that time came forward and declared
themselves Catholics. So enthusiastic was their zeal, that a Mr.
Nixon offered a half a league of land, on which to build a church,
whilst five or six others also offered lots on which to begin Catho-
lic institutions. A subscription was then begun for raising funds,
with which to carry into effect the new projects.

At St. Augustine, it became necessary for the Visitor to part
with Mons. Odin, as business of importance required his time
elsewhere ; besides he had to finish his official visit, already too
long delayed. Before leaving, however, he left with this good
missionary and bosom friend all his shirts and clothing, as those
of Mons. Odin were badly worn and almost useless. That same


evening he had crossed the Sabine river, and the very next night
after, found himself at Natchitoches in the United States, where
he was most kindly received by Mr, Gustiniani, Superior of the
mission, and by Messrs. Pasqual and Alabou, his assistants. The
Visitor then resumed his official visit, and found much good had
been done, and great edification given by the Lazarist commu-
nity. But he had to reprimand Mr. Gustiniani, (son of an
Italian nobleman, and allied to some of the first houses of
Europe,) for denying himself even of many of the necessaries of
life, in order to economize, in finishing and beautifying the

The Visitor reached New Orleans on the 10th of February
following. Here he paid a debt of about six thousand francs,
which Mons. Odin had incurred with Mr. Benoit, of New
Orleans. After a visit to the Seminary of the Assumption, suffi-
cient to reestablish the order which Mr. Armangol, through an
excess of zeal, had deranged, he set out for the Barrens. Some
difliculties had occurred there during his absence, but he soon
succeeded in restoring peace and order.

"When the Visitor was parting with Mons. Odin in Texas, he
had requested him to repair in May, 1841, to the Barrens, in
order to perfect arrangements for the Texan mission. Mr.
Odin, accordingly, reached New Orleans at the time appointed,
where he was most kindly received by Bishop Blanc, who, after
scolding the good missionary for appearing almost in rags,
handed him papal bulls, by which he was appointed Coadjutor
Bishop of Detroit, and insisted even on keeping him at New
Orleans until he should consecrate him. Mons. Odin replied,
that he could take no step without first consulting the Visitor.
He then started for the Barrens, where, on the night of the 5th
of May, he gave his bulls and urgent letters from Cardinal
Fransonicus to Visitor Timon, leaving the subject to his decision.

The Visitor said : "No, Odin, I beg of you to say the mass of
to-morrow morning for my intention, that God may guide me to
the fitting answer, and I, in turn, will offer the holy sacrifice for
the same intention. "


After mass, next morning, the Visitor gave his decision:
" Mons. Odin, good men can easily be found for the bishopric of
Detroit, when things are already in a prosperous way ; but it
would be difficult to find a competent person now to take so poor
and diflicult a post as your's in Texas ; hence, I think it more for
the glory of God and the good of souls, that you send back the
bulls and return to your post. "

In compliance with the decision of the Visitor, for whom Mons.
Odin always cherished a special affection, he refused to accept the
sacred office in Detroit, and returned to Texas. In the mean-
time the Visitor, without letting Monsieur Odin know of his
intention, wrote to Rome and to Paris, urging the nomination of
Mons. Odin as Vicar Apostolic and Bishop in jpartihus injide-
lium. This was soon effected, to the great benefit of that country.

In June of the year 1841, the Visitor was called to Paris by
the mother house, where he was greatly edified by the fervor of
the inmates, as he had been on his former visit. By permission
of the Superior General, he visited many other religious houses,
taking notes to imitate, as far as possible, the holy works which
so much edified him. His stay in Paris was somewhat pro-
tracted, though pleasant. He made many new acquaintances,
who, in turn, were highly delighted with the missionary of the
New World, already so famous for his exertions in the field of

Finally, on the 20th of November, he left Paris for Marseilles,
where he was to take shipping for New Orleans. On his way to
the diligence he was kindly accompanied by Mons. Etienne,
since the worthy and much honored Superior General of the
coranmnity of the Lazarists. After arriving in Marseilles, he
was delayed there by circumstances until the 2d December,
1841, when he finally set sail for America, accompanied by
nineteen companions, priests, students and brothers. The voy-
age was an interesting one. Part of the ship was allotted for the
sole use of the little band of missionaries. On board ship an

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 7 of 30)