University of California.
MEMOIR OF REV. LUCIAN GALT1ER:
THE FIRST CATHOLIC PRIEST OF SAINT PAUL,
BY REV. JOHN IRELAND.
The name of Rev. LUCIAN GALTIER is inseparably interwoven
with the early history of St. Paul. If any one man can be
said to have been the founder of this city, in the beginnings
of which there were many more or less concerned, the honor of
the title is to be awarded to him. It was his little mission-
ary chapel that grouped together the early settlers who were
pitching their tents along the eastern bank of the Mississippi,
and thus became the nucleus of the future city. The name he
bestowed on the chapel was adopted by the new settlement,
and retained by it as it grew up and developed into the St.
Paul of to-day.
It is proper that the Minnesota Historical Society, whose
object it is to collect and preserve whatever items of our history
might hereafter prove of interest, should be possessed of the
principal circumstances of the life of this venerable clergyman,
more especially of those connected with the origin and growth
of our city. The task is easy. The circumstances in the life
of Father GALTIER, that could at any time have been of what
we might call public interest, are few in number. His was the
career of a humble, devoted priest of the Catholic church,
noiselessly but faithfully fulfilling the every -day duties of his
office preaching, administering the sacraments, providing for
the instruction of youth, visiting the sick. To rehearse his
life in detail, would be to describe facts which, occurring as
MEMOIR OF REV. LUCIAN GALTIER, 223
they do in the life of almost every priest, are of a nature too
well known to be deserving of a special mention. Suffice to
say that, of those ordinary, humble duties, Father GALTIER
ever acquitted himself conscientiously and untiringly. The
testimony of all who knew him is, that he was a good citizen,
a good Christian, and a good priest. His labors, undertaken
on his part with zeal and energy, have been of great profit to
those who, at different periods, were committed to his pastoral
care, and now that he has been taken from us by his Divine
Master, " His memory is in benediction."
LUCIAN GALTIER, the subject of the present notice, was born
in France, Department of Ardeches, A. D. 1811. From an
early age, he looked forward to the priesthood as his vocation,
and was a student of theology in the seminary of his native
diocese, when Bishop LORAS, the then newly appointed prelate
of Dubuque, arrived in Europe, in quest of laborers for the
immense region confided to his spiritual charge. The mission-
aries whom the bishop persuaded to follow him to the wilds of
Western America, were Rev. Jos. CRETIN, afterwards first
bishop of St. Paul, Rev. Jos. PELLAMOURGUES, now vicar-gen-
eral of Dubuque, Rev. A. RAVOUX, now vicar-general of St.
Paul, Rev. Messrs. CAUSSE and PETIOT, who have since returned
to France, and Rev. L. GALTIER. The party landed in New
York in the fall of 1838. Messrs. GALTIER, RAVOUX, CAUSSE
and PETIOT, who had not yet completed their studies, pro-
ceeded to Emmitsburg College, Md., where they remained
about a year. They were ordained in Dubuque, Jan. 5th, 1840,
being the first Catholic priests ever ordained on the north-
western side of the Mississippi River.
The Diocese of Dubuque comprised what was then the Ter-
ritory of Iowa, the present State of Iowa, and as much of
Minnesota as lies to the west of the Mississippi. The east
side, though under the direct jurisdiction of the Bishop of Mil-
waukee, was, however, generally attended to by Dubuque
priests, who, geographically, were in closer proximity than
those of other dioceses. Apart from the voyages of the Jesuit
Fathers, 200 and 150 years ago, the commencement of Catho-
licity in Minnesota dates from the year 1839. No doubt there
had been, previously, Catholics in Minnesota, among the sol-
224 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS.
diers of the Fort and the traders ; but up to that year they had
h.ad no church organization, no attendance from a clergyman.
In the summer of 1839, Bishop LORAS arrived at Fort Snel-
ling, in company with Father PELLAMOURGUES, to see what
could be done, if anything, for Catholicity in that portion of
his Diocese. They remained some time, partly at the Fort,
partly at the St. Peter's trading post, (Mendota), and before
leaving promised the soldiers and the employees of the Ameri-
can Fur Company, who professed the Catholic religion, that
they soon would have a priest permanently located among
them. Those were not days of frequent steamboat trips ; so
the Bishop was obliged, when returning to Dubuque, to con-
fide himself to a little Indian canoe. The first night after
leaving the Fort, he rested on the river bank beneath Day-
ton's Bluff, and often afterwards he spoke of the sore blisters,
which the unusual labor of rowing inflicted on his hands.
One day in the spring of 1840, Bishop LORAS heard the
whistle of the first boat from St. Louis, nearing the wharf of
Dubuque. He was told it was bound to Fort Snelling. He
remembered his promise to send there a priest ; he called on
Father GALTIER, who, since the time of his ordination, had re-
sided at the cathedral. In an hour the latter was ready and
on board the boat. We cannot relate better the facts that
followed, than by copying a letter, which Father GALTIER him-
self wrote, some three years ago, to Bishop GRACE, of St. Paul,
who had requested of him an account of his mission in Minne-
" PRAIRIE-DU-CHIEN, January 14, 1864.
u RT. REV. BISHOP : Your favor of the 4th inst., I received
this week. To comply with your wishes, I will try to give
3 r ou, in a few lines, an imperfect sketch of my short stay, in
what was then mostly Indian ground, and now is the most con-
spicuous and most promising part of your flourishing Diocese.
" On the 26th day of April, 1840, in the afternoon, a St.
Louis steamboat, the first of the season, arrived at Dubuque,
bound for St. Peter (Mendota) and Ft. Snelling. Rt. Rev. Dr.
LORAS immediately came to me, and told me he desired to send
me towards the upper waters of the Mississippi. There
was no St. Pau) at the time ; there was, on the site of the
MEMOIR OF REV. LUCIAN GALTIER. 225
present city, but a single log-house, occupied by a man named
PHELAN, and steamboats never stopped there.
k ' The boat landed at the foot of Fort Snelling, then gar-
risoned by a few companies of Regular soldiers under command
of Major PLYMPTON. The sight of the Fort, commanding from
the elevated promontory the two rivers, the Mississippi and
the St. Peter, (Minnesota,) pleased me ; but the discovery,
which I soon made, that there were only a few houses on the
St. Peter side, and but two on the side of the Fort, surrounded
by a complete wilderness, and without any signs of fields under
tillage, gave me to understand that my mission and life must
henceforth be a career of privation, hard trials and suffering,
and required of me patience, labor and resignation. I had
before me a large territory under my charge, but few souls to
watch over. I introduced myself to Mr. CAMPBELL, a Scotch gen-
tleman, the Indian Interpreter, to whom I was recommended by
the bishop. At his house I received a kind welcome from his
good wife, a charitable catholic woman. For about a month
I remained there as one of the family. But, although well
treated by all the members of the house, I did not, while thus
living, feel sufficiently free to discharge my pastoral duties ; so
I obtained a separate room for my own use, and made of it a
kitchen, a parlor and a chapel. Out of some boards I formed
a little altar, which was opened out in time of service, and
during the balance of the day folded up and concealed by
" In that precarious and somewhat difficult condition, I con-
tinued for over a year. On the Fort Snelling side, I had un-
der my care, besides some soldiers, six families, RESCHE,
PAPIN, QOINN, CAMPBELL, BRUCE and RESICKO, and on the St.
Peter side, besides some unmarried men in the employ of the
company, five families, FARIBAULT, MARTIN, LORD, and two
TURPINS. No event worth noticing occurred, except some
threatening alarms given by the Chippewas to the Dakotas.
During that year, too, in the month of August, I returned sick
from a visit I had made to a few families settled in the vicinity
of Lake St. Croix. Prostrated by bilious fever and ague, at
the military hospital, for nearly two months, I could not have
recovered, were it not for the skill of Dr. TURNER, and the con-
226 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS.
tinued and kind attentions of his good lady. My grateful
heart will never forget the relief I experienced at their hands.
Both the officers and soldiers also showed me great respect and
affection, and twice, some time after, although they had their
chaplain, I had occasion to preach and offer the Holy Sacrifice
in the Fort. What most grieved me, while sick, was the
thought that no fellow priest was nearer than three hundred
miles to me ; but most unexpectedly, God, in his mercy, sent
me one, whose visit seemed to me as that of an angel. Rt.
Rev. Dr. DE FORBIN JANSON, ex-Bishop of Nancy, France, was
then visiting the Northwest ; he arrived at the Fort, and hear-
ing that I was sick, alighted immediately from the boat, re-
ceived my confession, and spoke to me words of consolation
and comfort. This was in August, 1840.
" A circumstance, rather sad in itself, commenced to better
my situation, by procuring for me a new station and a variety
in my scenes of labor. Some families, most of whom had left
the Red River settlement, British America, on account of the
flood and the loss of their crops, in the years 1837 and 1838,
had located themselves all along the right bank of the Missis-
sippi, opposite the Fort. Unfortunately some soldiers, now
and then, crossed the river to the houses of these settlers, and
returned intoxicated, sometimes remaining out a day or two,
or more without reporting to their quarters. Consequently, a
deputy-marshal from Prairie-du-Chien, was charged to remove
the houses. He went to work, assisted by soldiers, and un-
roofed, one after another, the cottages, extending about five
miles along the river. The settlers were forced to look for
new homes ; they located themselves about two miles below
the cave. Already a few parties had opened farms in this
vicinity ; added to these, the new accessions formed quite a
little settlement. Among the occupants of this ground were
RONDEAU, who had purchased the only cultivated claim in the
place that of PHEL AN, VITAL GUERIN, PIERRE BOTTINEAU, GER-
VAIS and his brother, &c., &c. I deemed it my duty to visit
occasionally those families, and set to work to choose a suit-
able spot for a church.
" Three points were offered. The first was La Pointe Basse
or Pointe Leclair (now, on account of a sand bar in its vicinity,
MEMOIR OF REV. LUCIAN GALTIER. 227
commonly known as Pig's Eye bar.) I objected to this place ;
it was the extreme end of the settlement, and, being low
ground, was exposed in high water to inundation. The idea
of having the church one day swept down to St. Louis did not
please me. Two and a half miles further up, on his claim, a
Catholic, named CHARLES MOUSSEAU, offered to me an acre of
his ground ; but neither did this place suit my purpose. I was,
indeed, looking ahead, to the future as well as to the present
time. Steamboats could not stop here ; the bank was too
steep, and the space on the summit too narrow ; communica-
tion would be difficult with the places of the other settlers up
and down the river. After mature reflection, I resolved to put
up the church as near as possible to the Cave, it being more
convenient, on my way from St. Peter, to cross the river at
that point, and that being the nearest spot to the head of
navigation, outside the reservation line.
" Messrs. B. GERVAIS and VITAL GUERIN, two good, quiet
farmers, owned the only ground that appeared likely to suit.
They both consented to give sufficient land for a church, a
garden, and a small grave-yard. I accepted the extreme east-
ern part of Mr. VITAL'S claim, and the extreme west of Mr.
" In the month of October, 1841, I had, on the above stated
place, logs cut and prepared, and soon a poor log church, that
would remind one of the stable of Bethlehem, was built. The
nucleus of St. Paul was formed. On Nov. 1st, 1841, 1 blessed
the new Basilica, smaller indeed than the Basilica of St. Paul,
in Rome, but as well adapted as the latter for prayer and love
to arise therein from pious hearts.
" The church was thus dedicated to St. Paul, and I expressed
a wish that the settlement should be known by no other name.
I succeeded. I had, previously to this time, fixed my residence
at St. Peter, and as the name of PAUL is generally connected
with that of PETER, and the gentiles being well represented in
the new place in the persons of the Indians, I called it St.
Paul. Thenceforth we could consider St. PAUL our protector
and as a model of apostolic life, could I have desired a bet-
ter patron ? With the great apostle I could repeat : ' When I
228 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS.
am weak, then I am powerful,' a good motto, I am sure, even
for an apostolic bishop.
"*The name, St. Paul, applied to a town or city, seemed
appropriate. The monosyllable is short, sounds well, and is
understood by all denominations of Christians. When Mr.
VITAL GUERIN was married, I published the banns as being
those of ' a resident of St. Paul.' A Mr. JACKSON put up a
store, and a grocery was opened at the foot of the GERVAIS
claim. This soon brought steamboats to land there. Thence-
forth the place was known as St. Paul Landing, and later on,
as St. Paul. When some time ago an effort was made to
change the name, I did all I could to oppose the project, by
writing from Prairie du Chien.
" The families which I have mentioned as being on the Fort
side, at the time of my arrival there, had afterwards to leave ;
only two remained. I could not do much good, by continuing
to reside there. The St. Peter Trading Post was tjie only
ground left me. I removed ..thither, determined to remain
steadfast as a rock. Mr. FARIBAULT, the oldest pioneer of the
place, a true gentleman, offered me a small house which I
accepted ; it was repaired, and I made of it my chapel, con-
tented to reside in a small corner of it, until more favorable
circumstances. I visited St. Paul regularly and occasionally
St. Croix Settlement, then called Willow River, and now, if I
am not mistaken, Hudson. In 1842, June 5th, Bishop LORAS
gave confirmation to a few persons. During a short absence
of mine, Father RAVOUX being at St. Peter, an accident threat-
ened his life. One night while soundly sleeping in my little
room, he was suddenly aroused by a tremendous cracking of
the main beam, that supported the whole roof. Fortunately
he was not hurt ; calling for help, he removed every thing to the
house of Mr. FARIBAULT. Once more we had to make a mere
room a temporary place for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Hearing of the accident, I left St. Paul, went to St. Peter, and
at once took means to go to Chippewa Falls, in order to get
the lumber needed for a new building. On, my return, I put
men to work, and on the 2d day of Oct., 1842, I blessed the
first church of St. Peter. From that time, up to the day of
my removal, nothing deserving of notice happened, save the
MEMOIR OF REV. LUCIAN GALTIER. 229
passage of the venerable Bishop of St. Boniface, Mgr. PRO-
VENCHER who for the first time, but not without much danger,
went, via St. Paul and the U. S. to Canada, a new route hitherto
unknown. On the 29th of Oct., the little bell of St. Peter's
chapel was blessed. On the 25th of May, 1844, 1 was leaving
to better hands the yet barren field of my first mission, not
without feeling deep regret not without leaving friends behind
u LUCIAN GALTIER."
In relation to the buildings, spoken of in the above letter,
we will state that Mr. CAMPBELL'S house is still standing, it
being one of the stone houses outside the enclosure of the
Fort. The church in St. Peter, or Mendota, is also yet stand-
ing. The one in St. Paul was taken down some years ago ;
the logs are secure, and it is the intention to have them put
together, as they formerly were, and thus have the old church
preserved. This church fronted on Bench street, and was
built on one of the lots of what is now called the Catholic
Block. This Block is nothing else but the ground formerly
occupied by Father GALTIER.
From the Cathedral registers we learn that the number of
baptisms performed by Father GALTIER, while in the North-
west, were as follows : In 1840, 40; in 1841, 35; in 1842,
35 ; in 1843, 27. His flock was small, but dispersed as they
were, themselves strangers to material comfort, it required no
small degree of courage and self-denial in a clergyman to labor
Father GALTIER, on his removal from the north, was placed
in charge of the missions at Keokuk, Iowa. In 1848 he returned
to 'France, intending to spend there the remainder of his life.
He had been strongly pressed to take charge of the French
congregation of the Cathedral at St. Louis, but refused. After
some time spent in Europe, he again longed for the missionary
life of an American priest, and again crossed the Atlantic.
On his return, he was placed at Prairie du Chien, where he
remained until his death, Feb. 21st, 1866.
He visited St. Paul in 1853, and in 1865, and thus had
opportunities of seeing what his little chapel of St. Paul had
230 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS.
come to. Even if he did have the future in view, when he was
selecting the site of that church, we may feel sure in asserting
that he never, in his most sanguine dreams, fancied that the
settlement would become what it is, and what it is destined to
be. He loved our city and our State dearly ; nothing in his
old age used to afford him more pleasure than to meet with
persons from St. Paul, and to enquire of them how our city
was progressing. St. Paul, we are glad to say, remembers
him ; his friends take an especial pride in the fact that his
death was noticed in the proceedings of the Historical Society,
and that, not many months ago, the City Council bestowed his
name on one of the streets of St. Paul.
June 10, 1867.
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