University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Brother Aidan's Extracts


(N.D.) "During years hardly a day that someone wasn't ill." 1842-47

(Infirmary . . . 1844) "Begun autumn 1844. Finished summer of 1845. Brick house 60' x 20' double etage. First occupied in part by the press. Only on return of Sorin (from France) in 1846 was it divited into regular apartments to serve as an infirmary. There are four rooms on the ground floor and four more upstairs that furnish ample room for ordinary needs of Community and college sick."

On arriving at Notre Dame the Brothers were told that the place was unhealthy. Following springs the death of Brothers Joachim and Paul proved it. That helped to place bad name as regards health. In 1845 many ill, but no deaths, but kept in bed for several months with fever.

"Society lost Brother Anselm who was drowned while bathing in the Ohio with Fr. Delaune at Madison."

Sickness and Deaths: 1847. "Brother Antoine died June 10, 1847. Sister Mary of Mt. Carmel, August 4, First Sister to die. 20 sick. At University 30 students of whom 3 externs paid in work or merchandise. One, son of Indian chief of the Miss (sic) nation baptized. Holy Saturday. 20 orphans only paid upkeep.

(July 18, 1847) "Immediately after the harvest, nearly the whole of the members of the institution were attacked with fever and ague. For three or four weeks from fifteen to twenty were ill at the same time and there were scarcely any left to take care of the sick. The apartments of the Infirmary, though spacious, became insufficient and one of the Boarders' dormitories was consequently changed into a kind of hospital. The disease spared neither superiors or inferiors, and whether we attribute it to the insalubrity of the place or to a trial or scourge of Providence, it was certainly worse here than anywhere around. The College was deprived of all its members but one during the last week of the school year, and several of the pupils were also attacked. It was indeed a sad spectacle to see two or three pale and dejected professors presiding at the distribution, and to hear it whispered through the assembly when a pupil was called upon to receive his premiums, that he was sick in bed. The annual retreat was put back to the twenty third of August in order to suit the sick, who were then beginning to recover, and nearly the whole of them though very ill, assisted at it. The disease continued its vigor for over two months though none were sick for that length of time except Father superior and Brother Catian, who were ill more or less for three months . . . Brother John, already worn out by labor, had a partial attack of the cholera that brought him to the brink of the tomb, but happily he has now recovered." SORIN CHRONICLES

"Major Chapter considered insalubrity of Notre Dame, and the remote prospect of having [no] boarders, thus leading to 'pecuniary embarrassment.'" 1847

"Brothers informed place considered unhealthy. The following spring (1844) two of them died: Joachim and Paul. Confirmed bad reputation of place in this regard. Much illness in 1845; daily fevers. (Bro. Anselm drowned at Madison, Indiana, while bathing in Ohio with Fr. Delaune.) Three deaths in 1846. Bro. John Baptist, Anthony and a postulant for the Brotherhood, Mr. Carnier lately arrived from France. All were carried away within two months. Fevers in Autumn of 1847. Same maladies epidemic elsewhere. Still number of deaths in so short a time did harm to house in eyes of public. (Sr. Mary of Mt. Carmel died in 1847) Boarders in 1847 and 1846 went home ill with fever, didn't return, and prevented others from entering." SORIN CHRONICLES

"Notre Dame was accused again of being unhealthy in the autumn of 1846 when death took Brother John the Baptist, October 13, and Brother Anthony, January 10, 1847. The autumn of that year many fell sick, but no deaths. Illness at this time was prevalent throughout the region and it would be hard to prove that Notre Dame was the focus. Nevertheless these deaths within so short a period did considerable harm to the house -- among the public. In 1846-7 a fair number of boarders went home with fever and not only did not return but prevented others from coming. In 1848 for this reason vacation began a month earlier than usual. And thus was avoided the sad experience of 1846 and 1847. For six years hardly a day without illness. No doubt the place is unhealthy." SORIN CHRONICLES

"Rev. Father Vagnier agrees to take upon himself the office of Prefect of Health for the Community." LOCAL COUNCIL, Sept. 24, 1866

‹— Brother Aidan's Extracts —›