University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Notre Dame -- One Hundred Years / by Arthur J. Hope, C.S.C.

Chapter X

THE SCHOLASTIC YEAR, later called briefly The Notre Dame Scholastic, was inaugurated in September, 1867. Although the character of the magazine has changed over the years, it still is, as it was in those first days, a valuable source of information for anyone who wishes to know the chronicle of events at Notre Dame. From its contents, we surmise that Father Sorin was delighted, with the Scholastic Year. It contained well-written essays, somewhat pompous and florid; discreet accounts of recreational activities; delineations of progress at the University; and, best of all, little anecdotes about the students. Through its pages, Father Sorin felt that the parents of the students would be fitly impressed. At his suggestion, each issue contained the names of new students and the exact date of their arrival so that parents might ascertain "whether their sons had been loitering on their way to school."[1]

The Scholastic Year was not the first of such journals. Neal Gillespie, in a letter to his mother on May 25, 1860,[2] wrote that a "paper" had been started by the Seniors. They called it The Progress. It was a manuscript document of thirty or forty pages "on various entertaining subjects." The students gathered in the large study hall on Saturday nights, and listened to one of their number read the pages to them. Previous to this, The Notre Dame Literary Gazette had been passed around for perusal. The Progress came to an end in 1863 when Father Gillespie went to study in France. Also The Olympic Gazette and The Weekly Bee made fitful appearances on the campus. The return of Father Gillespie in 1867 renewed interest in a campus magazine, and with the encouragement of Father Corby and Father Lemonnier, The Scholastic Year was begun.

From its pages we learn how, early in September, 1867, with his own hands Father Sorin carted a tremendous basket of peaches into the Minims' study hall. Wide-eyed with astonishment and hunger, the boys could hardly restrain themselves. This was a present for his "charming little princes," as he called them. We know, too, that Master Page, from Milwaukee, returned to Notre Dame that month, with "a magnificent live bald eagle," for which the students built a large cage, ten feet high, and into which they shooed the noble bird. It was a sad-looking eagle when the rains came. Someone let it out during November. When, in the following spring, a farmer boy at Sumption Prairie shot an eagle and sent it to the University Museum, some said it was surely Master Page's prized possession.[3]

The installation of the huge bell, weighing 14,000 pounds, and imported from the Bollé foundry in France, caused considerable excitement. It was mounted on a scaffold and boxed in such a manner that four men, two on each side, by pumping with their feet, set the bell in motion so that the great clapper struck while the bell was in "full flight." Among the students there was great rivalry as to which group could produce the best tone. A temporary structure was erected just in front of the church to house the bell. Its deep and mellow bourdon could be heard for miles. Today it hangs in the church tower.

Father Auguste Lemonnier, Vice-President of the University, suggested in 1868 that the organization of the Notre Dame alumni would serve some useful purpose. Not much time was wasted in following out the suggestion. Notre Dame's first graduate Father Neal Gillespie, was elected the first president and Francis Bigelow, vice-president. The Notre Dame catalogue for 1872-73 notes that the following may be considered members of the Alumni Association: all graduates, the President and the Vice-President of the University, all holding honorary degrees from Notre Dame, and all permanently connected with the institution as professors.

During the first years of its existence the Notre Dame Alumni Association undertook to produce a memorial for the silver jubilee of the University, a volume giving a brief history of the University and short sketches of some of the professors and graduates. The work was largely in the hands of Professor Joseph Lyons, (Class of '62). The book was published in 1869.

About this same period Catholics throughout the world were aroused by the depredations committed against the Papal States by Garibaldi and the House of Savoy. Time has somewhat softened the feelings of the Pope's loyal adherents, especially since the Lateran Treaty. But in 1868 Catholics throughout the world wanted to take up arms against the aggressors. The students at Notre Dame were no exception. Actually Papal Brigades were formed on the campus and a great deal of enthusiasm was displayed.[4] How they might cross the ocean and make contact with the enemy was a problem someone else had to settle. In the midst of these preparations, word was received by Father Sorin from Archbishop Martin Spalding of Baltimore that Rome was in greater need of funds than it was of American soldiers.

By the advice of Father Sorin, therefore, the students gave up the thought of soldiering for the Pope, and confined their activity to contributions to the Papal coffers. More than once, during the next few years, the students at Notre Dame received from Rome the expressions of the Holy Father's gratitude.

In the spring of 1868 a general chapter of the Congregation of Holy Cross was held in Rome. Father Sorin was elected Superior-General of the Congregation. Father Granger was named Provincial of Indiana. By virtue of his office, the care of the entire community throughout the world fell on Father Sorin's shoulders. This necessitated frequent comings and goings between Europe and America. Between 1841 and the time of his death in 1893, the founder of Notre Dame made over fifty ocean voyages.

As Superior-General, Father Sorin was regarded with more awe, if possible, than was previously the case. Father Sorin's sense of dignity was almost majestic. He seldom laughed, although he would smile kindly in conversation. Perpetually serious, he bore his great responsibilities with an air of grave confidence. When he was seen about the campus, his mighty frame moving with measured stride, his gigantic head and flashing black eyes on the alert for some irregularity, both students and faculty straightened up. To the students, his word of correction was suave but firm. To the faculty, his word was not so suave. Even though he was no longer President, nor even Provincial, everyone at Notre Dame knew who was master. He was regarded with reverential fear. None but the tiny Minims ever approached him with anything like exuberance. And toward them, he was surprisingly tender.

October 13th, the feast of St. Edward, was annually celebrated at Notre Dame with great éclat. Father Sorin had long since decided that if the students insisted on showing the Founder some particular honor, let them choose his saint's day. On these occasions there were stiff addresses from the Seniors, the Juniors, and the Minims; there was a dramatic performance; the band and the orchestra dispensed "sweet music." In his response, Father Sorin was gracious and appreciative. Year by year, the Scholastic records the programs prepared for the occasion. Today we cannot comment on their worth. Probably some of them were quite excellent. But all of them were so lengthy as to be formidable. Father Sorin was able to endure them only by reflecting on how much time and enthusiasm the students had expended in preparation for the event. For their effort, the youngsters were handsomely repaid in the dining-halls.

There were times, however, when Sorin, proud as he was of his students, was exasperated by their poor showing. On one occasion he sent the following note to the one in charge of the "exhibitions":

There were times when the students dropped all their awe of Father Sorin. For example, when, in October, 1868, Father Sorin was leaving for France, "the students" took this occasion "to manifest their good will and respect . . . in the form of a public ovation. He was met on the threshold of the main building, by the three departments in a body, the Notre Dame University Cornet Band opening with one of their most harmonious and soul-stirring airs. An address, read by Mr. James Cunnea, expressed the good feeling of the whole student body towards Very Rev. Father Sorin, with sincere wishes for his prosperous voyage and speedy and safe return.

"The honored recipient of these compliments replied in his gracious and fatherly style, manifesting both in choice of words and expression his well known power of winning the hearts of all those with whom he comes in contact. The Band leading the way, and the students forming an escort of honor, the Very Rev. Father General then proceeded in his carriage to the railroad depot from which he was to start."[7]

Such attentiveness was not forgotten. In France, Father Sorin's mind was on the campus. Out walking one day, he beheld a man astride a two-wheeled contraption. "What is it?" he asked his companion. "It's a new invention! The latest thing! A velocipede!" Sorin's first reaction was: "I must have one for Notre Dame!" On December 10, 1868, he writes to the students:

By mid-January, 1869, the machine had arrived. It was a source of great entertainment, particularly to onlookers. The machine was all iron except the leather "saddle." The pedals were attached to the front axle and the rider sat almost over them. The tires resembled those of a cultivator and the spokes were three-eighths of an inch thick. There were no springs under the seat and "the rider was jolted about almost as much as he would have been had he been standing on a hay rack going over a rough road at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour." All of the students took turns, each one riding until he fell off, and such a fall generally involved a skinned shin as one's legs fell between the two wheels. The cautious, careful Father Granger watched the performance with considerable breathlessness. It was curious how many different ways there were of getting off the machine, and with each sudden descent, Father Granger nervously cried out, "Watch out! You break zumpsing!"[9]

Toward the end of the scholastic year of 1868, the University took stock of her growth. She had been in existence a quarter of a century. There had been a steady increase in enrollment. "The number of students now at the University is nearly five hundred, an annual increase since 1846 of about twenty-four students. Almost every state in the Union is represented here." Illinois led with 118; Indiana had 98.[10]

In the catalogues between 1859 and 1865, we note an increase in faculty members. In 1859 there were only 17 professors. By 1865, there were 34. As to the courses of studies, Notre Dame accepted almost anyone who applied for admission. But if an applicant had insufficient background to pursue collegiate work, he was obliged to enter a "preparatory course" of two years in which such things as Latin grammar, primary Greek, reading, arithmetic, geography, and history occupied his time. After that, came four years in the "collegiate course." It was a simple pursuit of Latin, Greek, and English rhetoric, thorough and stiff, with no trimmings, Notre Dame was not partial to the elective system, wherein a student might take what he pleased. There were indeed certain "optional studies," German, French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Painting, Drawing, and Music, which a student might take if he found time.

As to the sciences, there was plenty of mathematics in 1859. Physics and Geology appear in 1863. In this same year the University offered a two-year course in commercial studies. From a financial point of view, it was a success. For over a period of twenty years, a great majority of the "college" students enrolled in the "commercial course," and its popularity enabled the University to survive some rough periods. In 1865, under the impetus of Father Patrick Dillon, and with the able assistance of Father Joseph Carrier, a sound scientist, there appears the "Scientific Course." It differed from "Arts and Letters" only by substituting for Latin and Greek such studies as physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, botany, and additional mathematics.

There was a steady growth in the student body. In 1859 there were 218 students. In 1863, there were 386. In 1865, the total had climbed to 512. This was the year when, under the supervision of Father Dillon, it became necessary to enlarge the living quarters of the students. In a previous chapter, we have noted how efficiently Father Dillon effected this change without any loss of time on the part of the students.11[11]

What did it cost to go to Notre Dame in those days? There were always a few extras, of course, but they were largely for things that a student could do without if he so desired. In 1859, the basic charge, including board, bed and tuition, laundry, mending, and doctor's care, was $270 a year. In 1862 it was $320. The following year it was $400. There is a sudden drop in 1864 -- the rate was only $230. In 1865 it climbed back a bit, to $245. This seeming inconstancy took place during the Civil War period, when paper money fluctuated in value. After the cooling off period, Notre Dame's tuition was for many decades a flat $300 a year. There always were, and are, reductions. In 1865, the Langen boys "are to be received free in consideration of the service they can render by their musical talents."

In February, 1869, Notre Dame opened its law school. It was not a very pretentious venture, but it compared favorably with legal establishments at other universities throughout this country. It was a two-year course, and entrants were obliged to have completed a thorough course in the liberal arts. This prerequisite may sound a bit superfluous, yet in the eyes of some it seemed a very novel advance. For instance, the University Chronicle, the student paper at the University of Michigan, is agreeably surprised that Notre Dame demands of its law students some previous education, and bemoans the fact that at their own institution law students have only to prove that they are eighteen years old and present a certificate of good moral character.[12]

How many law students did Notre Dame garner for that first February term? We are unable to say. But we do know that Judge Stanfield of South Bend examined students of the legal profession at Notre Dame in June and "complimented the young men on their efficiency."[13] Like other worthy institutions of learning, Notre Dame desired its students of law to be deserving of merit. She stressed the fact that hitherto the legal profession had more than its share of shysters and pettifoggers. To raise the standards of the law, Notre Dame sought to impress her students with the intimate relation between law and religion. She boldly assailed the practice of making a lawyer out of anyone who could buy a few law books and study in a lawyer's office while running errands for his would-be mentor.

Four professors comprised the first faculty of law. In the decade between 1869-79, there were substitutions in the faculty, but names that persist throughout the period are those of Lucius Tong and Timothy Howard. The first graduates got their degrees in 1871. There were three of them. Between 1871 and 1879, Notre Dame counted only 21 graduates of the law school.

These fledgling barristers, being somewhat older than the average Notre Dame boy, were regarded with a bit of awe. From old photographs, we suspect that the "lawyers" themselves fostered the impression. With their ponderous mustaches, their tight-fitting breeches, their jaunty caps, and their careful posing in careless attitudes, one gets the impression that they thought themselves a rather important group.

All was not drudgery for the lawyers. On May 7, 1870, Professor Foote accompanied his young lawyers to Niles, ten miles distant. They had a banquet at the Reading House, and "nothing was found wanting to satisfy the lawful aspirations of the excursionists." After the fashion of the day, there were numerous toasts, and, quite properly, something to make them tolerable. After the dinner, it is said, the students visited their friends in the city. It was no riotous party, however, for they jogged back to Notre Dame and were there by seven-thirty that evening.[14]

Notre Dame's well-known and dearly beloved "Colonel" William Hoynes, who was destined, at a later date, to guide two generations of students through the intricacies of the law, was a student at Notre Dame in 1867 and 1868. Later, he attended the University of Michigan and there received his LL.B. March 27, 1872.[13] He did not join the faculty at Notre Dame until 1883, but for fifty years, Notre Dame men thought of law in terms of Hoynes. He was so genuine and devoted that, with all his military pomposity and tendency to "nimble swagger," he was a general favorite with the boys. Whenever he came into Washington Hall, the students roundly applauded him. Bowing to right and left, and waving his hat a bit in the general direction of the audience, the "Colonel" signified his thanks. That it should happen thus week after week might have made the "Colonel" suspicious. He gave no indication, however, of any displeasure. It was one of his charming little vanities. Another was his complete satisfaction with long and unusual words. For him, a cane was a "precaution against the possible incursions of unfriendly canines."

But back to the earlier days. One spring morning in 1869, Father Corby, the President, was seated at the desk in his office. In response to a knock on the door, he admitted three students. They were blushing and embarrassed. Still, they did not have quite the air of boys in trouble. "What can I do for you, gentlemen?" asked the imperturbable Father Corby. "Father, would you please step out on the portico?" asked one of the youngsters. Father Corby was a bit puzzled at this strange request. He remembered that this was the first of April, and he may have suspected some little trick. He hesitated. Then persuaded of the good intentions of his visitors, he consented.

He was amazed to find the whole student body drawn up in ranks before the college building. In the center of the group there was a strange horse, a magnificent black charger, decked out in ribbons and saddle. Bill Walker from Marysville, California, stepped forward, and made a very formal speech. Father Corby became aware that he was getting a gift-horse. There were more speeches, and at the end, the President sincerely thanked the students for their gracious act. At its conclusion, the students cheered wildly for Father Corby, the band struck up a martial air, and the horse, it is said, danced to the music. Of course, there must have been recreation for the rest of the day.[16]

To music and the fine arts, Notre Dame gave great attention. Father Sorin appreciated the feelings of parents who sent their young sons to Notre Dame. If they might return to Kokomo able to do a spot of piano-playing or a creditable bit of fiddling, their collegiate progress was definitely established in parental minds. No one, in those days, was thought to have had any "schooling" unless he could warble a few tunes and play without his music. It was a national custom, the hall-mark of respectable culture.

Maximilian Girac, LL.D., Mus.D., was a very competent musician. He first came to the campus in 1848, having left France during the Revolution of that year. He must have left the University shortly after his arrival for there is no mention of him until he reappears in 1860. That he spoke an execrable brand of English and had tantrums only added to his reputation. But during his residence at Notre Dame he gave increasing evidence of talents developed at the Paris Conservatory of Music, where he had studied under Cherubini and Auber. He found a rich field at Notre Dame. Soon afterward, came Brothers Basil and Leopold, whose musicianship was of the first order. Under Girac, bands, orchestras, choirs, already established, took on new life. The Junior department had its St. Cecilia Society; the Seniors, the Philharmonic Society. Girac wrote some masses and other sacred music. The records of those days are very flattering to the maestro. It is regrettable that Notre Dame was unable to retain his manuscripts. After his death, December 24, 1869, all his personal effects were shipped to his sister in France. Any stray scores that might have been kept were lost in the fire of 1879. Notre Dame talked about him for long years after his death.

There was Edward Lilly, too. As a little boy, visiting some cousins over at St. Mary's he saw Father Sorin for the first time. Lilly's doting grandma was present, and she informed Father Sorin that the lad was very gifted on the piano. With just a trace of annoyance the boy consented to perform. He was, indeed, extraordinarily able, playing with a finesse and accuracy that astounded the founder of Notre Dame. The lad wanted to be a priest. This combination of musical ability and clerical desire could not be overlooked by Father Sorin. He took the boy to Notre Dame, where, as he advanced in his studies, he ultimately became a priest and a professor. Unfortunately, he had miserable health and died a very young man, in 1879.

Plans for a new college church were well in hand by 1870. On the 31st of May, 1871, with six bishops present, the cornerstone of the present church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was laid. The church was ten years a-building. And in that decade the plans underwent many changes. But it turned out to be the loveliest thing on the campus. There are so many beautiful features about the church that no complete description of them will be given here. We merely note that for its decoration Father Sorin secured the services of a very creditable artist, Luigi Gregori, whom he met in Rome. The high altar, a curiously graceful object in bronze, was executed in the studio of Froc Robert in Paris. The windows were designed by the Carmelites of Le Mans, and manufactured in that city. The most pleasant thing to recall about this church is the fact that its aisles have resounded to hundreds of thousands of young feet bearing men to a Celestial Banquet. That is the dearest memory of many a Notre Dame man.

When, in 1844, the state of Indiana granted a charter to the University of Notre Dame, it had empowered the University to hold property to the extent of $30,000, exclusive of improvements. But, with the passing years, the value of property increasing, Notre Dame actually possessed land that could not be purchased for three times that amount. Accordingly, through influential parties, the University petitioned the state legislature for permission to retain, in its name, property to the value of $300,000. The bill passed the legislature, but not without some opposition.[17] That opposition arose from two sources. First, there was the rancour of those who were, and still are, set against the progress of anything Catholic. Second, a great many mistook the petition for a request for tax exemption. The University asked no exemption from taxation other than that which, by law, was granted to every educational institution. She paid then, and pays still, a large tax on most of her property.[18]

By 1871 the Alumni Association was beginning to take more definite form. Father Corby was elected president, and Timothy Howard, vice-president. The constitution was amended. The purpose of the organization, as stated in the Constitution and By-Laws, was "to preserve and strengthen the common tie that binds us to each other and Alma Mater, by means of annual reunions and literary correspondence." The initiation fee was ten dollars; thereafter, five dollars was expected from those in regular attendance at meetings. The annual meeting was to conclude with a banquet, with commemorations of absent and departed members.[19]

On September 16, 1871, the University was visited by the Hon. Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. It was an occasion of sedate celebration. A Catholic university was not often the object of such benevolence. The students were duly impressed. After a formal address, delivered by Tom O'Mahoney from Lake Forest, Illinois (which had been written hastily by Professor Howard), the honorable gentleman spoke in this vein: "Study diligently; I remember, with some regret, that I was not as devoted to my studies as I should have been!" His words caused no little skepticism on the part of his auditors.[20]

October, which ordinarily would have witnessed a celebration in honor of Father Sorin, was void of any hilarity. A great calamity had fallen upon the vicinity; Chicago had been half burned to the ground. The thought of so much distress and suffering prompted Father Sorin to forbid any celebration in his honor. Many of Notre Dame's students from Chicago were affected by the catastrophe, and Father Sorin felt that any jubilation was out of place. Instead, the program for St. Edward's Day was postponed to November 4th. On that day the students invited the general public to participate in the festivities, the proceeds of which were for the "benefit of the Chicago sufferers."[21]

Previous to 1871, nearly all the students stayed at Notre Dame during the Christmas holidays. But this year they were permitted to go home. In fact, the number of those going to Chicago and beyond was so great that the "Lake Shore" provided a special train. The President of the University went with them as far as Laporte. Thereafter, the young scamps were committed to the care of Professor Lyons and several other members of the faculty.[22]

The European custom of extending New Year's greetings to superiors and officials was strictly adhered to at Notre Dame. While Father Sorin lived, of course, he was the real superior at Notre Dame. Nearly always, he managed to be in the vicinity for such an occasion. New Year's, 1872, was no exception. Professor Ivers spoke feelingly of the progress of the University, and gave due tribute to its founder. Later on, other officials were visited and addressed in words of affection and devotion.[23] "At two o'clock P. M. of the same day, the whole Faculty sat at a banquet, presided over by Very Rev. Father Superior-General (Sorin), at which the choicest luxuries of the season were plentifully displayed."

Father Joseph Carrier was in France during 1866. Napoleon III, considering well how Notre Dame might be an outpost of French culture and power, presented Father Carrier with a fine telescope, over seven feet long, with a six inch aperture. The South Bend papers said it was worth 25,000 francs. An observatory was erected in the garden before the college building.[24] The telescope was mounted on a portable stand under a revolving roof eighteen feet in diameter.

In 1870 another telescope was procured from Solomons in Dublin. It was a smaller instrument, a little over four feet long, and mounted on a tripod. It was kept in the University Parlor.[25] Professor Arthur J. Stace introduced the young men to astronomy. Not a little of their time, if we are to judge from the numerous photographs, was spent in posing alongside the telescope. Such photographs were very welcome to the parents back home.

In 1872, all students, with the exception of ten or twelve, were American born. Of these, by far the majority (183) were of Irish extraction. 155 called themselves Americans. 75 were German; 21, French; 3, Spanish; 2, Scotch; and one each, English and Italian.[26]

It will be remembered that the faculty and students presented Father Corby with a horse in 1869. On June 7, 1872, they again manifested their affection and generosity by giving him a carriage. "It was a splendid four-seated carriage, worth four hundred and fifty ($450) dollars. The carriage is of the Studebaker manufacture and is in every respect worthy of the wide-spread reputation of that enterprising firm. . . . When all had taken their places, in order and silence, in front of the main building, Mr. J. E. Cavanaugh drove around from the rear of the building, and the Very Rev. President was invited out on the front portico." There followed three formal addresses of presentation, correct and starchy, one each from the Seniors, Juniors, and Minims. Of course Father Corby accepted the gift with his usual urbanity. At the conclusion the band struck up a tune so lively, and the boys shouted so vociferously, that J. E. Cavanaugh had a very unruly team of horses on his hands. The nags came to life immediately, and bounded away across the flower beds. It proved a bit rough for the Studebaker carriage.[27]

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