University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Notre Dame: Foundations, 1842-1857 / by John Theodore Wack

Appendix I
The Date of the Foundation of
Notre Dame du Lac

Although relatively unessential to the course of events in the history of the University of Notre Dame, the exact date of Sorin's arrival at the lakes and lands of Notre Dame du Lac has some meaning for the historical celebrations of the foundation of the school. The earliest source, a letter of Sorin to Father Moreau, written shortly after the arrival of Sorin at Notre Dame states that they arrived at South Bend "on the eleventh day after our departure."{1} This means that the date of arrival was the 27th of November, 1842, since all sources indicate the day of departure to have been November 16. However, only one other source indicates that the date of arrival was November 27, but this is a most emphatic one: a note in the Scholastic for 1892-1893 states bluntly (and with no reason given for its presence there in the magazine) "Nov. 27, 1842, is the exact date of the Founding of Notre Dame."{2} Sorin, of course, was then still alive and in residence at Notre Dame.

November 27, however, is not the date given by Sorin in other years. In the first part of his "Chronicles," probably written around 1848, Sorin maintained that the party left St. Peter's farm on the 16th of November and arrived at the Lakes on November 26, 1842. In 1871, in an early issue of the Scholastic, Sorin himself told the story of his arrival at Notre Dame, claiming that he reached South Bend late in the afternoon of November 26. He went immediately to Notre Dame, toured the lakes, walking through the snow, and then returned to the home of Alexis Coquillard to spend the night. On the next day, he returned to the Lakes to begin his work.{4}

This would seem to be the source of the later controversy, for most likely he first visited the site of his future college on the 26th and took actual possession on the 27th. In his letter to Moreau on December 5, Sorin may have miscounted the days of the journey as he did in his "Chronicles," or, as Father Hope has indicated, he may have numbered the days of the journey to include November 16 as the first day, thus the 26th would have been the eleventh day.{5} Nevertheless, neither date can be established as the exact date of the foundation of the University with any high degree of accuracy. November 26 is the date usually given for the foundation of the college and it will serve.

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