Historical Notes on the Work of the Catholic Church in Idaho

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As the Catholic Church has ever been the pioneer in civilization, so that we find her name linked with the early history of all lands, so, too, is it true of Idaho. Long before the coming of the first settlers to our present “Gem of the Mountains,” we find the faithful Catholic priest, laboring not for earth’s golden treasures nor ambition’s honored guerdons, but for the upbuilding of that grand edifice whose comer-stone is Christ, for the elevating and saving of souls who, without the ministration of the “Anointed of the Lord,” would never have been drawn from the darkness of semi-barbarism into the bright light of Christian faith. It is fitting, then, that in a history of the state of Idaho the work of the Catholic church be not omitted: so with no apology to the reader of the present volume the author presents the following data carefully gathered from many sources, in the hope that by his feeble pen the work of so many of earth’s noble men may be preserved to future generations as an incentive to devoted labor on the part of their followers, not less than as a means of spreading a knowledge of the Catholic Church the mother of Christian churches and the fountain-head of so much that is good and true in history, art, science, and civilization.

The Catholic missionary to whom belongs the honor of having held the first ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the territory now comprising the state of Idaho was the Most Rev. F. N. Blanchet, archbishop of Oregon, who, in 1838, in company of Rev. Modest Demers, was sent out to the Pacific coast by Archbishop Signay, of Quebec, to minister to the Catholics, chiefly French Cana-dians, in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and to establish missions among the Indian tribes. When, in 1846, the Pope erected the see of Walla Walla, what is now Idaho became part of the jurisdiction of that new see’s incumbent, the Rt. Rev. Magloire A. Blanchet, the Archbishop’s brother.

However, the first missionary work of the Catholic church in Idaho was not done by these men, but by the famous Indian missionary, Father De Smet, who, whilst on his way from St. Mary’s mission, in Montana, to Vancouver, in the spring of 1842, met the Coeur d’Alene Indians on the spot now occupied by Fort Sherman. These Indians had heard of the arrival of the “Black Robes” among the Flatheads; and wishing to be equally privileged they asked the Father to remain with them, to teach them all about “Our Maker,” as they called God in their language, and all about the future rewards and punishments of which they had heard. Not being able to comply with their request for a longer time than three days, he improved the opportunity by teaching the principal prayers and dogmas of the church in a manner of his own conception that was very ingenious. With the aid of an interpreter he translated into the Indian language spoken by the Coeur d’Alenes the sign of the cross, the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary,” the Apostles” Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition. The translation being completed, he made all the younger members of the tribe stand in a circle around him, demanding that they should always take the same places when meeting for prayer and instruction: then he entrusted to the memory of each but one sentence of the prayers, so that the knowledge he desired to impart would be divided among them all. Frequent repetition by each in turn of what he had memorized secured to all in a few days the knowledge of the prayers in their entirety. In fact, on his return trip the zealous missionary had the pleasure of ascertaining that a large portion of the members of the tribe knew the prayers by heart. This induced him to send missionaries, and in the fall of the same year Father Nicholas Point and Brother Charles Huet left the Flathead mission in Montana under the escort of a deputation of

Coeur d’Alenes who had gone there for the purpose of bringing the promised “Black Robes” to their territory. Father Point and Brother Huet selected for their first establishment a site on the south fork of the Coeur d’Alene River and placed it under the patronage of St. Joseph. St. Joe River owes its name to that first Catholic mission. Two years later the venerable Father Joset, who, after ministerial labors covering more than half a century, still lives among the Indians, joined himself to the first missionary. About this time, the fall of 1844, Father De Smet converted and baptized a number of Kootenai Indians, and in the spring of 1845 about a dozen of the Nez Percé tribe, mostly chiefs, begged .to be instructed in the Catholic faith. As the Nez Percé language differed from that of the Coeur d’Alenes, which the Fathers had already succeeded in learning, they had to have recourse to a Coeur d’Alene Indian, who himself spoke the Nez Percé but indifferently to act as interpreter. With his aid and that of signs they succeeded in converting a few of the Indians who had come to the mission. They came again in 1846, and one of their number, an old chief, was baptized at a time that his life was despaired of on account of a serious illness. He recovered, however, and lived to save the life of Mr. Spaulding’s family by giving them shelter in his own house during the turbulent times which followed upon the murder of Dr. Whitman.

The same year the mission on the banks of the St. Joe River was abandoned, because the site, although an ideal one in the fall, was every year flooded by the spring freshets and consequently rendered unsuitable for the agricultural pursuits upon which the Fathers depended so much to civilize their Indian neophytes.

The location of the second Catholic mission in Idaho was on the banks of the Coeur d’Alene river, at a point now known as Old Mission or Cataldo. It was there that in 1853 was begun by Fathers Gazzoli and Ravalli, who had assumed charge of the mission two years previously, the building of the first Catholic Church erected in Idaho. That structure still stands, a silent witness to the zeal and energy of the Jesuit Fathers, about sixteen miles from the Coeur d’Alene lake, where the steamboats make their upper landing. Father Ravalli drew the plans for the imposing structure which the Indians, under his direction and that of Brother Magri, executed. The magnitude of the task undertaken by the Fathers and the untutored savages may partly be realized when one reflects that they had at their disposal none of the tools and conveniences for building which are considered indispensable in civilized communities. They manufactured trucks, harnessed themselves to them, and brought down the timbers, rocks, etc., to the spot selected. They had no nails, so they turned out wooden substitutes which to this day hold the different parts of the building together. The red men of the forest received no pay and asked none; but worked solely for the honor and glory of God. Not to be allowed to work on the building was considered severe punishment, which was some-times inflicted for disobedience to orders, to the great humiliation of the culprit.

That the Jesuits did not always have smooth sailing with their Indian converts is evidenced by the war made upon the government troops in 1858, in which the Coeur d’Alenes, in spite of the efforts made by Father Joset to dissuade them, took an active part. In consequence of this rebellion the Fathers resolved to abandon the mission; but General Clarke, commander of the Department of the Columbia, and Colonel Wright, who had led the expedition against the Coeur d’Alenes and other tribes and had defeated them, urged the missionaries to stay at their post, saying: “These Coeur d’Alene Indians will yet become good.” Their present condition fully verifies that prophecy.

Because of a decision of the department of the interior which left the mission ground outside of the Indian reservation, and because the rush of miners into the Coeur d’Alene mining district brought the Indians in too close a contact with the whites, whose association has always been a source of evil to them, the Coeur d’Alene mission was removed in 1878 to the spot now known as De Smet mission. De Smet mission is situated in the midst of a rich agricultural district about ten miles from Tekoa, Washington. Any one desirous of convincing himself of the success of the Jesuits in civilizing and Christianizing the Coeur d’Alenes has but to pay a visit to that mission and to the reservation of which it is the center. The neat farm houses, the well tilled fields, the general appearance of prosperity visible every-where, show that the savages whose excessive cruelty distinguished them among the neighboring tribes and won for them the title indicative of their character, that of Coeur d’Alenes ‘Hearts of Awls” are now peaceable and thrifty farmers, a credit to their teachers and pastors.

The first Catholic priests appointed to minister to the spiritual wants of the white settlers whom; the discovery of gold was daily leading to the placer diggings of southern Idaho were the Reverend Fathers T. Mesplié and A. Z. Poulin, who were sent from Portland to Boise basin, by Arch-bishop F. N. Blanchet, in the summer of 1863, less than a year after the arrival of the first miners. Fathers Mesplié and Poulin were well qualified for work amidst the mountain wilds and in the rather chaotic state of society in which a rough and depraved element abounded. Both were gentlemen of culture, well educated and very anxious to build up the church in the district assigned to them; they were also of good physique, strong, hardy, and capable of bearing un-flinchingly in their travels from place to place, to attend sick calls or afford the scattered Catholic miners an opportunity of performing their religious duties the many sufferings consequent upon the severe Idaho climate. Broad and liberal in their views, they were not long in gaining the good will of the sturdy miners who had come from all points of the compass, bringing with them the virtues and vices of their respective nationalities, all having but one common aim the amassing of gold; all courageous and adventurous, incapable of quailing before discouragement, and prepared to encounter any disaster; many of them rough and uncouth, perhaps, but invariably generous and without religious prejudice, ready to patronize charity at all times, and doing it without stint. Thanks to the unbounded charity of the people among whom they had come to labor. Fathers Mesplié and Poulin were able within the short period of six months to erect four churches, St. Joseph’s, at Idaho City (then called Bannock); St. Thomas’, at Placerville; St. Dominic’s, at Centerville, and St. Francis’, at Pioneer City. They were all small frame buildings, it is true, yet, with lumber at one hundred dollars per thousand feet and carpenter’s wages six dollars a day, the task to raise the money for these structures could not have been altogether a sinecure, even considering the miners’ promptness in answering to the priests’ call for assistance. The Idaho City church, built on East Hill, above Bannock Bar, was the largest of the four and the first to be completed; it cost between three and four thousand dollars. “Every man, woman and child almost, in and around Idaho City,” says Elliot’s History of Idaho, “contributed, more than willingly, more or less to-wards this sacred object.” The other churches were of smaller dimensions, but large enough to accommodate the congregations of the respective communities wherein they had been built. Services were held in all of them on Christmas, 1863. Father Mesplié celebrated midnight mass at St. Thomas’, Placerville, whence he proceeded to Pioneer to offer up the second mass, and thence to Centerville, where he Celebrated the third; Father Poulin offered up the customary Christmas masses, including midnight mass, at St. Joseph’s, Idaho City. As the Catholic churches were at that time the only ones in the Boise basin we need not be surprised to read in the news-paper accounts of that first Christmas in Idaho, that they were filled to overflowing; for it was but natural that the services should be attended not only by Catholics, but also by many non-Catholics, desirous of paying on that day of all days their worshipful homage to the God made man for their salvation. The Catholic miners of those early days and their fellow citizens generally throughout the Basin were proud of the Catholic church edifices that had been reared in their midst, as they visibly attested, when in May, 1865, Idaho City was almost totally wiped out by fire; for, through the efforts of hundreds of willing hands, St. Joseph’s church was saved from the fury of the flames, although all the other buildings around it were destroyed. Immediately after the conflagration Father Poulin, mindful of the great law of charity, opened the structure to the inmates of the county hospital, which the flames had not spared. This action of the Catholic priest won for him the gratitude of the entire community, which, after that, showed itself more generous than ever in responding to the appeals he made for carrying on his work among them.

The second great fire of Idaho City, on the 17th of May 1867, did not spare St. Joseph’s as the first had done, although on this occasion, also, great exertions were made by bands of intrepid and devoted men to save the edifice. The church and structures connected with it were valued at ten thousand dollars and only one thousand five hundred dollars’ worth of property was saved. Nothing daunted by their ill fortune, Fathers Mesplié and Poulin went resolutely to work on the building of a new house of worship; for not more than two months later the Idaho World had the following paragraph: “Prominent among the frame edifices in Idaho City is the new Catholic chapel, upon the site of the church destroyed by the May fire, on East Hill. It is not quite completed, but it already presents the finest appearance of any building in the city, and is a credit to the place, to its architects and builders altogether.”

In the territorial legislature of 1867 some members of the church, with more zeal than discretion, had a bill passed appropriating thirty thousand dollars of territorial money for the erection of Catholic schools. The bill provided for the issue of territorial bonds to the amount of thirty thousand dollars, drawn in favor of F. N. Blanchet, archbishop of Oregon, bearing interest at the rate of ten per cent, per annum, and redeemable out of funds accruing out of the sale of the thirty-sixth section of school lands. Governor Ballard vetoed it and his veto was sustained by the council and house. The ostensible object of the framers of the bill was to assist the Sisters of the Holy Name, who were conducting successful educational institutions in Oregon, in establishing schools in the Boise basin, whence the support for the measure principally came. The governor in vetoing it rendered a real service to the church: for its real object was a political one, namely, to secure for the party that fathered it the support of the Catholic voters. For the small benefit the Sisters would have derived’ from it, the church would have had to bear for years the odium of having been supported from the public funds. I hardly think that the Sisters were disappointed because the bill failed of becoming a law; for in August of the same year two of them came overland from Portland to Idaho, accompanied by Father I. T. Malo to select a suitable place for the establishment of an academy. The citizens of Idaho City offering the greatest inducements, it was decided to locate the school there. It was opened January 2, 1868, under the most favorable circumstances; but the encouraging prospects of the first year did not last; for in 1869 there was a great exodus of miners from the Basin and the school failing to receive the necessary support, the Sisters gave it up in June of that year. Bishop Lootens, who had been in charge of the ecclesiastical affairs of the then territory of Idaho since February, 1869, attempted to keep the Sisters in his vicariate and to locate them at Boise; but as he could not give them much assistance at the time and hoped but little for the future, he allowed them to return to Portland, which they did on the 27th of June.

The Rt. Rev. L. Lootens was the first vicar apostolic of Idaho, having been appointed to that office by Pope Pius the IX, in March, 1868, at which time Idaho was cut off from the archdiocese of Oregon City. He received the Episcopal consecration, with the title of bishop of Castaballa, at the hands of Archbishop Alemany, in the cathedral of San Francisco, August 9, 1868. He had not been in Idaho more than six months when he left it to be present at the ecumenical council of the Vatican, whence he did not return until 1 87 1. During his absence a new church was built at Granite Creek, to replace one destroyed by fire; and another was erected at Boise, which was dedicated on the 25th of December, 1870, and reduced to cinders by a fire less than three weeks after its dedication. These two new churches were only partly paid for when the flames consumed one of them, so that Bishop Lootens found on his return from Rome the financial burdens, which were already large when he left his infant vicariate apostolic, increased in-stead of diminished. These financial difficulties, coupled with failing health, prompted him to send in his resignation to Rome. This he did in March 1874; but, as it was not accepted until the next year, he did not leave Idaho until October, 1875. After his departure the vicariate apostolic of Idaho reverted once more to the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Oregon, who was named its administrator. The two priests left in charge of southern Idaho at this time were Fathers Mesplié and Archambault. The former, who, before coming to the Boise basin, had worked as an Indian missionary in Oregon, spent whatever free time his arduous duties in the Basin and surrounding country allowed him in working for the conversion and civilization of the Indians of southern Idaho. During the first years of his stay in the Basin he paid, alternately with Father Poulin, his colleague, semi-annual visits to the Bannocks, Shoshones and Snakes. In a letter to General Parker, commissioner of Indian affairs, dated February 13, 1871, he says that there are four hundred and fifty Catholic Indians at the Fort Hall reservation, which had just then been established, and he asks that the agent at the reservation be instructed to allow him and Father Poulin full liberty to evangelize these Indians, all well disposed towards the “Black Robes.” On the return of Bishop Lootens from the Vatican council, Father Mesplié, who had gone east on business connected with his Indian protégés of southern Idaho, met his superior at Leavenworth, Kansas, accompanied him to Idaho City, where they arrived May 20th, made two tours of the white settlements of his mission and then went on horseback to the Fort Hall Indian reservation, reaching it on the 8th of August, after twelve days’ travel. From there he writes to Father De Smet, at St. Louis, that he intends to make that reservation his headquarters for future labors, because he thinks that as Captain ‘M. P. Berry, the newly appointed agent, is favorably disposed towards the work of the Catholic church for the Indians, the difficulty of converting them will be materially lessened. He did not stay long with them, however; for in August, 1872, he was appointed a United States Army chaplain, and having been assigned to duty at Fort Boise, he resided there permanently from that time, although he visited the Boise basin occasionally, and also Owyhee county, where, in 1872, a church had been built at Silver City through his and Father Archambault’s instrumentality.

Father A. J. A. Archambault came to the vicariate of Idaho with Bishop Lootens in 1869, and left it in 1880. He was a zealous worker, spending all the spare time his onerous pastoral duties allowed him in educating the young. He had a private school at Idaho City whilst he made that town his place of residence, and one at Boise when residing there. During his stay in Idaho City the convent and school built there in 1867, at a cost of seven thousand dollars, met the fate of several other Catholic church structures in Idaho, it was consumed by fire. This sad event took place on the 27th of April. 1877. But for the heroic efforts of the people the present Idaho City church would have been gutted by the flames at the same time, for the burning building was in dangerous proximity to the church.

In July 1879, Archbishop Seghers’, who had just then been appointed coadjutor to Archbishop Blanchet, started from Portland on a pastoral tour through the vicariate of Idaho, which at that time included also portions of Montana. He went by way of The Dalles to Lewiston, visiting the Lapwai Indian mission, the De Smet mission, and the St. Ignatius mission, among the Flatheads in Montana, and came back into Idaho through the Salmon River country. Fie arrived at Salmon City, October 3d, and on October 4th held the first Catholic services ever held in that place: he had the same privilege at Challis and at Bonanza. When he arrived at the latter place the Yankee Fork Herald, in a very complimentary article on the archbishop, stated that he was the first minister of any denomination to visit that city. He left Bonanza on horseback on the 12th of October, in the company of a merchant and three miners, and after a very perilous journey through an unknown country he arrived at Banner, October 26th. From Banner he went to Idaho City, visiting all the towns of the Basin, also Boise City and Silver City, being everywhere warmly received by Protestants as well as Catholics, who flocked to the churches and halls where he announced the good tidings of salvation. He made a second visit through Idaho in 1882. It is due to Archbishop Seghers that the church in Idaho was again given, in 1885, after ten rears of tutelage under an administrator, a shepherd of its own in the person of our present worthy bishop, the Rt. Rev. A. J. Glorieux.

Shortly after Archbishop Seghers’ first visit to Idaho Father Archambault was called to Portland and replaced here by Father L. Verhaag, now the efficient pastor of Baker City. Oregon. During his three years’ stay in Idaho he liquidated the debt on the Boise City church and inaugurated the building of a new house of worship at Granite Creek, Boise County. He was the first Catholic clergyman to hold divine services in the Wood river country, which he visited in July, 1880, two months after his arrival in Boise. When Father Nattini was sent to assist him, in December 1880, Father Verhaag removed his headquarters from Boise City to the Boise basin and left Father Nattini in charge of the former town and of the Owyhee county missions. During the latter’s incumbency of these missions St. Andrew’s church, at Silver City, was torn down, because of its considerable distance from the residential portion of the town and its inaccessibility during the winter months; a large building known as the Graham building was purchased from the Regan Brothers, for seven hundred and fifty dollars, and was converted into a church, which was dedicated on the 5th of November, 1882, by Archbishop Seghers, as the Church of Our Lady of Tears. Father Nattini also purchased the bell that to this day calls the members of St. John’s church, Boise, to worship, as well as the bell pealing forth from the little steeple of the Church of Our Lady of Tears. When the latter bell was first heard in Silver City the following paragraph appeared in the Avalanche: “We uns of Silver City feel quite civilized when we hear the church bell, which, thanks to the energy of Father Nattini, now peals forth in clear, ringing tones, calling the people to worship. Just wait now till the new fire engine arrives, and we guess Boise City won’t put on so many frills, and call us ‘that little one-horse mining camp over in the snow drifts.’ Ain’t it?” On the arrival of Father Hartleib, in 1882, Father Nattini began to give a great deal of his time to the Wood river country, where he took up his permanent abode in June, 1883, and where he built St. Charles’ church at Hailey. He was also instrumental in erecting St. Peter’s church at Shoshone. Father Hartleib took his place and that of Father Verhaag as missionary rector of the counties of Ada, Boise, Owyhee and Washington. One of the latter’s first duties was to fin-ish St. Patrick’s church at Granite Creek, which Father Verhaag had begun. During the seven years of his pastorate Father Hartleib attended most zealously the numerous but scattered settlements of his vast parish. There was not a Catholic home that the Reverend Father did not visit at least twice a year, to offer up the holy sacrifice of the mass and dispense the sacraments of the church. It was his good fortune to welcome the Rt. Rev. A. J. Glorieux when he came, in 1885, to assume charge of the church in Idaho, as its second vicar apostolic. With the advent of Bishop Glorieux the steady upbuilding of the church in our state began in real earnest; and under him it is still faithfully continuing. During the twenty-two years that had elapsed since the arrival of the first priests in southern Idaho to work for the spiritual welfare of the whites there had been a manifest lack of confidence in the permanency of the towns which sprang up wherever any precious metals were discovered; the churches that were built during that period denoted that the main idea which presided at their construction was, “They will be needed only for a short time.” The clergymen who succeeded one another in the missions worked faithfully for the welfare of the flocks committed to their charges; but they built not for the children of their parishioners, as they did not expect that these children would take their parents’ places before the altars erected in the Idaho wilds. They were right in some in-stances: for of the churches they reared, there are those that have since been either torn down or turned into profane uses for want of worshipers. So little were the priests of early days impressed with Idaho’s future that not one of them stayed with the vicariate beyond a few years, after which other fields of labor were sought. Not one lies buried in our midst. When Bishop Glorieux took charge church affairs at once assumed a different aspect. Fired by the enthusiasm with which their bishop set to work under the most adverse circumstances, the Catholic priests and people became inspired with faith in the future of the church of Idaho and thoroughly penetrated with the idea that they must build for the coming generations as well as for the present.

Bishop Glorieux arrived at Kuna on the 12th of June 1885; he was met there by Father F. Hartleib who escorted his lordship from that place to Boise, then fifteen miles away from the railroad. The Father’s three years’ sojourn in Idaho had not contributed to make him fall in love with it and, during the course of the lonely stage trip from the railroad to the capital city, he rather discouraged than encouraged his newly appointed superior by the gloomy picture he drew of the condition of the bishop’s new field of labor. The situation at Boise bore out the Father’s uninviting description; for all that the Bishop found there in the line of church structures was a little shanty of a church and four small rooms back of it, used as sacristy and living apartments by the priest when in Boise. Hardly any one was aware of the Bishop’s coming and the apathy of the citizens. Catholics as well as Protestants, was such that no attention was paid to it. Mr. James Flannagan one of earth’s noblemen, with that generosity characteristic of Erin’s sons, tendered the Bishop the hospitality of his home. This was gratefully accepted and partaken of till a suitable residence was built near the church, which was to be the future cathedral. With that determination of which Father Glorieux had given so many proofs as president of St. Michael’s College, Portland, where it attracted Archbishop Seghers’ attention. Bishop Glorieux, after a few days’ stay in Boise, started on a systematic survey of the eighty-four thousand square miles of territory assigned to his pastoral care. In it he found less than three thousand Catholics, of whom eight hundred were Coeur d’Alene and Lapwai Indians. Two secular priests and four regulars constituted his clergy; eight frame churches, two schools for Indian children and one school for white girls formed the sum total of the religious institutions. Having satisfied himself, after a visit to every inhabited spot of the territory, and after traveling over every mile of railroad and every stage line in it, that the city offering the greatest advantages for the establishment of his headquarters was Boise, he made it the seat of his ecclesiastical jurisdiction. However, it was not sufficient to call Boise the Episcopality; it must also be made so by the character of its religious institutions. It had a church, which, though small, was large enough for the Catholics who attended it; so that the Bishop’s first care was to build a residence where he and his priests might come to rest and study at intervals between their missionary tours throughout the country. This residence was built in 1886. at a cost of two thousand five hundred dollars. The Catholics of Boise were so few and so little blessed with this world’s goods that all but two hundred dollars of this sum came out of the allowance which the Association for the Propagation of the Faith, whose headquarters are at Paris, France, made for the Bishop’s sustenance. To it the Bishop moved his small belongings over a year after taking up his residence in Boise, from Mr. Flannagan’s, although he still continued to be a guest at the latter’s hospitable board. The next thing in the line of improvements was the enlargement of the little church and its appropriate decoration. This was done in 1887, at a cost of one thousand seven hundred dollars, of which the congregation contributed about one hundred. In 1889 the Bishop built, at a cost of six hundred dollars. St. Patrick’s Hall, to provide a suitable meeting place for the societies of the parish. The same year he brought the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Indiana, who, on the 9th of September of that year, opened a day-school in St. Patrick’s Hall, adjacent to the church, and, on the 20th, a boarding school and academy, with one boarder, Miss Mamie Harrington, in the house now the property and home of Senator Shoup. As the school was a success from the very beginning, it was not a difficult matter for Bishop Glorieux to induce the superiors of the Community of the Holy Cross to purchase, for the sum of six thousand dollars, the block of ground on which St. Teresa’s Academy now stands. To the dwelling which stood on that block and which had been Father Mesplié’ s home, as U. S. chaplain for Fort Boise, the Sisters removed their boarding and day school on the 1st of April, 1890. During the winter of the same year about one thousand five hundred dollars was spent on an addition to the Episcopal residence.

In February 1891 the Bishop received the news of the serious illness of his mother at Dottignies, Belgium. She had not seen him since he left his native land to come to the missions of Oregon, in 1867 and when she realized that her end was near at hand the poor mother expressed a longing to see once more her only son who after leaving her to become a poor missionary priest in a far western land, had, step by step, been raised to one of the highest dignities in the gift of the church. Anxious to comply with her request, and at the same time to fulfill the obligation which calls all the bishops of the American church to make a visit to the supreme Roman pontiff, whose spiritual authority the American Catholics recognize in common with the Catholics throughout the world, once every ten years, he left Boise on the 21st of February and went directly to Belgium by way of New York and Havre. Alas! When he reached the home of his childhood he found it desolate; for his old mother had died several days previously, offering as a last sacrifice to her Maker the trial caused by the absence of the Bishop, her son. After traveling seven thousand miles, it was a hard blow to be disappointed in the attainment of the main object of his journey. For two weeks every throb of his filial heart had been one of mingled fear and hope; now that he saw his fears and not his hopes realized, he said with Christian fortitude: “God’s will be done.” Leaving Dottignies and his ancestral home after a few days’ stay, he proceeded to Rome, where he was received in private audience by the Holy Father and where he assisted, in St. Peter’s church, at the ceremonies of Holy Week of that year. Having spent several weeks in the capital of Christendom, he left it to visit the principal cities of Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, England and Ireland, and returned to his vicariate in the month of October. On his return the Catholic citizens of Boise gave him a public reception of welcome and presented him with a purse, which, though small, was large for the congregation whose generosity had made it. The warmth of the reception and the heartiness with which the good Catholic people made their gift, satisfied his lordship that they had learned to appreciate the work he had done for them since his coming, and that they were ready to stand by him in the future in any undertaking that his zeal for the honor and glory of God or for the material welfare of the community would suggest. Through the time of the Bishop’s absence his progressive spirit had abided, as he was pleased to ascertain on his return; for he found at St. Teresa’s Academy the building of a ten-thousand-dollar school structure well under way to completion; it was completed on the 1st of January, 1892. In 1893, in spite of the financial crisis of that fated year. Bishop Glorieux laid the foundation for St. Alphonsus’ Hospital, which institution was not, however, made ready for occupancy until the 27th of December, 1894. When the Sisters of the Holy Cross moved into it fifteen thousand dollars had been spent on the grounds and structure and five thousand dollars more were spent afterward in finishing and furnishing the house. The same year in which the hospital was completed six hundred dollars were paid out for additions to St. John’s church; these additions furnished seating capacity for a hundred and fifty more people. In 1895 the same church secured a four-hundred dollar organ and beautiful statues of the Sacred Heart and of St. John the Evangelist, its patron.

Ten years had now elapsed since Bishop Glorieux’ appointment to the vicariate apostolic of Idaho, and since his selection of Boise City for the place of his residence, and each year some notable improvement was either inaugurated or carried out under his inspiration and leadership. The advance made by the church in Idaho during the first eight years of his administration, shining out the more conspicuously by the side of the stagnation of church affairs through the ten years that followed upon Bishop Lootens’s resignation, moved the authorities at Rome to advance Idaho and its vicar apostolic a step in the hierarchical ranks. Consequently, His Holiness Leo XIII erected Idaho into a diocese and transferred Dr. Glorieux from the titular see of Apollonia to the newly erected see of Boise City. The promotion was a graceful acknowledgment of the Bishop’s services to the church, and it was also an honor conferred upon the young state of Idaho, for it meant that the ecclesiastical authorities regarded the church work there as established upon a basis sufficiently solid to permit it to stand on its own merits and resources. Indeed, not only the Catholics of Boise had been benefited by the Bishop’s zeal and earnestness, not only had they increased in numbers and been spiritually advanced under his administration, but the Catholics of the whole state had shared to a like degree in the pastoral solicitude of their prelate and had seen their churches and the worshipers in them more than trebled between the years 1885 and 1895. Their Bishop was not in Boise alone, he was everywhere in the state; for, year after year, he visited all the towns of any consequence within its confines, baptizing, preaching, administering the sacrament of confirmation, building or dedicating churches, schools and hospitals. What is more, between the intervals of rest, which he usually spent in Boise, he occupied himself in co-operating with its most progressive citizens in building up the town. Thus he was instrumental in the organization of the first board of trade, in 1891, and as long as that board continued in existence he remained one of its eleven directors, being elected each succeeding term by the almost unanimous vote of its members. When the board of trade gave place to the mining exchange, Bishop Glorieux was again in the van as one of its leading spirits, and, lately, the chamber of commerce has placed him at the head of some of its most important committees. No appeal in which the general welfare of the city is at stake is ever overlooked by Bishop Glorieux, who gives to it unreservedly all the time and attention his Episcopal duties permit. An idea of the work the zealous prelate accomplished outside of the city may be gathered from the following facts and data:

In October, 1885, the year of his arrival in Idaho, he dedicated St. Peter’s church at Shoshone, built under Father Nattini’s supervision, at a cost of three thousand dollars; in 1886, the Church of the Sacred Heart, erected at Keuterville, through the zeal of Father Diomedi, S. J., at a cost of one thousand five hundred dollars, and also St. Mary’s church at Ketchum, built during Father Cesari’s incumbency of the Wood river missions: in 1887 he built and dedicated St. Joseph’s church at Pocatello, the first Catholic church of that city, reared at an expense of six hundred dollars: in 1890 he dedicated the Church of the Holy Trinity, erected at Moscow, under the pastorate of Father Diomedi, S. J., at a cost of two thousand dollars; in 1889, the church of Genesee built by the Catholics of that town at a cost of five thousand dollars, shortly before Father Hartleib assumed the rectorate of the Latah county missions, where he had been transferred from the missions of southern Idaho on his return from a trip he made to Europe in 1888-9, and the same year he also dedicated St. Francis Xavier’s church at Bellevue, which was built under his personal supervision, at a cost of one thousand eight hundred dollars.

The churches of Emmett, Mullan, Coeur d’Alene City and Rathdrum were built in 1890 and had cost, the two former eight hundred dollars each and the two latter one thousand two hundred dollars and five hundred dollars respectively.

In 1892 Father Hendrickx completed a church at Garden Valley, at a cost of four hundred dollars; Father Hartleib the church at Juliaetta, costing three hundred dollars; Father Van der Donckt the church at Glenn’s Ferry, costing seven hundred dollars, also the school at Pocatello, erected at a cost of seven thousand dollars; and the Sisters of Providence finished their forty thousand dollar hospital at Wallace, all of which structures Bishop Glorieux dedicated that same year.

The year 1894 saw new churches erected at Wallace and Bonner’s Ferry, the Bishop personally supervising the building of the Bonner’s Ferry church, which cost one thousand two hundred dollars, and Father Keyzer being the prime mover in the erection of St. Alphonsus’ church at Wallace, on which two thousand dollars were spent; these the Bishop dedicated the same year.

The year 1895 brought with it the building of churches at Grangeville and Wardner. Father William Kroeger’s labors made the Grangeville church a reality and Father Keyzer’s zeal secured the Wardner church. Each had cost one thousand two hundred dollars when the Bishop dedicated it.

In 1896 only one church was dedicated, namely, the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, at Montpelier, at that time within the limits of the mission of Father Van der Donckt, who collected and expended one thousand eight hundred dollars on the structure. In 1897 Father Kroeger finished at Keuterville, at a cost of five thousand dollars. Holy Cross church, which took the place of a small house of worship erected years ago by Father Diomedi. Holy Cross church was dedicated the same year. In 1898 two new churches were built in the missionary district presided over by Father Van der Donckt and were dedicated by the Bishop, one at Pocatello, which cost seven thousand dollars and replaces the one built in 1887, and another at Idaho Falls. In Wallace, Father Becker built a pastoral residence at a cost of three thousand dollars, and the Sisters of the Visitation reared at Lewiston a school building on which they spent ten thousand dollars.

The year 1899 has already witnessed the erection of churches at Dempsey and Payette City and is destined to witness the construction of at least one other, at Weiser City, for which the money has been collected and the contract let.

The above enumeration, as the reader will have noticed, includes only the new churches, schools and hospitals constructed during the Rt. Rev. A. J. Glorieux’ episcopacy. It must be added that, with the exception of three, the churches which he found when he took charge of the diocese have been almost entirely renovated since, at different intervals. The three exceptions are the Old Mission church in Kootenai County and the churches of St. Thomas, at Centerville, and of St. Francis, at Pioneer. The last two are no more; for the people that built them having deserted their homes and non-Catholics having come to take their abodes there, the churches have fallen into decay. Considering that the Catholic population of the vicariate apostolic of Idaho did not reach the total of three thousand souls in 1885 and that to-day the diocese has not above ten thousand, it is certainly remarkable that so many churches and religious institutions were built in it in so ‘short a time. What is most creditable of all is the fact that if the entire church debt of the diocese were divided among its thirty-five churches, the amount debited to each would not exceed one hundred dollars. We venture to say there is not one other diocese of the eighty-four in the United States that can say as much for its financial condition. This must be credited to the Bishop’s watchfulness and safe financial management, his motto in matters of business being, “Pay as you go along.” That motto has always stood him in good stead; for he has none of the worry following in the wake of debts to be paid and obligations to be met when the treasury is empty. The Bishop’s spirit has been imbibed by his priests, and they are proud to point to their churches free of all debts and encumbrances.

As a diocese without priests is like an army without other officers than a general, it behooves us to add a few words, before concluding this chapter, on the Bishop’s co-laborers in this portion of the Lord’s vineyard.

When Bishop Glorieux came to Idaho he found in the field two secular priests doing duty among the whites in southern Idaho and four devoting their lives to the Indians in the northern portion of the territory. Now there are six secular priests under him in southern Idaho and three in northern Idaho, besides seven regulars of the order of Jesuits and that of the Divine Savior.

To assist the Bishop in Boise are the Rev. Fathers J. Beusmans and J. Van der Heyden. The Rev. T. J. Purcell has charge of Kootenai County, where he attends five churches and four missions without churches. Very Reverend J. M. Caruana is the superior of the Coeur d’Alene Indian mission, at De Smet, and is assisted by three fathers of the Society of Jesus. Latah County comprises the missionary field of Father R. Keyzer, who attends the churches of Moscow, Genesee and Juliaetta and a dozen missions without churches, some of which are in the counties of Nez Percé and Shoshone. Rev. Father J. J. Burri, whose field occupies the largest territory in the diocese, has churches at Hailey, Bellevue, Ketchum, Shoshone, Glenn’s Ferry, and Silver City, all of which he attends at least once a month. He has besides about fourteen missions without churches in the counties of Custer, Blaine, Lincoln, Elmore, and Owyhee, to which he pays from two to four visits a year. Rev. J. Thomas is the spiritual director of the Catholics who attend the churches of Idaho City, Granite Creek, Garden Valley, Emmett and Payette, and of a dozen stations without churches scattered through the counties of Boise, Canyon and Washington. Rev. Father L. Mueller, S. D. S., has charge of Idaho County, a county as large as the kingdom of Belgium. The Catholic churches in that county are at Keuterville, Cottonwood and Grangeville.

In Nez Percé County Father M. Meyer S. J., whose residence is at Lewiston, attends to the whites, whilst Fathers H. Post, S. J., and Al. Soer, S. J., have charge of the Lapwai Indians. In Bear Lake and Bannock Counties Catholics are ably ministered unto by Father W. A. J. Hendrickx, whose manifest destiny is to become the apostle of the Mormons. He recently erected a little Catholic church at Dempsey, in the heart of Mormondom The old Coeur d’Alene Mission, where some Indians congregate occasionally and where there are also a few whites living, is under the spiritual supervision of Father F. Punghorst, S. J. Father C. Van der Donckt is Pocatello’s pastor; he also occasionally visits Idaho Falls, where there is a church, and a few other places in the counties of Lemhi Bingham, Fremont and Cassia. Father Van der Donckt enjoys the distinction of being the first priest ordained for the vicariate of Idaho under Bishop Glorieux, and also of being the oldest in point of years of service of the present diocesan clergy, although he has yet to see the thirty-fifth year of age. He was ordained and received his theological training at the American College of Louvain, Belgium, and came to Idaho in the fall of 1887; he has been in the harness ever since, as the Bishop’s-right hand. Twice since he was appointed to the missions of southeastern Idaho have they been divided, and even now does the Father call for another division and the appointment of a colleague for part of the district to whose spiritual wants he attends. Fathers Hendrickx and Burri have for a few years past held the rectorship of missions which Father Van der Donckt used to look after single-handed, together with the district over which he now presides. Wallace and the whole Coeur d’Alene country is ably rectored by Father F. A. Becker, formerly president of St. James’ College, at Vancouver.

The work of the Catholic church nobly carried on in the state of Idaho by Bishop Glorieux and his devoted little band of priests is supplemented by the labors of four religious communities of Sisters, numbering fifty-six subjects, engaged some in nursing the sick at the hospitals of Wallace and Boise, others in teaching the young in the church schools of Boise. Pocatello, Genesee, Lewiston and De Smet.

Idaho is on the eve of an era of prosperity and progress. The railways that are projected and in course of construction at various points of its magnificent commonwealth testify that its re-sources are beginning to be appreciated. People are bound to flock to its borders within a short time, to develop its mines, to cultivate its millions of acres of virgin soil, and to appropriate for the use of mankind the magnificent timber of its wide-stretching forests. Among the new comers there will undoubtedly be a fair percentage of members of the Catholic church. The writer would say to them that not only will they be made welcome, but that their spiritual wants will be attended to; for the devoted prelate who guides the destinies of the church in this state is ever on the alert to procure to all the children of his flock the means to satisfy the spiritual aspirations of their nature. In many places they will find churches as beautiful and pastors as devoted and able as any they have known in the homes they left behind. Where there are no churches as yet they will soon be built; for there is not now a community with at least twenty Catholic families that does not have its own Catholic church, and whilst Bishop Glorieux remains at the helm there never will be.

Rt. Rev. Alphonsus J. Glorieux.

The bishop of the diocese of Boise is a native of Belgium, his birth having taken place at Dottignies, in the province of West Flanders. His parents were Auguste and Lucy (Vanderghinste) Glorieux, both of whom were devout Catholics. The father was a man of influence and a member of the council of his township. He departed this life in 1848, aged forty-nine years, and was survived by his wife until 1891, when she passed away, at the age of eighty years. They were the parents of four children, our subject being the only son.

Alphonsus Joseph Glorieux attended the public schools and later took a collegiate course of six years at Courtrai, where he was graduated in 1863, and then entered the American College at Louvain, where he prepared for the priesthood and was graduated in theology in 1867. He was ordained by His Eminence Cardinal Engelbert Sterckx, in August, 1867, and then came to America, locating in Oregon, where he entered upon his missionary work, being appointed to Roseburg, from which charge he was transferred to Oregon City and thence to St. Paul, or French Prairie, the cradle of the Catholic church in Oregon. In 1871 he was made president of St. Michael’s College in Portland, Oregon, where he acquitted himself with such ability that in 1884 he was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Idaho, the Catholic interests of that state having been, after the retirement of Bishop Lootens under the care of the Archbishop of Oregon. Bishop Glorieux was consecrated in the city of Baltimore, in April, 1885, the officiating prelate being His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons, assisted by Archbishop Gross, of Oregon, and Bishop Maes, of Covington, Kentucky. He came immediately to Idaho, which has been the scene of his labors ever since, and here he has been an incessant toiler in the vineyard of his Master. When he took charge of the Idaho field, in 1885, the membership of the Catholic Church numbered two thousand and five hundred: the number now exceeds ten thousand. There were ten church edifices in the state: there are now thirty-eight. He found but one school: now there are four flourishing institutes of learning. At that time there were no Catholic hospitals: now there are three and all are doing well. The number of clergymen has increased during his term from six to twenty, the number of sisters from fourteen to forty-five, and not only has the Catholic church of Idaho in general felt the pious impulse of Bishop Glorieux’ consecrated life, but Boise has been especially favored by his wise ministry. Twice has the church building been enlarged to accommodate the ever increasing congregation, the large Episcopal residence has been erected, and St. Teresa’s Academy and St. Alphonsus Hospital have been built largely through his labors.

Bishop Glorieux travels throughout the state each year, preaching in all the churches and missions. He is one of the best church organizers in the Catholic denomination in America, his religious zeal and piety being equaled only by the purity of his life and the catholicity of his religious faith. Not only as a devout churchman, but as a patriotic citizen, devoted to his country and its flag, is his life lifted far above the commonplace. There has not been an enterprise affecting Boise or the state in which he has not taken a deep interest and of which he has not in some sense been a promoter. He has been a member and one of the directors of the board of trade since its organization, and has been active on some of its committees. It is his intention to give Idaho his best efforts for her advancement and improvement, both morally and financially, and he enjoys the very high esteem of all who meet him and who know him to be the un-assuming Christian gentleman that he is.



MLA Source Citation:

Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 19 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/idaho/historical-notes-on-the-work-of-the-catholic-church-in-idaho.htm - Last updated on Jun 30th, 2013


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