The Catholic Nun Who Was Shermans Wife's Cousin
Mother Angela Gillespie in addition to her contributions to education of
women and the welfare of Civil War soldiers was the aunt (or
cousin?) of Ellen Ewing, the
wife of William Tecumseh Sherman. During the Civil War, Ellen
Ewing and her children resided with her aunt at Notre Dame and were
visited on at least one occasion by the great general.
* * * * *
Mother Angela Gillespie, original
name Eliza Maria Gillespie (born
Feb. 21, 1824, near Brownsville, Pa., U.S.—died March 4, 1887, South
Bend, Ind.), American religious leader who guided her order in
dramatically expanding higher education for women by founding numerous
institutions throughout the
Eliza Maria Gillespie was educated at girls’ schools in her native town
and, in 1836–38, in Somerset,
In the latter year she moved with her widowed mother to
Ohio. In 1840 she entered the Visitation Academy in Georgetown
(Washington, D.C.), graduating in 1842. She returned to Lancaster for
nine years, busying herself with charitable work, and from 1847 to 1851
taught in a parish school. During 1851–53 she taught at St. Mary’s
Seminary, a nondenominational, state-supported school in St. Mary’s
City, Maryland. Her long-standing inclination toward the religious life
culminated in her decision in January 1853 to enter the Sisters of Mercy
convent in Chicago. On her way there she stopped to visit her brother, a
seminarian at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend,
Father Edward F. Sorin,
founder of the university, who influenced her to join the
Sisters of the Holy Cross,
a French order with a convent at Bertrand, Michigan.
Gillespie took the habit and the name Sister Mary of St. Angela in April
1853 and was sent to the order’s novitiate in
After taking her final vows in December, she returned to Bertrand as
director of studies of St. Mary’s Academy, and in April 1854 she became
superior of the convent. In 1855 St. Mary’s Academy was moved to a new
site near Notre Dame and became St. Mary’s College. A believer in full
educational opportunities for women, Mother Angela instituted courses in
advanced mathematics, the sciences, modern foreign languages,
philosophy, theology, art, and music. By 1856 nuns of the Holy Cross
order were teaching in parochial schools in Chicago, and in 1858 the
order established St. Angela’s Academy in Morris, Illinois. In 1860
Mother Angela began publishing a graded series of
Metropolitan Readers for use in elementary through
college-level courses. From 1866 she was largely responsible for editing
Ave Maria, a Catholic periodical founded by Father Sorin.
In October 1861 Mother Angela offered the nursing services of the order
to General Ulysses S. Grant. Within a short time, Holy Cross sisters
were employed in army hospitals in Paducah and Louisville, Kentucky, and
they later worked in
Illinois, in Memphis, Tennessee, in
D.C., and elsewhere, as well as aboard
ships on the Mississippi River. The order’s main efforts went into the
conversion of a row of riverfront warehouses in Mound City, Illinois,
into a clean and efficient 1,500-bed military hospital.
The expansion of the order and of its educational work proceeded rapidly
under Mother Angela’s direction. Among the 45 institutions founded by
the order between 1855 and 1882 were St. Mary’s Academy in Austin, Texas
(1874), St. Catherine’s Normal Institute in
Maryland (1875), St. Mary of the Assumption in Salt Lake City, Utah
(1875), and Holy Cross Academy in Washington, D.C. (1878). In 1869
difficulties between the American and French branches of the order led
to the establishment of the American branch on an independent basis,
with Mother Angela as provincial superior under the authority of Father
Sorin as superior. Although she had been preceded by two mothers
superior, Mother Angela was established as the effective founder of the
order in the United States.
Angela Boulevard tied to order's founder
Like many cities, South Bend celebrates its history through its
landscape. Many of its streets and buildings honor pioneers, Native
Americans, explorers, builders, manufacturers — innumerable people who
have contributed to the legacy of this city, even before its
incorporation. Names like Navarre, Sorin, Parkovash and Pokagon dot the
area, providing constant reminders of the heritage that belongs to South
Angela Boulevard is one example. Running south of Saint Mary’s College
and the University of Notre Dame, this roadway is named for Mother
Angela Gillespie. Born Eliza Marie Gillespie on Feb. 21, 1824, in
Pennsylvania, she graduated from Georgetown Academy at a time when
education for women was rare. She would become the first American
director of Saint Mary’s College, and under her leadership, the school
moved across the Michigan state line from Bertrand to its present
location north of downtown South Bend.
During the Civil War, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant drew upon the nursing skills
of Mother Angela’s order to help improve the conditions of Union
hospitals. She mobilized the sisters in her charge to serve in medical
facilities throughout the western theater as well as on the
hospital ship Red Rover as it traveled the Mississippi River picking up
In 1869, Mother Angela founded the independent American branch of the
Sisters of the Holy Cross, which experienced tremendous growth and
greatly expanded its educational mission under her. She died on March 4,
1887, at Saint Mary’s Convent on the South Bend campus.
Eliza Maria Gillespie was born
in Washington county, Pennsylvania, on February 21, 1824, the
daughter of John Purcell Gillespie and Mary Madeleine Miers. Her mother
was a convert to the Roman Catholic Church. Her cousin, James G. Blaine,
was an early playmate. A precocious child, "Lida" taught herself to read
before she was four.
After her husband's death in 1836, Mary Gillespie took her three
children to her former home, Lancaster, Ohio. Eliza Maria first attended
the school of the Dominican sisters at Somerset, Ohio, and completed her
studies at the Visitation Convent at Georgetown in Washington, D.C., in
She was 37 years old when the Civil War began.
Eliza's cousin, Thomas Ewing of Ohio, was eminent in public life, and
she became a prominent figure in the social life of Washington,
D.C., and of Ohio. Her sympathy was roused by the sufferings of the
Irish people during the Irish famine; she and her cousin, Eleanor Ewing,
(the future wife of General William Tecumseh Sherman) collected a large
sum of money for the relief of Irish families.
In 1853, Eliza felt the call to the religious life and determined to
enter the order of the Sisters of Mercy. She went to Notre Dame,
Indiana, to bid farewell to her brother who was there engaged in his
studies for the priesthood. She received the religious habit in 1853,
taking the name of Sister Mary of St. Angela. She was then sent to
France, where she made her novitiate at the convent of
the Sisters of Bon Secours, at Caen. Sister Angela returned
to America and was made superior of St. Mary's Academy.
When the Civil War broke out, Mother Angela organized a corps of the
Sisters of the Holy Cross to care for the sick and wounded soldiers. She
established hospitals, both temporary and permanent, and, when generals
failed to secure needed aid for the sick and wounded, she made trips
to Washington on their behalf. Her headquarters were at Cairo, Illinois.
She died in 1887.
Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial,
compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as
silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the
incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as
wrongs to be avenged. ~ Abraham Lincoln, November 10, 1864
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ave Maria Press is a
publishing company which was founded in 1865 by
Father Edward Sorin,
Cross priest who had founded the
University of Notre Dame.
Sorin founded the company in order to publish the
magazine, a magazine focused on Catholic families, honoring
The Virgin Mary,
Sorin then made Sister
a nurse veteran of the Civil War, in charge.
By 1900, Ave Maria
was the largest English-language Catholic magazine worldwide.
The magazine was started in 1865 and continued until 1970 when it was
dropped due to decline in circulation. Ave Maria Press now focuses
solely on the publishing of Catholic books.
Eliza Maria Gillespie,
in religion Mother Mary of St. Angela,
C.S.C., was an
Washington County, Pennsylvania, 21 February
1824; died at St. Mary's convent,
Notre Dame, Indiana, 4 March 1887. She was the
daughter of John Purcell Gillespie and Mary Madeleine Miers, the latter
a convert to the
Church. After her husband's death Mrs.
Gillespie in 1838 went with her three children to her former home,
Lancaster, Ohio. Eliza Maria first attended the
school of the Dominican Sisters at
Somerset, Ohio, and completed her studies at
Visitation Convent at Georgetown, D.C., in
1844. Her kinsman,
Thomas Ewing of
Ohio, was then eminent in public life, and this
fact, joined to her beauty and accomplishments, made her at once a
prominent figure in the social life of
Washington and of Ohio. Her sympathy was roused
by the sufferings of the
Irish people during the
famine, and she and her cousin, Eleanor Ewing,
by their joint efforts, collected a large sum of money for their relief.
In 1853 she felt the call to the
religious life and determined to enter the
order of the
Sisters of Mercy. She went to
Notre Dame, Indiana, to bid farewell to her
brother who was there engaged in his studies for the
priesthood, and there she met Rev.
Edward Sorin, Provincial Superior of the
Congregation of Holy Cross in the United
States, through whose influence she was led to cast her lot with this
small and struggling community. She received the religious habit in
1853, taking the name of Sister Mary of St. Angela. She was then sent to
France, where she made her
novitiate at the convent of the
Bon Secours Sisters, at
Caen, making her religious profession by
dispensation on 8 December 1853, at the hands
Father Moreau, founder of the congregation.
In January, 1850, Sister Angela returned to
America and was made superior of St. Mary's Academy at
Bertrand, Michigan. On 15 August 1855, she
transferred the academy to its present location near Notre Dame,
Indiana, and procured for it a charter from the
Indiana legislature. When the
Civil War broke out Mother Angela organized a
corps of the Sisters of Holy Cross to care for the sick and wounded
soldiers. She established
hospitals, both temporary and permanent, and,
when Generals failed to secure needed aid for the sick and wounded, she
made flying trips to Washington on their behalf. Her headquarters were
Cairo, Illinois, in ill-provided buildings. The
close of the war left her physically enfeebled, but she returned to St.
Mary's and resumed her educational work, and compiled two series of
readers for use in Catholic schools, the "Metropolitan" and "Excelsior".
In 1869, at the advice of Bishop Luers of
Fort Wayne, the
Sisters of the Holy Cross in the United States
determined on a separation from the members of the congregation in
France. This was effected with Mother Angela as Superior General of the
new congregation. Under her rule, thirty-five institutions were founded
throughout the United States, among them St. Cecilia's and Holy Cross
Academies, Washington, D. C.; St. Mary's Academy,
Salt Lake City, Utah; St. Mary's Academy,
Austin, Texas; St. Catherine's Normal
Baltimore, Maryland; and Hawke's Hospital, Mt.
Columbus, Ohio. Mother Angela was the moving
spirit in the establishment in 1865 of the "Ave Maria", to whose pages
she made many contributions. On laying down the burdens of her
superiorship, Mother Angela was chosen Mistress of Novices at St.
Mary's, and in September, 1886, she was again made the head of St.
Mary's Academy, at which post she remained until her death.
Gillespie's brother was
Neal Henry Gillespie.
Sisters’ nursing ministry begins with Civil War
By Sister Margaret Mary Lavonis
It should not surprise anyone who knows the mission of the Sisters of
the Holy Cross — to discern the needs of the times and respond
appropriately — that the congregation said yes to Indiana Governor
Oliver P. Morton’s request to Father Edward Sorin to send sisters to
care for the wounded troops then serving in Kentucky during the Civil
War. His request came on October 21, 1861, six months after the war’s
The next morning, Mother M. Angela Gillespie and six sisters (none of
them trained as nurses) departed for Cairo at the southern tip of
Illinois, 500 miles from Notre Dame, Indiana. There General Ulysses S.
Grant assigned them to the military hospital in Paducah, Kentucky. Thus
began the congregation’s ministry in health care.
Paducah was only the beginning. The sisters served so well in
Paducah that Secretary of War Simon Cameron asked the congregation to
take over the nursing at a government hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.
And more sisters were sent to care for the wounded at a newly opened
hospital in Mound City, Illinois.
The conditions in all of these hospitals, often quickly converted
warehouses or factories, were deplorable. They were unsanitary which
caused outbreaks of typhoid, smallpox and other diseases that not only
affected the wounded but also family members and the medical personnel.
The sisters addressed these problems the best they could.
Sister M. Paula Casey describes her first visit to a military hospital
in Cairo in December 1861 as a fearful experience: “Every room on the
first floor was strewn with human legs and arms. As the wounded were
brought in from the battlefield, they were laid anywhere, and
amputations took place. Some of the wards resembled a slaughter house,
the walls were so splattered with blood.”
After a tour of the hospital given by William Burke, the doctor in
charge, Sister Paula and companions Sister M. Augusta Anderson and
Sister M. Isidore Conlin immediately pinned up their habits and wept and
scrubbed the hospital wards until they were clean. Actions such as this
helped to alleviate the fear the soldiers and the sailors had of
The living quarters of the sisters were primitive at best. Sister M.
Callista Pointan describes the conditions upon moving into the hospital
at Mound City, Illinois, in 1861: “We found a very miserable barracks of
a place, an unfinished warehouse without even the common necessities of
life. One bed and one chair had to do service for five sisters. Mother
Angela and I slept on a table on some clothes which had been sent to be
First hospital ship
In June 1862 several sisters were asked to serve as nurses aboard the
the first Navy hospital ship that went up and down the Mississippi River
carrying the sick and wounded of both the North and the South to the
various military hospitals. In so doing they became what U.S. naval
history today hails as the pioneers or forerunners of the U.S. Navy
Nurse Corps. They also were the Navy’s first paid women employees, with
historical records showing that Sisters Callista, Sister M. Veronica
Scholl, and Sister M. Adela Moran earned two dollars a day.
Sister Adela reflects upon her experience: “In company with two or three
other sisters I was sent on board the Hospital boat called the
which carried the sick and wounded to the hospitals. I never left the
boat till the close of the war. We were near Vicksburg when it was
taken, could hear the firing, and see the boats running the blockade.”
Work in other hospitals
In addition to serving on the
and the hospitals in Illinois and Kentucky, the sisters staffed
hospitals in Tennessee, Missouri and Washington, D.C. As the number of
hospitals confided to their care by the federal government increased,
more and more sisters were sent to serve. Before the war ended, 65 of
the 160 Sisters of the Holy Cross in the United States would serve as
nurses in the western theater of the war and in the nation’s capital.
Each sister nurse also received a military pension, which helped pay for
Bertrand Hall, now the congregation’s administration building at Saint
Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. The Navy has honored these sisters with a
special headstone placed on their graves in the congregation’s Our Lady
of Peace Cemetery at Saint Mary’s.
The Sisters of the Holy Cross are among 12 congregations of religious
women who are depicted on the Nuns of the Battlefield monument, erected
in 1924 in Washington, D.C. The inscription reads: “To the memory and in
honor of the various orders of sisters who gave their services as nurses
on the battlefields and in hospitals during the Civil War. They
comforted the dying, nursed the wounded, carried hope to the imprisoned,
gave in His name a drink of water to the thirsty.”
This year begins the nation’s commemoration of the sesquicentennial of
the U.S. Civil War (1861-65).
Sisters of the Holy Cross entered
nursing in America's bloody Civil War
March 1, 2014
The Sisters of the Holy Cross of Notre Dame, Ind., had
no nursing ministry nor any nursing training in 1861 when Fr. Edward
Sorin asked them — at the Indiana governor's request — to care for
wounded Civil War soldiers in Kentucky. On Oct. 22, the morning after
the University of Notre Dame founder contacted them, Mother M. Angela
Gillespie and six sisters departed Notre Dame to travel to a military
hospital in Cairo, Ill., and later to their assigned posts at a military
hospital in Paducah, Ky.
Military hospitals in the 1860s often were quickly
converted warehouses or factories. Many such facilities were an
unsanitary hotbed for typhoid, smallpox and other diseases, according to
an account of the sisters' civil war work by Sr. Margaret Mary Lavonis,
CSC. One of the nurses, Sr. M. Paula Casey, recorded that, "Every room
on the first floor (of the Cairo hospital) was strewn with human legs
and arms. As the wounded were brought in from the battlefield, they were
laid anywhere, and amputations took place. Some of the wards resembled a
slaughter house, the walls were so splattered with blood." The Civil War
account says upon their arrival, the sisters "immediately pinned up
their habits and swept and scrubbed the hospital wards until they were
This helped improve conditions and allay solders'
fears of military hospitals, according to Sr. Lavonis' account.
Military leaders requested additional "nurses" from
the congregation. By war's end in 1865, about 65 of the 160 Holy Cross
sisters in the U.S. had served as nurses.
Three Holy Cross sisters served aboard the USS Red
Rover, the Navy's first hospital ship. The vessel plied the Mississippi
River — sometimes within earshot of battle fire — transporting wounded
soldiers to hospitals. The sisters were the Navy's first paid female
employees and the forerunners of the Navy's nurse corps. According to
the account by Sr. Lavonis, some sisters earned two dollars a day.
In 1965, to mark the centennial of the Civil War's
end, the Navy erected a historical marker honoring the sister nurses on
the campus of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in South Bend, Ind.
Saint Joseph moved from South Bend to Mishawaka in 2009 and razed the
legacy campus to make room for a new Catholic high school. Saint Joseph
moved the historical marker to its Mishawaka campus in 2013, locating it
near a memorial wall containing South Bend campus artifacts. About 200
people attended the rededication ceremony it hosted in September.
The Holy Cross sisters' Civil War nursing work
launched the congregation's health care ministry. Over the next 133
years, the sisters established 19 hospitals throughout the U.S. In 1979,
the congregation's sponsored health facilities joined together as Holy
Cross Health System. That system in 2000 merged with Mercy Health
Services to form Trinity Health of Livonia, Mich. Trinity Health merged
with Catholic Health East of Newtown Square, Pa., last year to form CHE
With my research on St. Angela's Island completed, I
still had a few days to spare before the University Archives reopened. I
decided to check one other source -- more books on St. Mary's history --
at the Convent Library. I wanted to be sure I hadn't missed anything of
additional interest on either the St. Mary's early Grotto or St.
Angela's Island before moving on.
Sister Paulette, in charge of the convent library,
generously offered to share with me any books they had which might be of
help. I began by checking out the oldest ones I could find going back to
the early 1800s, not knowing, that in doing so, more unexpected pieces
were about to be added to my research.
When the name Ewing -- the signature on the top of the
earlier mentioned 1859 guide book -- turned up in my reading again it
immediately sparked my interest. I wondered if Ewing Avenue in South
Bend had been named after this Ewing family. Then I learned that Ellen
Ewing Sherman and Mother Angela's family, the Gillespies, were related
and that members of all three families had gone to both schools. Ellen
Ewing was the wife of General William Tecumseh Sherman. She lived in
South Bend while her children went to Notre Dame and St. Mary's during
the Civil War. It was not an uncommon practice at the time for families,
most especially southern ones, to send their children to Notre Dame and
St. Mary's to keep them safe during the war. It was reason enough for
South Bend to have avenues named Ewing and Sherman.
General Sherman was orphaned as a boy and was raised
by the Ewing family. He married, Ellen, one of his adopted father's
daughters. Their two oldest, Minnie and Willy, were the first of their
children to attend Notre Dame and St. Mary's during the war years. Willy
spent his eighth year as a student at Notre Dame while his older sister
Minnie attended St. Mary's. The sexton told me he had heard the story
that General Sherman's son was buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery adjacent
to the campus. He said a search through the cemetery records for
evidence to confirm the story, revealed that a fire had destroyed many
early grave records. I wondered about it at the time. Reading more about
the Ewings and Shermans in these early histories of St. Mary's,
rekindled my interest in this particular undocumented story. It also
reaffirmed my decision to take the extra days to do a little more
serious reading before concluding my St. Mary's research. In doing so, I
found the evidence I needed to document the story.
After the fall of Vicksburg, when the Sherman children
returned home to Ohio for a vacation, Ellen took Willy and the rest of
the children to visit Sherman's encampment on the Big Black, below
Vicksburg, during a respite in the battles. They spent six weeks at the
camp. Willy, their first born, was taken violently ill with camp fever
on the day they left Vicksburg by steamer for home. On the fifth day,
upon reaching Memphis, he was taken from the boat to the Gayoso House,
where he died the following evening, October 3, 1863. He was nine years
information verified his death but not where he was buried. I knew Notre
Dame had a large collection of Sherman papers which contained extensive
correspondence between Ellen and her husband throughout the trying times
of the war. The untimely death of their first-born son must have been
mentioned in them. I decided to supplement my study of St. Mary's early
history with a search through the Sherman papers as soon as the
University Archives reopened.
After many hours, and several days, spent pouring over
the correspondence between Ellen and "Cump," as she called the General,
I found the evidence I was seeking. Willy was buried in Lancaster, Ohio,
the Ewing's hometown, not Cedar Grove Cemetery. His death was recorded
in the ledger of Notre Dame Death Notices kept for that period by the
school, but it did not indicate the fact that he was buried in Ohio. I'd
been thrown a curve, but very soon, it straightened itself out. I also
stumbled upon the reason the rumor was so strong that Sherman's son was
buried in Cedar Grove.
In January, four months after Willy's death, another
son, Charley, was born to the Shermans. Ellen's grief over Willy's death
was intensified by the fact that he had been away from her during the
school year. It was very evident in her letters that she suffered deeply
from not having seen him for many months. After his death, she decided
to move to South Bend, taking her new baby with her, so she could be
near her other children while they attended both schools. She made
arrangements to live at the Schuyler Colfax home in the city. Schuyler
Colfax came to South Bend in 1836 and was later Vice-President of the
United States from 1869-1873.
When she and the children returned to South Bend in
September of 1864, she obtained a rose bush from the Notre Dame grounds
and a box of pebbles which she had the children gather from the river
bank at St. Mary's where Willy often played. She planned to put them on
his grave in Lancaster.
Charley, Ellen's healthy baby boy had contracted a
cold in Lancaster. It was felt a change of climate might be good for
him. However, his condition worsened after they arrived in South Bend.
On December 4, 1864, a year and two months after Willy's death, 10 month
old Charley died in Ellen's arms. Anna McAllister describes his burial
in her book, Ellen Ewing, Wife of General
Sister Angela asked Ellen to be allowed to take the body to St. Mary's
Academy. Here the children of Mary kept constant watch beside the casket
until Wednesday afternoon when Father Sorin performed the beautiful and
touching rites of infant burial in the Church of Sacred Heart at Notre
The General was on the march, engaged in hazardous
maneuvers through enemy country when the little baby he never saw died.
The poignancy of these two deaths is described in Katherine Burton's,
Cump was not there, He did not even know the baby was
dead. Charley was ten months old when he died and his father had never
seen him. For several months Ellen had heard nothing from him.
The Shermans moved to St. Louis in 1865, where in
later years General Sherman was buried. Katherine Burton records the
following information regarding Charley and Willy's reburial in St.
Louis in 1866:
Sherman acquired a family lot in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis so that
Willy and Charley could be buried there. . . . On a trip to Washington
the General stopped at Lancaster to get Willy's coffin. . . . He had
already written to Father Sorin at Notre Dame asking him to help with
the removal of Charley's coffin.(174)
So, it was not General Sherman's son Willie who was
buried at Cedar Grove. It was his infant son, Charlie -- the son he
never knew -- whose first grave was at Cedar Grove Cemetery at Notre
Much has been written about the proud and tough
General William Tecumseh Sherman, but a little item in a 1874
General at a Circus" tells another side of his personality:
Sitting in front of us was General Sherman and with him quite a number
of children whom he had gathered up from the 'by-ways and hedges.' We
saw him look down under the seat, and then haul out a dirty, ragged
little darkey, who had crept in under the tent, and then seat him at his
feet, where, by crowding, was made a place for the little rascal. 'Now,'
said the General, 'sit there, my boy, and see everything. Bless me! many
is the time I've done just the same thing, and many a thrashing have I
had.' Sherman seemed like a child; everything pleased him, and we
wondered where was the vanity of which people talked so loudly. Who has
a better right to be proud than Sherman; proud of his valor, proud of
his deeds, proud of his wife, proud of his children, and proud of the
love of his countrypeople? When he went to Europe he did not go via
London, but took the far-off countries to the East, and made London the
tail-end rather than head of his journey. Why? 'Because,' to use his
words as nearly as we can, 'I had never been to Europe, and if I had
gone to London, I'd have found myself pretty ignorant of their
entertainments from want of observation of their part of the world. So I
did it all up at the other end, and knew as much as any fellow when I
got to London.(175)
I learned more about the Ewings, Sherman's and
Gillespies and their family ties with Notre Dame and St. Mary's as I
went along. This more recent information also explained the Master
Thomas Ewing signature I'd found earlier in the 1859 guide book. Thomas
Ewing, a nephew of Ellen Ewing, was a student at Notre Dame when he
penned his name on the top of the 1859 guide. Later, when Willy arrived
at Notre Dame, they were playmates on the campus. Because his sister was
at St. Mary's, Willy Sherman spent much of his time there. He spent his
last Christmas with his Aunt Mary Phelan, Sister Angela Gillespie's
mother, who resided in a cottage at St. Mary's.
When Mother Angela's father died, her mother remarried
a Mr. Phelan who offered his large farm in Ohio to Father Sorin in
exchange for an annuity and a home for them at St. Mary's. The Phelans
were among the earliest benefactors of Notre Dame and St. Mary's. The
little cottage they lived in was said to have been a blacksmith's shop,
for which the Sisters paid $5. It was fixed up as a home for the Phelans
and moved from Bertrand to St. Mary's at Notre Dame along with another
building. Much of the early landscaping and tree planting at St. Mary's
was done by Mother Angela and her stepfather, some beautiful willow
trees among them.
It is still a tree in evidence on the campus.
Especially at Marian Lake in front of the old Saint Mary's College
Library, now known as Haggar College Center. More recently planted
willows grace the artificial lake in several areas. Marian Lake was
created in 1907 to enhance the college grounds. There is a tiny island
in the center with a bridge leading to it which has a beautiful detailed
statue of Mary in the center of it. Canadian geese are often seen there
in great numbers and goldfish of all sizes swim in its waters.
Eugene O'Neill's stage play,
Long Day's Journey Into Night,
for which he received the Nobel prize after his death, was written in
1940. In the quotes excerpted about his mother and St. Angela's Island,
mentioned earlier, he refers to the island being in a lake rather than a
river. Since St. Angela's island in the river would have been long
forgotten, and his mother being gone, he might, mistakenly, have thought
or been told when he was writing his script, that it was the island in
Marian Lake. It would have been an easy error to make under the
circumstances, since both had statues of Mary.
In Mrs. Post's earlier mentioned "Gleanings," I found
this unusual story about the area before it became Marian Lake. Under
the heading, "Interesting Facts of Clay Township" she relates:
The first cemetery in Clay township was located where
Lake Marian was dug at St. Mary's College. The remains of three bodies
were uncovered when the area was excavated. The remains were re-buried
in St. Mary's Community Cemetery. One was a man, another a girl possibly
18 years old with beautiful teeth and black hair and the bones of an
infant. The McCombs genealogy states that Ruth and John and their child
died and were buried in this little cemetery. They were children of the
first Lambert McCombs in Clay Township.
A good portion of the land which is now owned by St.
Mary College was formerly owned by the McCombs Family.
Another beautiful willow tree stands in a field
south of the new, Inn at St. Mary's, and yet another until recently was
behind Bertrand Hall near the Church. I often admired it on my visits to
the convent over the past 15 years. Like Notre Dame, St. Mary's is
steeped in early history. I found this charming story while paging
through the June 1913 issue of The Chimes,
St. Mary's student magazine. It is also more evidence of how intertwined
the Gillespie, Ewing and Sherman families have been with the Notre Dame
and St. Mary's campuses:
compiled by Phil Bertoni (2016)