REPRESENTATIVE AND LEADING
MEN OF THE PACIFIC
HUGH P. GALLAGHER
BY D. F. D.
REV. HUGH P. GALLAGHER was born in the County Donegal, Ireland, in the year 1815. From his tender years he manifested a desire to devote his life and energies to the sacred ministry. He was distinguished for his assiduity and rapid advancement in English and classical learning. When quite young he left his paternal home with letters dimissory from his bishop, to seek and new and wider filed in which to labor in the cause of religion. He landed in America in 1837, and immediately entered the Theological Seminary of St. Charles Borromeo, in Philadelphia. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed Professor of the Latin and Greek languages in that Seminary.
Whilst prosecuting his ecclesiastical studies in that institution, he possessed advantages of which he did not fail to profit. At that time, Most Rev. F. P. Kenrick, the late Archbishop of Baltimore, whose literary fame is not limited by the boundaries of our Continent, but holds high place in every kingdom of Europe, was President of the Seminary. His brother, the Most Rev. Peter R. Kenrick, the present venerable and learned Archbishop of St. Louis, was Rector of the Seminary. Rt. Rev. E. Barron, afterwards Bishop of Liberia, in Africa, was Professor of Moral Theology, and Rt. Rev. M. O'Connor, the first Bishop of Pittsburg, Professor of Dogmatic Theology. These illustrious men, by their writings and missionary labors, have done much to place the Catholic Church, in the United States, in its present elevated and dignified position. Under the instruction and influence of such tutors, did our young Levite live and learn, during his whole collegiate career, until he was elevated to the priesthood in 1840.
From this date, Father Gallagher, as we shall now call him, entered upon the duties of a Catholic Pastor. He was appointed, for his first Mission, to the parish of Pottsville, at that time one of the largest and most important congregations in the interior of Pennsyvania. Here was a field wherein to exercise his zeal. This was the centre of the great coal district of Eastern Pennsylvania. Thousands and tens of thousands of operatives had gathered there from every quarter of the globe. Many of them were addicted to the frightful vice of intemperance, the prolific source of broils, fights, bloodshed and murder.
Father Gallagher's compassionate heart was moved by the misery and scandal produced by these excesses, and he resolved to use his utmost efforts to stem this tide of vice and immorality, which threatened to sweep over the land, bringing ruin and desolation in its course. With the skill and prudence of a more matured experience, he commenced a course of instructions on the virtue of temperance. He spoke with such paternal affection and pleaded with such pathetic earnestness, that more than five thousand hardy miners came forward and pledged themselves to total abstinence from all intoxicating drinks. The improved condition and regularity of conduct of these teetotalers had a happy influence in winning over many of the votaries of inebriety to enlist under the temperance banner.
In the following year, Father Gallagher was appointed to govern a parish in western Pennsylvania. Here also his efforts in the cause of temperance were crowned with success. His labors were of the most trying character, as he was obliged to travel over a great extent of country to visit the different congregations entrusted to his pastoral charge. One of a less robust constitution would have succumbed under the incessant calls made on his time, both by day and night. All Catholics, who are sick and dying, have a right to the service of the priest at whatever hour he may be called. It was not an unfrequent occurrence with Father Gallagher, after being worn down and exhausted with the arduous labors of Sunday, celebrating the late Mass, preaching, teaching the catechism, singing vespers, instructing the young and ignorant, and in various other duties, to be called out in a pitiless storm, to visit a dying person some fifteen or twenty miles distant, and to make this journey not unfrequently on a trackless road over snow-clad hills.
In 1844, Father Gallagher was called by his ecclesiastical superior to Pittsburg, to take charge of the Theological Seminary. His duties here were of no ordinary kind, for he was not only the President of the Institution, charged with its management and discipline, but occupied different chairs of instruction, and at the same time had care of a large parish. About this time, a concerted opposition to the Catholic Church and to the rights of Catholics, citizens of the United States, was organized under the name of the Native American Party. The Church, her institutions and her teachings, were maliciously misrepresented, and Catholics were held up to the scorn and contempt of their fellow-citizens throughout the land. The press and the pulpit were equally fierce and unjust in their attacks on Catholics. Pittsburg was without a newspaper to defend the rights of Catholics, or to give an honest and fair statement of the doctrines and discipline of the Church.
Under these circumstances, Father Gallagher was waited on by many prominent citizens, who earnestly solicited him to coöperate with them in establishing a paper devoted to the exposition of the real doctrines of the Catholic Church, and to its vindication from the multiplied slanders and calumnies of a misguided press. The financial part of the undertaking they promised to attend to, provided Father Gallagher would undertake the editorial department. Weighed down, as he was, by his numerous occupations, he might well have refused this new burden; but not so: the interests of the Church, of his fellow-Catholics, and the enlightenment of his fellow-citizens generally, demanded his aid, and he would not, even if he could, resist their imperative appeal. The Pittsburg Catholic was then established, and, under the editorial management of Father Gallagher, attained an enviable reputation. Its influence was soon felt. The fires of religious intolerance were subdued, the voice of calumny silenced, the bitterness of fanaticism mitigated, and men blushed for the ignorance by which they were impelled to acts of violence and injustice. Peace and good will succeeded to strife and hatred. These happy results were due, in a great measure, to the course which Father Gallagher adopted. The editorials of the "Catholic" were plain, clear, outspoken expositions of doctrine, whilst the answers to assailants were the embodiment of Christian charity, pitying rather than censuring, the deluded spirit which animated them. The demon of discord and religious animosity disappeared, we hope never again to visit our land, fanning the flames of burning churches, asylums, or convents.
This great task being accomplished, Father Gallagher was called on by his bishop to complete the work commenced by the Reverend and illustrious Prince Gallitzen, in Loretto. Prince Gallitzen belonged to the noble house of Gallitzen, in Russia. Honors, position and fame awaited him, had he remained in the Greek Church; but this his conscience forbade: for after examining all the arguments, pro and con, and devoutly and perseveringly imploring the assistance of Divine light, he was convinced that the Roman Catholic Church was the only Church which had claims to Divine origin. He, therefore, renounced honors, country and home, to become an humble missionary in the then wilds of Pennsylvania. His work was blessed by Almighty God. A flourishing congregation grew up under his pastoral care. To succeed such a devoted missionary and carry on his great undertaking, was Father Gallagher now called. He set to work with an indomitable spirit, that neither knew nor courted repose.
The mantle of the illustrious Gallitzen had fallen on a worthy successor. The work of his ministry was blessed, and diffused blessings. As the congregation was growing large and important, it became necessary to establish schools. To this end, Father Gallagher purchased an extensive tract of land, and erected thereon a commodious building for a boarding and day school. He invited the Sisters of Mercy to take charge of it, which invitation they accepted; and in a very brief period, he had the satisfaction of witnessing St. Aloysius' Academy for young ladies in full operation, crowded with borders and day scholars, diffusing the blessings of a sound moral and religious education.
The male children were now to be provided for. The energies of Father Gallagher were again taxed to supply this desideratum. For this purpose he devoted a large farm belonging to the church, and had the necessary buildings erected. This for him was an easy task; but how was he to procure teachers? A merciful Providence, which seemed to guide and bless all his undertakings, came to his relief. A community of Franciscan Brothers in Ireland had determined to found a home of their Order in the United States. This coming to the knowledge of Father Gallagher, he immediately invited them to Loretto; whither they came and opened the St. Francis' College. This school now ranks among the foremost of educational establishments in the East. The Legislature of Pennsylvania chartered it, conferring on it University privileges. Its graduates now shine bright among the literati of the Atlantic States. These two institutions are proud monuments of the zeal of Father Gallagher in the cause of education. The labors of our good Father in this portion of the Lord's vineyard culminated in the erection of a magnificent church, whose massive walls and lofty spires will proclaim "His praise from generation to generation."
In 1850, the Rev. Father, with that indefatigable zeal which characterized him, started a Catholic newspaper at Summitville, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, called the Crusader, aided in its editorial management by the late Rev. Thos. McCullough, and the Right Rev. Dr. Mullen, present bishop of Erie. As the name imports, these gifts divines did good service as soldiers of the cross: and the various articles from their pens were written with such eloquence, boldness and force, as to challenge the admiration even of the enemies of the Catholic faith. Any one on this or the other side of the Rocky mountains, who perused them, will bear testimony to the fact, that they have not been surpassed, if equalled, in any Catholic publication of our day.
In the year 1852, he was appointed Theologian to the First Grand Plenary Council of bishops, held in the City of Baltimore. Our own venerable and learned archbishop, Alemany, who was in attendance at the Council as bishop of Monterey, was most solicitous to obtain the services of a pious, learned and zealous priest to aid him in establishing the Church on a solid basis on these shores, whither were coming people of every clime, attracted by the golden yield of river beds and mountain sides. Our illustrious prelate's keen perception was not slow to single out Rev. Father Gallagher from among the many holy and devoted priests invited to the Council. He earnestly besought the Reverend Father to join him, placing before him the great wants of his diocese, the immense field of labor in it, and the incalculable good to be accomplished. These arguments had their weight; but how could he leave a parish where so much had been done, and yet much more was to be accomplished; where he was beloved and revered with filial affection? Rt. Rev. Dr. O'Connor had already yielded an unwilling consent to the solicitations of Bishop Alemany for a temporary absence of Father Gallagher, who, ever willing to make any and every sacrifice where the glory of his heavenly Master was to be extended, and the welfare of his neighbor to be promoted, consented to the importunities of the Archbishop, and immediately made preparations to set out to his distant and laborious mission. The prayers of thousands, for whose spiritual benefit he had so successfully toiled, like the odor of sweet incense ascended to the throne of grace, entreating, imploring new benedictions on the work of the devoted pastor. The lisping supplication of innocent childhood joined with the tremulous petition of old age, and the earnest prayers of strong manhood, besought the Giver of every good gift to bless and protect their zealous and self-sacrificing pastor. The efficacy of such intercession was made manifest by the subsequent career of Father Gallagher. It seems a work of supererogation to speak to Californians of his life, his labors and success; thousands are willing witnesses of all that we may assert.
Immediately after his arrival in this State, in the fall of 1852, he proceeded to Benicia, where, as yet there was no Catholic Church. He took instant measures to procure a lot. He was fortunate in obtaining the site on which the present church stands. The lot being secured, it became necessary to open a subscription for the erection of a church. The Church of Benicia was the first fruit of the labors of Father Gallagher, in California. Subsequently, he visited Shasta and Weaverville, in both of which towns he obtained lots on which to erect churches; he also started collections for building them. About this time, he was appointed to the charge of St. Francis' Church, in San Francisco. As the Catholic population of the city was rapidly increasing, there was not sufficient church accommodation to supply its requirements, and Father Gallagher made considerable additions and improvements in St. Francis' Church. Archbishop Alemany now resolved to build the cathedral of St. Mary, a determination with whom was equivalent to its realization. He called on Father Gallagher to assist him in this gigantic undertaking. How could he fail, thus aided? The work was commenced and carried on until St. Mary's Cathedral now stands a stately monument of the noble generosity of the citizens of San Francisco, and an imperishable testimony of the zeal and energy of the good Archbishop and Father Gallagher.
Whilst engaged in carrying on the cathedral, our Reverend Father found time to visit other portions of the diocese, and exert his influence. Thus he secured in the beautiful city of Oakland, by his personal influence, the large block on which the Catholic Church now stands. With his usual zeal he opened a subscription for a church, which was crowned with his accustomed success. At this time also he had charge of the important mission of Sacramento, the duties of which he performed satisfactorily and successfully.
His untiring energy was afterwards to be exerted in a new field. With the approbation of Archbishop Alemany he undertook, in 1853, the publication and editorial management of the Catholic Standard in San Francisco, which did good service in the cause of religion and morality during its brief career.
Thus was the time of Father Gallagher constantly and usefully employed in the great work in which his heart and affections were centered. To labor for the glory of God and the benefit of his neighbor, was the sacred and inspiring influence that caused him to quit his home and country, to sunder the bonds of love and reciprocated affection which united him to his dear congregation in Loretto; and this heaven-born zeal now guided him in all his undertakings. Though frequently obliged in the interests of the church, morality, and benevolence, to mingle with public and prominent men, he ever obtained and preserved the respect and esteem of all political parties; for he rose far above all party distinctions or sectional feelings. Thus whatever right, favor or privilege he sought was gracefully conceded. Such was the confidence in his integrity, even among those who differed from him in religious belief, that they earnestly coöperated with him in every measure for which he claimed their assistance.
The growing wants of the church in this State imperatively demanded renewed exertions to meet its claims. The members of the priesthood were few and entirely inadequate to the labors required of them. Religious institutions were limited in number. There was no hospital or other religious charities through which to diffuse the blessings of religion. To provide for all these wants which pressed heavily on the heart of the good Archbishop, he requested Father Gallagher to visit the Atlantic States and Europe, and in his name to make arrangements for securing the services of faithful and zealous priests and some religious communities. He left San Francisco for this purpose on the 1st of December, 1853, and his success on this mission surpassed the brightest anticipations. Several priests, animated with a holy ardor, volunteered to accompany him to the distant shores of the Pacific; fourteen students were placed in ecclesiastical institutions in Europe to complete their studies and fit them for the great work of the ministry in California. A community of Sisters of Mercy, numbering several members, who had adorned the highest social circles in Ireland, in a spirit of self-sacrifice listened to the irresistible appeal of Father Gallagher, and cheerfully left their homes to minister to the wants of the stranger in the far off West. With what fidelity they have discharged this sacred duty, the whole people of San Francisco can testify; for they have witnessed their self-denying labors at all times, and more recently the noble heroism with which these ministering angels rushed to the rescue of the plague-stricken patients during the small-pox epidemic of 1868-9. A community of Sisters of the Presentation generously volunteered to dedicate their lives for the benefit of the rising generation of California. Thousands of young ladies in San Francisco have already experienced the advantages of the teachings of these good Sisters. Whilst they have been instructed in the highest grades of polite literature, they have been trained gently in the paths of virtue, purity and modesty, to shine as bright ornaments in society.
Such was a portion of the work of Father Gallagher during his visit to Europe. He received, besides, pecuniary and other assistance for the church in California. The ex-Emperor of Austria, Ferdinand, gave him a generous donation; and from various other parties he received presents of vestments, chalices and other church furniture to a very large amount. The diocese reaped a rich return from these labors of love.
It was then the intentions of Father Gallagher to return to his dear congregation of Loretto, and there pass the remainder of his days in the quiet discharge of his priestly duties; but, at the urgent solicitation of the Most Reverend Archbishop Alemany, he was prevailed upon to make the sacrifice a second time, and sunder the ties which bound him to his cherished home.
The great panic which seized our whole population in 1855, in consequence of the failure of Adams' Express and Banking Company; the immense losses sustained by the mining and working classes by that bankruptcy; and the want of confidence in other moneyed institutions, directed public attention to Father Gallagher as one in whose sterling integrity any and every trust might be reposed. Hundreds called on him requesting, nay begging him to take on deposit for safe keeping their hard-earned savings. His was not the heart to resist the entreaties of these good people, some of whom had been swindled out of the gains of years. Although he consented to be the guardian of the fruits of their toil, it was with extreme reluctance, for his duties in the ministry occupied almost every moment of his time. He was unwilling to be mixed up in financial affairs, knowing with what a jealous eye his every act would be scanned by a community which had just passed through a crisis in which thousands had been reduced to destitution and beggary. His only thought was to benefit those confiding people to the best of his ability; and, great as was the demand on his time and energies, he was ready to devote himself to the advantage of the community. Depositors, with sums varying from fifty to hundreds and thousands of dollars, crowded in upon him. His little room, which heretofore was sacred to study and repose, was now converted into a Banking office, without the many salaried clerks generally found in such institutions. Father Gallagher alone performed all the duties of Receiver, Paying Teller, Treasurer, Book-keeper and President—all without fee or reward, except in the conscious satisfaction that he was laboring honestly and successfully for parties, whose confidence and esteem were more precious than gold. A busy scene was his little room each day, as some came to deposit, and others to draw money. Millions thus passed through his hands, every dime of which has been fully and satisfactorily accounted for.
Such constant attention to these matters and his many other occupations began to make inroads on his constitution; his failing health warned him that limits must be put to his labors, or he would soon fall a victim to his zeal. He settled up his accounts with all interested, and retired from this business with the benedictions of all who had been depositors. Few men in this venal age can present a brighter or more enviable record.
Tired and worn out with the labors of the preceding year, the Reverend Father was compelled to leave the city and retire for a while to the country, with a view to repair his health and reinvigorate his exhausted energies. In May, 1860, he proceeded to Yreka for this purpose; but his indefatigable zeal and active mind would not permit him to take that rest so necessary to exhausted nature. He had not been long there before the religious wants of the poor people appealed to his feelings, and in a very short time he obtained a large lot, and transformed the capacious house of Gen. Colton into a temporary church.
In August, 1860, he set out for Washoe, which was then looming in the distance as the great resort of the miners of the Pacific coast. When there, he found "the harvest rich but the laborers few;" and at once went to work and erected three churches—one at Carson, one in Virginia City, and one in Genoa—to each of which was attached a large lot of ground, and a cemetery to the one in Virginia City.
In 1861, with the approbation of Archbishop Alemany, Father Gallagher undertook to supply the increasing demand for church accommodation in San Francisco. While looking for land for this purpose he was presented by Hon. Horace Hawes with the large lot at Tenth and Howard Streets, and erected thereon a church sufficiently spacious as was deemed at that time, to accommodate the congregation for many years; but the rapid growth of the city in that direction soon made it necessary to put up a much larger and more commodious building. The zeal and energy of Father Gallagher were again taxed to provide the funds for its erection. His appeal to the congregation and his fellow-citizens was met with a promptness and generosity, which showed the high esteem in which he was held by them. The new church was quickly completed and paid for, and the old one converted into a Temperence Hall and School-House. Subsequent additions and improvements to the new church have made it capable of seating a larger audience than any other church edifice in San Francisco. The school accommodations have also been augmented, so that at the present time eleven rooms are crowded with children of the district.
For several years the greatest exertions were required to sustain St. Joseph's school, but as it was a work in which the dearest interests of his congregation were at stake, Father Gallagher spared neither time nor labor to make it a success. We have been present at the examinations and exhibitions of this school, and take pleasure in recording our high estimation of the proficiency shown by the pupils in the various branches of study. The pleasurable emotions which filled the Rev. Father's heart, we could have envied, as this crowd of smiling, happy innocents gathered around him daily. He seemed contented, satisfied, repaid for all the anxiety and labor he had expended on the school. He has thus ranked himself among the first of the promoters of education in San Francisco.
Prominent among the cause of the high appreciation in which Father Gallagher was held by his fellow-citizens, may be placed his unselfish zeal in the cause of education. The true, unfailing way to reach the hearts of parents, is to show a kind, affectionate interest in their offspring; and this Father Gallagher has done so effectually as to secure the confidence and affection of parents and children.
In our notice of Rev. Father Gallaher, we should be adjudged derelict in our duty, did we fail to mention another praiseworthy institution which owes, in a great measure, its origin and present prosperity to his zealous labors. We mean the Magdalen, said "many sins are forgiven her because she hath loved much," and took her under his special protection, to save her from the sneers and contempt of the proud Pharisce or the no less dangerous solicitations and enticements of false friends, had already established a home and shelter for the poor fallen daughters of Eve, who wished to abandon a life of sin and infamy, and return again to the paths of virtue and morality. Already had those chaste servants of God rescued many an erring woman and thrown the mantle of charity over their past transgressions and led them in the way of sanctification and eternal life. But their means were limited, and the accommodation insufficient to meet the constantly increasing demands on their charity. It was under these circumstances that Father Gallagher was applied to by the good Sisters, to assist them. At once he sought our venerable Archbishop, and readily obtained permission to undertake the erection of a new building which should serve as an asylum for penitent women. It was thought that an edifice might be constructed of ample dimensions to satisfy the present want, at an outlay of eight or ten thousand dollars; but such a building was not equal to the zeal and charity of Father Gallagher. He started out on his elee-mosynary peregrinations, and soon, through the generosity and public spirit of the citizens of San Francisco, had twenty-one thousand dollars at his command. Thus encouraged, he laid the corner-stone of the present beautiful structure on the San Bruno road in 1865, and carried it on to a successful termination. Since the opening of the new Asylum, there have been seldom fewer than one hundred inmates within its walls.
Few citizens can realize the great, noble, and divine work of charity which is silently and unostentatiously carried on by these ministering angels, the Sisters of Mercy. Eight hundred human beings, once the idolized objects of parental endearment, the pride and joy of the household hearth, who listened to the seductive voice of deceivers, had fallen and become objects of contempt, at spots on the community—lost to society and to God—sunk into the lowest depths of immorality and vice—have been reclaimed, regenerated, restored to society and God, in the Magdalen Asylum of San Francisco, through the patient, gentle, merciful influence of the Sisters of Mercy.
Thus to the exertions of Father Gallagher, hundreds of parents, whose hearts had been wrung by the fall of their daughters, whose hoary heads were hastening to a premature and dishonored grave, are indebted for the Asylum, where their lost ones have been sheltered from the attacks of their enemies, protected from the cold and ofttimes cruel charity of the world, and trained in the glorious paths of virtue and morality. This is effected by the pure, simple, devoted, self-sacrificing lives of those heroic Sisters, as well as by the words of learning and divine charity in which they are daily instructed. As there is joy in the celestial mansions among the blessed spirits which surround the Throne of Grace, on one sinner doing penance, so here on earth the parental hearth and heart have been gladdened, when the poor, weak, frail one has sought refuge in the Magdalen Asylum. A warm, fervent prayer, gushing up from the bruised and bleeding heart, has ascended like the fumes of sweet incense to the footstool of Mercy, in thanksgiving for the return of the prodigal, and in earnest supplications that blessings innumerable should be granted to the Sisters of Mercy, and good Father Gallagher.
It is not our purpose, nor is it necessary, to enter into further details of the labors of this indefatigable divine. Firm and consistent in all the teachings of the Catholic church, zealous and exact in the discharge of his duties as a minister of that church, he has not only secured the approbation and affection of his ecclesiastical superiors and the congregations committed to his care, but has from him in religious tenets. CATHOLIC in all the feelings of head and heart, he pursues "the even tenor of his way," intent alone in extending the kingdom of his Heavenly Master, and diffusing on earth peace and good will to men. His zeal in the ministry, his distinguished ability and learning, his labors for the promotion of education, his efforts in the cause of morality, and the general success of all his undertakings, entitle him to be classed among the Representative Men of California.
The various articles furnished by Father Gallagher while acting as editor, prove that he wields a facile pen with force and vigor. Earnest and impressive, he also ranks high as a pulpit orator. The extract which follows this sketch is a specimen of his descriptive powers and style.
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Source: Shuck, Oscar T., “Representative & Leading Men of the Pacific”, Bacon & Co., Printers & Publishers, San Francisco, 1870. Pages 645-659.
© 2008 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
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