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Chapter 5

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Charles Nerinckx

Camillus Maes

published by
Robert Clarke & Co.
Cincinnati, 1880

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 7

 p77  Chapter VI


Father Nerinckx on the mission. — A noble project. — He writes to Belgium for men and money. — "The voice of one crying in the wilderness." — Poverty of Kentucky catholics. — A visit to Post Vincennes. — Who shall be bishop of Kentucky? — A pen-picture of Father Badin.

Father Nerinckx was forty-four years of age when he entered upon this extensive missionary field of labor, the difficulties of which had made many a younger man shrink from it. The many trials and vigils of his seven years seclusion in Dendermonde, had somewhat impaired his health; but having an iron constitution and giant strength, he could still hope for a long and laborious exercise of the holy ministry. However, he little thought of himself. As we have seen, his humility led him to believe that he was of no use to the missions; and, if his zeal for the salvation of souls induced him to request a speedy appointment to a mission, it was especially because he desired to let his friends in the Old Country know the state of affairs, and carry out a noble plan, which none but a generous soul could conceive.

 p78  Father Nerinckx had left, in Belgium, many of his brethren in the ministry, whose learning and zeal he was eager to secure for the struggling American Church. Prevented from exercising their sacred calling in the land of their birth, they had expressed a willingness to follow him to the New World and devote themselves to the missions, as soon as they would receive authentic assurances that their services were needed in the new field to which their respected friend had gone. Moreover, many wealthy friends interested themselves in Rev. Nerinckx' welfare and in the prosperity of the country which he had come to evangelize. It therefore occurred to him that it would be a most advantageous plan for his countrymen and for the mission to which he had been sent, to center in one state whatever men and means he might procure, in order to make it a thoroughly catholic region. This would give the newcomers the benefits of companion­ship and frequent pious conversation which they had enjoyed at home, and which he knew, men no longer young, and with habits formed, would greatly miss in a strange land. Kentucky would so become a focus of catholicity, whence the rays of faith would again radiate far and wide; an oasis in the desert, adorned with noble churches which the wealth of friends would enable him to build, and enriched with the talented men whom he desired to gain to the cause. The realization of that project would be his country's mite  p79 to America's enlightenment; an everlasting monument of the zeal of Catholic Belgium for the extension of our Holy Faith.

With this object in view, he set to work with greater ardor, accompanying Father Badin to all the stations which, up to that time, solely depended on the ministrations of that indefatigable pioneer. A few months sufficed to convince him of the great harvest to be gathered in, and caused him to state that, "where thirteen years ago there was only one church, we now count twenty congregations; non-catholic settlers abandon their farms, I mean, sell them as fast as catholics arrive and grow in numbers."1

As early as September, 1805, he wrote to Belgium: "I am glad to hear that what I lately wrote about our distress has caused a reverend gentleman, named De Cuyper, to make up his mind to come and help us. I beg to assure you that my letters did not begin to do justice to the abandoned state of our catholic brethren in these regions; were we twelve priests, we would not suffice to keep our co-religionists in the faith, or satisfy the demand for help. Besides Kentucky, Louisiana, which is as large as half of all the other States, and which, under Spanish domination, was entirely catholic, is, so to say, completely neglected and without priests; Illinois and the country around Post St. Vincentº are in danger of losing the faith from the same cause . . .

 p80  "On the other hand outsiders continually call for priests, and offer us any amount of land; one gentleman offers us a thousand acres; the Governor of the new State of Tennessee,​a about two hundred miles from here, offers to give a farm to us all, if we build churches there. Those people know that the catholics follow their priests, and that by those means they would gain settlers and have a chance of selling the public lands. . . . Oh! that I had words to enlist some virtuous priests in the cause of religion! But they must be men who have nothing but God's glory and the welfare of suffering christians at heart; men of solid and true principles, grounded in devotion and of unexceptionalº morality; purity of character, sobriety, and love of solitude are desirable every where, but are here of prime necessity."2

Father Nerinckx wrote, from Holy Mary's at the Rolling Fork, on the 6th of February, 1806, a letter to Bishop Carroll, setting forth his plans, and desiring him to consent to have Kentucky selected for that purpose. "The field," he writes, "is every-where full of weeds and thistles that choke the good seed, there being only two who can see to it to cut them in time. In consequence, I feel it my duty to manifest to your Lordship my desire of having in this region my countryman, Rev. De Cuyper,​3 and others, if there are  p81 any who are willing to come out here. The necessity is urgent indeed, for Kentucky is in the most abject spiritual misery. If you allow me to speak my mind, I do not think it good to send my countrymen in places far distant from one another, because, being new-comers, they would not know how or where to settle when they arrive in the missions, or where to die a quiet death when exhausted by work, age, or sickness. Hence, I would deem it better to send, whatever subsidies might be expected from our country, to one region, instead of having them scattered far and wide, or in missions very far distant from them. This being approved of, it would only be left to determine the choice of such place. Your Lordship will deign to select it, with your usual keen perception and enlightened prudence. I know it well; all the regions of your extensive diocese ardently desire priests; but I can hardly believe it possible to find greater need than here, where there is, moreover, reasonable hope of abundant fruits. However, I would not importune a man to come out here, unless he be brimful of the zeal of God and charity for his neighbors, seeking only the things of Christ, convinced that he will not find his own. Only under these conditions do I most lovingly invite whoever is willing to come."4

Father Nerinckx, at the same time, addressed  p82 letters to several of his Belgian friends, asking for "men, vestments, and money for the American mission." He also requested the Bishop to write to Mr. Dewolf, of Antwerp, "a few words which will add more weight to what I relate of the wants of our congregations, and enhance its value and truthfulness in the eyes of my friends," a request which Bishop Carroll readily complied with in the following letter:

"Baltimore, April 1, 1806.


"Your very estimable friend, Mr. Nerinckx, has sent me, from Kentucky, an account of his apostolic labors, a large package of letters addressed to you, which I have the honor of transmitting by a vessel that is to leave this port tomorrow for Amsterdam. While transmitting them I take a liberty which you will surely pardon me.

"From the description given me by Mr. Nerinckx, I am aware of your zeal for the increase of the true religion in the diocese which Providence has confided to me, and of your kindness in interesting yourself to send ecclesiastics whose life and talents will edify the faithful and maintain the faith. Ah! sir, if it were possible for you to find and persuade five or six priests like Mr. Nerinckx, it is incredible how much they would extend, in these vast regions, the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

"Although he has but imperfectly acquired our language, still, every account from Kentucky  p83 already speaks of him as a man who has won the respect, confidence, and veneration of the whole people. I feel only one anxiety about him: it is, that, incessantly engaged in the functions of his apostolate, he will be exhausted by toil.

"His friend, Mr. Cuypers, who was to have been his coadjutor and consolation, sank under the delicacy of his constitution before commencing his career in the mission which awaited him. I do not know whether it was in his voyage from Amsterdam, or a few days after his landing, that he was attacked with a dysentery. It did not at first seem dangerous. I advised him to go to Georgetown College, the healthiest place in the country, both to recruit and to become more familiar with our language, before starting to join Mr. Nerinckx. Notwithstanding all possible care, his disease grew worse, and he died a few days before Christmas, in the arms of my coadjutor. You will say with me, that his death, disastrous for my diocese, is only the greatest advantage to him, by advancing the day of his happy entrance into Heaven. His piety made a lively impression on all at the college, and served to excite all to the exercise of virtue.

"Receive, sir, the assurance of my gratitude, respect, and of my desire to serve you when in my power.

"I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,

"✠ John, Bishop of Baltimore."​5

 p84  Having conceived a high opinion of some priests whom he had met at Georgetown, Father Nerinckx also called Bishop Carroll's attention to the necessity of appointing a Bishop for Kentucky, as soon as possible. On that subject, he wrote the same year: "I can not but renew my sincere wish to have, along with other laborers, a Bishop; one who will visit his flock, not once in a long while, and in a passing way, but who shall live here in its midst, and visit it regularly and often; a man, omni exceptione major, to whom this flock, almost more miserable than misery itself, will be committed."6

Having thus fulfilled what he considered his mission, the humble priest resumed the arduous duties of his wandering life, with more courage and greater hope for the future, "strengthened and consoled," as he writes, "almost solely by the three following considerations: 1. I can be excused of presumption before God, in my enterprise, because there are absolutely no others to be found who come to do it better; 2. This expression of the holy founder of the Jesuits: 'Were it that I had my choice, I would rather live in the uncertainty of my salvation, and at the same time serve God and my neighbor, than die at this very moment, with the assurance of my salvation;' 3. The letter of St. Francis Xavier to Francis Mansilla: 'If you can not do what you will, will what you can, . . . and if you find so much to be done that you can not  p85 take it all to heart, do as much as you can and be satisfied. Thank God even for that, that he has guided you to such places, where, because of the multiplicity of spiritual work, it would be impossible to be lazy, even if you wanted to, a thing which must surely be counted among the great graces of God. Deem yourself happy to be in purgatory to satisfy for the punishments due to your sins, and you will think all the more of the mercy of God, who has exchanged your purgatory for those pains.' Such and similar considerations sweeten the bitterness and sorrows I experience." The fact is, that Father Nerinckx looked upon himself more in the light of a John the Baptist, who was to prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight the paths for the chosen men who were to come after him, and who, he thought, were preferred before him to preach the Word of God to the people. That he, himself, was selected to fill the valleys, to bring low the hills and mountains, to make the rough ways plain, and cause hundreds of souls to see the salvation of God, we shall subsequently see; but that he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, is scarcely to be doubted, when we consider the poverty of Kentucky at that time, as described in the correspondence of the missionary.

The following extract, from a letter written to his parents, in 1807, is somewhat quaint, but conveys withal a very adequate idea of the sufferings which a man used, at least to what are  p86 considered necessary comforts of life, and, but for his mortifications, to the refinements of polite society, for forty years, must have undergone:

"In a recent letter I described to you all the nays of this country: v. g., no cheese,​b little or no vegetables, no wine, no beer, no oil, no coal, no turf, no bells, no sparrows, very few or no singing birds, no mosquitoes,​7 scarcely ever fresh meat, no stoves, no spices or fine herbs, no peaches, no fruit-trees with the exception of wild apple and pear trees, no hedges, no ditches, no stone roads, no slate roofs, no floor or roof tiles. I told you, that the most wonderful thing here was, that there is nothing wonderful to be found. A Fleming can surely not be enticed to this country by curiosity; one thing might, perhaps, induce him to come; that is, the facility of making a living, if he is satisfied with little, and is willing to work . . . The Indians are already  p87 one hundred and fifty miles away from here.

"When you send church articles," he continues, "also add some money, that I may be enabled to have them brought here, for we have no means of support. As I told you in one of my former letters,​8 my salary will never reach $200; our plantations must support us, and every thing is dear. Common broadcloth sells at $7 a yard; a pair of shoes costs $2; I have to pay $20 for a common saddle. The gentlemen, (so they call the priests here), are obliged to supply every thing in almost all the churches. But here arises an objection. The question may be asked, how these two things can be reconciled: that our people are so attached to their religion, and so slow in helping it along by temporal aid? I answer: the people now settled in Kentucky, very few or rather none excepted, come here from Maryland, if catholics; from other States if heretics; nearly all in such a state or condition, that they were in the absolute impossibility of living there any longer, the land they occupied being well-nigh exhausted; hence all are poor, and some in extreme want. Many Irishmen come from Europe as badly supplied . . . They located in the worst agricultural portion of the State, probably because the first catholics settled in this place in 1785. The first catholic priest was stationed here, and the largest number of settlers, although not over pious,  p88 wished to live near the priest. This is the case when they are poor. When, however they begin to hunt for wealth, they go to more distant regions, without any further care for religion, and so they avoid contributing for church purposes. Again, priests are scarce; hence the people are not duly impressed with their duty in that respect, although what is asked of them is very little. Father Badin asks one bushel out of every hundred. According to what my predecessor had, I have a right to $1.50 from every family, but the sixth part of these dues will not be paid. Protestants who become converts to our holy religion and are as a rule in better circumstances because occupying the best lands, are few in number and less accustomed to these small duties, although they often become the best christians. Finally, all alike are affected, as in our country, with the complaint commonly called money-fever, which is very endemic. I can truly say that I alone have contributed more to the church, than the four or five hundred families under my care taken together; and that during my two years' residence her, I have not appropriated three dollars of the salary to my own use. God provides, and I hope he will reward my host for the board he gives me, and bless you and other good souls of my fatherland who, by their donations, help to build up the Church of God through my unworthy hands. May it please God to give them his beautiful  p89 heaven for such noble deeds, and admit me into their sweet company!"

No wonder that this poor priest boasted later of "a palace that had cost him just $6.50 in money!" In order not to tax his parishioners, he built it himself, chiefly with his own hands; and the modest appearance of Loretto and of the house of its founder, proclaims, more eloquently than any words of ours could express, that Rev. Nerinckx not only cheerfully suffered want, but became thoroughly imbued with the holy spirit of poverty, which he and his sisterhood so heroically practiced in later years.

However, before going to so extravagant an expense in the way of "palace" building, Father Nerinckx lived some time with Father Badin, at St. Stephen's, Marion county, in a log-house. It was built by the same reverend gentleman on the identical spot now graced by the substantial buildings and delightful grounds of the Loretto Mother-house, and was the headquarters of the truly apostolic missionaries whose labors a grateful people to this day remembers.

Father Nerinckx spent the first winter of his missionary life in Kentucky, going from mission to mission, to celebrate and preach the Jubilee, rightly thinking that the advent of several new priests would be a good opportunity for the people to go to the Holy Sacraments.

"On the 2d of December, 1805, we have opened the first Jubilee ever held in this part of  p90 the New World. About one P.M., we walked in procession from the parish church, now called Holy Cross, to the house where the Trappists live, a distance of nearly a mile. I had the happiness of carrying the Most Blessed Sacrament, and gave benediction from an altar built alongside the street. The priests of the Trappist community — another has joined it lately — assisted, clad in sacerdotal garments, and the people showed much devotion. The good work is eminently successful, but it is impossible to do justice to it; it is as much above our strength as the sun is above our heads. We find out scores of people of twenty years and over, who never made their first communion; early rising, hard work, and late meals, tell on us all, and we are so lean that we will soon be able to worry through the narrow gate of heaven. God grant it?"9

Having finished the visitation of the different Kentucky stations, the two set out for Post Vincennes early in the Spring of 1806. This station had not been visited since Father Olivier, then residing at Prairie du Rocher, among the French Catholics on the Mississippi, had spent there two weeks in July, 1805. Father Nerinckx was very anxious to undertake that journey. Having given up his intention of joining the Trappists, out of obedience to his Bishop, he was now revolving in his mind the possibility of indulging his love for seclusion and for a life of austerity,  p91 by becoming a missionary to the Indians, a plan against which, he thought, Bishop Carroll could not urge the necessity of other missions. That he succeeded no better, in this second attempt to bury himself out of sight of the world, is evident from the following extract from a letter to his parents, written in May, 1807. "I have not yet determined where to live. The Vicar-general Badin wishes me to remain with him, and the Bishop of Baltimore entreats me not to go to the State or Territory of Indiana, where he intends to send two countrymen of mine, the Jesuits, Fathers Malave and Henry. As soon as other fathers arrive from Europe, to fill their places at Georgetown, they will start for that mission."​10 . . .

Fathers Badin and Nerinckx "arrived at the Post on the 14th of April, and remained until the 27th, 1806,º baptizing many children and assisting at several marriages, besides administering the other sacraments as usual."​11 Father Nerinckx, in a letter to his parents, "described his journey to the Illinois and to Post Vincennes, mentioning what he met of interest among the savages,"​12 but all our efforts to secure it have been in vain. It was, very likely, destroyed with many similar documents of importance for the history of that interesting mission.  p92 The following account, which he sent to Bishop Carroll,​13 gives us a faint idea of what the venerable Father Rivet, who died at Post Vincennes in 1804, must have suffered in that neglected station:

"I have visited, in company with Father Badin, the catholics at Post Vincennes. The trip took us about a month. We found them like unto sheep astray and almost perishing; their total destruction seems certain, unless a helping hand be extended to them. They are very bad people, . . . unmindful of the commandments of the church with regard to the observance of feasts, of fasts and abstinence; in a word, there is 'neither beauty nor comeliness, but destruction and unhappiness in their ways!' I think there are about eighty families at the Post, but many more are scattered in the neighborhood. They desire very much to have a priest who would help them in their distress, although I am afraid they will not listen to him. They are a lazy voluptuous set, and the position of a priest among them will necessarily be trying, desolate, and sad. Father Rivet succeeded, however, in putting the temporal concerns of the mission on a good footing. The governor of the place offers his help to secure to a resident priest $200 a year, which sum the government allowed to Rev. Rivet. But I would rather refuse the offer, because I have not the least doubt that the allowance is hurtful to the freedom of religion, as but too plainly appears  p93 from the papers left in the house of the deceased priest.

"Besides these residents, there are two Indian tribes, the Miamis and the Loups, who seem to be well-disposed and give hopes for a great many conversions. The former, a very populous tribe, count one thousand five hundred able-bodied warriors; the latter, eight hundred souls. The Loups already have a church, in which they come together on Sundays and holy days, to have the catechism explained to them by two laymen paid for the purpose. They live about four hundred miles from Vincennes; the Miamis are in their vicinity. I have, before this, offered myself for any of their missions, if agreeable to my superiors; and I hereby renew my offer to your Lordship, although I must acknowledge that, notwithstanding my good will to help my neighbor, I should rather seek a solitude in which to pass the remainder of my days in tears and lamentations, in expectation of the severe judgment. Yet, I repeat it most emphatically, I would even insist upon my being sent to some of these abandoned people, were it not that I am absolutely unfit for the position. It seems also urgent to erect a Bishopric in some of these missions, in order to put a stop to the many difficulties and indecision of these people, who, living at such an enormous distance from their pastor, know not what to hold as right or wrong. A Bishop would soon set all things to right, and being here, would very soon remove all the obstacles  p94 in the way of our Holy Faith, and be better able to judge what means would be the best and the most practical to foster Religion."

Upon returning to St. Stephen's, Father Nerinckx found a letter from Bishop Carroll, conveying the sad intelligence of the death of Rev. De Cuyper, who had died in Georgetown, whilst preparing to leave for Kentucky. This was a heavy blow to the zealous priest, who had set his heart upon the scheme of a mission of his countrymen. "I have greatly regretted," he writes in answer to the Prelate, June 2, 1806, "the loss of Rev. De Cuyper to myself and people; especially so, because the sad occurrence is likely to prevent my countrymen from undertaking the journey; other circumstances seem, moreover, to foretell that all my endeavors to establish a Belgian mission will be in vain. I would never have presumed to conceive the plan, but that I desired to profit, in as much as my own mediocrity would allow, of the services of men seemingly chosen by Almighty God for that very purpose. But it is the work of God; His holy will be done!"

Determined to leave nothing undone, in order to secure the success of his undertaking, and the lasting benefit of an able and numerous body of priests to the Kentucky mission, he again wrote to Belgium, urging his friends to come out without delay. "I am convinced," he says, "that no priest, who has any of the zeal of his vocation and who carefully considers our position here,  p95 can in any way get rid of the obligation of, I do not say coming, but flying to our help, unless the most weighty reasons order otherwise. However, in these, our days, the judgments of God on his Church are so terrible as they are wonderful. So many regions where to carry the Gospel! So many nations ready to embrace it, who never had the chance to do so, or lost it. So many priests who on the day of their ordination received the Holy Ghost, with the injunction of going forth and baptizing; and yet trying (but in vain) to find legitimate excuses to justify their sloth! And where Religion is established, so many persons so very indifferent to it, that what is left of it is scarcely worthy of that name! . . . May the good God, always merciful in his unfathomable designs, have pity on our poor and needy people, and vouchsafe that we be not numbered among the condemned crowd!

"In the midst of such painful and serious difficulties, you can easily imagine what discouraging thoughts assail me, when, in my rare moments of leisure, I ponder over the present revolution, sweeping over my family and country; but especially when I revert my thoughts upon myself, and behold so poor and unfit a man, with means so inadequate, charged with so great and so multifarious duties, in the midst of so many perils, without hope of speedy aid! I sometimes flattered myself with the hope that a few, at least, would come to this country to work for the glory of God; and that in their consoling  p96 company and under their holy guidance, I would be enabled to commence in earnest, correcting my defects and amending a life which passes away so fast, and will soon be mine no more. Yet in the midst of those gloomy and melancholy thoughts and trials, the good God is so merciful as to refresh his unworthy servant with some glimmering of hope and consolation. The Rev. Vicar-general Badin, whom I live with, gives me the most striking proofs of an uncommon affection, and urges me to take upon myself the administration and owner­ship of his house and land; but my affections and desires were never fixed on such objects heretofore, nor shall they, I trust, now take possession of my heart. I do not feel at all like coming to such a pass, although I can scarcely see how to escape the burden of that extensive and heavy congregation, really large enough for four or five earnest and zealous priests, besides remaining at the same time burdened with my own. If I make some tiresome rehearsals of my extensive labors, rest assured that the true and only reason is, that some may be moved to come, in person, to our aid, and that the other virtuous souls who can not come, may address the most frequent prayers and supplications to heaven, to obtain for me, in my bitter need and sorrow, graces and help."

We will have occasion to refer again, in the course of this biography, to the zeal with which Father Nerinckx worked to recruit missionaries  p97 for his beloved Kentucky. His was indeed a zeal which knew no bounds. Not satisfied with working day and night for the salvation of souls, he did all in his power to multiply his good works by inducing others to do the same; and we have already seen that he was the first to think of asking a Bishop for Kentucky.

Bishop Carroll, who had thought of Father Badin for that responsible position, and had conceived a very high opinion of the virtue and sound judgment of Rev. Nerinckx, wrote to him asking his opinion on the subject; and the humble man very reluctantly gave it in the following letter,​14 dated June 2, 1806: "It is but right, if it can be done, that a man be chosen, acquainted with the country and with the customs of the people, like the one the selection of whom your Lordship submitted to my judgment. His science, in both human and divine letters, seems to me to be above the mediocre, and it would, without a doubt, be much greater and deeper if time and occupation allowed him to improve it. He has good reasoning powers, fair judgment, and prudence. I believe him to be sound in doctrine and ready to listen to the decision of a superior. His zeal is more than sufficiently known; it has, perhaps, a little too much of the French fervor, is of more than necessary rigidity, and, if tempered with a little of the honey of kindness, would be more palatable  p98 to his people and more successful in curing inveterate sinners and loathsome wounds. This is the reason he is not so universally liked, although it is also to be acknowledged that some of the less pious people are difficult to deal with, indocile, ungrateful, lax and without manners, quarrelsome, and indifferent to Religion, the very name of which they cause to be blasphemed. He handles temporal affairs smartly enough; he loves piety, from the exercise of which he is perhaps a little prevented because of his love for society, which he has, however, rarely frequented since my arrival. If, however, he does not refuse invitations with as much reluctance as I would, he does it because of the good he hopes from them . . . These are the things I have been able to note down, and which need not keep him away from that terrible ministry . . . For the rest, I do not know of any one more fit for the place . . . But I beg of your Lordship that my opinion in the matter should have as little weight as possible."

Writing, in 1807, on the same subject to a friend,​15 Rev. Nerinckx gives the following rather racy and graphic sketch of old father Badin, at that time in the bloom of his years: "Kentucky has not yet its Bishop, and our people are very desirous to know who he will be. A great many conjectures are made. Many are of opinion that my host, the Vicar-general, may be appointed, in which case my burden would,  p99 if possible, be doubled. In fact, I would then be obliged to assume his congregation, which is two thousand strong. Even now he urges me to do so, so that he might visit the more distant stations, a thing also very necessary. The Vicar-general Badin is a Frenchman, born in Orleans, thirty-nine years of age, of small stature, well-built, of pleasant character, good morals, and great piety; gray, strong, and healthy, standing the hardships of missionary life well, the first priest ordained by the Bishop of Baltimore, while qualified for business affairs, and, in my opinion, for the Episcopal dignity, and, so to say, the founder of the church in Kentucky."

That Father Badin was not appointed, was perhaps due to the fact, that he, himself, went to Baltimore in the Spring of 1807, and recommended for the position, Rev. Benedict Joseph Flaget, a distinguished Sulpician, of burning zeal and tender piety, who had come with him to America, in 1792, and who, having attended Post Vincennes until 1794, and spent sixteen years on the American mission, seemed to him fitted, in a particular manner, for the trying office of the Episcopacy in this pioneer country. Subsequent events proved Father Badin's choice to be as wise as Father Nerinckx' might have proved to be.

The Author's Notes:

1 Letter of Father Nerinckx, dated, "Ash-Wednesday, 1807," to his parents.

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2 MS. letter of Rev. Father Nerinckx began September, 1805, ended May 16, 1806.

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3 That reverend gentleman had left London, August 2, 1805, and arrived in Baltimore the 17th of September. He died shortly after at Georgetown College.

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4 Baltimore MSS. letters.

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5 Copied from "Western Missions and Missionaries," by De Smedt, S. J., pg. 457‑8.

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6 Baltimore MSS.

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7 The good missionary could scarcely have felt the absence of that nuisance, had he dwelt near the rivers. There is no country in Europe in which these pestilent insects are so numerous and so annoying, as they are near the water-courses in the western and southern states of America. The mosquito-bar, which, in some districts, is almost a simple necessity for the preservation of one's life during the summer-nights' sleep, is an unknown piece of drapery in European dwellings. The mosquitoes must have settled in Kentucky very early in this century. So at least thought the writer when he experienced the stunning familiarity with which these blood-suckers made for him, through a dilapidated mosquito-bar, during a summer's sleepless night in Louisville. The aggravating way in which they heralded their approach, convinced him that they laid full claim to citizen­ship on "the dark and bloody ground."

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8 Letter of September, 1805.

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9 Letter of Rev. Nerinckx of December 6, 1805.

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10 Letter of Rev. Nerinckx in the Bollandist collection.

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11 See "Life of Bishop Flaget," by Archbishop Spalding, pg. 119.

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12 Autograph letter of Rev. Nerinckx to his parents, dated 1807.

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13 Letter of 1806. Baltimore MSS.

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14 Baltimore MSS.

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15 Rev. Nerinckx' autograph.

Thayer's Notes:

a At the time, John Sevier; his diary is onsite. It says nothing about churches or Catholics in 1805‑1806, or indeed much at all about his official business. Though he was not Catholic, in 1812‑1815, the last four years of his life, we find him often going to "Catholic meeting" (Mass).

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b You may find it odd that Nerinckx should start with "What? No cheese?" as the touchstone of civilization — but such also is the view of the Greek geographer Strabo (IV.5.2 and elsewhere).

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Page updated: 6 Nov 13