NOTRE DAME COLLEGE
Nothing could be more appropriate considering the history of the early missionary work of enlightenment in California than that the great Roman Catholic Church should today be so well represented by the Notre Dame College at San Jose, unquestionably one of the best-planned, best-equipped and best-conducted educational institutions of the Catholic Church, amply justifying its mottoes "Ora et labora" and "Ah! qu'il est bon le bon Dieu!"
Notre Dame, which aims to afford special facilities for the study of music, and has among its features a fine library and a valuable museum, is a monument to the energy and courage of the devout Sisters of Notre Dame at San Jose, who, by their intelligent work have built up this great institution during the past seventy years. It was founded about the time of the creation of the California commonwealth, and the story of its inception is of interest. In 1851, Sister Loyola and Sister Mary Catherine came to San Francisco to conduct a new colony of Sisters who were coming from Ohio to Oregon City; but on their arriving there, they found that a long wait of three months was before them. Rev. Father Langlois, who was familiar with conditions in Oregon, had discussed with Archbishop Alemany the advisability of inviting the Sisters of Notre Dame to the growing section of Central California. The Archbishop had already placed a community in San Francisco, but urged the Sisters to visit San Jose, then the state capital. At Santa Clara, the Rev. Father Nobili, S. J., was laying the foundations of the present Santa Clara University. Martin Murphy, already so interesting historically as one of the first white persons to settle permanently in California. conducted the visitors to their destination, and they journeyed by wagon along the historic Camino Real, and their hearts and eyes were delighted by the vision of the beautiful valley, as Bayard Taylor, the poet, who had been over the highway only a season or two before, pictures it in his Eldorado. The diary of Sister Mary records her delight over our lovely mountains, as she first saw them on that glorious spring day, their full capital in her wallet, "two bits" or twenty-five cents, in nowise interfering with her ardor. The people of San Jose were pressing in their demands to retain the Sisters, and both the Archbishop and Father Nobili were deeply concerned. At length, Sister Loyola decided to open a house in San Jose, while preserving the Oregon City foundation; and a spot outside the city limits, on the old road that ran from the Alameda. was secured. A single house was standing on the premises; Jack Townsend, aged three, was the first boarder, (with his nurse,) as he was the first and sole alumnus of the college; and the fees paid by Jack's guardian furnished the larder and provided the few indispensable articles of furniture. After three months, the colony from Cincinnati arrived, quite astonished to learn, at San Francisco, that San Jose and not Oregon City, was their destination.
These Sisters were Catherine, Mary Alenie, Aloysius and Donatil, and they came by way of the Isthmus of Panama, then a nigh impenetrable wilderness, apart from the trails. Drenched to the skin, with no opportunity of drying their garments, fearing the Indians, who, armed with long knives, infested the jungle; camping by night on the dizzy trails, or along the uneven banks; riding all day on mule back, or fording the river in the frail canoes of the natives, they made the trip for five days, often at risk to their lives, always at risk to their garments, loose calico gowns and immense sunbonnets, as they did not dare to travel in religious garb. In the same party, was the Rev. Eugene O'Connell, later the venerated Bishop of Grass Valley. Another caravan, crossing at the same time, was that of Bernard Murphy, who met with Sister Aloysius in a very opportune manner. Her refractory mule balked at a puddle of water on the trail, struck off into the undergrowth and left her clinging for dear life to a bough, her azure gown and white sunbonnet looking like a magnified blue-bell, till Mr. Murphy plucked her from the bough, and someone recaptured the mule. Reaching San Francisco at length, they were entertained by the Archbishop, the French Consul and Judge Barry until Sister Loyola could reach them by slow travel over the rough roads.
Very different was the Notre Dame of San Jose that opened its doors to the little company from the present institution. The first building was an old adobe, fronting directly on the road, and between that and their next-door neighbor was an alley, the rendezvous of revelling rats. The Sisters raised potatoes and cabbages, then very valuable, as the Valley was scarcely under cultivation. and meat was a rarity. Potatoes, cabbages, the leg of a bear, these were the features of a feast-day dinner. The early frame buildings let in both sun and rain, and when something better was provided, the carpenter worked late, hammering the rude boards, while Sister Mary held the flickering candle. The 1851 building is yet standing, in which Sister Catherine had her millinery and dressmaking department. When Sister Loyola erected the present west wing, the first brick building in the town, the French Consul, visiting on "Exhibition Day," asked how she ever dared to undertake such a work. "God is rich," answered the dauntless Sister Loyola. In those days, Exhibition or Commencement exercises lasted a week, and from all over California, as well as from Oregon and Nevada, and even further, guests came by wagon, requiring the erection of a court-yard tent, and dependence upon rather unsatisfactory Indian help. "Don Juan" was the man of all work, and it is chronicled that a crony of his, somewhat in his cups, one evening proved rather obstreperous in his demands to see the old Indian. The intrepid Sister Mary, issuing forth, pursued the invader as far as the river, and the firewater feaster was not again heard from. From Father Nobili and his Jesuit colleagues the Sisters received continual marks of kindness; and these traditions of good will are perpetuated today in the worthy successors at Santa Clara and San Jose.
In January, 1854, the first Holy Commuion of the pupils was received in the new chapel in the west wing; and the body of the present chapel is made up of this primitive structure. Since that date, the development of Notre Dame at San Jose has been the record of unwearied, unselfish service by the noble women who have come and gone, each adding a brick or a stone, as it were, to the superstructure. A red-letter day occurred in 1885, when the beautiful Lourdes grotto was constructed, and immediately became a place of pious pilgrimage. In October, 1910, was another red or golden-letter day, for then was celebrated the coming of the Rev. Mother Marie Aloyse, Superior General of the Institute, the first visit to this country of a Superior General. A beautiful memorial of this visit is the.heroic-sized statue of the Sacred Heart, modeled after the famous Montmartre, which stands on the knoll behind Notre Dame Villa, surrounded by the ampitheater of the wooded hills. "Occulos levavi in montes unde veniet mud& um mihi." Within the reception room of the college hangs the certificate of incorporation dated San Jose, June 20, 1868, signed by H. H. Haight and a majority of the State Board of Education, and attested to by H. L. Nichols, secretary of state.
The Museum also contains many exhibits of interest. There is the old melodeon or harmonium, with its two silver candlesticks, brought around the Horn in 1843, and there are most exquisite silk needle-work tapestries, the art of the pioneer Sisters, whose successors, each in her way, still continues as indefatigible in their labors. There is also a collection of beautiful butterflies and another of mounted birds.
Notre Dame gives spiritual and intellectual hospitality to 160 boarding-school pupils, and 180 day high school pupils; and it also exercises supervision over the Notre Dame Academy, which is preparatory to Notre Dame College, and is located in Santa Clara. It was founded in 1864, and has four acres of grounds, in a beaufiful grove, so that, with extensive buildings, well ventilated and otherwise judiciously adapted to their various purposes, amusement and outdoor exercise of the pupils are provided. The musical department is complete and every advantage is afforded to those desirous of giving special attention to its culture. Like Notre Dame College, this important stepping-stone, the academy, takes rank among the first of its class—a fact apparently appreciated by its large number of patrons, increasing with each year.
Transcribed cferoben, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California, published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 1643
SANTA CLARA COUNTY PIONEER BIOGRAPHIES
SANTA CLARA HISTORY