The Second Abbot and President, 1875-1889


Abbot Alexius Edelbrock retained the active presidency of the College during his entire administration which lasted till the end of the year 1889.  The character of his new work did not permit him to continue on the teaching staff.  But he kept a watchful eye upon the institution and addressed the students a number of times, especially when the quarterly or semiannual bulletins were publicly read.

The fourth building was now finished and became the quarters of the religious community.  A great part of the old stone house was taken up by seminarians’ rooms, a music room and an infirmary; on the first floor of the second building were four small class rooms and a lavatory; on the second floor were two study halls; in the attic was a dormitory.  In the basement of the middle building were two refectories and the kitchen which supplied both; on the first floor were a guest-room, two music rooms, two large classrooms – one of which contained the libraries of the Sodality and of the two literary societies; on the second floor were the rooms of the principal officials and the stationery room; the third floor was a dormitory.

Large and imposing as the buildings were, they still were lacking in many accommodations.  No one seemed to miss the electric light and elevators, but of a cold winter’s day the insufficiency of an iron box-stove became apparent.  Moreover, there were no waterworks; drinking water was drawn from a fine well situated about fifty feet west of the second building, and water for domestic uses was brought in barrels from the lake.  The present generation which finds ever desirable convenience indoors cannot realize some of the little hardships incident to student life a quarter of a century ago.  All this was soon to be changed.

In the main, the order of daily exercises in the College was the same as at present.   The hour of rising was 5 o’clock; [the monks rose at 3:30 a.m.; dinner at 11 a.m.; supper at 6 p.m.; bed-time at 9:00 p.m.] at 5:30 morning prayers and Mass, followed by breakfast; recreation till 7; studies or classes – one hour each – till 11; dinner; a short visit to the chapel; recreation till 1; classes till 3: lunch – a slice of dry bread; 4-6 classes; supper; recreation till 7:30: studies till 8:30; bed-time.  On Sundays the students rose at 5:30, attended High Mass and heard a sermon at 6; studies from 10-12; after dinner recreation till 2:30; afternoon services; 5-6 religious instruction (also on Thursdays).  Thursday and Saturday afternoons were devoted to recreation, which was interrupted by studies from 2:30-3 and from 5-6.

On entering, the pupil was examined by either the President or the Vice President and, according to his age or attainments, was placed in either the Senior or the Junior study hall. [Both halls filled the second floor of the south wing that had a corridor facing east.]  Each of these halls was under supervision of a disciplinarian and an assistant.  For some time students of the advanced courses were employed as assistant disciplinarians.

The formal opening of the school year 1876 took place on September 10 and correspondent notes that the church choir did itself honor by its execution of one of Schweitzer’s Masses for four male voices.

Abbot Alexius Edelbrock was solemnly blessed [by Bishop Rupert Seidenbusch] and installed as abbot on October 24 in St. Cloud, because there was no locality at St. John’s large enough for such a function.  Several former students from St. Paul on this occasion presented him with a gold chain for his pectoral cross.

On February 8, 1876 came the saddening news that Father Wolfgang Northman, the former President of the College, had suddenly died at Meier’s Grove.  He was born at St. Louis, Missouri, March 15, 1842, made the simple vows of the Order at St. Vincent’s, where he had also pursued the classical course, in 1860.  A few years later he had left for Minnesota, and was followed at later periods by his two brothers, Fathers Ulric and Bede.  Since 1875 he had been employed in the missions in the western part of Stearns County.  His remains were brought to the abbey for burial.  On February 10, after the community had recited the Office of the Dead, a solemn Requiem was sung at which Father Ulric, brother of the deceased, officiated and a funeral sermon was delivered by the Rt. Rev. Abbot. Bishop Seidenbusch, officiated at the final ceremonies in the presence of the entire community, visiting clergy, and several hundreds of former parishioners of Father Wolfgang.  His memory is revered to this day by all who enjoyed the privilege of his acquaintance.

The annual exhibition took place on June 27, 1876; the weather was pleasant and the audience large.  At 10 o’clock in the morning the academic exercises commenced with a production of the historical drama “Major Andre,” written by the Father Leo Haid, OSB of St. Vincent’s College now Vicar Apostolic of North Carolina – one of the most engaging pieces ever rendered on the college stage.  After dinner followed the customary orations and the distribution of premiums and award of diplomas.  The valedictorian on this occasion was James Keane – the present Bishop of Cheyenne. [Later Archbishop of Dubuque]

At the grand Centennial of the Declaration of Independence celebration held at the fair grounds near St. Cloud, on July 4, the play above mentioned was reproduced with the full cast of characters and enthusiastically received.

There was a slight decrease in the number of professors during this and the preceding year.  Only fifteen names appear in the list of the faculty, still the course of study was in no way curtailed.   Degrees conferred: the degree of Bachelor of Arts on Frater  Peter Engel, OSB, and that of Master of Accounts on seven graduates of the Commercial course.  On the list of students were 130 names – 17 secular seminarians, 14 clerics, and 99 students in all other departments.  During the year, three of the clerics, Francis Mershman, Paul Rettenmaier and Aloysius Hermanutz were ordained priests.


Bright as the signs for a prosperous future seemed to be for some time, the “hard times” which ensued upon the grasshopper visit of the Centennial year of the Declaration of Independence told upon the attendance at college, but not to any alarming extent.   In February 1877 a correspondent of the Northwestern Chronicle says: “In spite of the hard times the collegiate attendance is very good; the names of 107 students are reported in the curriculum.”

            In the fall of  1876 the march of improvements was inaugurated by the installment of the first system of water works; the pump was set up in a small brick building which is now a part of the laundry, [old laundry near the lake] and from here the water was forced up-hill into a reservoir [in the ground] a few yards north of the present water tower.  From this point, which lies higher than the third floor of the college, the water was led down into the buildings.  The water works were not appreciated as a convenient institution only; within a few months their necessity became convincingly evident.  It was at two o’clock in the morning, March 22, 1877, that the students were roused from sleep [The student’s slept on the third floor of the middle building at the time and some in the attic of the stone house.] by the noise of hurrying feet and cries of “fire.”  One of the rooms occupied by the seminarians in the old stone building was filled with smoke.  A wild panic followed, excited students began pitching books and furniture out of the windows into the snow and a few dragged their trunks downstairs.  The faculty were busy fighting the peril that threatened to rob them of a home.  “The fire had progressed considerably before it was noticed, but Father Ulric Northman who was one of the first to discover it, quickly got a Babcock extinguisher to playing on the flames and with the aid of a few of the priests and brothers, who turned on water from the new works, soon extinguished the fire.  The loss will amount to about $200; no insurance. The origin of the fire is unknown.” So reads a contemporary newspaper item.  Father Ulric while plying the extinguisher had the misfortune to step into a hole in the floor and sustained a painful injury.  The water supply proved a most welcome resource that critical night and demonstrated its utility beyond the hint of a doubt.  After the fire the seminarians were removed from the stone building and quartered in a general study room on the second floor of the main building, where they remained until 1886.

In spring Abbot Alexius Edelbrock departed for Europe, where he spent several months visiting Germany, France and Italy.  In June he was in Rome, was admitted to audience with Pius IX and had the pleasure of announcing to his brethren that the Holy Father sent his blessing both to them and the students in their charge.  This news was received with cheers on the eve of exhibition day.

The exercises on commencement day were a departure from the traditional fashion of celebrating that occasion.  “At 1:30 p.m. June 27,” says a report in Der Wanderer, “the students, preceded by the college band, marched in procession to the beautifully decorated Exhibition Hall.  They were followed by a great number of visiting friends, among others Professors Kiehle and Gray, of the Normal School St. Cloud, Professor  Burdick, of the Union school, Senator Macdonald, Hon. L.W. Collins, mayor of St. Cloud, also Judges McKelvy and Brick, etc.” The principal feature of the exercises was a debate of the proposition, “That savage nations possess a right to the soil.” It was conducted under the auspices of the St. Thomas Literary Association.  Father Francis Mershman, the President of the Association presided, and Reverends Meinulph and Anthony, with Senator Macdonald and Professors Kiehle and Gray were the judges.  After a brisk dialectical struggle of about two hours, in which the disputants, Peter A. Schreiner, Anthony Mayer, J. F. Maloney and T. F. Cunningham revealed themselves not merely as orators but also as thinkers, the judges cast their votes in favor of the negative side.  So much time was taken up by the debate that part of the program could not be executed.

The catalogue contains the names of nineteen professors, the junior of whom Mr.   John Katzner is mentioned as professor of violin and stenography.  This is the first time stenography is mentioned in the annual catalogues; the system taught was that of Gabelsberger.

The degree of Master of Accounts was conferred on eight graduates.  Only 117 students were enrolled during this academic year: 84 classical and commercial students, 18 secular seminarians and 15 clerics of the Order.  Seven members of the graduating class in the seminary were ordained at various times during the year.


In addition to the courses already offered at the institution, it was deemed expedient to organize a distinct Commercial course. [Bookkeeping had been taught since 1867.] Many young men in the northern section of the state contemplated embracing a business career, but there was no business college conveniently at hand.  Hence the authorities concluded to meet the demand by adding this course to the curriculum.

        According to the prospectus issued in December 1877, students of this course were also permitted to attend certain classes in the literary and scientific departments.  All the studies which contribute to make up a thorough accountant, were to be taught.  The system of instruction was to be that in use at prominent business colleges, and J. C. Smith’s National Accountant was to be the basic textbook.  The time required for finishing the course was to depend entirely upon the student’s endowments and progress; he might finish it in three months, if his preparatory studies were good.  By paying the tuition fee of fifty dollars a scholarship could be procured, which entitled the holder to an unlimited attendance in the classes of the department.  Students were to be admitted at any time of the year, and no vacation was to be given to interrupt studies.

The department occupied the south half of the first floor in the first brick building – now the tailor’s shop.  The students of this course attended instructions in this hall daily from 8 a.m. till 3 p.m. but spent the remaining hours in the general study rooms.  The late Father Norbert Hofbauer, a skilled accountant and excellent penman, was the first Principal of the department, which was opened after the Christmas holidays, early in January 1878.

Only two events, outside of the customary celebrations, are noted for this school year.   On March 16 the late Hon. Ignatius Donnelly entered his son S. J. Donnelly as a student and was induced to address the students and faculty.  He spoke in his usual eloquent and fascinating manner of the services the monastic orders had rendered to civilization.

On June 26, before the commencement exercises Father Xavier White, the professor of belles lettres, was given a surprise by the pupils of his class, who presented him with a set of breviaries.

The commencement exercises were simple in comparison to those of former years.  Even the debate was omitted and only speeches and music filled the program.  Of the musical selections none was applauded more than the productions of the Haydn String Quartette.  An original English poem entitled “After the Battle,” was read by its author, Mr. Richard P. Heffron, subsequently rector of St. Paul’s Seminary.  Bishop Seidenbusch presided at the distribution of premiums, and a great number of friends of the institution witnessed the exercises.

The catalogue contains besides the usual information, a statement concerning the Commercial course.  Some of the specifications of the prospectus above mentioned were modified.  Sixteen professors composed the staff of the entire institution.  In this catalogue also occurs the first mention of a Prefect of Studies. [Previously the abbot (president) had assigned the studies.] The first to hold this position was Father Francis Mershman.  While the Vice President retained the chief supervision of college work in disciplinary matters, it was the duty of the Prefect of Studies to examine applicants for entrance, to assign them to classes and to superintend the conduct of classes.

The degree of Master of Arts was conferred on Messieurs Joseph Hellrigl and Henry Plaster, and that of Master of Accounts on 23 graduates of the new Commercial Department, the first graduate being John Hoeschen, of Oak Station (Freeport), Minnesota.

The total attendance was 125: 18 secular seminarians, 12 clerics, 95 students in all other courses.  Twelve members of the seminary class were ordained during the year. 


Even the most modest expectations were defeated by the poor success of this school year.  According to the catalogue, only 94 students were enrolled in all departments of these 18 were seminarians.   The hard times were still making themselves felt.  One cause of the decline in attendance was the establishment of an academy near Sauk Centre, which relied for its patronage on Stearns County. [Grove Lake Academy conducted by Rev. D. J. Logan.]

The authorities at St. John’s hoped that a reduction of the rate for tuition and board would improve the situation, but neither that expedient nor assiduous advertising seemed to be of any avail.  But where is there a sky without a cloud?  Every institution reared by the hand of man has its vicissitudes; the hour of disappointment is the hour for gathering new strength and kindling new hope.

The staff of professors had sixteen members.  One of the professors, Father Aloysius Hermanutz, in November 1878 volunteered to serve as a missionary among the Chippewa Indians at White Earth, and has labored in that mission ever since without interruption.

On June 1, 1879, the Right Reverend Abbot conferred on Reverends Bernard Locnikar and Francis Mershman the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and upon Father Peter Engel that of Doctor of Philosophy.

For the final examinations in the several departments boards, each composed of three members of the faculty, were selected; among these the work of examining all the classes was distributed and they finished their task in three days.

June 24 was exhibition day.  According to a report extant, the weather again worried all concerned, but eventually everything was lovely and the great day passed into history and lives in memory like a rosv sunset.  On the program were speeches and musical selections: R. P. Heffron delivered an oration on “Materialism and Modern Thought”; there were, moreover, German and Latin orations.

The degree of Master of Accounts was conferred on 12 candidates.

In the course of the summer arrangements were completed for the establishment of Collegeville station on the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba railway line.  A passenger and freight station house was built in June 1879 and Mr. Henry Broker, who took up his residence in the large frame house on the north side of the track, was the first station agent.  A new wagon road was cut through the woods and thus good old Brother “Taddy’s” daily stage trip was shortened five miles.  Late in summer Collegeville post office was opened, with station agent Henry Broker as postmaster.

For many years the need of an appropriate, commodious church had been felt, the humble frame chapel was no longer worthy of the great pile in the shadow of which it stood.   During the summer of 1879 work on the new church was begun; the masonry of the basement was finished in fall and on September 24, the cornerstone was laid by Abbot Alexius Edelbrock. 


“It’s a long lane that has no turning.”  Whatever disappointment was felt during the last year, made way for cheerful and renewed effort as the attendance of the new scholastic term increased.

During the winter a minim department was organized through the efforts of the Prefect of Studies.  The defective elementary education of many of the pupils who applied for admission to the collegiate departments, rendered this step necessary.  About fifteen students ranging between 10 and 15 years of age formed the first class.

Considerable sickness prevailed during the latter part of 1879 and the beginning of 1880; two of the students, J. Barthle and J. L. Brousseau died at college.

In 1880 all the world was celebrating the fourteen hundredth anniversary of the birth of St. Benedict.  The 4th, 5th and 6th of April of that year were red letter days and saw notable gatherings and events at St. John’s.  A concise account is given in the catalogue of 1880.  “Distinguished visitors graced the celebration.  Rt. Rev. Bishop Seidenbusch, former superior of the Monastery and College, whose visits are always joyfully greeted, celebrated Pontifical Mass, administered Confirmation and conferred Minor Orders (on the first day), Rt. Rev. Bishop Marty, the zealous Vicar Apostolic of Dakota, officiated on the second day of the Triduum and preached a touching sermon to an appreciative and delighted audience.  The laity was ably represented by Honorable, H. C. Waite, a distinguished convert to Catholicity, whose pleasing and instructive lecture was the prominent feature of an afternoon seance.”  On the last named occasion the college choir sang the jubilee song, the text of which was written by Father Xavier White and the music by Father Ulric Northman.  A centennial ode, also written by Father Xavier, was delivered by one of the students.  It is one of the few poetic efforts traceable to that estimable and gifted professor and was assigned a place of honor in the catalogue.  His dignified diction and power of description are well illustrated in these lines:

‘Tis eastern brethren sing the song

That time through distance doth prolong,

That echoes through this western sphere,

And mingles with our matins here.

It bears its onward course amain;

The east will hear the glad refrain,

And then attune their evening prayer

To our exultant matin air;

For ere Cassino chant her evening lays

Back shall resound our songs of praise,

Till brethren with united voice

In   one grand harmony rejoice.

After the celebration, the Rt. Rev. Abbot set out for Europe a second time, to attend the festivities at the tomb of St. Benedict at Monte Cassino, and did not return before August.  He was accompanied by Father Peter Engel, then professor of Philosophy and Chemistry.  This suggests the fact that about this time Father Peter began experimenting in photography.  The primitive studio he fitted up, developed into a gallery of respectable dimensions in a short time and became a permanent institution.  At first the studio occupied a corner in the chemical laboratory and pictures were taken under Minnesota skylight, with scenery such as only the Author of the universe can paint, as background.   For some time the gallery found shelter in a wing of the old frame house (in the sacristy of its chapel), was next transferred to the fourth floor of the new college buildings and finally was given fine quarters in the third floor of the library building.

The school year closed on June 24th with very simple exercises; there was music, a salutatory, a valedictory, several orations and the distribution of premiums. For the first time in the history of the college a gold medal was awarded; it was the gift of Rev. C.V. Gamache and George Doerenkaemper was the fortunate captor.

            In all, 145 students were enrolled this year: 14 secular and 15 regular seminarians and 116 students in all the other departments.

            The old lithograph picture, in the catalogue of 1880, of the buildings was replaced by a double-page engraving from a sketch by Frater Urban Fisher, then professor of drawing. It was a birdseye view (drawing) from the northeast and comprised a goodly piece of country. In the foreground is the new church, in the distance to the right are the new shops and other buildings, and near the lakeshore, the laundry, which was built in 1878. 


            Towards the end of August the institution received a visit from the distinguished author and professor, Dr. Herman Zschokke (Dr. Zschokke became acquainted with Abbot Alexius in Vienna in 1880 and accepted an invitation from him to visit Minnesota and particularly the Indian mission at White Earth. He came and was delighted with what he saw) chaplain to the Austrian imperial court and subsequently rector of the University of Vienna. He perpetuated the memory of that visit in a series of sketches entitled “Nach Nord Amerika und Canada.” How deeply he was impressed with the scenery here, is revealed by the following paragraph (translated): “On the other shore of the lake there stands surrounded by trees a small chapel – Stella Maris – built by the students in honor of the Mother of God. It was a sunset picture so exquisite, that one could not imagine anything more perfect. The sun, which had just disappeared below the horizon, poured a flood of orange-hued light over the western sky; the placid lake caught and mirrored the glorious light which transfigured the thick foliage of the forest; from its height the abbey looked calmly upon the scene; and when finally the bell sounded the Ave Maria and its voice was wafted over the quiet, peaceful landscape, finding many an echo in the woods, I found myself transported in spirit back into the early centuries, when the sons of Saint Benedict penetrated with holy zeal into the wilderness, cut down forests, founded monasteries, enkindled everywhere the light of faith and gave Europe civilization.” (p. 501)

            Up to this time the public prints has little to say of the college: several times a year they were furnished with elaborate reports of festivities, but of the doings in student circles in the classroom and on the campus, scant reports found their way into publicity. Father Xavier White was the first to venture to supply the press, particularly that in the immediate neighborhood (St. Cloud), with college news. His reports enable the chronicler to present in closer detail the events of the time.

            The winter of 1880-81 was severe; for three day in February the college was effectually cut off from the rest of the world, trains were snow-bound for three days and no mail could be delivered.

            A list of pupils was merited first or second class honors at the first term examinations was inserted in the St. Cloud Daily Times and Der Wanderer. From this time forward such lists appeared regularly and served to stimulate the ambition of the students. The attendance was very gratifying and the reporter notes that in January “a lot of new furniture, desks, chairs, bedsteads, etc., were brought up from the depot. The institution is filling to its utmost capacity and the voice is ‘still they come’.” Shortly after he observes: “Among the students we find the following nationalities: Russian, Dutch, French, Irish, German and American. ‘Wise men from every nation’.” The Commercial graduates generally received a word of commendation and encouragement and the efforts of the orators were rewarded by the insertion of their papers in the St. Cloud Daily Times. Thus the late Rev. Henry McGolrick’s discourse on “The Existence of God,” was printed in full, occupying about three columns of the paper; and about the same time appeared Father Urban’s excellent essay, “Physiological Proofs of the Unite of the Human Species.” When the class in civil engineering had spent a day in the field ascertaining the height of a certain hill and grading a road through it, they found this humorous write-up about themselves: “They worked more lively than older hands and with wondrous exactitude. After three hours outdoor work they returned very civil engineers, and with remarkable dexterity found the level of a heap of edibles in a very practical way.” On another occasion “Messieurs Lawler and Doerenkaemper gave an exemplification of the old proverb—errare humanum est. They were working a lunar and could not agree in the result. When the fray was at its hottest, Master Flock explained: ‘Gentlemen, neither of you is far calculating parallax, has taken the shadow of the old man’s beard as he sat on the edge of the disc making his toilet and using the Atlantic for a mirror.’”

            In the meantime the new church building was progressing rapidly, despite numerous delays. During June the brick work of the towers was completed.

            May 22nd was the 25th anniversary of the advent of the Benedictines in St. Cloud, Minnesota, but the celebration of the event was postponed to some more favorable time, chiefly because the church was not finished.

            The closing exercises on June 22nd were witnessed by a remarkably large gathering of clergymen, both Benedictines and secular. The chief feature was a debate of the question, “Can the United States be properly called a Catholic country?” A reporter of the exercises to the Pioneer Press observes: “This was one of St. John’s best commencements; not because of tinseled brilliancy—of that there was none—but because of solid work well done and plainly evidenced. The number of graduates was large and they well deserved the distinctions received. All the speeches were original—written by the pupils—and though none were of the brilliant style of eloquence, all were far above the medium—replete with solid thought, conveyed in clear, forcible language.”

            The annual catalogue states that the classical course was extended to six years, instead of five; the first class in philosophy was detached from the ecclesiastical course and added to the classical course.

            In the ecclesiastical course there were 25 students, of these seven were ordained in course of the year. All the other departments had an attendance of 133, (total 158). The degree of Bachelor of Philosophy was conferred this year for the first time; there were six candidates; the degree of Bachelor of Arts was conferred on two graduates and that of Master of Accounts on 25. Two gold medals were awarded: one, for excellence in Christian Doctrine, the gift of Bishop Rupert Seidenbusch, the other for general proficiency, the gift of Reverend C.V. Gamache. These prizes were taken by George Doerenkaemper and Henry Flock.


            When the doors were thrown open for admission of the silver jubilee class in September, only 60 students reported and work was promptly begun. On the staff of professors were Father Ulric Northman, the Vice-President; Father Norbert Hofbauer, Peter Engel, Francis Mershman, Anthony Kapser, Simplicius Wimmer, Vincent Schiffrer, Othmar Erren, Xavier White, John Katzner and the clerics Fraters Alfred Mayer, Jerome Heider, Thomas Borgerding, Conrad Glatzmaier, Urban Fisher, Placidus Wingerter, Wolfgang Steinkogler, Alexius Hoffmann, Chrysostom Schreiner, Lawrence Steinkogler, James Capellen and Timothy Vaeth.

            On the second day of the school year, September 9, the Reverend Director of the Sodality, Father Francis Mershman, celebrated a Requiem for the repose of the soul of Reverend J. Breunig, ’79 who died of consumption at Sheboygan, Wisconsin, on September 1.

            Less than two weeks after the opening of the school year, 85 students were enrolled and fears for an unsuccessful year were quickly dispelled. Father Leo Winter organized a singing society. “The boys take to it like kittens to milk,” says the St. Cloud Daily Times correspondent. Unfortunately, Father Leo was shortly after assigned to parish work and interest in the glee club flagged.

            The new church was slowly approaching completion; early in October work was begun on the steeples and the roof was covered with tin. Since the middle of July two of the basement chapels were in use, but owing to the distance of the chapels from the college building then in use, the students continued attending the frame chapel.

            A class in practical shorthand reporting was organized by Frater Urban Fisher, who himself was an expert reporter, and the first impulse was given to the introduction of phonography into the commercial class. Also a class in practical astronomy was formed, despite the lack of appropriate instruments. Nor was the campus desolate; there is record of a game of baseball between the classics and the theologians which “went hard against the classic,” score 9-0. Here is the comment of a reporter: “Otium cum dignitate is the time to which the theologians play baseball, but 9-0 is that to which the poor classics ‘hold it down.’ And worse than all, the theologians took the new ball. Classics, you are good players in some barn yard with a yarn ball.” Early in the winter a movement in favor of military drill was inaugurated. A company of about 40 was formed and under command of Captain Joseph Langan began operations. They did not succeed in securing arms and uniforms and in consequence the company was disbanded in the winter.

            An epidemic of small pox prevailed in the neighborhood [Melrose, St. Martin and Spring Hill] during the winter. Sorrow and death reigned under many a roof. The priests in the stricken places made heroic efforts to bar the progress of the disease and the State Board of Health recognized their efforts. Only one priest fell a victim to the duties of his calling, Father Meinrad Leuthard, OSB, pastor at Melrose. He contracted the disease while attending to a member of his congregation and died November 28, 1881 [buried in Melrose]. He had been a student and professor at St. John’s and was universally esteemed for his great piety and seriousness. In the midst of this visitation, the college remained unscathed. Dr. Hewit, secretary of the State Board of Health, made an examination of a great number of institutions including St. John’s, in November. He found no trace of the disease here and complimented the students upon their fine condition, “The only disease the doctor found,” says a report to the Northwestern Chronicle, “was consumption of edibles which prevails to such an extent as to keep the cook and kitchen force working like hatters. The doctor left a certificate with the abbot to the effect that he found no disease in the house.” Fifteen years later the situation was more serious.

            Skating was exceptionally fine this winter: several hundred acres of skating rink is a privilege not accorded to the students of every year and so the best was made of the present opportunity. Those who would not trust themselves to the smooth surface and shining steel, remained on solid earth and kicked football, then a very simple game. There was no association, no gridiron, no rooting. When winter set in, it was customary to take up a collection for a football. Sides were chosen for every game; one man was placed to watch the “barrier” or goal, while the rest strove to kick the ball through the goal of the opposing side. Victory came to the best kickers and runners.

            After the Christmas holidays, a number of new students were registered. Room was growing scarce, and furniture running short, the carpenters were ordered to make new desks for the study halls and classrooms. “During Holy Week the chapel was full at every service. Few of the pupils being absent on vacation it was made a point to carry out the ceremonies of the season strictly in compliance with the rubrics.” Easter was the end of the second term for quarterly bulletins for some time.

            “To thank Almighty God for his merciful preservation from contagion during the late epidemic, a solemn High Mass was celebrated on Saturday, April 22 in the monastery church. Every member of the house felt himself obliged to this grateful act for while all around, and even near by, many were stricken with the plague, houses were quarantined and much suffering and inconvenience followed, not a single case of sickness appeared among the two hundred inmates of St. John’s. So marked a protection could not fail to make a strong and lasting impression.”

            Once in a long while a news correspondent would chronicle the vagaries of the weather, which then as now fascinated and eluded a large school of prophets. Says one: “Just so, but who’d have thought of it? On the 21st of May 1882 snow and hail! Cattle are under the sheds, birds sit on the leeward branches to avoid being blown away.” In general the summer was pleasant, as is shown by the numerous visitors who came to spend an afternoon fishing at the college lake.”

            The commencement services [held in the sanctuary of the new church which was still bare of furniture] were held June 27, 1882; besides the usual formal salutatory and valedictory addresses and music there were two orations by graduates, an impromptu address by Colonel S. J. Ahern of St. Paul and an address to the graduates by Honorable H. C. Waite. The latter was a very elaborate discourse worked out in scholarly style and fraught with many practical counsels, deductions from the experiences of a long and worthy life. Taking leave of his audience he said: “Forward, never backward; no delay stations on the road: no side issues to swerve you from the one sole purpose you have in view. Onward and ever onward until the goal is reached. Such is the course of the truly successful man. In so going you may not always win the applause of your contemporaries, but the final judgment will be in your favor. In this brave task you have set before you of living and being, you have already acquired many accomplishments. Still the greater task is before you. I would suggest no discouragements; these will come soon enough. I prefer to address myself to the splendor of your opportunities. For myself I can say, I do love to live and enter into the constitution of the world’s progress. I rejoice in such occasions as these where young men emerge from the requirements of school discipline and take upon themselves the manly duties of independent living. Let your attendance here never bring reproach upon the institution when in afterlife you have become merged in industrial or professional pursuits. Look back to her as a foster mother and extend to her that consideration she has so bountifully extended to you. Protect the reputation of the institution you have assisted in making and when you go hence go forth bravely, boldly and wisely to your life tasks. As students, I bid you good afternoon, but as young men just leaving school and entering upon the active duties of life, I say, good morning.”

            According to the catalogue the number of professors was 22 and the total student attendance 159—22 being seminarians and 137 students in all the other courses. The degree of Bachelor of Philosophy was conferred on two candidates, that of Master of Accounts on 35, and three gold medals were awarded.

            On July 25, 1882, nine graduates of the seminary were raised to the holy priesthood by Bishop Seidenbusch in the basement chapel of the new church. “This was the largest number of priests ever ordained at one time in Minnesota and it brings the number of priests ordained from this house up to 98; of this number 41 belong to the Benedictine Order, the remaining 57 are seculars, who in 12 different dioceses are laboring in the vineyard of the Lord with credit to themselves and to their Alma Mater.” The nine newly ordained were Reverends Martin Schmitt, Alfred Mayer, Conrad Glatzmaier, Urban Fischer, all Benedictines, and Reverends George Gaskell, Christopher Murphy, Gregory Goebel, Patrick Boland and Nicholas Schmitz, secular clergymen. In the afternoon of the same day, about 4 o’clock, a severe storm passed over the house, causing great fear and excitement. Everything movable was carried before the wind. A part of the tin roofing of the church was carried off and the rain that came with the storm poured through the ceiling and somewhat damaged the plastering. [The damage was concealed by the decorations of 1889.]


            “Lonesome vacation days are gone and now again sleeping echoes waken in glad response to the merry shouts of joyous innocence, again the hum of busy workers drawing lore from leaves that speak…A ramble through the campus shows may old and many new faces, but many old ones, too, are missing. But whence these new ones? Here are Minnesota’s representatives in miniature and members from Dakota side by side with those who represent Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. Standing Rock and Fargo, Moorhead and Duluth, with many intervening posts, send in representatives from the North. Then from the South come Iowa City, Madison, St. Paul, the Mill city (Minneapolis) with the long name, St. Cloud and Stearns generally. Various as are the places, desire to be learned, useful men.” Thus the local reporter sketches the opening days of the fall term. Events ran along “so quietly that one would not find out, without trying, that an army of students is posted in the establishment. The fact is, business is being pushed on so lively that no one has time to be noisy or mischievous.”

            October 24th was the day appointed for the consecration of the new church. A great number of clergy and other friends, of the institution had assembled to witness the ceremonies, which began at 7 a.m. Bishop Seidenbusch was the principal officiating prelate; he consecrated the church and the high altar and celebrated pontifical High Mass. The two side altars were consecrated at the same time by the late Abbot Boniface Wimmer and Abbot Innocent Wolf. [Abbot Innocent Wolf, while still Prior Innocent Wolf at St. Vincent Abbey was one (and the only) choice of the Fathers who took part in the election of Abbot Alexius Edelbrock. Prior Innocent of St. Vincent and Prior Alexius of St. John’s were the only two person voted for on June 2, 1875. Abbot Wimmer would not give “his prior” to St. John’s.] A discourse was delivered in English by Rt. Rev. John Ireland, then coadjutor to the bishop of St. Paul, and one in German by Rev. Dr. Otto Zardetti. On the same occasion the silver jubilee of the arrival of the first Benedictines in Minnesota was celebrated and the first Alumni Association organized of which more extensive mention shall be made in another chapter.

            Towards the end of November, 25 were in the commercial class. During the month the college band played at the St. Mary’s church fair in St. Cloud and executed a small musical program at the college on St. Cecilia’s day.

            On December 16, 1882, before sunrise, the saw and grist mills on the Watab were burnt to the ground together with a considerable quantity of grain and timber. Since that time no effort has been made to rebuild the mills, but the dam remains and the boisterous waters rush down the rocks as they did a quarter of a century ago.

            Among the visitors at St. John’s in the fall was the late Rev. Dr. Joseph Joerger [of Jefferson, Wisconsin. He was a good friend of Abbot Alexius.] whose notes of travel over the nom de plume of Socius Fidelis were in their day read with great avidity. In his recollections of St. John’s he writes: “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice! (If you seek for a monument look about you) is said of the builder of St. Paul’s in London. This monastery and church also are such a monumentum aere perennius. A part of the buildings is occupied by St. John’s College, of which the Rt. Rev. Abbot is the President, assisted by Father Ulric Northman as vice-gerent and a staff of twenty professors. I shall never forget the genial hospitality of Fathers Othmar Erren, Xavier White and John Katzner. I will make no special mention of Father Ulric, for my love for him is as powerful as his size, sex cubitorum et palmae.”

            Of the buildings occupied by the community in the farm up to 1867, only a two story loghouse was left on the spot; this structure was wiped out by fire on January 18, 1883.

            On the feast of St. Scholastica, Father Placidus Wingerter who had been one of the disciplinarians for two years past, celebrated his first holy mass in the new church. It was the first event of this kind in the new church. At a later hour in the day the students met in one of the classrooms, where they delivered congratulatory addresses to the new priest and offered him a valuable present.

            Since February of this year the institution bears the legal style and title of “St. John’s University.” A bill for an act amendatory of the original charter was submitted to the state legislature by Senator H.C. Waite, passed by both houses and approved by the governor on February 17th. The document may be found in the Special Laws of Minnesota, chapter 85, p.223 and reads:

            Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Minnesota:

            Section 1. That the act entitled an act to incorporate the St. John’s Seminary, approved March 6th, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-seven (1857), as well as the several acts amendatory thereof, and the title to the original act of incorporation, be and the same are hereby amended as follows:

            That wherever the word “seminary” occurs in either thereof, the same be stricken out and the word “university” be substituted in lieu thereof.

            Section 2. That all acts and parts of  acts inconsistent with this act be and the same are hereby repealed.

            Section 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

            On March 9th, Father Peter Engel was appointed Prefect of Studies, which office he held until June 1895.

            June 26 was Commencement Day. A number of friends of the institution, especially Alumni who had come to hold their first annual meeting, witness the exercises, which were not of an elaborate character.

            From the catalogue we learn that the baccalaureate in philosophy was conferred four graduates, and the degree of Master of Accounts on 17. Five gold and one silver medal were awarded. 163 students were enrolled: 16 seminarians and 147 in all other departments.

            During the summer excavations were made for the foundation of the new college buildings—one, 160×60, was to be an extension of the main building, another 110×60 was to be attached to the church; both to run parallel and to be joined at their western extremity by a wing 100×50. [It was a great undertaking, just after the church was finished.] The cornerstone, a huge boulder, was placed in position on August 22nd, 1883.


            Class work was resumed September 5th, and the attendance was flattering. Few events worthy of notice outside of the everyday occurrences are at the disposal of the chronicler. A visitor in January 1884 reports: “A stately structure presenting 370 feet front and a church that rivals the largest and most beautiful in the state, compose the present University buildings. But even this structure, large as it is, does not furnish the needed room, hence the foundations are laid and already raised one story high for other buildings whose entire length is 300 feet and width 60 feet. Since 1870, when the first annual catalogue was issued, 1113 names are on the roll and this is for but one half of the years of the institution. The ‘annual’ of this year will contain about 200 names. Of the entire number since 1870 there have been 103 ordained to the priesthood and 237 have received diplomas and degrees in the arts and sciences.”

            Early in 1884 a figure familiar to the students of several years disappeared—that of the “old general.” His names was Koronikolski. His conversation showed that he had enjoyed an excellent classical education. According to his own story he had been an officer in the army in Poland, had taken part in some insurrection and been compelled to flee. For many years he lived a solitary life in the woods beyond the Watab, was extremely poor and at the time of his death occupied a small room in the frame building, where one of the Brothers waited upon him.

            When the Easter class bulletins were issued, it was stated that the attendance exceeded that of any previous year. In the papers appeared a list of all those who had merited an average note of 75% in all their classes.

            The scholastic year closed on June 25. At 7 a.m. the faculty, students and invited guests assembled in the Exhibition Hall and after an opening selection by the band, the Vice President read the final bulletins. Hon. J.W. Arctander, District Attorney of the twelfth judicial district of Minnesota delivered the address to the graduates. He began by relating the story of Aladdin’s lamp. “The old rusty copper lamp,” said he, “according to my interpretation is knowledge. A person seeking knowledge meets with difficulties, as Aladdin did when sent for the lamp. The boy rubs against the lamp, that was his will power. This produced talent that conquered all other forces. Aladdin was sent to bring and old rusty copper lamp. To him it was a lamp and nothing more; he did not appreciate its worth. So too with a boy in search of knowledge. To him many branches of learning appear to be taught but to tease or plague; but this is a mistaken view, for every branch taught is a step forward, yes, every problem that you solve, every old classical author you lay aside, you pass another milestone, that you pass brings you nearer and nearer to your destination.” His ringing eloquence brought out round after round of applause. This was not the only occasion on which Mr. Arctander addressed the students; his services at the institution as a lecturer will be duly recorded in the course of these annals.

            The staff of professors according to the catalogue consisted of 23 members, the total enrollment of students was 203; 23 seminarians and 180 students in the other departments. The degree of Bachelor of Philosophy was conferred on two graduates, that of Master of Arts on 23. Five medals of gold and one of silver were awarded.


            The frequency with which applications were made for the admission of very young students and the advisability of separating them as much as possible from older students both in classrooms and during recreation induced the authorities to establish a special Minim Department. It was organized and directed by Father Chrysostom Schreiner and proved to be a very useful and timely institution [although it did not last long].

            Only 93 students reported for the resumption of classes. Towards the end of October a number of photographs were taken of the students and faculty to be sent to the World’s Cotton and Industrial exposition at New Orleans. In the middle of November the institution was honored with a visit by Senator McKenzie of Bismarck, North Dakota. The college band tendered him a serenade.

            A contemporary report mentions religious devotions which tradition has hallowed namely the novena [This novena was abandoned here before 1875.] before the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the forty hours devotion. The influence of religion as an educational factor cannot be underestimated; nothing is more necessary or more valuable, particularly to youths, whose souls are so susceptible, so easily led and impressed, so easily decoyed by false principles and deceitful ambitions. But for the purifying and elevating influences of religion and its practices many a young man would have cast his earlier convictions overboard and drifted out into the darkness of indifference. This is why religious practices have always been given much prominence at St. John’s.

            When Abbot Alexius Edelbrock returned from the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in December, the members of the Fourth Latin class publicly presented a program consisting of Latin dialogues and selections from classical authors, before the faculty and students of the classical course.

            In the first days of 1885 the Industrial School for Chippewa Indian boys was organized in the stone house; 50 pupils formed the first class in charge of by Father Chrysostom Schreiner, assisted by Frater Meinrad Rettenmaier and Brother Philip Kilian. Part of the quarters occupied by the students was turned over to the Industrial School; still no crowding ensued and there was consolation in the prospect that the new buildings could soon be occupied.

            Music was, according to an extant report, diligently cultivated, “four professors give instruction in music, and five pianos, two organs, flutes, violins, guitars and citherns are in service.”

            Shortly after the organization of the Industrial School, Father Aloysius Hermanutz, the missionary in charge at White Earth, came to see the institution. On the Sunday following his arrival he preached a sermon in the Chippewa tongue in which he had acquired considerable fluency in the six years of his sojourn on the Reservation. In the afternoon a delegation of students called upon him and invited him to deliver a lecture on the Indian Mission at White Earth. Although he was fatigued by his long journey, he granted their request and for nearly an hour dwelt upon the scenes of mission life, spicing his remarks with anecdotes and vivid descriptions.

            Crimes and misdemeanors were hitherto such unmeaning terms in Collegeville that when one day in the last week of January it was reported that burglars had entered the laundry at night, and had maliciously and stealthily appropriated on clock, three colored handkerchiefs and ten shirts, all students stood aghast. A reward of $25 was offered for the detection of the thief. One gentleman with a Sherlock Holmes eye took note that the footprints were made by a No. 9 boot, and that a dog accompanied the individual. The guilty party was discovered some time after and together with his family sought a home in some other clime.

            On the evening of March 19, the members of the Fourth Latin class again invited faculty and students to witness a “Ludus theatralis,” a Latin drama entitled “St. Stanislaus Kostka.” Thirteen pupils were engaged in the play and Father John Katzner wrote the incidental music. Classroom number two was the hall employed for the occasion.

            Father Urban about this time was busy arranging a mineralogical collection of several hundred specimens. Father Martin Schmitt, then pastor of Mandan, Dakota, presented a large number of beautiful petrifactions from the Band Lands to the cabinet.

            At the approach of the Easter holidays, the press correspondent wrote: “Students at the University say ‘thrice a year comes judgment day.’ The second of these awe-inspiring occasions has just passed and now each traveler up the mount of science knows just how he stands in the eyes of alma mater and with the faculty. To obtain in all classes an average note of 75% out of a possible 100 requires diligent application and no small amount of intellectual ability.”

            Father Chrysostom Schreiner, who had, since his entrance into the Benedictine order, served at St. John’s in the capacity of a professor, prefect of the seminary and for some time as director of the Industrial School, was appointed successor to Father Ulric in the vice presidency of the University on April 16, 1885. Father Chrysostom was well acquainted with the ground he was to tread and set to work energetically. Father Ulric continued to teach music and never, to the day of his death five years later, lost the esteem of a wide circle of friends.

            After the ice had disappeared from the lake on April 21, provisions were made for enjoying the summer. Three new boats were launched; the largest of the group called the British Isles was turned into a miniature park and a small pavilion set in its midst. It was a favorite resort for several years and an ideal spot to while away a free afternoon over a book. During the month the Band gave several gondola and lawn concerts after supper.

            One evening in that month of June, says a diary, a cyclone [tornado] formed in the heavens to the east. All watched it with some consternation, but the threatening peril was broken up by the wind. Coming events cast their shadows before them.

            At the annual commencement on June 25th, Hon. H.C. Waite read an original poem. The degree of Ph. B. was conferred on five graduates, that of Master of Accounts on 17 and the honorary degree of LL. D. on Hon. H.C. Waite, J.W. Arctander and E. H. Morse. Twelve medals were awarded. Enrollment: 18 seminarians, 161 students in all other departments, total 179. At the end of the catalogue was a card of thanks for donations to the museum; the donors were Bishop Seidenbusch, Rev. Martin Schmitt, Rev. Aloysisus Hermanutz and Rev. Pancratius Maehren, Rev. F.X. Schulac, S.J., Mrs. Gannon of Bismarck, D.T. and Mr. F.J. Rothpletz, Red Lake Falls, Minnesota.

            In the early days of vacation the institution was honored with visits by the late bishops F.X. Krautbauer of Green Bay and J.B. Brondel of Helena, Montana. The former had come upon invitation of Bishop Seidenbusch, who was abroad for his health, to hold the annual ordination services at St. John’s.

            Father Chrysostom Schreiner, with assistance of a few boys who remained at the college during vacation, renovated the Stella Maris Chapel and replaced the old spire which was falling to pieces, with a new one.


            The fall term, which opened on September 3, found 80 names on the rolls. Room was growing scarce and all were anxiously looking for the completion of the new buildings. One of the pleasing occurrences of the first month was a visit from Bishop Rupert Seidenbusch, who had just returned from the east after a serious and protracted illness.

            On October 15, Mr. J.W. Arctander opened the lecture course by a lecture on “Sketches of Everyday Life in Imperial Rome” for the special benefit of the classical students. In the commercial class a series of lectures was also arranged; they were delivered during the winter months, being inaugurated by Judge L.W. Collins of St. Cloud, on November 4th. He delivered four lectures and was followed in January by Judge D.B. Searle, who delivered an equal number. Both these gentlemen, who enjoy a distinguished reputation in legal circles, have many claims upon the gratitude of the faculty and students, not only of 1886 but of many following years.

            The last celebration of a public nature held in the old buildings was that of the tenth anniversary of Abbot Alexius’ installment into office. The exercises, which consisted of music, songs and speeches by several of the professors, were conducted in the senior study hall.

            On All Souls’ Day the students walked in procession to the cemetery as they had been wont to do in years past. Never has this venerable tradition been lost sight of. Several days later the news arrived of the death of Joseph Weisser, of St. Cloud, a brother of Father Otto Weisser. The former had pursued the classical course of study with a view of entering the Benedictine Order. Towards the end of his course he was compelled to discontinue; unmistakable signs of consumption showed themselves and he was soon at death’s door. Nevertheless he desired to become a member of the Order and his prayer for admission was granted. He was invested with the habit on August 13, was given the religious name of Frater Athanasius and made the vows of the Order; on November 5th he passed to a better life. He was buried in the abbey cemetery and many of his former classmates attended the funeral ceremonies.

            An elaborate series of entertainments was given on Thanksgiving Day under the auspices of the Alexian Dramatic and Philharmonic Associations, both of which had just come into existence and were displaying astounding vitality. On the evening of November 25, the eve of Thanksgiving, a German farce, “Doctor Wunderlich,” set the audience in good humor for the efforts of the next day. On the 26th there was a second entertainment, the principal feature of which was a dramatic performance, “The Elder Brother.” The orchestra made its first appearance on this occasion; among its members was Mr. Max Dick, whose solos were much admired and who has since charmed many audiences from the eastern to the western coast. The exercises were held in the first floor of the north wing, now the Commercial Hall.

            On January 6th, 175 students were reported in attendance. For a moment the authorities were perplexed, but the question was solved by establishing a temporary study hall on the third floor of the monastery building (on the third floor of the building next to the church and facing east). Only the most sedate gentlemen from the senior hall were transferred to these new quarters, which by their envious fellows were contemptuously denominated the “Dudes’ Department.”

            At the opening of the second session, in February 1886, the Commercial Department was transferred to the third floor of the new extension of the main building. It was a proud hall 90-ft. long and 25-ft. wide, on the south side of the corridor, and in later years was cut up into a number of small apartments for the seminarians. At the same time a hall of almost equal size on the second floor of the extension was fitted up as a dormitory for the smaller students.

            Another entertainment was offered on Washington’s Birthday [Washington’s Birthday was not solemnly observed here before 1886. On February 22, 1886, the students called upon Abbot Alexius and asked for a ‘free day.’ He said he would grant it if they would be willing to give up celebrating St. Patrick’s and St. Boniface day as they had been doing. Of course, they promised, but the Irish and Germans kept on asking on March 17 and June 5 to the end of the century.] in presence of many friends of the institution. At 2 p.m. “The Elder Brother” passed over the boards a second time, and it was followed by a German sketch “Aus Haendel’s Jugend.” The several acts were interspersed with number by the band and orchestra, instrumental solos on the violin, cithern and flute, and vocal selections. Hon. H.C. Waite and Hon J.L. Wilson, of St. Cloud, delivered brief addresses at the conclusion of the exercises.

            A few days later, March 5, there was an eclipse of the sun; the people of Minnesota had been told all about it in advance by one Severinus J. Corrigan, of Washington, D.C. Who is Corrigan? Years ago, as early as 1868 he was a student at St. John’s; next he betook himself to the study of law, then turned to the physical sciences, which he studied for six years, became assistant in the office of the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, Bureau of Navigation, U.S. Navy Department; made special studies in electrical science and wrote several monographs and a number of professional papers of original research in astronomy and physics. For the last two decades Mr. Corrigan has lost few opportunities to enlighten his fellow citizens on extraordinary celestial phenomena through the daily press of St. Paul, where he made his permanent residence about 1884. His reports could not only claim scientific accuracy but were written in a very popular, attractive style. Speaking, for instance, of the eclipse of March 5th, he says: “At the time of greatest obscuration the sun will be nearly in the horizon and sunset will intervene before the end of the eclipse, which will therefore not be visible at St. Paul but only father to the west. Now although nature, deeming probably that St. Paul has had a surfeit of spectacular entertainment of late, will thus bring down the curtain before the end of the performance, the following diagram will furnish a view of the phenomenon from beginning to end; and in the event of cloudy skies, which are very likely to interfere, these diagrams may have to take the place of the actual spectacle.”

            April 14th will for generations be a memorable day for Stearns County, for on that day a cyclone [tornado] dealt desolation and death to St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids. It was a dark day at St. John’s and a heavy rain poured down after the storm had passed by. Two days later services were held for the victims of the disaster among whom was Mr. Juenemann, Father of Frater Demetrius.

            On April 23 the venerable Father Clement Staub, who had acquired a widespread reputation as a physician, died at St. Joseph, Minnesota and was buried among his brethren at the monastery.

            On June 20th, Father Stephen Koefler, O.S.B., who had been ordained on the 14th of the same month, celebrated his first Mass in the college chapel. The following day, June 21, was devoted to the commencement exercises, which consisted simply of the distribution of premiums. On June 22nd, the second general meeting of the Alumni was held and the boys of 1886 had an opportunity to meet representative students of former school years. After the banquet, which was held in the present Exhibition Hall, the degrees and prizes were awarded to the outgoing class. The degree of Ph.B. was conferred on five graduates; that of Master of Accounts on 30; that of Ph.D. on Rev. Chrysostom Schreiner and that of Doctor of Philology on Rev. Urban Fischer. The honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred on Judge L.W. Collins and Hon. D.B. Searle, of St. Cloud. Gold and silver medals to the number of 12 were awarded in various classes. On the roll of students were 215 names—22 seminarians and 193 in all other departments. All signs for a bright future were favorable. During vacation the north and west wings of the new addition were prepared for occupancy.


            Luckily for the chronicler, there is extant in the catalogue of 1886-87 a condensed history of that school year.  It covers only two pages in print but omits nothing that is worthy of mention.  Being the first production of its kind, it shall be here reprinted in its entirety:

            September 7: Students are arriving with every train and there will be life in the camp from date.

            September 8: The school term began this morning.  The Rev. Vice President celebrated solemn High Mass before class hours. In the basement of the north wing a spacious play hall, 60×80, has been arranged and furnished with a first class bowling alley running the full length of the hall.  Turning poles, vaulting-bars and other gymnastical apparatus will follow. Beside the usual quarterly bulletins, monthly conduct bulletins will be published and read.

            October 24:  Father Cyril Zupan, O.S.B., one of the professors and Mr. John Sroka were ordained priests at St. Cloud by Rt. Rev. Bishop Rupert Seidenbusch.

            November 13: Forty Hours Devotion commenced today and closed on the 15th.

            November 23: The new university buildings were solemnly dedicated by the Rt.   Rev. President Abbot Alexius Edelbrock.   About 35 priests were present at the solemnity.  The blessing took place after Pontifical High Mass sung by the Rt. Rev.  Abbot.  In the afternoon an entertainment was given by the drama and musical associations.  “The Runaways” and the “Victim of Friendship” were the two dramatic pieces produced.  On invitation the pupils of the Industrial School contributed materially to the entertainment.

            November 25: Thanksgiving Day was observed by a High Mass at 7 o’clock.   In the afternoon a concert was given by the drama and musical associations.

December:  Owing to the extraordinary amount of snow there is, very, little skating this winter.

            December 18: The Rt. Rev. Bishop Martin Marty, O.S.B., D.D., of the Vicariate Apostolic of Dakota, is the guest of the university today.  At the students’ Mass this morning he conferred Minor Orders on Messieurs James A. Durward and Charles F. Robinson.

            December 19: Rt. Rev. Bishop Marty preached a very eloquent sermon in the students’ chapel, and departed from the university in the afternoon.

            December 22: First reading of quarterly class bulletins.

            December 25: The students who spent the Christmas holidays at the university were not forgotten.  A stately Christmas tree in the Commercial Hall had gifts for every one of them.

            1887-January 5: Classes were resumed.

            January 18: A solemn Requiem for the late James McMaster, editor of the New York Freeman’s Journal and the most distinguished Catholic American journalist, who died December 28, 1886, was celebrated in the students’ chapel.

            January 26: The Rev. Vice President’s names day. The students read appropriate addresses and the University Band furnished choice musical numbers.

            February 17: Hon. D.B. Searle, LL.D., delivered his first lecture on contracts before the Commercial Class.

            February 22: Washington’s Birthday, the great national holiday and college free day was enthusiastically celebrated.  In the afternoon the Alexian Dramatic and Musical Associations gave an entertainment, complimentary to the Rt. Rev. President, who returned from the East on the day previous.  The two short comedies, “Master Goat” and “Der gescheidte Damian” caused great merriment and a never-ending applause was accorded the Juvenile Orchestra of 14 pieces, which furnished some very enjoyable music. Four brilliant, red light tableaux, representing leading events of Washington’s career, terminated the concert.

            March 12: Two pool tables were put up in the play hall for the use of students during recreation hours.

            March 21: Feast of St. Benedict. A Solemn Pontifical High Mass, the Rt. Rev. Abbot officiating, appropriately celebrated this day, being the greatest feast of the Benedictine Order.

            April 5: Beginning of the Easter holidays. Quite a number of students will spend the latter part of Holy Week at their homes. The reading of the quarterly class bulletins took place.

            April 10: Easter Day. At Solemn Pontifical High Mass celebrated by the Rt. Rev.  President. The following made solemn vows for the Benedictine Order: Oswald Baran, Prefect of the Junior Department.  Meinrad Rettenmaier, Superintendent of the Industrial School, Henry Borgerding, Prefect of the Commercial Department and Ambrose Rank.

            April 11: Revs. Oswald, Meinrad, Henry, Ambrose and Messieurs Dan Lynch and Patrick Cary were ordained subdeacons by Rt. Rev. Bishop Seidenbusch, at St. Cloud, and B. Sproll received minor orders.

            April 12: Revs. Meinrad, Ambrose, Henry, Patrick Cary and Dan Lynch were ordained deacons and Mr. B. Sproll sub-deacon.

            Father Benedict Haindl, O.S.B., a member of St. John’s Abbey and the first who received the habit of the Benedictine Order in the United States, died yesterday morning at St. Benedict’s Priory, St. Paul, Minnesota. He was born August 10, 1815, was ordained a priest on April 20, 1849, and entered upon missionary labors in Minnesota April 11, 1857.  He had consequently worked 38 years in his holy and noble calling. The corpse was brought to the monastery for internment.  All the students attended the funeral services.

            April 17: Revs. Isidore Siegler and Henry Borgerding, O.S.B., both prefects in the University, were ordained priests today.

            April 19: In testimony of the great honor conferred on their superiors, the students presented the newly ordained priests with valuable homiletic works.

            April 24: Father Isidore Siegler celebrated his first Mass at the University Church, at which all the students assisted.  Father Henry Borgerding celebrated his first Mass at Freeport, Minnesota.

            April 25: Judge L.W. Collins, LL.D., delivered his last lecture on Commercial Paper.

            May 1: This was a free day for the students and it is superfluous to add that they enjoyed it.

            May 2: The boats, having been painted and repaired, were launched. Fishing is the most popular sport this season.

            May 22: Rt. Rev. Bishop Seidenbusch administered the sacrament of confirmation here today.

            May 25: The juniors had a May party on Doctor’s Island.

            May 26: The boys enjoyed the first swim of the season.  In the evening the University Band, assisted by the Vocal Music Class gave an open-air concert.

            There is little to add.  Early in June a set of stage sceneries and a drop curtain painted in Chicago, arrived and was mounted for the approaching closing exercises on June 22nd.   For once the play was again resorted to as the most attractive feature of the exercises.  Cardinal Wiseman’s “The Hidden Gem,” a favorite on Catholic stages, was excellently played.

            Eleven medals were awarded, and the degree of Master of Accounts conferred on 16 graduates of the commercial course. 179 students were enrolled—of these 27 were seminarians and 152 in all other departments.  No doubt, the number was disappointing, in view of the fact that powerful efforts had been made to fit up accommodations for a class nearly twice as large.  In the basement of the north wing which adjoins the church at the rear, was the play hall; on the second, the senior hall, above this the Exhibition Hall.  The wing running north and south contained a dining room and lavatories, classrooms, music rooms and a dormitory, while the extension of the main building contained rooms for the faculty and guests.  All the rooms were bright and airy and a vast improvement upon the earlier quarters. 


            More than one hundred students were registered during the first week after the opening of school in September.  For Thanksgiving Day a musical and dramatical entertainment was prepared.  It was held at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and was witnessed by a number of people from St. Cloud. The plays produced were “The Photograph,” a bit of humor, and the three act drama “The Proscribed Heir.” As usual, the Band and Orchestra supplied fine music, overtures, operatic selections, marches etc.; the former organization had, at the time 20 members, and the latter 17.

            Early in December two Remington typewriting machines were installed for the benefit of commercial students and thus the foundation was laid for cultivating a branch of study much in demand.  At first the instruments were not much patronized, but with the growing popularity of phonography the number of applicants for instruction on the typewriter also grew.

On December 8 the sad news of the death of the venerable Archabbot Boniface Wimmer of St. Vincent’s abbey arrived. But few there were who remembered how thirty years earlier he had visited this region to observe the growth of the shoot he had planted in the shade of the western forests.  He had labored long and patiently, combated difficulties to which many another person would have succumbed and laid his weary head to rest confident that his fourscore years had been well spent.

In the middle of December circulars were sent to alumni and friends of the institution, apprising them of the contemplated establishment of a college journal to be known as “The St. John’s University Record.” It was to serve as a medium of communication between the institution and former students, and a publication in which the students might make their maiden attempts at journalism.  The Alexian Literary Association, under direction of Father Chrysostom Schreiner, undertook to launch the enterprise.  A sufficiently large subscription list was guaranteed in a short time and towards the end of January 1888 the first number of  The Record appeared.

It was a 12-page quarto, running three columns to the page, was printed on slightly tinted paper and a credit to its printers, the St. Cloud Daily Times, who printed all the monthly issues of The Record. The publication contained, after a prefatory observation, essays on “Economy” biographical sketch of Pope Leo XIII. an obituary of the late Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, an historical essay on Leif Ericsson and an article on “The Country of the Midnight Sun.” In the editorial columns a tribute is paid to the memory of Archabbot Wimmer, and nearly a column is devoted to a review of a book “How to Improve Memory.” Incidentally the editor apologizes for the absence of poetry from the issue and holds himself excused on the plea that he has “not yet engaged a poet to do the rhymes for The Record, and the depressed condition of the mercury during the last four weeks has probably dampened the rising, ready rhymes of the traditional spring poet.” Next followed a page of local items—the field from which the historian must chiefly garner his information for the next two decades.  A page was given to former students; this was followed by book reviews; a list of Honorable Mention—which from that time made its appearance regularly every month.  Page ten was taken up by a batch of scientific notes, and a Sioux legend; pages 11 and 12 by anecdotes and advertisements.  Among the first advertisers were H.C . Metzl, the jeweler, Dr. C.C. Rosenkranz, the dentist, Fandel & Nugent, of the Empire Store and Joseph Edelbrock of St. Cloud; D. O’Halloran, book dealer and Stierle’s Pharmacy, St. Paul; Brown & Haywood of Minneapolis, B. Herder of St. Louis, Mrs. F. Bernick and St. Benedict’s Academy, of St. Joseph.

The Record came to stay and both contributors and subscribers made its stay possible.  Like many other journals, it gradually discovered that quarto was not a convenient size; accordingly it was reduced to octavo in 1891, and in that size has come down to this day.  The subscription price of $1.00 placed it within easy reach of every graduate.  Frank Schaller,’68, be it said to his credit, was the first subscriber.

        That January was a cold, cold month; the mercury slipped down to –38° on the 15th,   there was such a heavy snowfall that no trains passed Collegeville from the 11th to the 14th and the boys had not enjoyed one day of skating since the beginning of winter.  Indoors, the Ajax athletic club was cultivating the art of boxing and other gymnastic exercises.  This club which had for its motto “No mouthing: all training,” was organized under the presidency of P.F. McDonough, but did not live long enough to secure recognition in the annual catalogue.

        A pleasant event was the celebration of the Rev. Vice President’s names day on January 27th, the feast of St. Chrysostom. The Record describes it as follows: “In the afternoon preceding the feast the several Departments presented their congratulations. The University Band, ill the meantime rendered some of its best numbers. The Juniors substantiated their felicitations by a splendid pair of slippers and an autograph album in which each of them had inscribed some appropriate good wish. The Senior and Commercial departments had combined to donate something worthwhile, but their plans were waylaid by the deceitful freight car, which failed to bring the present until the next day.  The surprise was then rushed upon the Rev. Vice President. In an appropriate address the spokesman, Master F. Bernick, presented, in the name of all the student’s, a valuable secretary. On the morning of the 27th a Solemn High Mass was sung by Rev. Father Chrysostom, after which the joys of the freeday were indulged in.”

Then followed the semi-annual examinations, which were conducted by several boards of examiners who visited the various classes. 200 students were in attendance on February 1.

Washington’s Birthday was celebrated by an entertainment given by the Alexian Dramatic Association. A one-act drama, “King Alfred” was presented.  Among the musical selections were the “American Overture,” “Recollections of the War” and “Flowers of St. Petersburg Waltzes.”

On March 7, the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron of Christian schools, was celebrated for the first time by a literary and musical entertainment. “The sacred drama ‘Joseph in Egypt,’ was rendered with such excellence and feeling that it drew tears from many of the audience.” All the critics ventured to say in print, was that the costumes “bad not quite as much of the ancient ‘cut, fold and lay,’ as they might have had. “Mr. Joseph Langen, of the Seminary, delivered an essay on “St. Thomas, the Theologian;” Mr. Ambrose McNulty, of the Seminary, discoursed upon “St. Thomas, the Philosopher” and Master George Babner described “St. Thomas at School.”

Judges Collins and Searle again favored the Commercial class with a series of lectures during the spring.

Spring was late in arriving, the snow was loath to go, the ice did not disappear before April 25th and the baseball teams were growing restive. May found all reconciled to the climate, so much so that a local poet, who wrote anonymously, indulged in such strains as the following:

Come let us away while the weather is gay,

And our boat is again on the shore,

We’ll row o’er the lake some pleasure to take,

And think of the days of yore—

Those days when as boys our hearts full of joys,

Our lines in the water we pass,

And rowed right along to the tune of light song

As we hauled in the pickerel and bass.


A local reporter notes several improvements, such as the renovation of the cupola on the main buildings and the conversion of Boniface Place into a park.

During the first week in June the Ancient Order of Hibernians were holding their State convention at St. Cloud.  Pursuant to an invitation from the Rev. Vice President, the delegates visited the institution in a body on June 6th.  They were entertained at luncheon in the University dining room, where a number of speeches were delivered by the visitors and several members of the faculty.

On commencement day, June 21, Rev. Gerard Spielmann, O.S.B., celebrated his first Holy Mass in the college chapel.   At 8 o’clock the distribution of premiums took place. No program of exercises bad been issued. There were very few visitors present and hence the celebration was a very quiet one.

            Eleven gold medals and one silver medal were awarded. 22 graduates received the title of Master of Accounts and one that of Bachelor of Philosophy. The total enrollment for the year was 224 (28 seminarians and 196 in all other departments).  A zine-etching, reproduced from a photograph of the buildings adorned the catalogue. 


            During vacation a force of steam-fitters began work at installing the heating plant in the buildings.  A power house 50×50 was built some 400 feet west of the buildings: in it were placed five large boilers and a pump.  A supply main ran from the boiler house to the main buildings and connected with an enormous network of pipes which were to carry the steam to every part of the buildings.  Three months were consumed in the work, and on October 17th the efficiency of the plant was tested.  The day of the stove was over and the horrors of winter lost their edge.  In his glee The Record poet burst forth into these strains:

Let old Boreas come forth from his cave in the North,

And rage in his terrible wrath,

Over hill and o’er dale till the forest doth wail,

At the blight he leaves in his path.

We heed not his blast howe’er angry ‘tis cast,

It brings us not suffering or sorrow

Ten fires glow red and steam’s at full head,

From these our comfort we borrow.

On Thanksgiving Day the Rev. Vice-president celebrated a solemn High Mass, and delivered a short exhortation.   In the afternoon the literary societies gave a short entertainment, to the success of which the musicians contributed in no small measure.  Mr. A.L. McNulty was the orator of the day. His address was followed by a comical sketch “Wanted: a Confidential Clerk.” The entertainment was largely enjoyed by all, “even by Jonathan Dobbs,” says The Record, “who sees in it a vindication of the old proverb: “All work and no play makes John a dull boy.”

            A dreary winter followed: the spirit of sport could not be roused. “What’s the matter with football?” queried the local reporter. “The meager remnants of what once was an enthusiastic crowd are a sad spectacle on the campus. What a lonesome life must be that of a football—no one to love him, no one even to kick him!” It is unnecessary to state that the Juniors found ample resources for fun in their toboggan slides.

On January 22 a printing outfit, consisting of three presses, a complete set of book and job type, paper-knife and other requisites of a printery, once owned by the defunct St. Cloud Tribune was purchased and set up in the first floor of the southeast wing.  From this office The Record was issued since February 1889, although it cost many a patient struggle, such as only an amateur printer can realize, before satisfactory work could be turned out. Owing to the lack of a sufficient quantity of book type, the February issue was printed almost entirely in bourgeois, and poorly at that, for the ink refused to flow.  Several fonts of long-primer came in time for the March number. Among the notable contributions to The Record was a series of articles on “The First Beginnings of St. John’s Abbey” from the pen of Father Bruno Riss, O.S.B., one of the three pioneer Benedictines of Minnesota.

            The St. Boniface Literary Association took in hand the celebration of Washington’s birthday and presented the German comedy “Trau, Schau, Wem,” in five acts.

            As early as March 28th every sign of ice had disappeared from the lake, and shortly the boating clubs fell to organizing.  Some improvements had been made in the environs of the campus: there was, for instance, the rustic bridge over the narrow entrance to Caesar’s Bay, which tempted a poetaster into writing a parody on Longfellow’s well known poem.

April 28 witnessed a baseball game on the college diamond between the University and the St. Cloud team: “The students lost the game: score, 7-15.  The reporter thinks the wind was too high and the umpire’s dicta arbitrary.  Nevertheless he could not forbear counseling the home team to do a little more practicing and a little less talking, probably, if they wished to invert that score.”

On April 30 the institution celebrated the centennial of President Washington’s first inauguration.  Many visitors from St. Cloud came to witness the exercises.   The dramatic society presented the play “Under a Cloud” an agreeable feature of the program was a vocal solo by Mr. George M. Schutz who has since scored many artistic triumphs between Minnesota and the Pacific coast.

May Day was almost disfigured by an attempt at a snowstorm in the forenoon, but the clouds passed away and mild sunshine caressed the tiny buds on trees and shrub.  At noon arrived His Grace Archbishop John Ireland, of St. Paul, accompanied by his secretary, Rev. John Shanley, ‘69.  Upon invitation, Archbishop Ireland addressed the students on the importance of study as a preparation for life.  It ought not only be the student’s aspiration to become a learned man but also a good man.  He encouraged them in eloquent and earnest words to come to the front and to be ready as Catholics to stand in the first ranks in every movement for the good of society and religion. Father Shanley fell into a reminiscent mood and charmed his audience by his humorous and graphic pictures of the past at St. John’s.

During the summer the lake flotilla was increased by the addition of the sailboat “A.O. Gilman,” which was capable of carrying from 15-20 persons.  It had been the property of the late Dr. Gilman of St. Cloud and did service on the college lake for several years.  It was a favorite excursion boat.

On June 2nd the fourteenth anniversary of the election of Abbot Alexius Edelbrock was celebrated.  The main feature was an entertainment in the evening by the St. Boniface Literary Association supported by the band. A two act comedy: “Three Thousand Marks” was thoroughly enjoyed and Mr. A.L. McNulty delivered an address of congratulation to which the Rt. Rev. President responded. It was his last address to the students of St. John’s.

On June 13th the Rt. Rev. Abbot, accompanied by the Rev. Vice President, Father Chrysostom, left St. John’s for Europe. Father Alexius Hoffmann was appointed to fill the office of vice president temporarily. The remaining days of the school year were very unpleasant.  Two of the students who were recovering from an attack of the measles suffered a relapse: early in the morning of June 14 one of them, George L. Hutchins, of Kingston, Minnesota died, and at 8 o’clock in the evening of June 15th Leo Ditter, of  P.O. Minnesota passed away [He was buried here].  Closing day was almost a week distant but upon the advice of physicians and in view of the fact that there were no other cases of sickness in the college at the time, it was decided to close on the 17th.  Accordingly the medals and premiums were distributed on the morning of that day and the students were dismissed in the afternoon.

The twenty-second annual catalogue was printed by The Record press and cannot be said to represent first class workmanship. On the list of professors were 20 names, besides 3 lecturers on Commercial Law. The roll of students contained 24 names of seminarians, and 185 in all other departments—total 209.  Eleven gold medals and one silver medal were awarded. 20 graduates received the degree of Master of Accounts.