Timeline 1838–1948

1838
Reverend James Oliver Van de Velde, S. J., says mass in the city hall over the market house.
Yellow fever epidemic kills 235 people.
May 8 - November 1: Pierce Connelly is a trustee of Roman Catholic Society of Natchez.
October 14: Father R. Jamey, who had presided over Natchez for a few months, departs.
1839
January 25: The celebrated Lazarist, Father John Timon, who would later become bishop of Buffalo, New York, arrives in Natchez by steamer. He lives at the home of Felicité Gireaudeau and uses the parlor as a little chapel, but on Sundays, he preaches at city hall.
June 15: A presbytery on Union Street is built. (It currently houses Catholic Charities.)
July 27: L.A. Besancon, trustee president, writes to Father Maenhaut, Bishop Blanc's secretary, to notify him that the presbytery is completed: "We have just completed a building of brick containing five rooms suited to the accommodation of a priest. One of the rooms is suitable for Sabbath duties until we can get a church edifice erected..."
August 19: Joseph Pomet, uncle of Felicité Gireaudeau, dies. No priest is present in Natchez.
September 21: Father Joseph Brogard arrives.
1840
May 7: A tornado devastates Natchez and kills over 300 people.
May 16: Baltimore Council recommends Father John Chanche to become bishop of Natchez.
July 20: William St. John Elliott states in a letter to Bishop Blanc of New Orleans that he intends to rear a Gothic church for about $30,000.
December 15: Pope Gregory XVI appoints Father Chanche of the Sulpician order and president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, first bishop of Natchez.
1841
March 14: Father Chanche, S.S., is ordained bishop in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady in Baltimore, Maryland.
May 19: Bishop Chanche arrives from New Orleans during the night and stays at the home of Felicité Gireaudeau. He later rents the Merrick House on the southwest corner of Orleans and Union Streets
1842
January: Father John Francois is appointed pastor by Bishop Chanche.
January 20: "...under the pleasing and intelligent auspices of Reverend Brogard and Bishop Chanche this church has continued to thrive for some time. They are clearing away the mound for a new cathedral." (The Weekly Courier and Journal)
January 29: Father Brogard leaves Natchez to become pastor of St. Joseph Church in Baton Rouge.
February 24: Cornerstone is laid for the cathedral. The architect is Robert Cary Long, Jr. The contractor is James Hardie.
1843
December 25: First mass is said in the cathedral which is dedicated to the Sorrowful Heart of Mary.
1844
August 4: Bishop Chanche writes to Mr. Pierce Connelly, who is studying in Rome to become a priest, and requests that he solicit from the Holy Father "...books, vestments, chalices, everything useful in new missions..."
1845
January: Bishop Chanche goes to Havana, Cuba to examine Spanish records in an attempt to reclaim church property which was lost to the United States upon a change of governments.
September 27: Father Connelly writes that he has the gift of a chalice: "...the cup being gold, the rest of silver heavily gilt."
1846
May 10: Bishop Chanche is in Baltimore for the Sixth Provincial Council held in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady. Bishop Chanche is the tenth of twenty-two American bishops to sign a document which adopts the Blessed Virgin Mary as patroness of the United States.
August 1: Bishop Chanche receives the papal chalice which had been brought from Rome by Bishop Jean Marie Odin of Texas.
August 2: The bishop's house is completed by builder John Crothers.
1847
January 28: Three Daughters of Charity of St. Joseph arrive. They establish an orphanage and school for girls in the Merrick House on the corner of Orleans and Union Streets.
March 13: The painting of The Assumption, a gift from Queen Amelie of France, arrives.
1848
St. Mary’s Orphanage and School for Girls is established at the permanent location on the corner of Jefferson and Rankin Streets.
June: Bishop Chanche goes to Europe for a year, seeking funds to pay off the debt on the cathedral. (A lithographic portrait of the Bishop Chanche is made while he is in Paris. The portrait now hangs in the rectory office.)
May 1848: The cathedral which had been placed on auction for debt is redeemed by Father Blase Raho, C.M.
1849
May: Bishop Chanche returns from Europe via Baltimore to attend the Seventh Provincial Council.
December 28: Reverend Mathurin F. Grignon arrives in Natchez from Brittany, France.
1850
May 18: The great bell of St. Mary’s Cathedral, a gift from the Prince and Princess Torlonia of Rome, arrives via the steamer Natchez.
May 27: The bell is blessed and named Maria Alexandrina in honor of Princess Torlonia.
1851
January 6: Bishop Chanche writes to Bishop Blanc that Sheppard Reynolds has built the altar of the cathedral.
1852
July 22: Bishop Chanche dies in Frederick, Maryland, after attending the First Plenary Council (May 9-20) in Baltimore, Maryland.
1853
Yellow Fever epidemic kills 750 persons.
July 29: Bishop Van de Velde of Chicago is appointed the second bishop of Natchez by Pope Pius IX.
December 18: Bishop Van De Velde arrives in Natchez.
1854
June 9: Slate roof is installed on the cathedral.
November: Bishop Van de Velde acquires the old Spanish cemetery for a short period. "He gathered all the bones that were scattered on the surface of the ground, and that filled nearly two boxes, and had them deposited in the crypt under the Sanctuary of the Church."
December 8: Dogma regarding the Immaculate Conception is proclaimed by Pope Pius IX.
1855
November 13: Bishop Van de Velde, along with 40 parishioners, dies during a yellow fever outbreak. He is buried in the crypt under the main altar.


Timeline 1838 — 1948 Related

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1857
January 9: Father William Henry Elder of Maryland is appointed the third bishop of Natchez by Pope Pius IX.
May 3: Father Elder is ordained bishop in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady in Baltimore, Maryland.
May 30: Bishop Elder arrives in Natchez.
July: Father Grignon is appointed vicar-general by Bishop Elder.
1859
February 1: The original church property, site of the first Spanish church, San Salvador del Mundo, located on Fourth Street (now Commerce Street) in the center of the city, is sold for $3500.
August 14: The cathedral interior, including all woodwork and windows, is finished by Peter Warner of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
1860
September: D'Evereux Hall, an orphanage for boys, is opened.
1861
April 12: War Between the States begins.
1862
January 11: Felicité Gireaudeau dies at 70 years of age.
September 2: The ironclad gunboat, Essex, shells Natchez from 3:30 to 6:30 in the afternoon.
1864
July 22: Bishop Elder is expelled from Natchez and detained in Vidalia, Louisiana, for declining to pray for the government of the United States as ordered by Brigadier General James M. Tuttle, commander at Natchez.
August 12: Bishop Elder is allowed to return to Natchez.
1865
April 9: War Between the States ends.
October: The Brothers of the Sacred Heart arrive to take over the operation of D'Evereux Hall.
1867
September 23: The Cathedral School for Boys on the southwest corner of Main and Union Streets is built under the guidance of Bishop Elder.
1868
First Vatican Council in Rome is summoned by Pope Pius X.
1874
Bishop Van de Velde's remains are removed from the crypt of the cathedral and taken by his Jesuit order for reinterment at St. Stanislaus Novitiate, Florissant, Missouri.
1876
Union Army occupation of Natchez ends; troops depart from the city.
1878
Yellow fever kills diocesan priests: Fathers Mouton, McManus, Van Queckelberge, Cogan, Oberti and Vitello.
1880
April 15: Bishop Elder departs from Natchez after being appointed coadjutor archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Father Grignon, vicar-general is administrator of the Diocese of Natchez.
November 30: Father Theophilus Meerschaert arrives to assist Father Grignon.
Patrick McGraw wills $1,000 to the city of Natchez to install a clock in the cathedral.
1881
April 7: Father Francis Janssens, D.D. is appointed fourth bishop of Natchez by Pope Leo XIII.
May 1: Father Janssens is ordained bishop in St. Peter's Cathedral in Richmond, Virginia.
May 7: Bishop Janssens arrives in Natchez.
1882
March: Bishop Janssens contracts for the building of the sacristy for $1,340. He contracts with Pilcher and Company to install an new organ and hires A. Biorci to paint the Crucifixion over the main altar.
December 24: The Crucifixion is unveiled by Bishop Janssens.
1883
Statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is donated by Archbishop Elder of Cincinnati, Ohio, and a Pieta is donated by Bishop Janssens. (The present location of the Pieta is unknown.)
1884
The picket fence surrounding the church property is replaced with an iron fence.
1886
April 25: Bishop Janssens dedicates St. Joseph School on Commerce and State Streets.
September 19: The cathedral is consecrated on the Feast of the Seven Dolors of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (It is now debt free.)
The Sisters of Charity begin teaching African-American children in the lower room of the original presbytery.
1887
April 17: Father Grignon dies after serving 37 years. Money from his estate and donations from the Altar Society buys the Christmas crib.
New Stations of the Cross and several memorial windows are installed in the cathedral.
April 18: Father Meerschaert is appointed vicar-general.
1888
July 25: Erasmus Humbrecht of Cincinnati, Ohio, is contracted to fresco the interior of the church.
August 7: Bishop Janssens is appointed archbishop of New Orleans. Father Meerschaert, vicar-general, is administrator of the Diocese of Natchez.
1889
March 29: Father Thomas Heslin, a New Orleans pastor, is appointed fifth bishop of Natchez by Pope Leo XIII.
June 18: Father Heslin is ordained bishop in New Orleans.
September 11: James Hardy, builder of the cathedral, dies in Natchez.
1890
Holy Family Parish for African-Americans is established by Bishop Heslin.
1891
Father Meerschaert, pastor of the cathedral, is named bishop of the Indian Territory.
Father Patrick Hayden is appointed pastor.
1899
A two-room addition, later referred to as St. Anne’s Hall, was added onto the old house from Bishop Chanche’s time.
Josephite Fathers arrive to pastor Holy Family Church.
1903
Two marble side-altars are installed in the cathedral.


Timeline 1838 — 1948 Related

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Statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is donated by Archbishop Elder of Cincinnati, Ohio; born and educated in Maryland, Bishop Elder served the diocese of Natchez from 1857-1880. He ministered to his flock… Read more

Seth Blattner, a junior at Trinity Episcopal School, presents today's Natchez History Minute about the shelling of Natchez by the USS Essex on this day, September 2 in 1862. The Union gunboat shelled the city for over two hours in retaliation for the killing of one sailor and the wounding of several others by a crowd of Natchezians. Published on Sep 1, 2016… View video


1911
February 22: Bishop Heslin dies and is buried on Catholic Hill in the Natchez City Cemetery.
June 29: Father John Gunn, a Marist priest, is appointed sixth bishop of Natchez by Pope Pius X.
August 29: Father John Edward Gunn is ordained bishop.
1913
April 20: Bishop Gunn dedicates the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was built for the Italian community of Morgantown, located north of Natchez.
1914
July 28: World War I begins.
1918
November 11: World War I ends.
1921
Father Patrick Hayden dies and is buried on Catholic Hill in the Natchez City Cemetery.
Father Peter J. Ahern is appointed pastor of St. Mary Cathedral.
1924
February 19: Bishop Gunn dies in the Hotel Dieu Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is buried on Catholic Hill in the Natchez City Cemetery.
June 25: Father Richard Oliver Gerow of Mobile, Alabama is appointed seventh bishop of Natchez by Pope Pius XI.
October 15: Father Gerow is ordained bishop in Mobile, Alabama.
1930
In anticipation of celebrating the one-hundred-year anniversary of the diocese, Bishop Gerow oversees the renovation of the cathedral sanctuary in Carrara marble.
Father John McNamara is appointed pastor of St. Mary Cathedral.
1935
Sisters of Charity assume the operation of the Boys School from Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
1937
Centenary of the Diocese of Natchez (1837-1937) is celebrated by Bishop Gerow.
1948
Bishop Gerow moves the Diocese of Natchez to Jackson, Mississippi.


Sources: Cradle Days of St. Mary’s at Natchez by Richard O. Gerow, bishop of Natchez; 1941 (reprinted 1985); St. Mary’s of Natchez: The History of a Southern Catholic Congregation, 1716-1988, Vols. I & II, by Charles E. Nolan, Ph.D., 1992; Letters of Francis Janssens, archbishop of New Orleans (formerly bishop of Natchez), in the archives of Notre Dame, Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana.


Lithograph on stone - St. Mary Cathedral