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A Glimpse of the Indiana Missions in 1833

Before the erection of the Diocese of Vincennes, when Simon Brute was still a professor at Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, Indiana was mission territory within the Diocese of Bardstown. Andrew Jackson was President of the United States and an unknown priest, Simon Petit Lalumiere, a native of Vincennes lived and worked in southern Indiana serving the Catholics who had come from Maryland and Kentucky into this new land.

What was it like on the Indiana frontier? Here is an article, taken from the May 18, 1833 issue of the Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph. It was written by Fr. Lalumiere, although he is not actually credited with authorship.

Extract from a letter of an Indiana Missionary to the editors, dated, Washington County (Daviess County) May 4.

I was lately on an extended mission towards your city, and I had the intention of paying you a visit, which I was unable to fulfil. I understood that the cholera was revisiting your city; and moreover, I was told, by a very zealous methodist, on my journey, that you had subterranean. apartments under your church, well secured by iron bars and that they were for no other purpose than to shut up protestants, indicating that the Inquisition must be in full vigor among you! You will conceive from this, that I must have been much alarmed, and even terrified by an apprehension that, coming from the backwoods of Indiana, I might be taken for a heretic, and clapped to the torture. I therefore turned myself about and devoted my attention to the duties of the mission.

The first place I visited was Columbus, in Bartholomew County. Here are four or five catholic families, for whom I siad mass on Sunday, (the first after Easter.) Many of them had not been able to assist at Mass for several years; I addressed them a few words of exhortation; and for the instruction of a considerable number of our separatcd brethren, I gave a short explication of the ceremonies, vestments, &c. used in the celebration of the holy sacrificc. In the evening, I preached to a large assembly in the Court Hcuse, on a moral subject; many seemed to be surprised at knowing we believe in Jesus Christ.

Bartholomew county is certainly a heautiful and sightly country; with a rich soil already thickly settled, there is much good land vacant in the vicinity of Columbus, which is the county seat. The situation of the town is beautiful, on the left fork of the Driftwood, which is a branch of the White river. It makes a genteel appearance, and will doubtless become a place of considerable importance in a few years. If a few more catholic families should settle in the vicinity, it is thought that a church might be easily erected at Columbus, for which a lot is already offered.

I next visited Shelby county, where I found already 10 catholic families, some having come in since my last visit, and others, I was told, were preparing to migrate. There remains little doubt that a clergyman will be stationed here, so soon as Indiana obtains a Bishop. I had the consolation of seeing 25 approach the holy communion. Their zeal for the divine service would have pleased and edified you. Mass was clebrated in a private dwelling; the altar was very neatly and appropriately decorated; the Litany of the Blessed Virgin was sung in Latin before mass, and during its celebration, hymns and appropriate portions of the service were sung. The Catholics of Shelby, until they have a resident priest, will be visited three or four times a year, by one who speaks English and French, so that German emigrants who may understnad the last, would have an occasional opportunity for the practice of their religion.

In Daviess county, where, at St. Peter’s Church, we have the Female School, there is yet much vacant land, and lands already improved, can be had on the most favorable terms. The advantage of the situation between the Forks of White River affords every needful facility for transporting produce to market. St. Peters and the School are situatiod within half a mile of the State road leading from Vincennes to Louisville, and equi-distant from either fork of White River; and equidistant from the church and the West Fork, stands Washington, the county seat, a little town, flourishing, both now and in prospect. A church will probably ere long be erected in it. The distance between the two forks, as the road runs, is 18 miles. The climate is healthful, and the priest very seldom has to attend a sick call. The resident clergyman at St. Peters, is a native of the State, and familiar with both the French and English languages.

The catholic population of Indiana is greater than would readily be supposed, and is constantly and repaidly increasing. In the eastern part of the State, and near the Ohio line, we have a congregation wtihout a priest; on the Wabash there are many; at Logansport there are a considerable number, and I have information of the actual emigration of 10 very respectable families from Pennsylvania, who are anxious for a church and a priest. The field is large and the labourers are indeed few–only two. It is our hope and prayer, that Providence will send labourers, with a bishop, to the harvest, so that b the grace of God and their efficient and zealous cooperation, Religion may flourish in the wilds of Indiana.



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