Thursday, April 15, 2010

But The Jesuit Father Bapst Was Nowhere To Be Found. It Seems That They Had Tarred And Feathered Him

In June, 1854, Father John Bapst, S.J. changed his residence to Bangor. His success at Ellsworth and the opposition it created was the cause of the change. According to his own account his labors had been rewarded by many conversions. 
These were the days of the Know Nothing party and bigoted feeling ran high. The Jesuit was denounced from Protestant pulpits, and in the Ellsworth press, as a perverter of the young. Then further trouble was caused by the school situation. The Catholic children in the Ellsworth schools were forced to read the Protestant Bible and recite Protestant prayers. 
Father Bapst opened a Catholic school in the old mission chapel for the children who had been expelled from the Ellsworth schools for refusing to submit to the school committee's ruling, making the reading of the Protestant Bible and the recitation of Protestant prayers obligatory on all the pupils. 
The establishment of a Catholic school infuriated the bigots. One night they blew up the old chapel building with gun powder. Then came a controversy with a Protestant minister with Father Bapst the victor. 
The Know Nothing answer to the priest's controversial triumph was an attack on his house. On June 3, 1854, the windows of the rectory were smashed and on June 6 a mob broke the windows of the church. All the while the Ellsworth Herald kept up a daily tirade against the Catholic religion in its columns, and on Sundays the Protestant ministers attacked the church from their pulpits. The Bishop of Boston decided that it was better for Father Bapst to change his residence to Bangor. In July word came to Father Bapst at Bangor that the Ellsworth bigots had attempted to burn down the church. The fire was discovered by Amory Otis, one of the fair-minded Protestant citizens, and extinguished before any great damage was done. Father Bapst, at the direction of Bishop Fitzpatrick, did not visit Ellsworth even on Sundays. Another priest took his place.  
After the destruction of the school house the Protestants feared Catholic reprisals. The better disposed among them decided to call a public meeting to protest against the outrage. This meeting was called on July 8, 1854. The Know Nothing element prevailed, outnumbering the others four to one. 
Then, with all the hatred they were capable of, these bigots passed the following resolutions after the respectable Protestant citizens had withdrawn: "July 8, 1854—Moved by George W. Madox:—That, if John Bapst, S.J., be found again on Ellsworth soil we will provide for him, and try on an entire suit of new clothes, such as cannot be found at the shops of any taylor (sic), and then when thus apparelled he be presented with a free ticket to leave Ellsworth upon the first railroad operation that may go into effect. "Voted that we now adjourn sine die. The reading of the resolutions was greeted with loud applause and they were unanimously adopted, 
as the Democrats and Liberal Republicans had left the hall when they realized that the Know Nothings were in control. Father Bapst in his Bangor home heard of the meeting but he did not believe the bigots were bitter enough to carry these inhuman resolutions into effect. 
In October he went to Ellsworth. It was on Saturday evening, the fourteenth of the month. He was to say Mass the next day. He stopped at the house of a Catholic citizen named Kent. When night set in a mob came to the house and demanded that Mr. Kent hand over the priest. Mr. Kent urged Father Bapst to hide in the cellar while he spoke to the leaders. 
His speech was useless and only provoked the cry: "If you don't produce him we will burn down your house and roast him alive." Father Bapst heard this threat and came out of the cellar. With a chorus of yells they greeted him and dragged him out of the house and up the road. They placed him on a sharp rail and thus carried him along, yelling, hooting and cursing him. 
Arriving at a lonely place they took his watch and money. Then they stripped him naked. They bound him to a tree. They piled brush all around him and tried to set it on fire. As their supply of matches gave out he was saved from death by fire. The sheriff hearing of the outrage went out with his posse after the mob. A shower of stones greeted this official's arrival at the scene and the lantern in his hand was smashed. He pulled a pistol on the wild, shouting throng and threatened to fire. This had the desired effect and the mob dispersed. 
But Father Bapst was nowhere to be found. It seems that when they had tarred and feathered him and saw there was no way of burning him alive they sent a group of their followers to take him into Ellsworth in his pitiable condition. 
This band ordered him to get out of the town that night. They would kill him, they said, if he attempted to say Mass next day.
Link (here) to the mentioned portion of essay entitled, FATHER JOHN BAPST, S.J., AND THE "ELLSWORTH OUTRAGE." By the Rev. Gerald C. Treacy, S.J.

Photo is of Fr. John Bapst, S.J. (here)

1 comment:

Pat Claus said...

Just found this blog as I am trying to research the possible canonization of this holy man. I am a member of the Bangor-area Catholic community and I fear his witness has been forgotten by many, especially as we are in the minority here. Anti-Catholicism still runs high in the Bangor area in my opinion. Thank you for your work in bringing his story forward.