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Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Sun Shone



by Margaret "Maggie" Wolcott, 1879 Caton, New York
©2011 All rights reserved.




April, Tuesday 1, 1879
We had a lamb. Sun shone. I ironed. Ma went up to Aunt Delia’s. Birt went up to Oscar’s and got the dog machine. Real and Flora come down.


April, Wednesday 2, 1879
Snowed a little. Wind blew west. Ma commenced joining her chain. The hog had pigs. I was going to Ella’s but it is cold.

Excerpts from "Plank Road Explorer"


Available soon.

by Henry Marvin, Webbs Mills, New York 1873-1874

©2011 All rights reserved
to be released October 2011 - more info

February, Sunday 1, 1874
I stayed at home all day. John and Lib Flynn and Early & John Kile was here & Bell Patterson was here. Tim was here.

February, Monday 2, 1874
I went to school all day and at nite went to bed as usual. I killed Dave McWhorter’s dog. He was up here last night killing sheep.

A JEWISH CINDERELLA


by Dr. Edward Allan Brawley 


Professor Emeritus, Arizona State Univerity

Copyright ©2011. All rights reserved by the author.



In New York City, in the Spring of 1905, it appeared as if fairy tales could really come true for even the poorest and most humble young women toiling in the City’s factories and sweatshops when it was announced to an astonished public that a young Jewish immigrant from Poland was to marry a member of one of the wealthiest Christian families in America. As Stephen Birmingham notes in The Rest of Us, “the American reading public was treated to banner headlines detailing what was billed as a real-life ‘Cinderella Story.’”[i] Departing from its usually iron-clad policy of relegating the coverage of engagements to the society page, The New York Times, on April 5, trumpeted the news of this particular match in a front-page story under the headline: J.G. PHELPS STOKES TO WED YOUNG JEWESS.”[ii] Clearly, for The Times and its readers, this was no run-of-the-mill betrothal.

Excerpts from "My Story - A Year in the Life of a Country Girl"

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by Ida Burnett, age 15
Logan, New York 1880
©2009 All rights reserved by author



January, Thursday 1, 1880
I and Ma got breakfast. Miss Vandoren has been here all day and Mate and Frank has been here all the afternoon. Alex Dunham and Abram Wyatt is here.

January, Friday 2, 1880
I went to school today. Carrie went up to Mate’s this afternoon and Fred Baker was here. Manroe Kingsley was here to dinner. Jane called this evening.

A Darned Good Time

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by Miss Lucy Potter, age 13
Taylor, New York 1868
©2009 All rights reserved.



November, Sunday 1, 1868
went to meeting twice today. Abb is here tonight. I sit by the stove and Abb put his hand into my pocket and got my butternuts.

November, Monday 2, 1868
have been washing today. have not been to the post office. hain’t heard from Vel today but spose she’ll get along.

My Centennial Diary - A Year in the Life of a Country Boy


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by Earll K. Gurnee, age 18
Skaneateles, New York 1876
©2009 ALL rights reserved.




January, Saturday 1, 1876
The morning opened dark and foggy, but not cold. Mud from 1/2 to 2-feet-deep. Toward noon the weather cleared and the balance of the day was excruciatingly fine and warm. Thermometer 60 degrees throughout the day. At 12 last night the Centennial was ushered in with ringing of bells and shouting and screeching from many voices. Many business places were illuminated. A large amount of Whiskey was probably consumed as many were hilarious and a few pugilistic. In fact, I deemed it imprudent to leave the vicinity of the store for fear of violence and consequently paid O’Grimes one dollar to stay the night.

TOWN MEETINGS IN  NEW YORK




©2010. All rights reserved by the author

That New York as well as New England had annual town meetings may come as a surprise to many.  It did to this author when I read in a 19th-century woman's diary on several occasions that "the men went to town meeting."  Records of the town where the diary author lived, confirmed this, but neither the town clerk nor anyone ese I spoke to had ever heard of such a thing.  It turns out that it was only in mid-20th century that "town meetings" disappeared from the laws of the state, though by that time they had long been indistinguishable from town elections.

The town as a unit was and is important in New England while in other parts of the country counties typically perform most local government functions outside cities.  When the British historian James Bryce observed our system in his classic The American Commonwealth (1888), the New England town meetings reminded him of the Easter vestry of England.  Engllish derivation may explain the typical early spring timing, which otherwise appears impractical in the Northeast's much harsher climate than the English one.  Traditionally, the beginning of sugaring is said to have determined the date of New England town meetings, with the dates set for early March in Vermont and New Hampshire.  Kingston, NY, held town meetings in the 1720s on the first Tuesday in March.  Dutch practice may also have included such meetings.

Other states adopted the concept of towns as units of local government, some preferring the term "township" and many over time severely restricting their functions.  Local office holders rather than the annual meeting itself came to carry out local government activities requiring day-to-day attention.  Other local concerns were transferred to the county.  In New York the town meeting's chief purpose became little more than the election of town officers.  As a 1894 case summarized it:

"A town meeting was originally a meeting of the town electors at one place for the election of town officers and for the transaction of other town business. In course of time it was found inconvenient to have the election at one place, and that resulted in a number of the towns being divided into election districts for the convenience of the voters.  The elections were held on one day, and the town officers met at a subsequent day to canvass the result of the election of the several election districts, and also to transact such other business as might be brought before them ……" (In re Foley)

Nevertheless as late as 1922 New York civics texts referred to the town meeting as a legislative branch.

It took almost the entire 19th century for elections at all levels of government in New York to occur on the November day we recognize for this civic purpose.  April was the common time for election of members of the legislature, governor, and members of Congress in the early decades.  The Constitution adopted in 1821 created a uniform November date - the first Monday - for state elections.  It also did away with property requirements for voting and changed a number of offices from appointive to elective. A 1836 Gazetteer of the State of New York describes town electoral practices:
"The qualified voters annually assemble in their respective towns, at such place as they at their annual town meetings from time to time appoint, on some Tuesday between the first Tuesday in February and the first Tuesday in May, both inclusive each year (to choose a Supervisor, Town Clerk, 3 to 5 assessors, tax collector, three inspectors of common schools, and others) …  Town meetings are open only between the rising and setting of the sun, and may be held two days successively, but not longer."

The passage describes practices that lasted until late in the century.  The Constitution adopted in 1846 had this to say on the subject:
"All …town … officers, whose election or appointment is not provided for by this Constitution, shall be elected by the electors of such … towns… or of some division thereof, as the Legislature shall designate for that purpose." (Article X,  §2)

In 1890, the Legislature, as thus directed by the Constitution, spelled out the rules for town meetings and the election of town officers:
"The citizens of the several towns in this state, except in counties containing upwards of 300,000 inhabitants, qualified by the Constitution to vote for elective officers, shall annually … on the second Tuesday of February, assemble and hold town meetings in their respective towns …"
(Chapter 569, Laws of 1890)

County Boards of Supervisors were authorized to set a date between February 1 and May 1 and to permit the creation of election districts within towns.  Inspectors of election in such districts were to be "able to read or write."  Terms of town officers (no statement whether they needed to be literate) were for one year.  "Town meetings shall be kept open for the purposes of voting in the day time only, between the rising and the setting of the sun, and, if necessary, may be continued by a vote of the meeting during the next day, and no longer, and be adjourned to another place not more than one fourth of a mile from the place where it was appointed."  Powers of annual town meetings, in addition to the election of officers, were specified and ranged from promulgating "rules for fences and for impounding animals" to support of the poor and raising taxes as well as to "determine any other question lawfully submitted to them."  Though the Constitution in Article VI required secrecy in elections, the courts in 1893 upheld election by show  of hands for town officers.

Subsequent legislatures kept tinkering with these provisions and passed amendments almost every year through the 1890s.  Under a provision adopted in 1893, voters could petition for the creation of election districts within a town.  That year also saw the beginning of the publication of an annual Manual for Election Officers and Voters in the State of New York, compiled by the Clerk to the Secretary of State.

On April 12, 1893, the New York Times ran an extensive report on the "satisfactory results" of tests of the Myers voting machine by several towns in Niagara County the previous day.  The 1893 and 1894 legislatures took cognizance of this new invention and regulated its use at town meetings and general elections.  Towns with over 400 voters were now required to be divided into election districts and to appoint election inspectors in each.  Town meetings still were annual events, generally held at a time different from the date of the general election.

In November 1894 New York voters adopted a new constitution that made for some fundamental changes, and not only with regard to elections.  Among other provisions, it instructed the legislature to "provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools; (sic) wherein all the children of the State may be educated." (Article IX, §1).  It established home rule for cities and set two-year terms for the Governor and other state officials (Article XI, §2).

This being an era of reform, clean conduct of elections was a major objective, and to this end the 1894 Constitution separated municipal from state and national elections - but only in cities.  Elections of local officers were to take place in odd-numbered years, those of state and federal officeholders in even-numbered ones.  Incumbents' terms were extended or abridged during the transition in order to establish the prescribed schedule.  The requirement that boards of elections consist of representatives of both major parties was equally directed to the achievement of clean elections, as were provisions for the registration of voters.  Neither applied to town meetings.  Having the candidates of all parties appearing on oe ballot was a major innovation.  This so-called "Australian ballot" replaced the earlier practice of each party supplying its tickets ahead of time to voters.

In 1897 the legislature shifted town meetings to biennial.  All town officers were to serve two-year terms except for four-year terms for justices of the peace.  The date for town meetings was to be the second Tuesday in February, subject to being changed for a period of not less than three years by each county's Board of Supervisors.  References to annual town meetings remained in several sections, possibly for the conduct of business other than the biennial election of officers.

Laws passed in 1898 for the first time permitted Boards of Supervisors not only to determine a date between February 1 and May 1 for the biennial town meetings, but also to authorize their being held at the same time as the general election in November.  Detailed instructions for the changeover, including adjustment of terms of incumbents, were supplied.

After 1899 a town could of its own volition opt for the November date "by adopting a proposition therefor at a regular town meeting …"  And women who were property owners were permitted to vote on "propositions to raise money by tax or assessment."  A law passed in 1901 specified that town meetings held in November occur in odd-numbered years as the 1894 Constitution had directed for cities.  It was again necessary to rearrange terms of incumbents elected in 1898 and 1899 to accord with this schedule.

In 1898 counties with between 150,000 and 160,000 population had been instructed to hold their next town meetings in November 1899 and biennially thereafter.  Albany County was the only one fitting that description.  Similar laws with application to particular counties only soon followed.  They were phrased as applying to counties between x and y population - which turned out to be a class with one member only.  (Enacting laws couched in seemingly general terms but in fact with very specific applicabillity is a technique not unknown to this day).  The majority of the state's counties had populations under 50,000 and were unaffected by these mandates.

Even without specific legislative direction, counties fell in line and adopted the November date for their town elections, some more speedily than others.  One county took exception to the 1903 law applicable to counties with between 50,000 and 54,000 population, and directed at it.  Its Board of Supervisors, stating they wanted to keep their town meetings in February, instructed the local members of the state legislature to work for the law's repeal.  It did not happen.

The Consolidated Election Law of 1909, an attempt to codify the legislative efforts of the past nearly two decades, contains additional provisions or separate chapters for various counties but mainly aimed at completing separation of national and state from local elections.  References to "town meeting for the election of town officers" and to the traditional spring meeting dates remained elsewhere.

Almost each year for the next decade or so, the legislature passed various clarifying amendments, rules for the creation of election districts and for nominating candidates for town office, and it made needed provisions when women gained the vote a year and a half before the passage of the 19th Amendment.  In 1916, 17 of New York's 62 counties still stuck to their February, March, or April dates.  That number was down to seven in 1918.

New sections of the Town Law, added in 1932, for the first time refer to "Biennial town elections," stating that these were "a substitute for a town meeting …, and a reference in any law to a town meeting or special town meeting shall be construed as reference to a town election…"  "The next biennial town meeting and election of town officers in every town of the state shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November Nineteen-hundred-and-thirty-three," it ordered.

The venerable town meeting had taken a long time to breathe its last, but finally it was over.  In the leading legal encyclopedia for New York one no longer finds the phrase "town meeting" in the Index under either "Towns" or "Elections," only in "Words and Phrases," where the 1894 In re Foley case is quoted.

One wonders what reception was accorded the various legislative mandates around the state.  Did more than one county object?  The answer is not easy to find.  Nowhere In the state is there an office that has data of when each of the state's counties made the switch to holding town elections in November.  The State Archives contain only a small portion of Board of Supervisors and town board minutes, and their indexes are spotty at best.  In the early 20th century Boards of Supervisors typically met for their annual session in November and December and concerned themselves mainly with fiscal matters.  Town Accounts, also found in those minute books, sometimes indicate dates of town meetings.

New York's town meetings may not have had as wide legislative powers as the better-known New England town meetings, but they deserve recognition.  We can look back at these annual meetings of eligible voters with some nostalgia for they represent a degree of civic participation that we would be only too glad to attain in the 21st century.

____________________

References:

Boynton, Frank D. Actual Government of New York: a Manual of the Local, Municipal, State and Federal Government for Use in Public and Private Schools of New York State (1918) Fiske, John et al. Civil Government in the United States (1904)

Jewett's Manual for Election Officers and Voters in the State of New York (1893-1918)

Lancaster, Lane W. Government in Rural America (1937)

New York Jurisprudence (1979)

Snider, Clyde F. Local Government in Rural America (1957)

Zimmerman, Joseph. The New England Town Meeting: Democracy in Action (1999)


___________

Mary Robinson Sive's Lost Villages: Historic Driving Tours in the Catskills, published by the Delaware County Historical Association in 2002, explored local history through visits to cemeteries, frequently markers of communities no longer in existence.  Her career was in library service and publishing.


Friday, August 20, 2010

John Timon - Buffalo’s First Bishop:  His Forgotten Struggle to Assimilate Catholics in Western New York

by
©Copyright 2009. All rights reserved by the author.


Buffalo and western New York in the late 1840s was evolving into the gateway of the West because of the Erie Canal.  The city was a haven for the Irish who built the canal and for the Germans who were fleeing political turmoil in Europe.  Business interests were growing due to the canal and a developing grain mill industry. At the same time, the Catholic Church would have to meet the needs of a growing population.  New York state was one diocese but that changed in April 1847 with the formation of the diocese of Buffalo and John Timon appointed as the See’s first bishop.

He was determined to create a Catholic presence on the Niagara frontier that could become a model for other dioceses.  Antebellum America was a Protestant nation that assaulted Catholicism at many levels.  John Timon faced the onslaught of Protestant misconceptions about him and Catholicism as he worked to create a Catholic church in Buffalo that was integrated into American society. But the new bishop also had to cope with a Catholic hierarchy that was determined to create a distinct and separate Catholic culture.

Bishop Timon endeavored to make Catholics a part of America. This created conflicts for him within Buffalo and his own Church as he pioneered the rights of American Catholics and American religious women. This narrative of a Catholic bishop in antebellum America may appear to be similar to those of other prelates in other cities. It is not. This is the account of a native-born American bishop who struggled with religious, political and cultural issues and who ultimately enabled Catholicism to become an integral part of Buffalo’s formation.

From 1835 until the start of the Civil War, organized Nativists struggled for supremacy in America.  This was a movement on the part of some native-born Americans and Protestant leaders to restrict the activities of the foreign-born immigrants in the political life and economy of the nation.  Initially nativism confined itself to local centers but eventually it  entered the national political arena. A prime reason for their growth and development was to be an opposing force to the Catholic Church, which they portrayed as a political organization under the domination of a foreign ruler. By openly attacking the Catholic Church, the Pope and all foreigners in the country, the nativists were determined to minimize any foreign influence on the nation. The influx of immigrants during this period built up a large foreign element in urban centers that actually surpassed native born populations in many areas.  At this time the majority of these new arrivals were Irish Catholics with a strong faith and an adherence to the Pope. They, along with the German Catholics who had earlier established a presence in the country, were viewed as threat which only fueled the flames of aggressive Protestant nativists against Rome. During this time Buffalo was a rapidly growing community evolving into the “Queen City of Lake Erie.”[1]  It had emerged from a lakeside settlement that had survived the War of 1812 and was now positioned to become the predominant economic center of the Great Lakes. With the completion of the Erie Canal, many of the foreign workers who had helped in the digging of the ditch became permanent residents in the new town.[2]  The largest of these work groups were Irish Catholics who located to the district of what would become Buffalo’s First Ward. For them, there was neither a resident priest nor church to call home.  Occasionally, Father Patrick Kelly of Rochester visited them to say Mass at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church through the courtesy of its rector.[3]

The large foreign-speaking element with its clannishness and European customs created a stir among native-born Americans in the city. Suspicion grew as these groups stayed within their neighborhoods speaking in a foreign tongue and not mingling with the general population.[4] The Germans and French occupied the area north of the city and the Irish to the south.  These foreigners lived cheaply, worked at reduced wages and very often replaced native labor in factories and shops. The rumor spread that these Europeans were seeking to overthrow the Republic through stealth and with the assistance of Rome.[5]

Western New York was ripe with anti-Catholic and anti-foreign attitudes. The violence and rallies against the growing immigrant population made the region a stronghold of the Whig Party.  After the crushing defeat of both Henry Clay for President and Millard Fillmore for New York governor in 1844, local politicians began to target Catholics and foreigners.[6]  Fillmore, in a letter to his friend Henry Clay, expressed the rising sentiment: “The abolitionists and the foreign Catholics have  defeated us in this state. A cloud of gloom hangs over the future.”[7]  Everywhere the cry of the defeated Whigs was an appeal to nativists to counteract foreign influences.  Nearly half of Buffalo’s 40,000 citizens were foreign born German or Irish and predominantly Catholic.[8] Many native-born Americans truly believed that the foreign-born Catholics were preparing to overthrow the government. Politicians capitalized on this mythical fear and instilled it in their constituents, claiming that their opponents were members of a foreign alliance.

Support for nativist action in Buffalo continued to grow, especially with the rumor that a new Roman Catholic diocese would soon be established there.  Buffalo’s Daily Gazette published an editorial in November 1844 concerning the new Catholic diocese. It became a call to arms for legislative action by Protestants against Catholics and for “true Americans, who are born to this land, must set forth their objectives to amend the naturalization laws, and oppose foreigners in office.”[9] A group of local Protestant ministers, guided by Reverend John Chase Lord, watched with anxiety at the growth of the Catholic church in the area.  He organized protests and sponsored lectures exposing the allegedly scandalous nature of the Roman Church.  Using the newspapers as his pulpit, Reverend Lord emphatically stated that the problems and burdens of the city and region were based on: “The increase of those non-Americans in our land who follow the errors of a Roman pagan.”[10]

Reverend John Chase Lord assumed the position of de facto advocate of anti-Catholic rhetoric and Protestant chauvinism in Buffalo and western New York. Born in Washington, New Hampshire in 1805, he studied law and briefly practiced in Buffalo until an epiphany lead him to the seminary in Auburn, New York. He considered the “foreigner and their popish ways” to be the degradation of American life. Prior to commencing his theological studies Lord stated:

“The pretend miracles and lying wonders of Paganism and Popery have not a single feature in common with the miracles of Christ as revealed in the Bible and are part of our American conscious.”[11]  Ordained in 1833, he utilized his legal skills and associations to establish himself among the Buffalo Protestant nativists. As founder and pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church in the city from 1835 until 1873, it was the epicenter of his anti-Catholic and anti-foreign activities. At Lord’s funeral service he was lauded as “the greatest defender of our liberties and conscious to keep the foreigner out and remind us of the faith established by God through his servants John Calvin and the good John Lord.”[12]

His ideas were more than just theological disputations. He supported laws protecting slavery and immigration restriction.[13]  Reviewing Reverend Lord’s work, writing and preaching he combined religion, politics and the law in an inflammatory fashion. Lord fostered any attempts that divided society. He was a friend and ally of the powerful assemblyman John Putnam who introduced anti-immigration legislation  and this combination provided the rationale for the creation of a deeply divided society in western New York.[14]  Religion, more than ethnicity, became the foremost dynamic of social, educational and intellectual life in the city of Buffalo. Through his words and actions John Lord was resolute to drive the Catholics from the shores of Lake Erie.

The prime Roman Catholic parish in the city, St. Louis, was a German enclave whose trustees were embroiled in a battle with the Church over ownership of parish property. They opposed Archbishop Hughes of New York and shuttered the doors of the Church to the newly consecrated Bishop Timon.  The St. Louis trustees, who could not find solace with the Papal Nuncio, did find support among the local anti-Catholic population and Reverend Lord felt the need to become involved in this issue.[15]  These opponents of Catholicism did not understand this Canon Law controversy of the laity and the Church authorities.  However, they did view this as an opportunity to lend sympathy to those victims of “Romish persecution” even if they were foreigners.

John Lord was not an advocate for Catholics or their ownership issue. His memoirs reveal a profound personal belief that America is depended upon the free and unfettered development of individual rights and liberties. Lord’s vision of America was that of a “redeemer nation,” where Catholicism was an ideological anathema.[16]  America, and more importantly Buffalo, was a Protestant Christian domain “where that person lives by the liberty of his conscience subjected only to the will of God.”[17]  Reverend Lord considered the sovereignty of law as representative of a sovereign God. With the announcement of a new Catholic diocese for Buffalo, John Lord’s sermons became a local Protestant warning concerning Catholics and their aspirations for political and economic equality. Lord preached that Catholics, once in power, would be a hindrance to liberty as: “It is high time for the Protestant minister to blow the trumpet of alarm. ”[18]

The number of Catholics was increasing and dividing the state into new dioceses  inevitably meant less annoyances for New York’s powerful Archbishop John Hughes. The problems of the distant western region of his diocese specifically, the shortage of priests, poverty and the increasing immigrant population, created difficulties that he was unable to successfully manage. Hughes could do little more than identify these issues and hoped that the local people could find a solution.[19] Caught up in the heady atmosphere of New York, he rarely visited western New York.[20]  The Archbishop had aspirations to wear the red hat of a Cardinal and the problems in Buffalo would only stain his resume. It became apparent that by amputating Buffalo and western New York from his administrative control those issues and problems belonged to someone else. But Timon was entering a political and religious quagmire in Buffalo. With the announcement of a new bishop, Reverend Lord wrote an open letter to the Catholic population of the city. In it, he warns the population that the Catholic clergy are likely to segregate the community keeping the people in ignorance. It becomes a fight for American principles “in America, it is the freedom of consciousness that moves the soul not the slavery of Rome.”[21]

This is the world that Father John Timon, a Vincentian priest, entered in June 1847 as the freshly consecrated bishop selected to lead the newly created Diocese of Buffalo.  Born and raised in Pennsylvania of Irish descent, he was determined to establish American Catholicism in western New York.  As a young priest in Texas and Missouri, Timon was noted for his success in preaching to non-Catholics.  As one of the few native-born American priests, his name was frequently submitted to Rome to be appointed bishop but each time he refused the episcopate.[22] Throughout the far flung missions of the west and Mississippi Valley,  John Timon preached against prejudices towards Indians, Creoles, slaves and the “religious bigotry and hostility towards all men and women.”[23] Never reluctant to advance the cause of Catholicism, he  welcomed public debates against the foes of Catholicism.

Local historian and Timon contemporary, Charles Deuther, portrayed the selection of John Timon with great enthusiasm.  He was characterized as a man of prayer filled with “pious scruples, zeal and a saintly character.”[24]  Timon was also described as a good humble priest who exhibited holiness, a suitable peace of mind, strong faith and the “ability to converse in several languages that can only aid him in his abilities as bishop.”[25]

But his diary reflects a complex individual frequently at war with himself. Timon’s journal evidenced an animosity toward his fellow clergy for not assisting with the administrative burdens of the diocese. Yet he was reluctant to delegate authority.  This inability to share responsibility ultimately poisoned his relationship with his priests.[26]  Timon was an impatient man who was easily moved to anger, sarcasm or tears. He had refused to be elevated to the bishopric seven times but finally accepted the Buffalo post concerned being branded as an “intractable priest.” Additionally, he feared being assigned to Louisville, Kentucky and wanted to avoid a slave state as he was an abolitionist.[27]

Reading Timon’s diaries one discovers a man who is overly concerned about criticism and opposition by his fellow clergy.  In the course of his episcopate, he appointed six vicar  generals for his diocese and degraded that priest further by banishing him to a parish in a desolate area.[28]  Timon was especially dedicated, if not obsessed by contemporary standards, with order. He dismissed a priest in Elmira for what he considered “gross neglect and not finding a suitable building to say Mass.”[29]  Throughout Timon’s episcopate, priests petitioned Rome for his removal due to “errant financial transactions and other misdeeds.”[30]  Those allegations were never proven. Timon believed that many priests of the diocese held feelings of animosity against him for various reasons. The Bishop traveled throughout his See and demanded that priests sign a disclaimer stating there would be no factions of opposition to him or his programs. He wrote in his diary: “I have found my priests to be disorderly and disreputable.” The relationship between the bishop and his clergy was never extremely amiable nor was it known to the public.

Examining the works of local historians there is a contradiction as to the place and value of religion in Buffalo at the moment of John Timon’s arrival. Buffalo did not suffer the horrifying religious riots found in the East Coast cities of  New York, Philadelphia or Boston and Timon admits that “most Methodists and Universalists and the occasional Baptist have been and are friendly to our cause.”[31] The true religion of Buffalo was business while tolerance apparently existed except in matters of church and state.[32]  Politically, the region was Whig territory probably because that party advocated protective tariffs to prevent cheap foreign goods from entering the city while actively seeking Federal funds to build the city’s maritime infrastructure.[33]

As the new Bishop of Buffalo John Timon needed to firmly establish a Catholic presence in western New York.  This would occur with his creation of a Catholic hospital operated by a women’s religious order just several months into his episcopate. However, this act started a confrontation between Timon and Lord.  Scrutinizing the local historical record there is a shift in focus away from that typical historical fight to one of freedom of conscience versus freedom of religion.  This battle between the Bishop and the Protestant minister became a struggle for the rights of Catholics to function as Americans within the fabric of American society. Timon’s model of integrating Catholics into American life was also antithetical to Archbishop Hughes’ position. The Bishop of Buffalo was now on a collision course with John Lord over this matter and in disagreement with New York’s archbishop concerning the place of Catholics in antebellum America.

John Lord was instrumental in the cause to maintain Protestant and nativist control while John Timon strove to meld a Catholic presence to the socio-economic life of the city. An impending battle was brewing between these two men which was more than just a classic antebellum conflict of Protestants versus Catholics.  Bishop Timon was also at odds with Archbishop Hughes of New York regarding the place of Catholics in America. Timon believed that assimilation was the best means for Catholics to conquer the walls of separation. Hughes felt that Catholics should remain a distinct and detached group to properly maintain their identity. Bishop Timon, ordained as a Vincentian priest, was immersed in the order’s charisms reflecting  social justice and the Gospel values of care for the poor, sick, widowed and orphaned and he lived by the motto of the Order: Evangelizare pauperibus misit me- “He has sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor.”[34]  Soon after his arrival, the Bishop discovered the immediate need for an orphanage.  Writing in his diary years later he believed that the purpose of the Catholic Church in Buffalo was to: “satisfy their worldly and spiritual needs.”[35]  He was to extend the Church’s mission to all people but how could that best be accomplished?  

Sister’s of Charity Hospital

Timon realized that the city had no organized health care system and no coherent strategy to care for the sick.  There were no public hospitals and health care facilities in Buffalo were inadequate to deal with the growing numbers of working poor.  Buffalo’s economic growth brought about the rise in ambitious Protestant and nativist leadership who did nothing more than establish a few philanthropic institutions and an almshouse to meet the needs of the sick.[36]  A group of Protestant women had established a public dispensary for medicines while some in the medical establishment sought a Protestant controlled hospital to provide in-patient care but efforts were stalled due to a lack of interest.  Protestant culture, which emphasized individual responsibility, enhanced the problems of public health care by mitigating against any community wide ameliorative efforts.[37] The influx of cheap immigrant labor into the city was welcomed by the Protestant business elite but prejudices against Catholics further deterred any positive action.  Health problems were considered a result of an increase in the Catholic population and Protestant and nativist leadership’s failure to take collective action left a desperate demand for social and medical services.  The Buffalo medical community made several attempts to establish a hospital and medical college but New York state was reluctant to fund such a project.[38]  There was no firmly established local leadership that continuously sought state funds for a hospital.

By default Bishop Timon and the Catholic Church would establish a hospital in Buffalo to meet the health care needs of the city. Timon believed that the “…surest way to be equal with our brothers is to treat them and their miseries with the care and love that is found in the greatest of  all Physicians.”[39] The Bishop went to Baltimore in March 1848 and three month later six Sisters of Charity arrived in Buffalo and founded Sisters Hospital, the first hospital in the city.[40]  Timon selected the Sisters of Charity as they had previous experience working with non-Catholics and were the first religious order of women founded in America by an American: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.[41] The Order was established to perform “works of piety, charity and usefulness especially for the care of the sick, the succor of the aged, infirm and necessitous persons and for the education of females.”[42] Initially the Sisters concentrated on education but as the immigrant population swelled in urban areas health care became an important need.  The Sisters of Charity focused their mission to specialize in health care which started with the Baltimore infirmary in 1823.

Scant attention was given to the city’s first, and only, 100 bed hospital. The Buffalo Morning Express simply announced the opening of Sister’s Hospital with this item: “The city is well received in having a hospital for its own.”[43]  As the only functioning hospital in Buffalo, it qualified for state funding and received $9,000.  The state legislature provided capital development grants to existing sectarian hospitals where no other non-sectarian hospital existed provided that all patients are admitted.[44]  Funding for the new institution became public knowledge several months later when some Protestant physicians voiced objections at having no control over Buffalo’s first and only hospital.  These actions, considered controversial for the time in Buffalo, placed Timon on the battlefield with Reverend Lord. As the facility was a Catholic institution operated by nuns the flames of religious bigotry were fanned even more.

In antebellum America religious communities of women often absorbed the brunt of anti-Catholic prejudice. Religious orders of women, who lived and worked in a peculiar all female community, created and maintained schools, orphanages and hospitals.  They also wore strange and distinctive clothing and became the object of Protestant derision. American sisters had to cope with gender, religious and ethnic bigotry while working in a patriarchal society that limited any power they might have.  Rumors of evil practices and women held in convents against their will were circulated.  Protestant ministers preached from their pulpit against Catholics and particularly against nuns.  Sisters were often insulted or pelted in the street.  Protestants, especially males, may have felt more threatened by the nuns as they perceived them to be in the process of “feminizing” the Catholic Church and usurping power.[45]  Historically, caring for the sick was perceived to be a “religious calling” not a profession. As Catholic women’s religious orders began healthcare work in antebellum America, the role of women in nursing and hospital administration was gaining recognition as a profession and women were becoming empowered to take on non-traditional roles.[46]  

In June 1848, the same month the Sisters of Charity arrived in Buffalo, the first women’s rights convention had occurred in Seneca Falls, New York. It produced a “Declaration of Sentiments” that listed the various means by which men denied women access to positions of power.[47] The controversy over this event was still fresh and may have threatened the Protestant male dominated world of Buffalo.  Charles West, the first principle of the exclusive Buffalo Female Academy and a friend of  Reverend John Lord, viewed the Sisters of Charity with contempt as “true woman is bound by duty to family and home.”[48] Some of the predominantly male staff of physicians and surgeons were upset that they were unable to influence the sisters in their decisions.  Dr. Austin Flint, a prominent Buffalo physician, believed that Sister’s Hospital, while helpful, did not serve the community as he thought it should.  The doctor believed that more (male) physicians and surgeons were required to properly staff the hospital.[49] In February 1850, Protestant doctors Josiah Trowbridge, Austin Flint and James White discreetly mentioned the administrative conditions of the new hospital to John Lord and advised that the hospital was managed by three sisters.[50]

Reverend Lord believed that Catholics with a hospital staffed by religious women was never proper.  Now, these foreigners were taking public funds. This enraged him as he perceived this to be not necessarily a religious matter but a legal one that was enough of a threat to destabilize society and the government.  He objected by claiming that society is a special organization of the “divine economy and when that harmony is broken the stability of the government is threatened.”[51]  Lord decided that the public needed to know about “this most egregious of errors so that the good man can take back that which is his alone.”[52]  In the world of John Lord the “good man” was the Protestant male.

The Battle for Sister’s Hospital

The Buffalo Morning Express edition for Saturday February 16, 1850 published a letter to the editor dismayed at the state legislature for appropriating funds for Sister’s Hospital “without securing the rights of the public therein or requiring any of the usual guarantees of the appropriation of that money.  Much dissatisfaction has been felt and expressed in regard to the actions of the legislature.”[53] It called for further review and discussion of the matter.

The letter was signed “Constituents” which was John Lord’s admitted pseudonym.[54] The ensuing battle would be fought in the pages of the city’s largest and most anti-Catholic newspaper the Buffalo Morning Express which was dominated by the Whig Party.  When the letter was brought to Bishop Timon’s attention he was astounded by the vociferous attack. “It is with sad regret,” he wrote, “that where men strive to create good some construe it as folly.”[55] He was determined to defend his right to establish and maintain the hospital. Two days later a reply by Bishop John Timon was published as he called these charges a “gross falsehood.”  He responded that the hospital was for the community as an “institution resting on the broad lines of charity, without reference to creed, color or country.”[56]  Timon felt that any statement that sought to ruin the position of the hospital was an injury to those it served.  Reverend Lord’s reply only stoked the fires of  controversy further. He called the idea of the hospital as a charity to be “ridiculous.” Lord considered the hospital appropriations to be politically motivated as the funds were released just prior to an election possibly to win votes.

The Bishop writes in his diary that he is troubled, perplexed and angered by the attacks. He is unable to comprehend the magnitude and complexity of Lord’s intolerance and briefly believed that is was due solely to the presence of Timon.[57]  There is no evidence to suggest these two strong willed individuals ever met and Timon never directly mentions John Lord by name in either his diary or correspondence.  However, the Bishop is determined to defend the hospital’s right to accept state funds. Timon insinuates that bigotry is at work because of the charitable acts of the Catholic Church.  While the Bishop has the diocese’s vicar general, Father Bernard O’Reilly, conduct a war of words in the newspapers against Reverend Lord, Timon proceeded to secure additional state funding to expand the hospital, build an orphanage and school for the deaf.

Not to be silenced the Reverend Lord, still writing under the guise of “Constituents,” replied the next day to the accusations.  He asserted that Protestants have no objections to “Roman Catholic institutions, charitable if they please to call them so.” Lord is upset that the legislature is building “not a public hospital but a Roman Catholic one” and  questioned the legality of this action.   He considered this to be an insult to Protestants since the state is “willing to do for the Papists what they have never done for their own religious institutions.” [58]   In this particular diatribe Lord finally revealed his discontent.  The Protestants of the city lacked interest and were not sufficiently organized in their efforts to establish a medical facility. This angered the Reverend as he feared Timon and Catholic control of an essential part of city life.  Lord was furious at Catholics who sought control of the area and at his Protestant brethren who permitted this: “are Roman Catholics to be almoners of Protestant charities to the poor and destitute?” Lord  feared that care of the sick at Sister’s Hospital will make “citizens become subjects of  Romish magic.” He even suggested that the state is in concert with the “Papists” and inquired “what of our liberties-does the State take that too?[59] John Lord’s trepidation of a permanent Catholic presence in his America was now a reality.

Reverend Lord continued his letter writing campaign.  In the Buffalo Morning Express, he accused Timon and the hospital of being an illegal entity; he considered the Catholic Church and the hospital to be one in the same. He alleges that the hospital is illegal simply because “not a single Protestant is in the Corporation or has any supervision of its affairs.”[60]  Timon was infuriated not only at Lord’s bigotry but with the accusations that the hospital was not a proper corporate entity receiving state funds.[61]  In an edition of the Christian Advocate, a Protestant newspaper that Lord controlled as editor,  he submitted a letter to explain that the issue was not religious but political. He challenged the readership and questioned why those willing to defend the Constitution “will be willing to be taxed to build up an institution the control of which is beyond the votes of a free republican people.”[62]

Fr. O’Reilly, the diocese’s vicar general, responded the next day and justified the existence of the hospital and the state funding. He reiterated that the hospital’s mission as one of “corporeal mercy” for the healing of the sick and injured and that the facility is  for all as “the doors of that institution are as free to the clergy of one denomination of believers as they are to that of another.”  He became sarcastic in his inquiry of  how “quinine and calomel are component parts of theology.[63] Timon wrote in his diary that he was unable to comprehend the logic employed in this matter. He could not reason how “a Christian minister could yield to such intense bigotry.”[64]

John Lord continued his attacks on Timon and the Sisters. The minister attempted to plant the seed of uncertainty about the viability of the hospital and claimed that the  Sisters could not sustain their work: “…had not the migrating body of sisters abandoned their location in another state… May not the hospital here be closed at any time by the departure of its inmates to a new locality?”[65]  The reverend also accused the nuns of summoning priests for patients who wished for a Protestant minister and telling patents that no hospital fee would be charged if they converted.  In the 1840s the New York state legislature provided Catholic hospitals with financial support through directed state grants.[66] The State sought an inexpensive means to care for the poor through sectarian hospitals, provided that they welcomed peoples of all faiths and did not proselytize. In his diary, Bishop Timon specifically stated that he warned the Sisters to refrain from speaking of religion to Protestants inside or out of the hospital.[67]

A sworn statement by former patient John Weber, accused Sister Ursula of  “… not treating me properly as I am not one of those Catholics.”[68]  In his statement he alleged that the Sister was not “properly trained in the medicines” but provided no further details.  He also thought the nun was a foreigner but did not indicate his reasoning for this.  Within days of this letter a recently released patient, Michael Murphy, willingly returned to the Hospital and swore out an affidavit dated March 1, 1850.  In his sworn statement he indicates that he spent three weeks in the hospital and upon his release went to the “Emigrant agent office.”  At that time he was advised that if he would say how poorly he was treated by the Sisters and that he was turned out “…that he, Rev. John C. Lord, would give him, Murphy, clothes and money to bear his expenses to Canada.”[69]  The previous affidavits proved to be false or “where later recanted as the party was mislead by the Reverend Lord.”[70]  

Lord was attempting a tactical maneuver. Presenting the Sisters as incompetent, foreign proselytizers who may abandon the hospital at any time he hoped to solidify public hostility against them and therefore deny the hospital future funding. In his memoirs, Lord expressed his hope that “by keeping the appropriation from the nunnery their so called care for the ill will end as will the Romish presence.”[71]  The irony of the matter is that Bishop Timon specifically sought a women’s religious community whose foundation was American. The Sisters of Charity were founded in Emmitsburg, Maryland by Elizabeth Ann Seton, an Episcopal convert who was later canonized. Her purpose was to establish a women’s religious order that focused on American society and not modeled after a European religious community.

Many of the nuns were American by birth. The order already had experience working in and operating hospitals.  As an American order, the Sisters were accustomed to ministering to non-Catholics.  The Sisters’ administrative and pastoral experience was attractive to Bishop Timon. He defended their right to operate the hospital as they were the most qualified. Years later, Timon wrote in his diary that “the Sisters run the Charity Hospital not only as healers but as managers and laborers.  They are saving many lives and that alone is an immense good.”[72] The Sisters were responsible for daily administration of the hospital which included finances, negotiating contracts for repairs and construction and in formulating policy.

The feud consumed the month of February 1850 and in the midst of this conflict a larger battle was being waged.  The city was in the throes of a cholera epidemic that had been affecting the populace for several months.  By early March 1850 the Bishop had no time to waste responding to Lord’s allegations and opposition. Timon was attempting to secure private and public funding to expand the hospital and so the feud was unilaterally ended.[73] Why the Bishop stopped is a mystery; he did not provide any reason in his diary or other correspondence. John Timon ceased to address the dispute either publicly or privately after this and there is no indication why he abruptly stopped the feud.  Buffalo’s bishop was known as a dedicated hard worker not prone to seeking the limelight and the attention that was generated was not  helpful for the diocese His next mission was to expand the hospital, construct an orphanage, a school for the deaf, colleges, seminaries and the constriction of parishes and schools. This Bishop was building a diocese and preferred to pour his energy into that mission rather than a feud in the press.

Reverend Lord viewed this silence as sure sign of his victory but made certain to fire one last salvo not only on this matter but at Catholicism.  The Buffalo Morning Express, on March 2, 1850,  printed John Lord’s final letter.  It was written as a caveat to local Protestants.  Lord claimed that the sisters and priests seek “the conversion of  Protestant children to Romish faith.” He also warned Protestant politicians to “beware of the Romish priesthood” who claim celibacy but not chastity and who “make the affairs of the Church merchandise.”[74]

As a result of this opposition to appropriating State monies for Catholic institutions, the New York legislature passed several funding bills in 1850 denying additional funds to the hospital.  Assemblyman John Putnam, a friend and supporter of Reverend Lord, championed these efforts.[75] The war was over, at least in the newspapers, and John Lord believed that he had secured victory over the “Romish presence.”  Some time after the incendiary flames of this battle had  diminished he wrote “the apostate and tyranny of Rome was discovered and the State wisely chose to listen to the people for there is a law greater than the Constitution.”[76]

However, Timon was vindicated in 1851 when the prestigious Buffalo Medical Journal published their assessment of the Hospital and the Sisters during the cholera epidemic of 1849-1850.  It praised the Sisters nursing skills indicating that “each patient admitted to the Hospital was at once placed under the charge of one of the Sisters and received her unceasing care. The degree of patience and endurance exhibited by the Sisters of charity in their unwearied labors of mercy was a matter of  astonishment not less than of admiration.”  The report also lauded the operation of the hospital in its continuation “that whatever credit is due to the Institution for the large proportion of recoveries belongs to those under whose immediate charge the Institution is placed.”[77]

The Hospital later received $7000 in 1852 and another $7,000 in 1853 from the State for an orphanage and expansion of Sister’s Hospital. There are two reasons for the new funds. First, from 1851 to 1860 the state commissioners of immigration paid annual per capita payments to Sister’s Hospital for services rendered to indigent sick foreigners.[78] These payments were independent of any consideration by the state legislature.  Politics factored into the other motivation for state appropriations to the hospital.

The Whigs had declined significantly in Erie County while the Democrat and Republican parties were growing.  Within the Whig party there was dissension over patronage and party domination between the Fillmore group and the wing controlled by Thurlow Weed and William Henry Seward. Seward and Weed briefly courted Irish Catholic voters and Archbishop Hughes through a plan to provide public funds to Catholic schools and institutions.[79]  Seward called “Bishop Hughes my friend” and Hughes claimed that “Governor Seward always friendly to the Catholic claims, had been attacked for his sympathy with them.”[80]  The election returns of 1852 favored the Democratic party throughout the state.  This only roused the nativist element against the foreign vote with claims that the Democrats won the elections through deception.  Was there a deal to provide further funds to Sister’s Hospital if the Democrats, or Whigs, won?  There is no definitive evidence however, appropriations were granted to the Catholic hospital. This time there was no clamor or outcry from John Lord or any Protestants or nativist organizations concerning the state funds.[81]  This only encouraged Bishop Timon to strengthen his ties with the Protestant community and formulate plans to build the new Catholic cathedral in the heart of the city near the Episcopal cathedral and the center of government.

Within a few years, the Know Nothings organized and continued attacks on the Catholic Church, foreigners and the Democratic party.  But in the next several local elections, the Democrats scored overwhelming victories in the city.[82]  The new Republican party surpassed the declining Whigs in the state and the nativist movement declined as the threat of a Civil War was on the horizon.  John Lord, an avid supporter of slavery, now was a die-hard Unionist.  His attacks on the Catholic Church were conducted mostly in his sermons and not in the newspapers.  At his funeral oration in 1877, his friend and New York state assemblyman John Putnum described Reverend Lord as “… a statesman with zeal.  While there were seeming contradictions in his opinions  they were only seeming for his life of opinions was one of harmony. A harmony of God’s law.”[83]

The Archbishop of New York

Archbishop Hughes of New York, and many other American Catholic bishops, were determined to create separate Catholic social facilities and institutions parallel to secular ones. They, like Reverend Lord, sought a separation between Catholics and Protestants. Bishop Timon believed that the only method to integrate Catholics into the fabric of urban existence and socio-economic life was  to “Americanize” the Catholic Church. This could be accomplished through hospitals, schools and social service agencies that were available to all peoples regardless of religious affiliation. Timon wrote in his diary that Catholics in the society of  Buffalo “ought not to fear their place here but be members and commingle in the fruits of commerce as guaranteed by the law of the land and God.”  He continued with his strongest assertion for the place of Catholics in the nation: “There should be no hyphen in the words American Catholic.”[84]  

The struggle for Sister’s Hospital was as much a conflict with the local Protestant elites as it was with America’s leading Catholic prelate. Archbishop Hughes preferred to isolate the Catholic Church rather than assimilate. He believed that this ensured a purity that was unsullied by Protestant or secular influences.[85] The Archbishop was blunt in his condemnation of  Protestantism as he considered all the Protestant sects to be a “quasi-religious system” whose first mission was to destroy all that existed in rejecting authority.[86]

While Timon labored to integrate Catholics into the American way of life Hughes deemed “Americanization” to be “disastrous to the cause of the Church.”[87] The Archbishop did not want the Church to be subservient to a “denominational and sectarian system”  that makes “Catholics indifferent to their religion or apostates from it.”  Hughes, like John Lord, viewed America as a Protestant nation.  However, the Archbishop wanted to maintain a Catholic presence in America where the “Catholic religion is not subject to the errors of deceit.”[88] He considered the best method to achieve this was through the establishment of separate Catholic institutions and facilities. Archbishop Hughes was not interested in building bridges to Protestant America.[89] This was contrary to Timon’s vision of the American Catholic church.

John Hughes was born to an Irish Catholic family in Tyrone County, Ireland and they eventually emigrated to the United States when John was a teenager.  He witnessed the persecution of Catholics by Protestants and this likely flavored his perception of how Catholics should act in the New World. Timon was an American by birth and this favored him for consideration to higher ecclesiastical positions as the Church sought native-born clerics to fill important roles.[90] Hughes felt that Timon had to earn his place within the Church’s hierarchy.[91]

Hughes considered the Catholic church in America to be under attack by Protestant and secular forces.  In a sermon presented in 1841, he  stated that “I do not see the rights of any other denomination infringed upon.”[92] As a supporter of the separation of Church and State, the Archbishop felt that the nation was coming closer to elimination of this Constitutional partition which meant that Catholics would be “denied justice and unworthy to be heard.”[93]

In 1844, during the riots and church burnings in Philadelphia, Hughes declared that if  “a single Catholic Church were burned in New York, the city would become a second Moscow.” [94] The prelate was often described as a soldier with his “armour always on and his lance always couched for a foe.”[95]  During these “religious riots,” and continuing for years, Hughes remained combative feuding with those who opposed his beliefs and ideas.  In New York any citizen that could read a newspaper knew precisely who John Hughes was and what he was saying and thinking week to week. Hughes loved publicity and made sure that his voice was heard over and above any other.[96]

Timon disliked Hughes’ Irish nationalism and contempt for non-Catholic society.  The Archbishop was convinced that the Irish “emigrant would be the main stay of the Catholic Church in America” and continued in his efforts to separate Catholics from mainstream American life.[97]  Both men acted in an autocratic manner and were often callous in their treatment of others.  Hughes bristled over the fact that Timon, as Bishop of Buffalo, was an equal under Canon Law.[98] With Timon’s appointment to Buffalo, the two men began to clash over ideas of Catholic assimilation and treatment of non-Catholics.  Their diametrically opposed values lead to frequent disagreements.  Because of their personality conflicts, it was alleged that Hughes blocked Timon’s appointment to the prestigious episcopate of Baltimore.  Years later, it was thought that Timon was responsible for spreading rumors that Hughes was an alcoholic.[99]  John Timon was involved in a two front confrontation.  Sister’s hospital represented a Catholic institutional presence that irritated Buffalo’s Protestant elite.  By providing health care for all and not striving to convert non-Protestants, it philosophically countered the position of New York’s archbishop.

The Timon Affect

Catholics in antebellum America, participated in the great transformation of social relations and values that accompanied the industrial revolution.  This inevitably led Catholics and Catholic institutions to address the pressing social issues of the day by responding to the needs of the local community through social services, namely hospitals, orphanages and schools.

Bishop John Timon’s first venture was the establishment of a hospital. He viewed this as vital to satisfy the needs of the people and to establish a lasting Catholic presence. The struggle to establish the Catholic faith in Buffalo may appear to be similar to the other antebellum religious struggles occurring in other American cities but for Buffalo and western New York it is a different story.

Hughes invited the same religious order of women to establish St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York city in 1849, a year after Buffalo’s hospital opened. Ironically, the Archbishop’s sister, Ellen Hughes or Sister Angela Hughes, was a part of the initial founding group.[100]  Both facilities accepted and cared for all regardless of faith.  Both received state funding and grants. So how is Timon different from Hughes in relation to establishing Catholicism in America?

John Timon was unique not because of any particular feud but in how he steadily resolved the issue to create and maintain Sister’s Hospital and, establish a strong Catholic presence in a hostile environment.  Buffalo had no health care facility while New York had two hospitals operating before St. Vincent’s was founded.[101] From the beginning, Timon  permitted the Sisters full control of the facility. The Sisters were the administrators who set the polices for the hospital and exercised actual power while the male board of trustees had little if any power.  In Buffalo, the Sister Servant was the board president and hospital superintendent who made the financial decisions, set policy and regulations an supervised the staff and all daily activities.[102] While the Sisters of Charity had staffed hospitals in other locations, Buffalo was the first hospital where the Sisters had that type of authority.[103]

Entering a climate of anti-Catholic hostility, the nuns gained the respect and support of the Protestant medical community.  Even though Lord and his cohorts prevented Sister’s Hospital from receiving additional state funding, the Protestant community eventually recognized the hospital as an integral part of the area’s health care system. The Sisters  educated and trained future Protestant physicians who eventually established Buffalo General Hospital in 1859, these physicians credited their clinical instruction at Sister’s Hospital for enabling Buffalo Medical College (Buffalo General’s medical school) to be on par with medical colleges in larger cities.[104]   New York’s only Catholic medical college at Fordham University was not established until 1905.[105]

Timon’s actions enabled the Sisters of Charity to have real authority as administrators  over the hospital and the male physicians. Some Protestant women were envious of the autonomy and authority of Catholic women religious. The uniqueness of John Timon’s actions at this time for Buffalo is that the Sisters were the only women in western New York with any type of real power.[106]  Some might consider this concept not to be novel to antebellum America but for the Catholic Church, the city of Buffalo and the people of western New York this was extraordinarily unique! As a result, he utilized American religious women to muffle the chauvinistic and bigoted Protestant animosity. He also firmly established an American Catholic church in Buffalo that was inclusive. This was contrary to Archbishop Hughes’ vision of the Catholic church.

Most important was the Bishop’s foresight in utilizing an American order of religious sisters to operate the hospital and his defense of their right to do so.  In analyzing this subtle action, Timon was supporting women in their efforts to gain equality and respect in professional and managerial institutions. This was a revolutionary position to operate from considering the divisions between classes and the sexes in antebellum America. Yet this would be characteristic of Timon who spoke out against injustice while a missionary priest in the West. [107]

The Bishop and Sisters very likely would not have supported the agenda of  the Seneca Falls Convention.  However, Timon had always spoken out against prejudice and bigotry and was not timid in supporting the disenfranchised.  The Bishop’s mission was to Americanize the Catholic Church and have Catholics as equals in a Protestant America.  Sister’s Hospital was pivotal to this and to enhancing the role of Catholic women in America.  The Sisters were unusual for women in the nineteenth century as they secured positions of authority, autonomy and self-determination in a male oriented environment.

Timon’s legacy is that he Americanized the local church in Buffalo at a time of strong personal opposition.  While companion dioceses waited before moving forward Bishop Timon acted immediately to meet the temporal and spiritual needs of western New Yorkers.  Some might argue that he acted in a similar fashion to other  Catholic bishops in antebellum America. What then is the distinction of John Timon?

Isolated geographically and with a small Catholic population that was initially hostile, this bishop created the Diocese of Buffalo within the turmoil of personal attacks from Protestants and nativists.  He received minimal, if any, support from the American Catholic hierarchy because of his  work to eliminate the hyphen in the term American Catholic.  Timon clearly had a vision that extended beyond the boundaries of western New York. His view of American society was that Catholics should be participants in the evolution of the nation. This was an alternative concept to that of Archbishop Hughes.  Unfortunately, the American Catholic Church adopted Hughes’ plan of separation instead of  Timon’s desire for assimilation.[108]

Timon’s legacy began with Sister’s Hospital and concluded with the construction of the new Catholic Cathedral.  St. Joseph’s was erected within the prosperous Protestant business district near the center of government. That structure for Timon, represented Catholicism as integral to daily life.  Hughes built St. Patrick’s in New York City to stand as a fortress and the selection of the name was to remind the Protestants that the American church was Irish by birth.[109]  Sister’s Hospital and the cathedral symbolized the bishop’s concept of the Catholic Church in American society.  They are both important and vital elements in the daily lives of all Americans which cannot be broken nor destroyed.  The diocese is the character of its bishop and Timon’s spirit and influence is still present and dominant in western New York.

Paul Lubienecki is a doctoral student of History at Case Western Reserve University.  His dissertation topic is on the history and influence of the Catholic Church on the American labor movement.
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[1] Mark Goodman, High Hopes. The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983),  57.
[2] William Ketchum, An Authentic and Comprehensive History of Buffalo, (Buffalo: Rockwell, Baker & Hill Printers, 1865),  78.
[3] Thomas Donohue, History of the Diocese of Buffalo. (Buffalo: Buffalo Catholic Publishing Co., 1929), 32.
[4] Leonard Riforgiato, The Life and Times of  John Timon, (Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2006), 35.
[5] J.N. Larned, A History of Buffalo Delineating the Evolution of the City.  Volumes I & II.(New York: The Progress of the Empire State Company, 1911),  122.
[6]Alexander Flick, ed.  History of the State of New York, Volume V. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1935), 77.
[7] Papers of Millard Fillmore, Vol. I.  Letter of  November 11, 1844. Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (BECHS).
[8] Goodman, High Hopes. The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York, 87.
[9]  Buffalo Daily Gazette, November 12, 1844, BECHS.
[10] Memoirs and Papers of Reverend Doctor John Chase Lord, BECHS.   
[11] Memoirs and Papers of Reverend Doctor John Chase Lord, BECHS.
[12] Funeral Oratory of the Reverend John Chase Lord.  Delivered by John O. Putnam Commemorative edition Buffalo Morning Express, Canisius College archives.
[13]Lord delivered a sermon in the Spring of 1851 chastising those who opposed the fugitive slave law act.
[14]William B. Smith, The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1867. Unpublished dissertation Catholic University, April 16, 1967, 61.                      
[15] Riforgiato, The Life and Times of  John Timon, 142.
[16] Memoirs and Papers of Reverend Doctor John Chase Lord, BECHS.
[17] Memoirs and Papers of Reverend Doctor John Chase Lord, BECHS.
[18] Buffalo Daily Gazette, May 28, 1847, BECHS
[19] David A. Gerber, The Making of American Pluralism:  Buffalo, New York, 1825-1860. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 285.
[20]  Riforgiato, The Life and Times of John Timon,135. 
[21]Christian Advocate, June 2, 1847, BECHS.
[22]John Rybolt,  The American Vincentians: A Popular History of the Congregation of the Mission in the United States, 1815-1987. (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1988), 528.
[23]Charles Deuther, The Life and Times of Rt. Rev. John Timon, (Buffalo: Sage & Son, 1870), 12-14
[24] Deuther, The Life and Times of Rt. Rev. John Timon,  39.
[25] Smith, The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1867, 56.
[26] Smith, The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1867, 211.
[27]  New Catholic Encyclopedia, Washington: Catholic University Press, 1967, Vol. XIV, 163.  Additionally, BishopTimon’s diary notes: “Louisville appears a certainty but wish to stay out of  slave state and conflicts.”  Entry from April 24, 1857, Archives Diocese of Buffalo (ADB).
[28]  Smith, The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 210.  
[29]  Diary of Bishop John Timon, ADB, July 15, 1857.
[30]  Smith,  The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1867, 211.
[31] John Timon, Missions in Western New York and Church History of the Diocese of Buffalo. (Buffalo: Catholic Sentinel Press, 1862), 250.
[32] H. Perry Smith, ed., History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County, Vol. I. (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1884), 229.
[33] Richard Brown and Bob Watson: Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land. (Buffalo: Windsor Publications, 1981), 20.
[34] Barbara Manning, The Influence of Bishop Timon on the Buffalo Community, Master’s Thesis, Niagara University,  26.
[35] Diary of  Bishop John Timon, ADB, August 17, 1857.
[36] Gerber, The Making of American Pluralism, 43.
[37] Manning, The Influence of Bishop Timon, 38.
[38] Goodman, High Hopes. The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York, 109.
[39]Diary of Bishop Timon, ADB, July 15, 1857.
[40]Archives Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo, New York (ASCH).
[41] The Sisters of Charity are the companion order to the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians).  They hadalready established hospitals in Baltimore, Philadelphia and St. Louis.  This constituted their fourth such health care facility.
[42] Jean Richardson, A History of the Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo, New York, 1848-1900. (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005), 21.
[43] Buffalo Morning Express, Sept 28, 1848 and Archives Sisters of Charity Hospital.
[44] Gerber, The Making of American Pluralism, 300.
[45] Carol Coburn and Martha Smith, Spirited Lives.  How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 42-43.
[46]Coburn & Smith, Spirited Lives.,190-191.
[47] Eleanor Flexner, Century of Struggle. The Women’s Rights Movement in the United States. (New York: Athenaeum Press, 1970), 74.
[48] Gerber, The Making of American Pluralism, 70.
[49] Gerber, The Making of American Pluralism, 86.
[50] Richardson, A History of the Sister of Charity Hospital, 48.
[51] Memoirs and Papers of Reverend Doctor John Chase Lord, BECHS.
[52] Memoirs and Papers of Reverend Doctor John Chase Lord, BECHS.
[53] Buffalo Morning  Express, Feb 16, 1850, BECHS.
[54] In his memoirs Rev. Lord writes: “I started the battle anonymous to awaken the brethren but know that my presence directly was required.  Constituents is our cause.”
[55] Diary of Bishop John Timon, ADB, Sept. 27, 1857.
[56]Buffalo Morning Express, Feb. 18, 1850, BECHS.
[57] Diary of Bishop Timon, ADB, Sept. 27, 1857.
[58] Buffalo Morning Express, Feb. 21, 1850, BECHS.
[59] Buffalo Morning Express, Feb. 21, 1850, BECHS.
[60] Buffalo Morning Express, Feb. 21, 1850, BECHS.
[61] Deuther, The Life and Times of Rt. Rev. John Timon, D.D., 159.
[62] Christian Advocate Feb. 21, 1850, BECHS.
[63] Buffalo Morning Express, Feb. 22, 1850, BECHS.
[64] Diary of  Bishop John Timon, ADB,  Sept., 29, 1857.
[65] Buffalo Morning Express,  Feb. 27, 1850, BECHS.
[66] Gerber, The Making of American Pluralism,  300.
[67] Diary of  Bishop John Timon, ADB,  Sept., 29, 1857.
[68] Archives Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo, NY
[69] Archives Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo, NY
[70] Deuther, The Life and Times of Rt. Rev. John Timon, D.D., 166.
[71] Memoirs and Papers of Reverend Doctor John Chase Lord, BECHS.
[72] Timon, Missions in Western New York and  Church History of  the Diocese of Buffalo,  253.
[73] Smith,  The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1867,  164.
[74] Buffalo Morning Express, March 2, 1850, BECHS.
[75] Manning, The Influence of Bishop Timon on the Buffalo Community, 17.
[76] Memoirs and Papers of Reverend Doctor John Chase Lord, BECHS.
[77] Buffalo Medical Journal, Vol. V., No. 6, pp. 331-332 as found in Timon, The Missions of Western New York and Archives Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo, NY.
[78] Gerber, The Making of American Pluralism,  301.
[79] Gerber, The Making of American Pluralism, 354.
[80] Lawrence Kehoe, ed.  Complete Works of the Most Rev. John Hughes, D.D., Vol. II. (New York: Lawrence Kehoe, self-published, 1866),  594.
[81] Manning, The Influence of Bishop Timon,  29.
[82]  Larned, A History of Buffalo Delineating the Evolution of the City.  Volume II,  214.
[83] Funeral Oratory of the Reverend John Chase Lord. Delivered by John O. Putnam Commemorative edition Buffalo Morning Express, Canisius College archives.
[84] Diary of  Bishop John Timon, ADB,  December 26, 1858.
[85] Riforgiato, The Life and Times of  John Timon,  364.
[86] Kehoe, ed.  Complete Works of the Most Rev. John Hughes,Vol. II.,  96.
[87] Kehoe, ed.,  Complete Works of the Most Rev. John Hughes, D.D., Vol. II.,  688.
[88] Henry A. Brann, D.D.  Most Reverend John Hughes, First Archbishop of New York. (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1892), 69.
[89] Richard Shaw, Dagger John, The Unquiet Life and Times of Archbishop John Hughes of New York. (New York: Paulist Press, 1977), 147.
[90] Smith,  The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1867,  12.
[91] Riforgiato, The Life and Times of  John Timon,  450.
[92] Kehoe, Complete Works of the Most Rev. John Hughes, 96.
[93] John Hassard, Life of John Hughes, First Archbishop of New York. (New York: Arno Press, 1969), 231.
[94] Shaw, Dagger John, 202.
[95] Brann,  Most Reverend John Hughes, 95.
[96]  Shaw, Dagger John, 202.
[97] Hassard, Life of John Hughes, 351.
[98] Riforgiato, The Life and Times of  John Timon,  450.
[99] Shaw, Dagger John, 325.
[100] Bernadette McCauley, Who Shall Take Care of Our Sick?  Roman Catholic Sisters and the Development of Catholic Hospitals in New York City. (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2005), 30.
[101]McCauley, Who Shall Take Care of Our Sick?, 1.
[102] Richardson, A History of the Sister of Charity Hospital, 55.
[103] Manning, The Influence of Bishop Timon on the Buffalo Community,  25.
[104] Richardson, A History of the Sister of Charity Hospital, 56
[105] McCauley, Who Shall Take Care of Our Sick?, 77
[106] Goodman, High Hopes. The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York, and Larned, A History of Buffalo Delineating the Evolution of the City, allude to this issue of  no women in Buffalo holding any type of authority or power in business at this time.  Reviewing the city directories and newspapers reveals no women in positions of  authority in the city during the late 1840s to mid 1850s.
[107] Smith, The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1867,  59.
[108] Riforgiato, The Life and Times of  John Timon,  490.
[109] Smith, The History of the Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1867, 187.