Saturday, August 22, 2009

Father Joseph P. Machebeuf, Pioneer Priest

Joseph Projectus Machebeuf was born in France on August 11, 1812. A history of the Holy Angels Church, published in 1976, states that Father Machebeuf was ordained by the Bishop of Clermont, France in December of 1836. After hearing an address by Bishop J. B. Purcell, Father Machebeuf and Father J. P. Lamy followed the call to serve in the Catholic churches of the United States. Father Machebeuf served as a missionary to Catholics in the Northern Ohio area. He began his duties in Sandusky on January 1, 1840, and he is considered the founder of Sandusky’s Holy Angels Church. Mathilda Cassidy, born October 28, 1840, was the first infant baptized by Father Machebeuf. During the first half of 1841, Father Machebeuf had participated in three First Communions, three marriages, twenty confirmations and he had one hundred ten communicants on Easter Sunday. The cornerstone for Holy Angels Church was laid on October 13, 1841, and the church was completed in 1845.
Hewson Peeke wrote in his 1916 edition of A Standard History of Erie County, Ohio, that during the Cholera epidemic of 1840, Father Machebeuf secured a home to be used as a children’s home for the children left orphans during the epidemic. Catherine Bissonette, from La Prairie, Sandusky County was the matron of this home. The 1850 Census for Erie County, Ohio lists a “Projectus Maschbuff,” along with a female named Mary, an adult male, and four children named John Sheibley, Fanny Mahoney, and Barney and James McCormick residing on the west side of Sandusky. An article on the February 22, 1883 Sandusky Register gives an account of Father Machebeuf’s strong teachings on temperance. When Father Machebeuf would hear of one of his parishioners “getting on a spree and neglecting to support his family, he used to arm himself with a rawhide and finding the chap in a saloon, he could then and there draw forth the rawhide and give him a sound flogging. It is said he was never resisted and that the priest’s unique temperance lecture was in more than one case effectual.”

In 1850 Father Machebeuf left Sandusky for the western United States. He worked as a missionary priest in New Mexico and Colorado, and he was appointed Bishop of Denver on August 16, 1868. Willa Cather based the character of Father Joseph Vaillant in her 1927 book Death Comes to the Archbishop on the life of Father Joseph P. Machebeuf. Mount Machebeuf was named after Father Machebeuf, and Bishop Machebeuf School is considered a top school in Denver, Colorado.

Two biographies of Father Joseph Machebeuf are found in the genealogy collections of the Sandusky Library: Life of the Right Reverend Joseph P. Machebeuf, by Rev. W. J. Howlett, and Death's Deceiver, by Lynn Bridgers. Father Joseph P. Machebeuf died on July 10, 1889, and he is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Jefferson County, Colorado.


ron schneider said...

He also established Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Port Clinton. He was very critical of the German immigrants who consumed to much beer, according to him.

Soutenus said...

What a wonderful post and blog!

It is quite a coincidence that I am re-reading Willa Cather's - "My Antonia"

Next I plan to read Death Comes to the Archbishop.

ps) Thanks for stopping by at my blog!
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