PACAMBRI-L ArchivesArchiver > PACAMBRI > 2001-05 > 0989773847
From: "james miller" <>
Subject: [PaCambri] The James Gang/ Troubles in Camelot
Date: Sun, 13 May 2001 17:10:51
Several years ago I was writing about the troubles in Early Cambria in the
first decade of the 19 th cen. This is only a part of what I wrote; perhaps
I'll post more later. I realize that it does not exactly correspond with
the 'party line' story of Gallitzin put forth by people in the Catholic
Church. I have tried hard to tell the truth as I understand it. And
further, I have noticed that one of the worst insults that an honest man can
have is a dishonest biographer.. Gallitzin has often been insulted in this
way by well-meaning churchmen trying to foster the cause for sainthood for a
local folk hero.
The founding of Munster, the establishment of a county seat at Ebensburg,
and Gallitzin's `Troubles' were related events. The Loretto Centenary [pub.
1899] mentions the `Troubles'. Page 16 of the Centenary mentions the
founding of a new county [Cambria] being a factor in these `Troubles'.
Cambria was created in 1804. The account given in the Centenary is from
Lemcke's biography of the Prince Priest. Another account of the founding of
Munster is to be found in the Aug. 13, 1915 edition of the `Mountaineer
Herald', an Ebensburg paper. Here it states that Munster was laid out in
1806 as a rival to Loretto. This was done by Edward Victor James, the first
Prothonotary of Cambria Co. The prothonotary in those early days at
Ebensburg was the register of wills, recorder of deeds, and, in general,
the keeper of all records. James bought the Munster property from Thomas
Bond Durbin, who had worked as a driver for Gallitzin along with running a
tavern at the location that was to be Munster. A rivalry ensued between
Gallitzin and James to attract settlers to populate their respective
hamlets. A number of families moved out of Loretto and came to Munster.
Gallitzin let it be known that he would pay for the moving expenses if these
people were to move back. But the rivalry between James and Gallitzin went
much deeper than the contest between Loretto and Munster. Gallitzin
slandered James and his political friends from the pulpit, thus opening up a
whole new can of worms.
By 1814 E.V. James was living in Harrisburgh, where he could give Gallitzin
no further trouble. This from Court House records, in Rec. of Deeds -vol.1,
p. 417 "of the Borough of Harrisburgh, Dauphin Co.. His wife Rachel
[Atlee] had died leaving him with a number of children, and he could expect
to find help with the children there. His wifes father was a Justice of
the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
To round out this sketch, I include material from the Inventory of the
County Archives of PA: Cambria County, published by Archives Publishing Co.,
On March 26, 1804, the State Assembly erected Cambria County from portions
of Huntingdon and Somerset Counties. Over its total land area of 695 square
miles the officials and courts of Somerset County were to exercise
jurisdiction until its taxable inhabitants attained a population
sufficiently large and stable to justify autonomous political and judicial
administration. Ebensburg was chosen as the county seat.
On January 26, 1807 the Pennsylvania Assembly granted the young county its
complete status by directing that "in November the full quota of county
officers and judges was to be installed." [Page 4] Even though Cambria was
created in 1804, it didn't receive its full powers until 1807. Thus Daniel
O'Hara was paying (or promising to pay) Ely McKinzie for carrying ballots
and books down over the mountain to Somerset. 1807, the year the new county
was fully empowered to act, was the year that Gallitzin's `Troubles' reached
a climax, and then subsided. But the storm raging about the priest did
reach gale force at that time.
The Mountaineer Herald article mentioned previously discussing the founding
of Munster said that Edward V. James was an enemy of Gallitzin and took a
petition of malcontent to the Bishop at Baltimore. Fr. Lemcke mentions the
event, but refuses to mention James' name, referring to him as `A certain
gentleman'. James was the ring leader of the opposition against Gallitzin
at the time of his `Troubles'. However, the opposition to Gallitzin began
several years before James arrived in what would become Cambria. There had
been a rising tide of opposition to the Russian priest which had no firm
leader. By the time James arrived in 1804, there was a group of disaffected
individuals needing someone to rally around. When Gallitzin publicly
attacked James and his political cronies from the pulpit, the situation
polarized with a recognized leader on each side. I would love to get a copy
of the petition of malcontent that James took to the Bishop, for it was
signed by the others opposing Gallitzin. Most of their names have been
lost. Two of those in the opposition were James C. McGuire and his Father
in Law, Jacob Burgoon. It seems that E.V. James had his new town of
Munster in mind for the county seat. I'll include a little more from the
1915 `Mountaineer Herald' article: `The establishment of the court house at
Ebensburg gave him [Gallitzin] many troubles. For being a Federalist in
politics, he vigorously opposed the Democratic Republican court house
officials. In retaliation for which, the first prothonotary, E.V. James,
gave him much trouble, writing to Bishop Carroll.' Twice I have written to
the archivist at the Archdiocese of Baltimore trying to get a copy of the
petition of malcontent sent by E.V. James. I am very curious to know who
else signed the document. In the 1980's, when a Fr. Tierney was archivist,
I wrote inquiring about it and was told there was no such thing. More
recently, in the 1990's, I again wrote. This time a Fr. Paul Thomas was
archivist. He had knowledge of the document, but claimed that it had
disappeared [!] Perhaps in some years hence I shall again write for it and
it shall have reappeared. One can only hope.
Mention is made of another petition sent to the Bishop: this from the
people loyal to Gallitzin, supporting his cause, and standing with him at
the time of his `Troubles'. There was not one O'Hara name on that list.
Joshua Parrishs name also was not on the list. This came as something of a
surprise. I had always pictured him [Joshua] to be a pillar of
righteousness. But he very well still could be. Just because he did not
stand behind Demetrius Gallitzin's political alignment would be no cause to
fault him. And more to the point, Joshua Parrish at the time of the
troubles was still down over the mountain, and not immediately involved in
the squabbles in the hills. However, he must have been an occasional
visitor up in the hills. After Daniel died in 1809, Joshua appears on
accounts as owing money to the estate.
Gallitzin's political alignment seemed to coincide well with his temperament
and aristocratic breeding. In noticing the habits of horses and men, it
becomes obvious that breeding is a factor that is very difficult to train
out of a creature. Gallitzin's mindset coincided closely with that of
untold generations of European nobility: the right to govern is vested not
so much in `the people', but in `certain people'. Gallitzin no doubt
considered himself among those `certain people'.
His confidence in himself was not misplaced. Looking back at him from a
vantage point of more than a hundred years, it is clearly seen that his
leadership traits were one of the major factors in forming the little world
we refer to as `Early Cambria'.
And Gallitzin's aristocratic outlook was not solely the product of his
Russian ancestry. The Roman Catholic Church from whom he had received
ministerial orders was by no means a democracy. The inheritor of the mantle
of authority of the Roman Empire can hardly be thought of as a populist
group. Papist is a more descriptive adjective. This attitude of European
nobility reinforced by the cultural imperialism of the Catholic Church
produced in Gallitzin a spirit that could only be called elitist.
This was not an attitude for which the Democratic Republican court house
bunch would have a lot of sympathy. This was not the attitude of E.V. James
and his burly bunch of frontiersmen. Many of them, or their parents, had
left Europe to avoid being told how to live their lives. After having left
home and family in the old country and suffered the perils of life on the
frontier, they would not easily yield to yet another voice of authority.
Pause for a moment to consider the nature of people venturesome enough to
leave the land of their birth and start anew in a wild frontier territory.
Men of this ilk might not be the type to yield easily to authority from on
Gallitzin's elitist attitude found kinship among the members of the
Fedaralist Party. This group was aristocratic and pro British in their
sympathies. Alexander Hamilton gave voice to this political persuasion in
his Federalist essays. Tom Jefferson was the man of the loyal opposition to
the Fedaralists. He was the candidate of the Democratic Republican Party.
In the year that Cambria County was created, 1804, Jefferson was elected to
a second term. Demetrius Gallitzin would not have looked upon either of
these events as boding much good.
The Rev. Peter Henry Lemcke writing about Gallitzin's `Troubles' after his
death tells us that a letter from the Bishop put an end to the whole affair
in 1804. Speaking of the letter Lemcke says: "I still have it,
rainstained, with nail punctures at the four corners. . . ."
[apparently it was posted in public] This is from p. 150 of Plumpp's
translation of Lemcke's biography of Gallitzin.
Lemcke can be forgiven for an error of a few years. What are a few among
so many? Lemcke has done us the service of giving us an honest biography of
his friend. Upon Gallitzin's death, Lemcke went through the trunk in which
he had kept his personal correspondence, records, etc. Combining this with
stories of persons who had known Gallitzin, and his own recollections,
Lemcke wrote his `Leben und Werken'.
Since Lemcke did not show up until the 1830's, when Gallitzin was in his
sixties, earlier events like the `Troubles' had to be reconstructed from
what was at hand. Lemcke's account, even if off by a few years, is
interesting for what it does pass along. What it does not reveal to us are
the names of any of Gallitzin's rivals. However it gives descriptions of
some of them. Among them was even a defrocked priest. Page 146 of the
above has this about the renegade priest: "Then especially did they seethe
with anger when the man gave them unctious talks on Gallitzin's aspirations
for personal infallibility in ecclesiastical matters, or when he descanted
on European tyranny which it was apparently Gallitzin's mind to introduce
into this free country." Lemcke tells us too of a nobleman among the
dissenters: "From the Munsterland a nobleman appeared at Gallitzin's house.
. . once Gallitzin having shared his simple fare with him, heard what sort
of individual he was, bundled him out. So he too joined the opposition, and
emitted his share of venom by specializing in lies concerning Gallitzin's
parentage and family affairs. . . ." [p. 147] Refusing to mention even the
name of the ring leader, Edward Victor James, he passes him off as a
`certain speculating gentleman' and relates the following:
The leader of the Munster faction indeed pretended to be a Catholic, though
such a recommendation was little evident in the life he lived. He seldom
attended divine services, and gave such public scandal that Gallitzin felt
it was his duty as pastor to take measures against him. And now that he
[James] was the victim of persecution, what had long been anticipated could
commence. [p. 145]
Lemckes comment about James not attending church might be more
understandable given the context.
There are usually at least two sides in any argument. And what can be said
to establish some sense of context here is the fact that James, the major
political figure of the new county, had been publicly humiliated by
Gallitzin in church. His reluctance to attend a church gathering where he
could expect to be held up to further public rebuke by Gallitzin was more
In an attempt to fix this in a broader context, recall that Cambria Co. was
created in 1804. Though created in 1804, it was not fully empowered until
1807. It was not until that year that there was a tax base sufficient to
install the full complement of judges and county officials. When we recall
that as late as 1830 the population of the county was only about 7000, we
realize that we are not dealing with large numbers of people. The heat of
opposition to Gallitzin raged during this interim period, 1805
As the heat of controversy, and slander, raged against Gallitzin, word came
to him from Europe that his Mother was dead. Amelia Grfin [countess] von
Smettau, who had married the elder Prince Gallitzin, had passed away. The
gracious lady who had introduced the young Gallitzin to the leading
luminaries among the European enlightenment was no more in this world.
Gallitzin's youth had not been spent in provincial surroundings as his
frontier life might suggest. One should not be too surprised when reading a
biography of Beethoven to find out that the elder Prince Gallitzin had
commissioned one of the minor opuses in the musician's production. But all
this was in the past now. The lady whose financial backing had supported
much of Gallitzin's frontier missionary work could offer her aid no longer.
Though the battle on the political front was at last subsiding, new
troubles, financial ones, were on the horizon. And within not much more than
a decade, the Federalist party would be a thing of the past too.
Toward the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century, things around
Munster had settled down. In February of 1809 Daniel O'Hara had passed
away, just in his late forties. In a year or so, Daniel's neighbor,
Zaphania Weakland would move on to Indiana, thence down toward Johnstown.
By 1814 E.V. James would be living in Harrisburgh. There were only stories
now of how another Weakland, John, had with `Stout heart and strong arm'
defended Gallitzin against the mob and averted violence from his person.
Gallitzin seems to have lived out the rest of his life avoiding any more
serious conflict with the new political establishment. He had learned that
the civil authorities can at times be none too civil.
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