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Celebrating 150 Years in the West
The 25-Day Journey

Day 1

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal, August 1865:
“Everyone at Cedar Grove was anxious to lend a helping hand in preparation for the journey. Mother [Josephine Harvey] did much of the packing, for she was determined that the four missionaries should have every comfort that the Community could give. There was a good laugh over all the work of getting ready the black baskets, which were used in those days instead of the satchels or suitcases of the present day.”

Day 2

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“On August 21, 1865, four sisters, Sisters Vincent [O’Keefe], Pauline [Leo], Theodosia [Farn], and Catherine [Mallon], left Cedar Grove for the West. And what shall I say, or how convey to those who were not present, an idea of the heart-rending scene. It seemed as if the hearts of those who were going and those who were left behind were torn apart; for then our love for one another was very great; for as Barney the bus-man said, it was as if the four of us were about to be consigned to the grave. As for myself, it was one of the saddest days of my life when it should have been the happiest of my life, for it was on that memorable day, the 21 of August of 1865, that I first pronounced my Holy Vows, which bound me forever to my heavenly Spouse, to whom I would have given millions of lives and billions of dollars had both been mine. I can never describe the anguish of that day. It seemed a foreshadowing of the crosses and trials of after years, which never can be known but to the all-peering eyes of him, but for whose mighty Hand I would have perished in the fearful tempests through which I had to pass.”

Day 3

A letter from Archbishop James O’Gorman to Archbishop John B. Purcell of Cincinnati relates that the Sisters of Charity arrived in Omaha Saturday, Aug. 26, and left Monday, Aug. 28, at 8 p.m. (UNDA, Aug. 30, 1865).

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“On our arrival in Omaha we went to the Sisters of Mercy where we were most graciously received by the then presiding Mother Ignatius, and hospitably entertained during the short period of waiting for the stage to start. So great was the kindness and courtesy extended to us by those angels of mercy that I have never forgotten it. Those good Sisters kept a lamp burning before the altar until they heard of our safe arrival. We also received many kind attentions from Mr. Edward Creighton and his estimable wife [Mary Lucretia]; they gave us lunch, but for which we should have nearly starved on the plains.”

Day 4

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“Well, the stage is ready and we are about to start on that long and dreary journey; with little or no hope of ever seeing again our dear Convent home or the loved ones to whom we had said farewell. There were nine of us – a baby five weeks old and its mother, three gentlemen, and four Sisters of Charity, and the driver. Well we were so crowded that the big man, I think his name was General Wilson, used sometimes to hang his feet out the door to get rested. It is needless to say that we suffered from both hunger and thirst; my tongue was cracked and bleeding, and I suppose the other dear Sisters suffered in the same manner, but each one kept her suffering to herself. We could not get our wants supplied owing to the fact that the stopping places had been forsaken the previous year, owing to Indian raids, and we saw some of the houses burned down. Yes, we were afraid of those poor savages. I often found myself planning what I would do if attacked; but I think the men were more afraid than we.”

Day 5

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“We traveled at night also, but we did have a few nights rest. I remember one place, called Bent’s Fort, at which we stopped – it would not be possible to describe it. We were ushered into a room with a round hole in the wall through which a man had escaped, leaving behind his old fiddle, old shoes, and a dirty bed, but we were not very choice on this occasion. Sister Vincent threw herself on the bed, and in about two minutes was asleep with an army of bugs crawling over her face in every con­ceivable spot. As we looked on, we realized there was but a poor prospect for a night’s rest, but we had to do the best we could: the only excuse for all the dirt and filth was that there was no woman there. We had many things to put up with during our short stay.”

Day 6

S. Vincent O’Keefe was one of four Sisters of Charity to travel to Santa Fe to open St. Vincent’s Hospital. Sister was out West briefly before returning to Cincinnati and ministering at Good Samaritan Hospital. Prior to her trip to Santa Fe, S. Vincent was a familiar and welcoming face who “was a friend of every doctor and patient in the institution” for nearly the first 50 years of Cincinnati Good Samaritan Hospital’s existence. She was among the five pioneer Sisters of Charity to open St. John’s (Good Samaritan) Hospital; this small, gentle and courageous pioneer was a pharmacist who learned her trade under the supervision of an esteemed corps of doctors. They proclaimed her “the finest pharmacist in the country” at a time when flax seed and slippery elm poultices were popular treatments. Her ministry came to an abrupt end when she fell on a slippery floor in 1899. She sustained an injury that confined her to a wheelchair until her death on Feb. 2, 1912.


Day 7

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
On one occasion we went into one of those eating houses, and we got a cup of coffee and a few biscuits; and even those seemed very scarce, so one of the men, having got away with his portion, reached over and took poor little Sister Pauline’s, and to punish him for his ungentlemanly action she gave him a black look. In after years she used to speak of him as the impolite man who took her biscuits. She could not say her butter for there was no such luxury, and indeed we were glad to get a cup of black coffee and a dry biscuit, and pay well for the same.

Day 8

I remember on a certain day when we were both hungry and thirsty, and no prospect of getting either satisfied, we happened to pass a fort where we could see men preparing for dinner. Someone suggested that Sister Pauline would ask for a cup of coffee. Sister P[auline] did not care much for the soldiers up to this time, but finally she mustered up courage, and off she started. And the one to whom she addressed her petition, being making biscuits, answered, "Truth then I will Sister, and give you hot cakes too if you only wait a little"; so sure enough after a little time, Sister and her companion came, the one with her two hands full of biscuits, and the other with hot coffee. So from that day to this, Sister Pauline’s esteem and admiration for the soldier boys has never diminished. The poor fellows, they would sometimes come around to tell us how much they owed to the Sisters of Charity, and what they had done for them on the battlefield [in the Civil War]. One poor fellow, wishing to show his appreciation of what the Sisters had done for him, ran after us with his two hands full of candy; evidently he feared the stage would start before he could get to us, so he would not wait to have it put in a paper.

Day 9

I will never forget the day we arrived in Denver [Colorado]. It was about twelve o'clock and we did not have anything to eat yet; so we were taken to the Planter House, the only hotel in Denver then, where we were received very kindly; and whether it was that they saw by our looks we were hungry, or had been told, so they brought us a pie or two while waiting for dinner. Well, the pies disappeared in no time, and we felt much more comfortable.

Day 10

After dinner, Bishop [Joseph] Machebeuf came to take us to the convent of the Sisters of Loretto where we were most graciously received by Mother Ann Joseph [Mattingly]. On the morning after our arrival, the [news]paper made the public acquainted with the fact that four Sisters of Charity were on their way to New Mexico to speculate, but did not mention what the object of our speculations might be.


Day 11

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“Nothing very wonderful happened until we got to Maxwell’s Ranch about twelve o'clock in the night, the people were all asleep, and numbers of Indians lying about; and as we did not know whether they were savage or civilized, it can well be imagined what we suffered from that time until morning, for the driv[er] and the gentlemen passengers never came near us till morning, and their excuse for leaving us alone was that the mules had got away and they were trying to catch them. Well, when the people found we were there, they invited us in to breakfast, which invitation was gladly accepted. Mrs. [Luz Beaubien] Maxwell treated us very kindly, and among the nice things served for breakfast was chili verde [green chile], which caused considerable merriment, for each one kept quiet about the hot dish until all got well burned, and then came the exclamations, ‘Oh, I am burning up!’ This was our first ex­perience with the chili verde. We found out that the poor Indians which caused us so much alarm were perfectly harmless.”

Day 12

"La Ciudad de Santa Fe." Engraving from "Report of Lt. J. W. Abert of his Examination of New Mexico in the Years 1846-1847."

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“I well remember our first impression[s] as we approached the ancient city of holy faith: they were not at all favorable either to place or people. We were told leaving Cincinnati that we would be met in Denver by a priest, but when we got to Santa Fe, and found neither bishop nor priest to meet us, our feeling can well be imagined. But the good Mother Magdalen [Hayden] and her Sisters made up for all the other disappointments: such a hearty welcome and such lavish kindness; that dear Mother and her good Sisters took us to their hearts, and did everything in their power to make us forget the weariness of the journey and the disappointments of the way.”

Day 13

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“I well remember my feeling as the [Sister of Loretto] convent door opened and I gazed on the pasture of earth’s most charming beauties. It seemed, after traveling such a distance of arid space, I could never again see anything beautiful; and behold here beautiful souls and beautiful flowers. We stayed that day and night with those angels of Charity.”




Day 14

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“… and the next day [we] went to our new home; and what a dreary one it was, but we felt that if it was good enough for a prince [Bishop] of the Church, it ought surely be good enough for us poor Sisters of Charity; for it was a part of his own house which the good Bishop gave us. 
“It was so poor that there was not one boarded floor in the building, all mud floors and mud roofs; and as the roofs were flat, and little or no outlet for the water. When it rained outside it poured within, so that often in the night it poured down in our beds. We got up and moved, as long as we had a dry spot to move to, but very often there was no dry spot to be found. We were told that the bishop often dined with an umbrella over his head. The Sister in the kitchen used to put pieces of boards around, and step from one to another to keep out of the mud. I will try to describe the kitchen. It was large enough, but very low so that I could, by standing on a chair, touch the rafters. The windows were very small such as we sometimes see in little huts; the stove was so old and broken that thesmoke often filled the kitchen, so that you could hardly see a person at the other end, and the poor Sister would have to go outside to get a little fresh air, [having] been blinded and suffocated with the smoke. The washing and baking was done in the kitchen; and there too Sister Pauline instructed her pupils.”

Day 15

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“The good Sisters of Loretto did not forget us, but often came to cheer and comfort us; and whenever they could do so, sent us milk and butter, which were a great treat for us as we had none of our own and had no means to purchase it. The butter was one dollar and fifty cents per pound, and milk 10 cents per cup, and everything else in accordance. There were times, in the absence of the Bishop, when we did not know where the needs of the next day would come from, but when the Bishop was home he gave us what he could. … The Sisters of Loretto gave generously. In fact, Mother Magdalen never seemed to tire of giving her gifts and kind attention; and many a dreary day was brightened by her presence and the visits of her Sisters.”

Day 16

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“But this state of things did not last long for some friend[s], through their influence, obtained, from [Fort Marcy army] headquarters, rations for a number of poor under our care. Some of the officers came to board with us, and their rations also came. God bless those Protestant people who were so kind and generous to us. One of those same gentlemen, when he heard that Bishop Lamy was thinking of getting Sisters, asked him what would support them. The Bishop answered, ‘God will provide,’ and He did, by their instrumentality.”



Day 17

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“I shall never forget the first Christmas Eve and how I spent it. On the day before, a crazy man got into the house, and shot two of the students. It was about two o’clock in the morning when we heard shots and the screams of one of them who ran for his life; but the other, being very bad with typhoid fever, was unable to escape so he received two bullets which nearly cost him his life. But Sister Theodosia, by her kind and devoted attentions, brought him through, aided by divine assistance. We were frightened out of our wits as we were told he was not crazy, but had been bribed to kill them, and we did not know but we might be the next victims. He threatened to kill the Bishop the evening previous. Well, I spent the greater part of Christmas Eve washing bloody clothes, and weeping over the dreadful crime, and thinking of the dear ones at home, and wondering if we would ever see them again. We were very fortunate to have escaped, as the poor crazy man tried to get into our place. Having charge of the rising bell, I got up to see the time; it was just a few minutes of two o'clock: as I went through the kitchen, I heard someone trying to open the door. I was frightened and hurried back to bed, and was there but a few moments when I heard the shots and the screams.”

Day 18

Bisho Lamy

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“Well, when the Bishop came home from his visitation trip, he was very much pleased to see us, and at once set about to procure books so that we might learn Spanish. He wished us to have prayers and meditation in Spanish, and so got them translated into that language. Well, it happened that it was my week to say prayers, and, as I had no time to look over the new language and strange writing, it took me half an hour to say morning prayers, and the Sisters said they thought I never would get through, but I did finally.”




Day 19

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“Our good Bishop when home often visited us, and seemed to enjoy hearing us read in Spanish to see what progress we were making. The priests would sometimes visit us to hear us speak the new language, for our mistakes [were] the cause of much merriment for them. On one occasion, one of the fathers came to see us on his feast day. Sister Vincent wished him a happy feast, as she though[t], but instead told him she loved him very much; so whenever he came to Santa Fe he would say, "I must visit the Sister that loves me so much." On one occasion two of the priests came to see us. I was the only one in, they asked me where the other Sisters were. I told them they went to church, as I thought, instead of which I said they had gone to England. The fathers looked at each other and smiled; then I knew I had made a mistake. Thus it was that they had many a laugh at our expense.”

Day 20

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“Well, we began to receive the sick and the orphans, some of whom were in most wretched condition. One poor fellow who had served in the Civil War, and lost the use of his legs from exposure to such an extent that he was never able to stand on them, was depending on the charity of the poor Mexicans previous to our coming, but as soon as we came he was placed under our care. He was homeless and friendless, and had it not been for the charity of those poor people, he would probably have died of want. I often thought, if he had served his God as faithfully as his country, what a great reward he would have, but God was very good to him, giving him the knowledge of the true faith. He lived for nine years with us in this state of suffering.”

Day 21

Archbishop John Baptist Purcell

Feb. 5, 1866 letter from Bishop Lamy to Archbishop Purcell:
Most Rev. Dear Archbishop,  
At last I forward to you a check for one thousand dollars which you had the kindness to advance for the passage of the Sisters. In this territory we are going slow as is the old fashion, whilst in the States you go at full speed on your railroads or steamboats, we can hardly raise here an ox team. But what can we do, we must try to put up with such order of things as Divine Providence is pleased to dispose. Our good Sisters of Charity are sometimes a little down-hearted because everything with us goes so very slow. Still the Legislature of this poor Territory voted last week one hundred dollars a month for our hospital. It is not much but still it shows a good disposition.


Day 22

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“When the Santa Fe Railroad was being built, there were great numbers of patients; and many of them being unable to pay their way, we were obliged to go out to solicit in order to support the house. Sister P[auline] and myself were out this time, and in most of the camps were very successful. But finally, coming to a certain camp, we were treated not only with indifference, but with rude unkindness; some of them remarked that our husbands should rustle for us. Well, the poor fellows did not know any better as after events proved.”



Day 23

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“Some who will read this account will say, ‘the Sisters must have been mad to expose themselves thus.’ Not at all, they were acting by obedience, and they felt that God would protect them and save them from every danger, which he did: may He be praised and magnified forever. You will say, ‘how could superiors expose them thus?’ Well, superiors knew very little of what the Sisters had to go through, nor did the Sisters feel like worrying them by telling them of our hardships as it was inevitable, as the wants of the house had to be provided for, and this seemed to be the only way to do it.”


Day 24

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“On this trip we had some pretty good frights. One night we stopped at a camp where there were only two women and a few men. We retired about nine o'clock, and in a short time were aroused by the cry, ‘the Indians are coming.’ We could distinctly hear the shots from the next camp, which was not very far off, so we knelt to pray and tried to resign ourselves to our fate. The men had fled for their lives, and the women and ourselves were left alone. As we were in a canyon with the mountains on one side and the river on the other, we could not escape even if we wanted to. Well, we slept very little that night, and our thanksgiving[s] to the Almighty were fervent indeed for having escaped the terrible fate anticipated. Our fears were groundless as the disturbance was not caused by the Indians, but by the men themselves.”

Day 25

From S. Catherine Mallon’s Journal:
“We started from Santa Fe in June [1881]. Our first day’s travel was in an open wagon, with soapboxes for seats; we had to travel two days in wagons before coming to the railroad, and, as we had no money to pay our way on the [rail]road, we had to beg a pass, but the ticket agent would not be home before twelve p.m., so we waited at the station until he came. There was a gentleman with us who interceded for us so, after considerable hesitation on the part of the agent, and explanations of ours, we got the pass to Durango and back; but when we got on the train the conductor took the pass and did not return it; I demanded the pass, and he refused to give it. Finally he relented and gave me the pass. Well, it started to rain, and it came down in such torrents that everything seemed to be swept away, and there we had to remain for nearly a day. And as the passengers were very hungry, they made their way to a section house nearby, and ate a barrel of crackers that the poor woman had for her boarders.”