St. Mary's in the Mountains: The Cradle of Catholicism in Western Nevada - Virginia City, NV, USA
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Chasing Blue Sky
N 39° 18.544 W 119° 38.924
11S E 271626 N 4354420
Quick Description: This historical marker is located near the front entrance to Saint Mary's in the Mountains Catholic Church, in Virginia City, which is known as the “Mother of all Catholic Churches in Nevada”, being the Nevada’s oldest Catholic Church.
Location: Nevada, United States
Date Posted: 1/28/2013 9:39:56 AM
Waymark Code: WMG8CR
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member Uncle Alaska
Views: 4

Long Description:
"Virginia City is home to a number of beautiful churches reflective of the late 19th century culture. One such church is St. Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church, arguably the most prominent historical structure and institution in Virginia City. St. Mary’s in the Mountains Catholic Church, Nevada’s oldest Catholic Church, is open to welcome visitors every day. Having been preserved during and since the Great Fire of 1875, this is the “Mother of all Catholic churches in Nevada.” It was built by the 6’4” “Paddy” Manogue, who ministered to the hard-working Irish-Catholic miners for almost 20 years and then became the first Bishop of Sacramento, California. Enjoy a free tour of the museum and wine cellar, and join us for Mass (Saturday 4:00 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m.) in this beautiful House of God. Numerous church artifacts and photographs are on display, and St. Mary’s also has an extensive gift shop that supports the small parish and restoration project." (visit link)

The historical marker reads as follows:

ST. MARY'S IN THE MOUNTAINS:
THE CRADLE OF CATHOLICISM IN WESTERN NEVADA

KNOWN AS THE "BONANZA CHURCH" BECAUSE OF THE RICH SILVER MINES OF THE LAST CENTURTY, THIS MOTHER CHURCH OF THE COMSTOCK LODE TRACES ITS HISTORY TO 1858 WHEN REV. JOSEPH GALLAGHER (1821-87) OFFERED THE FIRST MASS IN NEVADA. HIS BROTHER, REV. HUGH P. GALLAGHER (1815-82), OPENED THE FIRST CATHOLIC CHURCH IN VIRGINIA CITY IN 1860. DESTROYED BY THE WINDS OF THE FOLLOWING WINTER, THIS CHURCH WAS REPLACED IN 1864 WHEN REV. PATRICK MANOGUE (1831-95) ERECTED A NEW CHURCH A BLOCK AWAY FROM HERE. THE PRESENT CHURCH, ORIGINALLY BUILT IN 1868, WAS SERIOUSLY DAMAGED IN THE GREAT FIRE OF 1875 BUT REBUILT IN 1876. TODAY ST. MARY'S STANDS HERE AS A TREASURE OF THE OLD WEST AND IS NOW RECOGNIZED AS A NATIONAL CATHOLIC HISTORICAL SITE.

ERECTED IN 1991 BY THE INTERNATIONAL ORDER OF ALHAMBRA

The following is from a speech given at the dedication of this historical marker:

"The Reverend Vincent A. Lapomarda, S. J., is associate professor of history at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts.

This address, delivered in his capacity as chairman of the Committee on Historical Memorials, International Order of Alhambra, marked the dedication, on July 28, 1991, of a plaque designating Saint Mary's of the Mountains in Virginia City as a national Catholic historical site.

NOTES AND DOCUMENTS
SAINT MARY'S IN THE MOUNTAINS
The Cradle of Catholicism in
Western Nevada

Vincent A. Lapomarda, S. J.

Today, my dear friends, we come together to dedicate here in Virginia City a plaque that marks the historical development of the Catholic Church for more than 125 years in this section of God's kingdom. Although Franciscan missionaries may have passed through this part of the country on their way to the missions in California in the eighteenth century, it was not until the nineteenth century, following the discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859, that the historical roots of Catholicism in Nevada really manifested themselves. "Anything over 100 years old is historic in the American West," according to one expert on Saint Mary's past. Consequently, what we do here today is remarkable for this commemoration and celebration of the history of American Catholicism.

On the occasion of this dedication, it may be helpful to recall the heritage of Saint Mary's in the Mountains in order to understand how it has helped to develop American society. Perhaps the best way to do this is to reflect on the extent to which Catholics in Nevada have contributed to religious liberty and the Americanization of the immigrants, as well as to the social program of the Catholic Church and to its parochial school system. Historians, from Thompson and West down to the present, have given us sufficient information about the history of Saint Mary's so that we can really appreciate the growth of Catholicism in this part of the country.

First, to what extent has Saint Mary's contributed to American religious liberty?

Freedom of religion and religious liberty have marched side by side in the shaping of the American West since the First Amendment to the United States Constitution came into being two hundred years ago. This has made it possible for Saint Mary's, like many other religious institutions in the United States, to flourish, especially after Nevada became a state in 1864 and incorporated religious toleration into its state constitution.

In western Nevada, all this found expression in the work of three pioneers of religious freedom for Roman Catholics. The first was Father Joseph Gallagher (1821-87), who was the earliest resident priest in this state and who offered the first mass in this part of the state. The second was Father Hugh P. Gallagher (1815-82), his brother, who built the first Catholic church in Virginia City once it was settled, in the summer of 1860. And the third was Father Patrick Manogue (1831-95), later Bishop of Sacramento, who expanded the foundations of the Catholic Church in the bonanza days of Virginia City.

What those early priests did for the free exercise of religion in Nevada was continued in subsequent years. Today there exists in this state an organized diocese centered at Reno and Las Vegas with at least 155,000 Catholics able to live their faith without being restricted by civil authority. Though their average number is lower than in the nation as a whole, Nevada Catholics constitute a significant 15 percent of the population. They are served by at least seventy-five priests and about a hundred sisters, who help them to exercise religious liberty and to enjoy religious freeedom.

Second, to what extent has Saint Mary's contributed to the Americanization of the immigrants?

Since many of the miners who came to Virginia City were of Irish background, the Catholic Church took advantage of Irish priests like the Gallagher brothers, Manogue, and others to help the immigrants adjust to American society on the western frontier. At that time, it can be shown, religion was at least a major, if not the only, civilizing force in a world dominated by the mining of much gold but more silver and by the ephemeral attractions of a booming frontier town, especially with its hundred or more saloons. The evils of the latter were so prominent that an Irish missionary like Father Patrick Hennebery strenuously promoted temperance among the miners here in 1874.

The Catholic Church, as one of the few churches in Virginia City, accomplished much during the last century by helping the immigrants adjust to a new life in this country. Many came to this mining area of the Sierra Nevada range from such countries as Italy, Germany, England, China, and Canada, in addition to Ireland. As the Catholic Church cared for the Paiute Indians in the nineteenth century, she is reaching out today to other minorities, like blacks and Hispanics, along with the Indians and the immigrants, struggling for survival in the state's major urban centers.

Third, to what extent has Saint Mary's contributed to the social program of the Catholic Church?

Though the social encyclicals of the popes were not promulgated until later in the last century, the Reverend Patrick Manogue, appointed Pastor of Virginia City in 1862, had the vision to launch a social program for the Catholic Church. In this flourishing mining town of at least 25,000 in its peak years, an orphanage and a hospital were started under the Daughters of Charity, who had come to Virginia City from Market Street in San Francisco. The orphanage (1864-97), fronted on H Street, cared for about a hundred orphans, and the hospital (1876-97), fronting on Union Street, provided medical care for the people of Virginia City and its environs.

In that way, particularly with the financial assistance of John William Mackay, one of the Bonanza Barons, the foundations of a social program for the Catholic Church were established in Nevada. Today Catholics of this diDcese still reflect that same exceptional concern for the social program of their church. They are supporting four Catholic hospitals and a number of day-care and health centers in cities like Reno and Las Vegas, just as their predecessors did here in Virginia City during the nineteenth century when society had its share of bandits, drunkards, and murderers.

Fourth, to what extent has Saint Mary's contributed to the Catholic school system?

We know, for example, that among the Reverend Patrick Manogue's achievements was a school for boys (Saint Vincent's) and another for girls (Saint Mary's). From their opening in 1864 to their closing in 1897, these schools cared daily for about a hundred boys and two hundred girls under twelve years of age. The Daughters of Charity were also in charge of these schools, which were the first ones for Catholics in Nevada providing fDr the intellectual development of young girls and boys.

In subsequent years the Catholic school system, in what is now the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas, has expanded. Today it includes eleven elementary schools with an enrollment of 2,888 students and two high schools with an enrollment of 1,191 students. Thus, Nevada Catholics are strongly determined to have their children learn the proper religious and moral values essential to cope with the problems of today's world.

Consequently, as we examine the historical roots of Saint Mary's in the Mountains and evaluate them in light of today's achievements, we can understand more clearly why this Bonanza Church of the Comstock Lode is the cradle of Catholicism in western Nevada. The social, religious, moral, liturgical, and intellectual lives of Catholics were enriched as the Catholic Church became one of the major civilizing forces on the mining frontier where fortunes in gold and silver were accumulated. Indeed, the basic services in the area of education, health, and welfare that are now provided by the civil authorities to care for the needy in this state were launched at that time by the Catholics of Virginia City at their own expense.

Therefore, it is very appropriate that we commemorate and celebrate the achievements of Saint Mary's by dedicating a bronze plaque today. Though the new plaque only highlights the contributions that I have outlined, it is a reminder for present and future generations of the major role that Saint Mary's has played in the development of religion and culture in this part of God's kingdom. While Saint Mary's has been a pioneer in contributing to the health of American society, this "church stands today as the most significant monument in the most famous mining town of the Western frontier." Mindful, then, of this rich heritage of the Catholic Church in Virginia City, I will be very pleased to unveil the plaque that marks Saint Mary's in the Mountains as a national Catholic historical site." (visit link)
Marker Title (required): St. Mary's in the Mountains: The Cradle of Catholicism in Western Nevada

Marker Text (required):
ST. MARY'S IN THE MOUNTAINS: THE CRADLE OF CATHOLICISM IN WESTERN NEVADA KNOWN AS THE "BONANZA CHURCH" BECAUSE OF THE RICH SILVER MINES OF THE LAST CENTURTY, THIS MOTHER CHURCH OF THE COMSTOCK LODE TRACES ITS HISTORY TO 1858 WHEN REV. JOSEPH GALLAGHER (1821-87) OFFERED THE FIRST MASS IN NEVADA, HIS BROTHER, REV. HUGH P. GALLAGHER (1815-82), OPENED THE FIRST CATHOLIC CHURCH IN VIRGINIA CITY IN 1860. DESTROYED BY THE WINDS OF THE FOLLOWING WITNTER, THIS CHURCH WAS REPLACED IN 1864 WHEN REV. PATRICK MANOGUE (1831-95) ERECTED A NEW CHURCH A BLOCK AWAY FROM HERE. THE PRESENT CHURCH, ORIGINALLY BUILT IN 1868, WAS SERIOUSLY DAMAGED IN THE GREAT FIRE OF 1875 BUT REBUILT IN 1876. TODAY ST. MARY'S STANDS HERE AS A TREASURE OF THE OLD WEST AND IS NOW RECOGNIZED AS A NATIONAL CATHOLIC HISTORICAL SITE. ERECTED IN 1991 BY THE INTERNATIONAL ORDER OF ALHAMBRA


County (required): Storey

Marker Type (required): Metal Plaque

Is Marker Damaged? (required): No

URL - Website (optional): [Web Link]

Marker Number (If official State Marker from NV SHPO website above, otherwise leave blank): Not Listed

Other Marker Type (optional): Not listed

Other Damage Type (optional): Not listed

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