History of Bucks
County, Pa Volume 3 by William H. Davis
ST. FRANCIS’ INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL
ST. FRANCIS’ INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL. Of all the charitable and educational institutions in charge of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in the United States, the St. Francis’ Industrial School at Eddington, Bucks county, may be said to have had the most auspicious beginning Like many of its class it had its origin in private charity. The members of the family of the late Francis A. DREXEL were long and widely known for their many and generous benevolences, and when their father, the excellent man and noble philanthropist whose name is perpetuated in this institution, passed away, his daughters, the Misses DREXEL, continued the chain of benefactions which he had begun and continued throughout his life.
Having maturely considered the project due to a happy inspiration–that of providing for a great want and of erecting a splendid Christian charity–the three daughters of the late Mr. Drexel busied themselves in selecting an eligible site, and late in January, 1886, through the intermediation of the late Henry Preant secured a farm of more than two hundred acres a short distance inland from Eddington Station, in the southwestern corner of Bucks county. The tract occupies an elevated situation overlooking the river, and commands a beautiful view. Ground was broken in July, 1886, and the corner stone of the edifice was laid and solemnly blessed by Archbishop RYAN, November 14th following, in the presence of a large assemblage. The address of the day was by the Rev. Dr. HORSTMANN and at its conclusion the Right Reverend Archbishop made brief but touching remarks, expressing his gratification in the inauguration of this great work, and taking occasion to say that the foundresses of the institution were animated by the noblest motives of a liberal and intelligent philanthropy to provide for a great want in the community, but that they were influenced even more by the still higher motive of christian charity. On Christmas Eve of 1886 an unknown vandal performed a sacrilegious act in upsetting the corner stone and taking away the coins which it contained. The corner stone was relaid in June, 1887, the memorial coins deposited therein being contributed by Mr. Anthony J. DREXEL The school was then to be called St. John’s, but the name was subsequently changed to the one it now bears–that of the patron saint of Francis A. Drexel, the father of the young ladies to whom it owes its existence.
The school was opened on Thursday, July 19 1888, the feast of S. Vincent de Paul. The building was blessed by Archibishop RYAN Among those present were the principal clergy of the neighborhood: Very Rev. M. A. WALSH, rector of St. Paul’s; Very Rev. P. A. STANTON, D. D., O. S. A.; Rev. Ign. F. HORSTMANN, D. D., chancellor of the arch-diocese; Rev. Daniel A. BRENNAN rector of the Assumption; Rev. Francis PILA, chaplain of La Salle College; Rev. Lawrence J.WALL, rector of St. Dominic’s, Holmesburg; and Revs. Hugh MCGLINN and Francis J. CARR rector and assistant of St. Mark’s, Bristol. Also were present all but one of the board of managers, who are the same as those of St. John’s Orphan Asylum; the three Misses DREXEL, and a large number of invited guests. To Brother Anatole had been committed the direction of the new institution, and he was aided by a corps of fifteen Brothers of the Christian Schools. It had been decided to make the Industrial School a branch or ally of St. John’s Orphan Asylum, and these brothers were charged with the selection of two hundred out of the five hundred inmates of the latter institution, to become inmates of the former, there to be trained not only in virtue but in trades and other useful pursuits. This work had been concluded on July 16th. An eye witness says:
“The removal was a picturesque sight as well as an important event. After the Sisters of St. Joseph had completed the draft, the fortunate little fellows (ranging in age from ten to fourteen), were dressed in new suits and straw hats, which had been bought for them by the Misses Drexel, and, having been formally turned over to the Christian Brothers whose wards they were to become, were marched over in processional form to Girard avenue station of the Pennsylvania railroad, at which point they took the train for their new abode. The boys seemed to enjoy the change very much, and soon felt at home in the delightful precincts of St. Francis. They were also at once prepared for the epoch-marking event of Thursday.”
While the building was in course of erection the Misses DREXEL not only made a close study of the arrangement and workings of similar institutions in Europe, but they sent Brother ANATOLE (who had been employed in such work in Baltimore) to go over the same field in the Old World as had been explored by themselves. With the ideas thus gained, and the deep thought of many at home, the best possible results were attained, and the school has been pronounced one of the very best appointed of its kind in the world. It is two hundred and seventy feet long by eight-four feet wide, four stories in height, and with very lofty ceilings. The central portion is surmounted by a lofty clock tower, and is flanked with wings on either side. The walls are of brick with terra cotta trimmings. On the ground floor are apartments for the archbishop, the brother in charge, the chaplain, library, reception room, museum, etc. In each of the wings on the first floor are four large class rooms, separated by sliding doors which enable all to be thrown into one. On this floor also are the refectories for the instructors, and for the boys, and a band room. Closely connected is the kitchen. The second floor contains the private apartments of the instructors; some of the boys’ dormitories are also upon this floor, and the remainder on the third, all most admirable arranged and suitably furnished. Adjoining buildings are fitted as a natatorium; for washing and drying clothes; the carpenter shop, and the engine room with admirable machinery for supplying water and electric light.
The first year was prolific with events of moment. Classes were formed, and all the boys were put under systematic instruction in the ordinary branches of an education. In November a brass band was organized with twenty-six boys from the first class. The same year an immense well (fifty feet in diameter, by twenty feet deep) was dug, and amply supplies every want; the property was also surrounded with a handsome hedge. In January, 1889, the carpenter shop was provided with a full equipment. In this year was celebrated in Baltimore the centennial anniversary of the establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States, and in the grand procession the Industrial School Band headed a delegation from La Salle College, and were hospitably entertained at Calvert Hall and St. Peter’s. In November ground was broken for the blacksmith shop, which was completed in the course of a few months, and work was begun therein on May 19, 1890. The new chapel was formally opened January 29, 1890, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the music being rendered by a choir of the school boys led by Brother Celestine. The Most Reverend Archbishop RYAN celebrated mass, and gave first communion to a class of seventy-three boys. Archbishop RYAN delivered two touching addresses during the day. The chapel is an ornament of architecture, and contains beautiful mural ornaments, and rich stained glass windows from the most celebrated works in Munich. These represent for the most part saints who trod the humbler walks of life, and were either husbandmen, or, at some time in their lives, followed some mechanical pursuit. The scenes were selected with a special view of presenting to the boys ideal patrons in keeping with the character of the school, and the vocation for which they are being fitted. The altar is unique, and unlike all others in the United States, constructed of the finest mosaic work. Shortly after the death of Mrs. Smith (September 26, 1890), there was erected in the chapel a memorial tablet, bearing the following inscription:
“This tablet is in memory of the amiable Mrs. Elizabeth Longstreth SMITH, wife of Walter George SMITH born August 27th, 1854, died September 26th, 1890. In her great charity she planned the foundation of this Industrial School, and superintended the building thereof, and donated the same, which is monument to her. ‘If therefore I have found favor in thy sight, show me thy face.’–Exodus xxxiii,13.”
In September, 1891, a shop was fitted up and a class of seventy-two formed for learning plumbing. This year was completed the laying of a railroad siding for supplying the institution with coal, obviating the necessity for wagoning.
In 1900 Brother TELIEW, the Brother in charge, died and was succeeded by Brother FERDINAND, the present conductor, who is assisted by Brother JULIAN who for forty years was director of the Percival School in Philadelphia, and who has direct charge of the teaching. Brother FERDINANA has immediate direction of all the business connected with the school, and from the first has adhered to the plans laid down by his revered predecessor, Brother TELIEW. At first the school had no regular chaplain, and was attended by the Rev. Hugh MCGLINN, rector of St. Mark’s, Bristol, with his assistant, the Rev. Francis J. CARR A short time before Christmas of 1888 the Rev. Peter A. QUINN rector of St. Martin’s, New Hope, was appointed to the chaplaincy, who was sent to Media, in July, 1892, being succeeded by the Rev. Michael BRADY, of Mahanoy City. September 7, 1890, occurred the first death, that of Brother Eusebius PATRICK, teacher of the seventh class. He came to the school an invalid, afflicted with a heart ailment with threatened his death on a moment’s warning. He was, however, faithful to his duties, and remarkably successful with his class. On January 4, 1891, Brother Celestine died at St. Agnes’ Hospital, Philadelphia. As infirmarian he was devoted, careful, and very charitable towards the children confided to his care, and as teacher of singing was capable, and eminently successful.
In 1893 the number of inmates was increased to three hundred, and the number of classes was made seven. From the beginning the patrons of the school have been accustomed to visit it about once a week. During the first years, on Christmas Day there was a distribution of prizes and an entertainment in the study hall. Later on the distribution was made in May, and finally in June. Each succeeding exhibition and entertainment has been an improvement upon the preceding, eliciting hearty appreciation and congratulations from His Grace the Archbishop and other distinguished guests. Prizes are now distributed for proficiency in all that is taught in the school–Class work, elocution, drawing, stained glass work, wood carving, stone cutting, blacksmithing, plumbing, cabinet making, clay modeling, sign painting, tailoring, shoemaking, music, engineering, fresco painting, and military drill. After the commencement exercises the boys are placed out as soon as practicable.
Text taken from page 414
Davis, William W. H., A. M. History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania [New York-Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905] Volume III
Transcribed December 2002 as part of the Bucks Co., Pa., Early Family Project, www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/bucksindex.html
Published January 2003 on the Bucks County, Pa., USGenWeb pages at www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks