Book Review: Discovering a Lost Heritage: The Catholic Origins of America

Book Review by Eleonore Villarrubia:  Discovering a Lost Heritage: The Catholic Origins of America by Adam Miller

So, you think you know your American history? Well, this little gem of a book, a Catholic history of our country, will probably leave you quivering, both with shock at your lack of knowledge of some of the “true facts” of our past and with indignation that this information is not taught in American schools and is absent from standard textbooks. Why, you ask, did this happen? According to the author: “Much of American history is, and has been for two centuries, taught from a Protestant-English viewpoint. To be more exact, U.S. history has been primarily taught from a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) perspective, and this has more often than not been anti-Catholic, or at the least, silent on the foundation of America as being originally Catholic.”

Let’s try a question from early New World history: Who were the first Europeans in New England? Standard answer: Pilgrims, escaping religious persecution in England, landed in Massachusetts in 1620.

That is not the correct answer. As early as the fifth century, a monk, whose name is unknown, and his companions, left evidence of their visit to the area of New Hampshire on a petroglyph. The message praising “Christ the Lord” is written in ancient Celtic. Natives told the early French explorers of this tradition among their people.

Discovering A Lost HeritageIn the late sixth century we know that Saint Brendan, an Irish monk, and his companions, landed on the shores of America near what is now New Salem, New Hampshire. There they planted the Cross of Christ and explored the eastern coastline of North America. Saint Brendan himself recorded the events and descriptions of his explorations in his Saga.

Along about the year 1000, Catholic Norsemen from Scandinavia explored the coastline of the northern part of the east coast from Greenland, down to Nova Scotia and New England. Viking Leif Ericson, who was converted to the Catholic Faith by King Saint Olaf, took missionary monks with him on the voyage. Coastal Indians spoke to them of white, bearded men who wore robes and carried beads and crosses in procession. Was this the stuff of legend or were they speaking of their own times? While that question cannot be answered, surely the story had some basis in fact.

Almost one hundred years before Columbus’ voyage, a Scottish-Norse prince, Henry of St. Clair (or Sinclair) from the Orkney Islands off the northern coast of England, set off on an expedition to America and landed in present-day Nova Scotia. Being a good Catholic ruler, Henry also brought along missionaries who evangelized the gentle Micmac Indians while teaching them many practical skills as well. Evidence exists that the St. Clair party sailed farther south and established a settlement at the site that is today Newport, Rhode Island. One can see in this very American city the remains of a stone tower that once adjoined a church. This tower is not typical of early American architecture, being modeled after a church tower in Scotland, which in turn was modeled after the tower of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem; they are the world’s only structures built in this manner. (A photograph of the tower adorns the cover of this book.) More proof of St. Clair’s visit to New England is a petroglyph found on a large rock near Newport. There one can see a large and detailed carving of the coat of arms of the Sinclair family. Although Henry founded several settlements, leaving a missionary at each, he was killed in a family dispute back home in the Orkneys; as a result, deprived of needed supplies, the settlements fell apart and the settlers vanished. The Spanish explorer Verrazano saw the tower in 1524 and encountered Indians he believed to be of mixed race, possibly descendants of the Scottish settlers of St. Clair’s expedition.

Finally, by the 1570’s, France had begun to send explorers and missionary priests to the New England area, where a Cross and French flag were planted near the Kennebec River in Maine and the land was claimed for Christ and France. What we now call New England was earlier known as Norumbega.

All these events happened before the Pilgrims!

Examples of historical distortion (or simply omission) abound in this fact-packed book. Here is another shocker: Did you know that whites were not the only slave owners in nineteenth century America? In 1830, the national census counted nearly 3800 black slave owners who, among themselves, held nearly 12,800 slaves. These were not even all in the South. In New York City that same year, eight free men of color owned seventeen slaves. In addition, there were many whites who were slaves, mostly despised poor Irish and Scottish Catholic immigrants who had no choice but to sell themselves into indentured servitude for life — which amounts to slavery — because of their destitute condition.

Any Catholic living in New England should be able to relate the history of anti-Catholicism that was traditional here. Samuel Adams wanted to establish laws specifically directed against Catholics in every state of the nation. John Jay, prior to becoming Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, did his best as governor of New York to deny Catholics rights of citizenship in his state. Too, in our own state of New Hampshire there was a clause on the books excluding Catholics from holding office as late as 1876. Not one of the proudest of the liberal traditions, is it? And the violent anti-Catholic activities of the Know-Nothing movement is (pardon the pun) well-known!

Of particular interest to this reviewer was the chapter on Texas. Our author explained how the Freemasonic government of the United States eventually annexed the territory, which had already been established as a Republic independent from Mexico and, as had been hoped by Texans, independent of the United States too. Manifest Destiny took care of that, as it did the entire southwest, wresting one third of what would be the United States from Mexico by means of President Polk’s Mexican-American war. The destruction of the Catholic/Spanish culture of the peaceful Indians of Florida is also a sad chapter in American history. Worse than that, in terms of the scale of the injustice, was the forced relocation of all Indian tribes east of the Mississippi to western reservations as outlined first by President Monroe in his 1825 report to the Senate on a “plan of colonization or removal” of said tribes. After the Civil War President Grant pushed a law that prohibited Catholic priests from ministering to Catholic Indians on the reservations; Protestant ministers were sent instead. Our Masonic political rulers were also eager to help their brothers south of the border to cut ties with the Catholic motherland. This is the main reason for the support that the United States supplied to the revolutionary movements in Latin American countries in their successful breaks from European colonizers. Although the Monroe “Doctrine,” as it came to be called, was not enforceable at the time it was proclaimed, it set the stage for a new sphere of influence in the western hemisphere where any colony that sought independence from European powers would have the backing of the United States.

A handy section at the end of the book called “U.S. History Mythbusters” is by itself worth the price of the book. It includes thirty-five common myths regarding our history, which are taken for granted as true by nearly all Americans, and their precise refutations.

This is such an essential little volume — only 195 pages in length — so packed with information that one has to ignore the few misspellings and typos within it. Adam Miller has done a wonderful service by providing us with such a well-researched, fact-filled production.

  • I appreciate your article, and to a great extent agree with it. However, I need to make a comment, which is not meant to be argumentive, or to belittle your comments in any way.

    I think it needs to be mentioned that the Spanish Conquest of the New World was not without a great deal of cruelty to the Native Peoples in many cases. There were a great many abuses with forced labor and so on. If there had not been, then it would not have been necessary for Father Bartholomew de Las Casas (1474-1566) to protest them until the end of his life. And of course there were the successful Jesuit missions in Paraguay that were ruined with the complicity of the settlers and some higher authorities in the church itself.

    With that said, I believe it is important to mention this. It is also important to mention that the initial Spanish conquests, in Mexico for example, at least ended the mass murder of people and cannibalism as sacrifices to pagan Aztec gods.

    Thanks again for your article.


    Ray Sifdol

  • Thank you for mentioning the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. What Mexico was forced to give away to the United States as a result of the unjust Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848 was: All of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona. Half od Colorado and slices of Wyoming and Oklahoma.

    It would certainly be interesting to speculate on what Mexico would be like today if all the above mentioned land had not been removed from their nation. However, (always a great “qualifying” word) even if Mexico had won the war, or it never happened, would it still be a product of the Roman Catholic Church OR the Freemasons today?

    Thank you.

    Ray Sifdol

  • Eleonore

    As a correction to my review, I offer the following: After several readers questioned the existence of NEW Salem, NH, I called the author, Adam Miller. Mr. Miller was gracious to check his notes and noted that the name of the town is actually NORTH Salem, NH. In the area of Salem (and North Salem), NH, there is an attraction called “America’s Stonehenge.” Checking the website, I discovered that one can visit this attraction (for a fee) and learn of the evidence of people living there as far back as 4,000 years ago. It is just a few miles inland from NH’s short coastline, to the southeast of Manchester. Mr. Miller and I regret the error.

  • Eleonore

    Mr. Sifdol, I appreciate your comments. Of course, there were abuses during the time of La Conquista. Given the fallen nature of man through original sin and the opportunities the adventures in the New World offered soldiers of fortune a “get rich quick” deal, there were the problems you mention, just as there were excesses during the time of the Crusades. Thanks to courageous churchmen like Father Las Casas there were loud voices helping to put an end to the abuses. As Mr. Miller explains in his book, many of the early conquistadores had the interest of converting the pagan indigenous peoples to Christianity, thus ending their abuse of each other. You seem to be of very good will. Thank you!

    We need to pray for Mexico. She has been greatly abused by some of her own people in an effort to create a Godless society. Where Our Lady of Guadalupe reigns, however, I don’t think that will happen.

  • HaroldCrews

    Was there any mention of the Catholic missions in South Carolina in the book?

  • Mr. Crews, Yes, the Catholic missions in both Carolinas (and Georgia as well) are covered in Chapter 3 of the work. The first one being San Muguel de Guadalupe (est. 1526), which has the distinction of being the first European settlement in America after Columbus came. Even before then, in 1520, a large cross was erected near today’s Cape Fear, where the region was claimed for Spain by the Gordillo and Quexos expedition.

    During the 1560s, numerous mission/settlements were established. They were amazingly successful by the beginning of the 17th century in converting the local Indians. The sad details of what eventually happened to them and their inhabitants are also covered.

    Thank you for your interest, and much thanks to Eleonore for the excellent review and helping to spark more interest in this much needed work.

    In JMJ,

    Adam Miller, author/publisher
    Tower of David Publications/Marian Publications, Inc.

  • Hoyt Sparks

    I am neither Roman Catholic or Free Mason or Protestant. With that said, I find that it does no good to preen and crow about past failures of settlements in North American: settlements that were relatively short lived and supposed initially for the conversion of the indigenous tribes to Roman Catholicism. Such is interesting history but what is the point in what appears to be bellyaching about what you claim to be unfair treating of history that supposedly discriminates against Roman Catholicism??? I have not read the book but I have read the reviews, and a question that comes to my mind is why did these explorations that occured before Christopher Columbus fail? There were no Protestants present; so I can only blame the RC for their own failure. There are many, many things of history of the North American continent that hind sight proclaims to be cruel and unfair on ALL sides, but what good do we accomplish by selling a book that is twisted and slanted for the purpose of indoctrination via pro-RC? It is not the place for RC to try and dominate the whole world simply because they claim to be the true Christian religion. RC is part of the anti-Christ and is strictly a political organization seeking by humanistic precepts to garner as much money as possible from the ignorant and duped individuals. If anyone is interested in seeking the truth about all supposed religious organizations professing to be the true Christian religion, please let me know, but don’t contact me if all you want to do is fight. TRUE HISTORY, UNBIASED, IS ONE THING THAT CAN BRING ABOUT FREEDOM OF TRUE KNOWLEDGE AND SETS ONE FREE FROM IGNORANCE AND PREJUDICE.

  • John S

    You begin to win my confidence. In order to feel fully confident in your testimony though would you please walk on water. Would you please turn water into wine. Would you please rise from the dead. Will you please demonstrate how your coming was foretold (funny I never heard of you) and then fulfill said coming to every detail. There exists One who did all of these things. He founded an institution. Even His enemies acknowledge its singularity and uniqueness concerning its foundation. Every other institution claiming equal footage or superiority to RC has a mere human for its founder.
    You most certainly are a protestant. Your words betray what you deny.