Father Johannes Bapst, S.J., in the Company of Jesus

Did you know that in 1850, in Maine, the first president-to-be of Boston College was beaten, tarred, and feathered by Know-Nothing thugs? He was Jesuit Father Johannes Bapst.

Born in Switzerland in 1815, and ordained a priest in 1846, Father Bapst was first sent to minister to the Indians in New England. Many different tribes were indigenous to the area, principally among which were the Powhatan, Abenaki, Pequot, Haudenosaunee, Susquehannock, and the MicMac. A couple of years later he was assigned to serve the growing Catholic population in the state of Maine.

The virulently anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party had a large membership in Maine at that time. And, as Catholic Irish, French, and German immigrants steadily increased in percentage in the dominant Protestant territory so did the xenophobia of the Americanists. Laws, obviously aimed at Catholics, were passed forbidding the use of any language other than English and barring Catholics from teaching in the public schools. Two other things were particularly irritating to the Know-Nothing element: first, that the well-educated Father Bapst was making converts and, second, that he dared to request that Catholics be allowed to bring the Douay Bible to class rather than having to read from the King James.

Having finished offering Mass one day at a home in Ellsworth, a mob ambushed him and, after they tarred, they threw him, hands bound behind his back, on the first train headed out of town. First opportunity, however, the courageous Jesuit returned to his scattered flock, eventually winning the sympathy of the Protestant political leaders, many whom  were outraged at the violent antics of the Know-Nothings.

After spending several more years in Maine, Father Bapst was sent to Massachusetts where he founded the Jesuit College in Boston and served as its first president. He died in Maryland in 1887. I used this post for my summary sketch. The post also has a good picture of the heroic Jesuit.