PIERRE ÉGUILLON (1820-1892) Vicar General of Santa Fe (NM) : from Auvergne to the New World
FROM BUSSIÈRES TO THE NEW WORLD: PIERRE ÉGUILLON (1820-1892) VICAR GENERAL OF SANTA FE
Ce texte en anglais est publié en remerciement aux amis de l’Etat du Nouveau-Mexique (Etats-Unis) qui, depuis plusieurs années, ont aidé l’Association culturelle d’Aigueperse et ses environs (ACAE) à retrouver les traces d’anciens habitants du canton d’Aigueperse et, plus généralement du Puy-de-Dôme, partis à l’aventure dans cette région du sud-ouest des Etats-Unis. Il résume deux articles en français parus dans la revue Sparsae au cours de l’année 2018. Ils retracent l’histoire du révérend Pierre Eguillon, un enfant de Bussières-et-Pruns (Puy-de-Dôme) auquel fut d’abord confié la paroisse de Socorro dans le centre de l’Etat, près du fleuve Rio Grande, puis qui devint recteur de la paroisse principale de Santa Fe avant de devenir vicaire général du nouveau diocèse, en charge en particulier de l’administration de la construction d’une cathédrale, aujourd’hui encore magnifique monument trônant au centre de la ville. MD
Pierre Éguillon, an outstanding Catholic missionary, left his comfortable Bussières (in the Auvergne region of France) to serve in this far-flung territory of America—in New Mexico, in the latter half of the XIXth century, at a time when the southwest region was very much still “the American Wild West”. He stood out through his dedication to his faith, the fountain of his strength and adaptability in a harsh and hostile environment. This area, consisting mainly of Mexicans and Amerindians, had been evangelized for over two centuries, by Spanish Franciscans, following Conquistador domination. The Catholic church was eager and anxious to proselytize in advance of Protestant missions from the east and northeast America which were no doubt soon to follow.
In Part I, we see that despite a self-inflicted, accidental gun wound on his long and perilous first journey, the young priest soldiered on. His training in the main seminary at Clermont-Ferrand (France) equipped him well for his first task in Santa Fe: to prepare seminarists for their ordination. He then took up his duties in Socorro, a small, poor town far from Santa Fe. In Part II, his continued grit and effectiveness in all religious matters entrusted to him therefore come as no surprise. His ability to effectively deal with the mundane as well as the exceptional responsibilities given him, is inspiring.
As a missionary, assisting Bishop J-B Lamy and in collaboration with other clergy mainly from Auvergne, his mundane tasks revolved around the day-to-day administration of the diocese, especially as his bishop made frequent and long visits out of town in search of resources and other reinforcements. In addition, he helped build institutions to serve the people—churches, schools, hospitals; and assisted others in a personal way—e.g., the settling down of new pastors; the accompaniment of Jesuit missions. He travelled several times to his native region to recruit new clergy and teachers to strengthen the reach of the Catholic church in New Mexico. Through years of loyal service in various capacities, he thus earned the complete trust of Bishop Lamy, who entrusted him with one of the major projects of his life, the building of the cathedral of Santa Fe.
To replace the crumbling parish church, the Parroquia, Lamy had a daring project: to erect a Roman style cathedral in the image of the famous churches in Auvergne. It was daring as it was costly in this sparsely peopled frontier region where adobe construction prevailed. So, much had to be imported over ocean and vast overland distances: architectural and building skills, and materials, including stained glass windows. Éguillon handled virtually everything—e.g., the real estate sales and purchases; the search of skills and setting up of contracts, and the day-to-day supervision of the works which took decades! Gratitude by the people—religious and lay—for his devoted service was shown in the burial of Éguillon in the sealed crypt of the cathedral of Santa Fe next to Bishop Lamy’s cofin. He was also eulogized as having established “a parish that had no other in the Southwest.”
In Part One, we see that Abbot Pierre Éguillon, native of Bussières, a village between Aigueperse and Thuret, left Auvergne for a distant region at the invitation of Bishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, new bishop of Santa Fe, capital of territories that the United States recently annexed from Mexico, a young republic. During this long journey in the summer of 1854, when he was just beginning to cross the vast plains of the North American continent, he accidentally seriously shot himself with a gun in his right arm. At Santa Fe, during almost a year, he adjusted himself to his new environment, and drew upon the theology he learnt from the great seminary of Clermont-Ferrand to prepare some seminarists for their upcoming ordination. From October 1855, J-B Lamy put him in charge of a parish, Socorro, 230 kilometers south of Santa Fe, along the Rio Grande. Three years later, Abbot Éguillon was summoned to be near the prelate to take charge of the parish in the principal town whose church, La Parroquia, was used as a temporary cathedral of the new diocese.
The vast majority of the population of Santa Fe is Mexican and Amerindian. A census shows that the population does not exceed more than 3,000. During three centuries, the Franciscan Brothers who had accompanied the Spanish Conquistadors since their arrival in the XVIth century, had evangelized the territory either by force or with local consent. However, following the great revolt of the Indian pueblos due to the abuses of this clergy and of the Inquisition, and also after the birth of the Republic of Mexico, when Bishop Lamy was given the responsibility for this vast territory, there remained but a few priests over the whole territory, as they were more or less abandoned by their distant order.
From the 1830s on, the main preoccupations of the American bishops were to keep up the initial evangelizing work that the Spanish had undertaken as well as re-organize the management of the parishes. This also meant putting in place sufficient numbers of clergy so as to weaken the predictable impact of protestant migrants from the East of the United States. These concerns were entirely shared by the Holy See that promised support. The Bishop of Cincinatti, Bishop Purcell, left for France in 1834 to recruit missionaries from there. The bishop of Clermont, Bishop Féron assisted him, particularly as it was easy for him since he had numerous priests and seminarists in his diocese and they were already committed to mission projects abroad.
Near Santa Fe (NM).
The first two waves of missionaries –seminarists and young priests—in turn, set out for these distant territories of North America. In the first wave, was Jean-Baptiste Lamy, future Archbishop of Santa Fe; in the second wave, Abbot Pierre Éguillon. Others would follow, who benefiting from the network of relationships developed with Clermont, made of New Mexico a land evangelized largely by clergy from the central mountains of France, a region called Auvergne. One must note, that for over two centuries, the radical proselytism of Spanish Franciscans, reinforced by the military threat from the Conquistadores had largely crushed the ancestral animist beliefs of Amerindians well before the arrival of our French clergy, such that it did not seem that they had to fight against major rebellions from the local tribes.
HIS VERY REVEREND PIERRE ÉGUILLON, MAN OF TRUST OF BISHOP JEAN-BAPTISTE LAMY
For the development of his diocese in Santa Fe, Bishop Lamy, relied largely on some assistants he trusted. Among these were his first fellow travelers, the priests Joseph Macheboeuf of Riom, Joseph Coudert of Condat-les-Montboissier , and Pierre Éguillon of Bussières-et-Pruns. Not only are they native of the same Puy-de-Dôme county, but they were also trained in the same main seminary.
From 1854, back from a voyage to Europe, Joseph Macheboeuf was named Vicar-General of the diocese and parish in Albuquerque, some hundred kilometers southwest of Santa Fe. Pierre Éguillon, parish of Socorro, was recalled to Santa Fe in November 1858. This transfer was decided by his bishop in anticipation of the new responsibilities which Macheboeuf was to shoulder in Arizona (1868) and in Colorado (1860), regions distant from Santa Fe, and of difficult access (mountains and deserts) and dangerous (Indian tribes).
Outside of his political preoccupations which naturally concerned his relations with the civil and military authorities governing the territory, the priority goals of Jean-Baptiste Lamy were to take charge of and impart formation to his parishes; develop the teaching of Catholicism; and reverse the worrisome degradation of the principal church of Santa Fe.
The archives as well as the writings of James Defouri and of Jean-Baptiste Salpointe, future successor of Lamy showed that Pierre Éguillon played an important role in the administration of the diocese, in terms of both personnel management and material matters. It is clear that Bishop Lamy saw in him a person he could completely trust. For religious matters, he was often asked to assist his bishop during grand ceremonies; and in the absence of Lamy, even preside over them. He also supported the development of religious institutions of the town (St. Vincent Hospital, Convent of Loretto Nuns, schools). One often saw him accompany new pastors when they were settling down in their new parishes. In 1876, he went briefly to the small community of Manzano, south of Santa Fe, at the death of the parish priest Antoine Lamy, nephew of the Bishop. For Christmas 1876 in Galisteo, and then in March and in April 1877 in San Juan and Santa Cruz, he accompanied Jesuit missions. He was also invited to the retreats of the postulants of Our Lady of Loretto before their taking on the veil (March 1872, September 1879). In 1880, he was also asked to preach in several outside parishes (Pecos, San Miguel, Albuquerque). He participated in numerous celebrations, processions and festivals, especially during the ten last years of his life. These are but some of the things one finds in the archives of the archdioceses of Santa Fe and which were additional to the activities of any priest.
Bussières (Auvergne) where P. Eguillon was born.
Furthermore, for the recruitment of clergy, Pierre Éguillon was sent several times by his bishop to France to look for priests, seminarists, and teachers qualified to run the schools (1854, 1873/74, 1887). Ever since his first trip, he returned with Abbot Jean-Baptiste Salpointe, native of Saint-Maurice-Près-Pionsat (Puy-de-Dôme). Since 1866, the latter, Vicar-General of the diocese, as a replacement of Jean Macheboeuf, will be appointed bishop of the apostolic vicarage of Arizona, September 25, 1868 while Macheboeuf just became head of the apostolic vicarage of Colorado (August 16, 1868).
In terms of administration, one finds, among other things, Éguillon’s involvement in multiple purchases or sales of land, buildings and furniture. He was member of the Board of Directors of the Vincent Hospital. More generally, since Bishop Lamy often went on pastoral rounds to distant and unsafe regions, or in search of financial supports for his diocese, it was our Bussières native who was responsible for the day-to-day decision making and management of the diocese. Thus, to take an example, when the Rio Grande flooded, he organized basic food supply to the poorest segment of the population.
At the same time, a new urgency emerged, and which was to become a major preoccupation of Éguillon. It was a project conceived by Bishop Lamy ever since the early days after his arrival at Santa Fe. It will become the big project of Éguillon’s life. The severely dilapidated state of the old buildings of the Parroquia, the main church of the town, built in fragile bricks baked in the sun (adobe), did not fail to worry the Bishop. Moreover, the inability of this edifice to welcome all the faithful was painfully obvious. For Lamy, this gross inadequacy only reinforced his conviction of the indisputable need to realize his dream: construct a real, strongly built cathedral, a monument worthy of his diocese. The ambition and the demands of the prelate were not slight once the decision in principle was made: the church was to be as much as possible in the style of Roman churches in Auvergne, and no doubt also of the cathedral of Clermont. It was then that Pierre Éguillon, rector of the cathedral, was called to the rescue.
1859, VOYAGE OF PIERRE ÉGUILLON TO CLERMONT
In the spring of 1852, on his way to the first plenary reunion of American bishops in Baltimore, Bishop Lamy had stopped over in Bardstown (Kentucky) to obtain agreement with the sisters of Our Lady of Loretto on the recruitment of reinforcements. Six nuns, one of whose objectives was to develop a novitiate and the teaching of young girls, joined the Bishop on his return convoy.
Even before being on the trail to Santa Fe, one of the nuns, Mother Mathilda, their superior, died of cholera. Two others also fell ill. Despite it all, as from the following January, the three surviving sisters were able to start a new class. It was important to speedily assist them so that they could respond to the increasing demand from families for the instruction of their young daughters.
Having obtained the permission to sell the ancient chapel in the center of Santa Fe, Bishop Lamy was able to purchase a plot of land alongside church San Miguel so as to construct a college. What still remained to do was to find instructors. Pierre Éguillon was given that mission and left for France. It would seem that in Paris the Superior General of the Christian Brothers (« Frères des écoles chrétienne ») showed no eagerness to assist him. However, the visiting Brother of the district of Clermont supported his request, and finally in August 1859, several Brothers, all from the region of Clermont, were authorized to join the new group of clergymen bound for New Mexico.
In his memoirs, Jean- Baptiste Salpointe recorded that Pierre Éguillon was authorized to talk to young seminarists and their professors, thanks to the excellent souvenir they had of him at Clermont. His discussions describing the heavy tasks of the priests in his diocese left a major impression: “Every day they have to travel on horseback in any kind of weather, on roads overrun by hostile Indians. Despite this, they do not manage to visit their entire parish once a month”. Dedication to evangelical missions was an important motivator in XIXth century France. With the consent of their bishop, eight among his audience were convinced to follow him. Among them, always from the Puy-de-Dôme, was Abbot Jean-Baptiste Salpointe, then vicar in Sallèdes, a small village in the mountains, next to Menat. He was to become the successor of Jean-Baptiste Lamy, as archbishop of Santa Fe.
Always under the shepherd’s crook of Pierre Éguillon were fathers François Jouvenceau, native of Romagnat, Benoît Bernard of Saillant, and Pierre Martin of Charensat. These were joined by the Brothers of the Christian Brothers Schools which we just mentioned.
Thanks to the writings of Salpointe, we have some details of their voyage. The new missionaries boarded the steamship Ariel at Le Havre, on the English Channel, on August 17, 1859. They reached New York City in 14 days. There, Brother Auguste, another Christian Brother from the town community, joined them. After that, it was by train to St. Louis (Missouri) where they stayed at the Brothers’ college. From there they boarded one of these famous river boats to Kansas City (Kansas), at the time a small market town which Salpointe had characterized as “small village”. Finally, on the trail to Santa Fe, they started their crossing of the great plains, whose inhabitants were principally Comanches, nomadic tribes, frequently on the move looking for new hunting grounds.
The Santa Fe trail(s).
Bishop Lamy had sent two guides and two wagons to meet them. Pierre Éguillon obtained three additional similar vehicles. In view of risk of attacks from Indians, our small group of French religious men joined a convoy bound for the west. It was understood that there would be only two meals per day during the voyage. Responsible for the group, Éguillon gave each a task: two were responsible for the kitchen (bread making turns out to be the most difficult, which is not surprising given the exacting demands of the French in this respect); two to gather wood; two to obtain water; and for the others, in teams of two, to guard the camp, each team in a two-hour shift.
Thus, it was a caravan of 20 wagons and 80 men whose security from attack lay solely in their number, which undertook to cross the great central plains of America. This convoy, always under the guidance of our native from Bussières, this highly anticipated reinforcement of religious men finally reached Santa Fe, 71 days after its departure from Le Havre.
The boys’ school created by these Brothers coming from Clermont, was soon successful, such that one had to envisage the construction of a college worthy of such a name. As of 1875, they appealed to the generous disposition of the population which enabled them to collect a sum sufficient to launch an invitation to tender. At the start of 1878, the works were awarded to two Frenchmen, Quintien Monier (1853-1923), from Aigueperse in 1874, and François-Guillaume Coulloudon (1855-1918), who arrived in 1872. From 1879, they delivered dormitories and classrooms. This rapid installation was intended to surpass similar but rival efforts of Methodist and Presbyterian communities, as was already the case in Albuquerque. In the same spirit, Father Defouri points out that Pierre Éguillon even financed out of his own funds an instructor for the community of Indian pueblos of Tesuque, a dozen kilometers north of Santa Fe. According to him, this experience was crowned with success.
Without any subsidy from the Federal Government, the Catholic community managed, despite everything, to run this college, and even created several others, in the years to come, for the communities in Taos, Mora, Bernanillo, etc.
As we have said, during the travels of his bishop, Pierre Éguillon was directly responsible for the administration of his diocese. It was the case when, Bishop Lamy was absent from Santa Fe during a whole year (August 1866-August 1867), when he was asked to participate in the second plenary reunion of bishops at Baltimore, after which he went on for another time to Rome and to Clermont. Our Bussières native was often called upon, either as a celebrant or an assistant to the celebrant, during the grand ceremonies at the cathedral or the processions of Corpus-Christi. Thus, when Bishop Lamy returned from his long voyage in 1866-67, after having been escorted by more than 200 cavalrymen for already more than twenty kilometers; greeted by the music of the School of the Christian Brothers, by other small orchestras, and by a crowd that came to welcome him; he was solemnly received at the entrance of the cathedral, by Pierre Éguillon in the name of the entire clergy of his diocese. On October 29, 1884, Éguillon assisted Bishop Salpointe, coadjutor Bishop of Santa Fe, during the ceremonies and the pontifical mass to celebrate the silver jubilee of the College of Christian Brothers of Santa Fe. Finally, in 1873, Éguillon went back to France to recruit two seminarists, Julien Blanchot and Jean-Baptiste Gallon, who were to arrive in Santa Fe on November 12, 1874.
Pierre Éguillon is mentioned in two important ceremonies. First, June 16, 1875, when Bishop Salpointe returned the pallium to Bishop Lamy, on the occasion of the latter’s consecration as archbishop of Santa Fe. Then, after the reading of the Gospel, it was Pierre Éguillon who delivered the homily in Spanish, a language, which it seemed, he mastered better than English. In addition, he presided over the blessing of the Chapel of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto. Was he thinking of the Holy Chapels of Aigueperse and Riom, to which it resembles so much?
The role of Pierre Éguillon, in the service of Bishop Lamy, reached its climax in his management of the building of the new cathedral.
THE GREAT PROJECT: THE NEW CATHEDRAL OF SANTA FE.
Although Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico, a simple look at the whole town where everything is in dried clay, except for the palace of the governor, is enough to understand that, at that time, one cannot locally find bricklayers, hewers of stones, and competent sculptors, indispensable for building a cathedral. The experience of local workers only went as far as building walls made of mud, plastered over brittle bricks made of clay and straw, dried in the sun.
Besides, which local architect could conceive of a building comparable to those which Bishop Lamy wanted to use as models? Even the palace of governors, in the center of Santa Fe, culminated only on a ground floor covered with a terrace. One had thus to look elsewhere for required technical competencies.
In Bishop Lamy’s mind, the cathedral project must reflect, what he has always known in his youth, the Romanesque style of churches in Auvergne. It is therefore nothing surprising that he went to look for artisans in his native region; the more so because the American architect originally selected had to be rapidly dismissed, after conceptual errors became evident when erecting the foundation. During his voyage to France in 1869/70, Lamy contracted a master stonecutter and architect from Volvic, Antoine Mouly, who, with his son Projectus (in French : Priest), also a stonecutter, had to start the project from scratch and redesigned it on the basis of drawings which the bishop had given him. These “experts” left France just before the start of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870; so that the works could then start. Many aspects of the architecture of the cathedral remind one -and should one be surprised?—of the projects of the churches of Volvic, by the diocesan architect (since 1849) Armand Mallay (1805-1883), of Clermont, Saint-Flour and Le-Puy; or the polychromy of Roman art of Auvergne (church of Our Lady of the Port in Clermont, Our Lady of the Annunciation of Le Puy-en-Velay, basilic of St. Julian-of-Brioude, etc.)
All this was not without vicissitudes. In March 1879, some steps from the cathedral, François Mallet was assassinated by Michel Lamy, a nephew of Bishop Lamy. This young man who suspected that Mallet was the lover of his young and pretty wife, was convicted but he was soon released on the basis that he was victim of a “temporary insanity”. The position of his uncle, the archbishop, whose rank was not lost on the local civil and military authorities, was certainly not irrelevant for this clemency. Nowadays, one can certainly not fail to notice in the middle of the catholic cemetery of Santa Fe, the spectacular white marble sepulchral vault of this “temporary insane” assassin. It stands in contrast to the nearby modest tombs of the priests and nuns of the same cemetery.
In 1882, the construction company Monier and Macheboeuf, otherwise actively operating in the region of Santa Fe, was awarded the contract to complete the construction of the cathedral and to demolish the old church, the Parroquia. To continue to have access to a church to conduct operations, the idea was to construct the new church around the Parroquia. The old church was thus not destroyed until 1884, after the installation of the covering of the new nave as it served as its scaffolding. They then called upon the people to clear away the debris in the front of the main entrance of the new cathedral and spread them on the banks of the little river that crossed the town, the Santa Fe River.
In 1884, Salpointe was named as the coadjutor Bishop of Santa Fe. On August 8, 1885, he confirmed Pierre Éguillon in his functions as Vicar General of the diocese. In November 1885, Bishop Salpointe was consecrated Archbishop of Santa Fe. The new cathedral, the construction of which had already started in November 1869, was still not completed in 1888, when J-B Lamy died. The archives of the archdiocese of Santa Fe showed the frequent intervention of Pierre Éguillon in the management of the contracts issued for this construction. Without any doubt, the supervision of the construction works, and the day-to-day administration of the project constituted a major use of his time.
Even if the influence of Roman art of Auvergne is unquestionable, still there are these two towers unknown in Auvergne, added to the angles of the façade –befitting the cathedral! Also unknown in the Roman style, and decorated with ionic cornices, are these towers which according to the initial design, were capped with octagonal storeys in the manner of baroque-style spires with diameters that diminished the higher one got, resembling designs one finds more often in Mexico. Another source of inspiration is sometimes put forward: The cathedral of Clermont, a gothic structure. Its soaring spires were decided and built only in the XIXth century by Viollet-le-duc (1814-1879). The bulk of the construction started in Clermont in 1866 to be completed only in 1884; the construction period corresponding to the time when the cathedral of Santa Fe was being built.
When Bishop Lamy went through Clermont for the last time, at the end of 1877, the project of Viollet-le-duc was known, but the plan for the spires intended for Santa Fe were of a totally different style, a style that was then current in Mexico, like the metropolitan cathedral of Chihuahua. It is therefore difficult to find architectural similarities between the two cathedrals. Gothic in Clermont and mostly Romanesque in Santa Fe. Besides, we know of this initial project of spires for Santa Fe thanks to a drawing: it may be due to financing issues, that the supplementary storeys for the towers were never built. If there are a number of architectural features that reminds one of Roman Auvergne, a range of different styles are also brought together in the cathedral of Santa Fe. The total cost of this building and its decorations was enormous. In researching the financing, Defouri indicates that much of it came from sacrifices made by Bishop Lamy and Pierre Éguillon.
In terms of another relation to his native county, one must note the contract that Pierre Éguillon had in 1884, with the glass painters of Clermont, of Felix Gaudin’s company, for the making of the stained glass windows depicting the twelve apostles. Despite the distance, the transshipments and the customs checkpoints, which worried the sender, these obviously fragile works arrived without mishap to Santa Fe; and are still standing today in the cathedral. The mail exchanges of Pierre Éguillon with his family; with Father Paulet, who had to return to his native village Mirefleurs because of ill health; with Felix Gaudin who was managing the Clermont workshop, Vitraux d’Art; show the meticulousness with which the Vicar General monitored this project. In the chapel of our Lady of Loretto, one can also find stained glass windows signed by Charles des Granges who from 1870-77, managed the Clermont workshop of Louis de Carbonnel. It is this glass painting workshop, that Felix Gaudin had bought back in August 1879.
THE REMAINS OF PIERRE ÉGUILLON REST IN THE CRYPT OF THE CATHEDRAL OF SANTA FE
The remains of the first Archbishop of the diocese of Santa Fe, Jean-Baptiste Lamy, deceased on February 14, 1888, now rest in the sealed crypt at the center of the cathedral, the construction of which he initiated and was responsible for. The funeral service was presided by Bishop Salpointe, assisted by his Vicar General, Pierre Éguillon, in the presence of the other priests of the diocese.
J-B Salpointe, new Archbishop of Santa Fe, indicates that on February 19, 1891, the Very Reverend Pierre Éguillon, Vicar General and Rector of the cathedral, presided over the benediction of new buildings of the archbishopric. On June 16 of the same year, our native of Bussières, assisted in the benediction of the private chapel of Bishop Salpointe.
Given the last sacraments, the very reverend Pierre Éguillon died on July 21, 1892, in Saint Vincent Hospital of Santa Fe, an institution of which he was one of the administrators. He was 72 years old. He had been rector (of the old and the new cathedral) for 33 years.
On July 26, in the presence of a big crowd, the funeral service, which was attended by some thirty priests, was presided by Placide La Chapelle, Coadjutor Bishop of Santa Fe, in the presence of Bishop Salpointe. The funeral oration recounted how much the first two archbishops of Santa Fe, J-B Lamy and Salpointe, had relied on Pierre Éguillon for the construction of the cathedral; as well as for the development of the Saint Michael College and the academy (also called “industrial school”) of the Sisters of our Lady of Loretto. A modest article in the local paper, the Daily Mexican of July 22, also recounted: the death; the ceremony; as well as the pre-eminent role of Pierre Éguillon in the creation of Saint Michael College and the academy of the Sisters of our Lady of Loretto; in the construction of the cathedral; and “above all, in the establishment of a parish that had no equal in the Southwest”.
It will not be until three years later, on October 18, 1895, the next day after the return of the pallium of Bishop Chapelle, 3rd Archbishop of Santa Fe, native of Lozère, that ceremonies to consecrate the cathedral were to take place, in the full presence of archbishops and bishops coming from the four corners of the United States.
Pierre Éguillon had made his will concerning the distribution of his possessions in the Puy-de-Dôme and New Mexico. In a correspondence with a notary public in Aigueperse on May 22, 1885, it seems that the possessions which he inherited from his parents, he bequeathed to his brother and sisters. His possessions in New Mexico were bequeathed in his will of February 11, 1887, in the following manner:
The small houses along the river of Santa Fe, south of the garden of the archbishopric, to Bishop Salpointe. The rent from these houses are to finance the teaching of the young destined for priesthood.
The prairie near the hospital [ …] for Bishop Salpointe for the parish (rector of the cathedral) averaging 20 masses per year for himself and for the peace of other poor souls;
The furniture to his successor as rector of the cathedral, averaging 100 masses for the peace of his soul to be conducted during the six months after his death. This furniture is not to be sold and should stay in the parish as long as it is usable;
The books to Bishop Salpointe;
The dairy cow to Bishop Salpointe;
The horse and buggy to Abbot Michel Rolly , averaging 10 masses « for the peace of my soul »;
The 100 heads of sheep owed to him by Tomas Montano of [illegible]; 8 or 9 oxen that are owed to him by José Cruz Chavez de Galisteo, to the rectors of the cathedral, averaging 100 masses « for the peace of my soul ».
Finally, the archives of the archbishopric of Santa Fe also hold a letter, dated August 6, 1892, by Gabriel de La Codre, notary public of Aigueperse, requesting information with a view to the liquidation of the French portion of the inheritance.
STRONG IMPRINT OF THE FRENCH CLERGY
The higher echelons of the catholic church could discern in Jean-Baptiste Lamy an energetic person, with a forceful character and a strong will. After his initial spending of 12 years in Ohio and Kentucky, they did not hesitate to entrust him, with what turned out to be a real renewal of faith, on the religious front, of the populations of this vast territory covering New Mexico, Arizona, and a portion of Colorado. French catholic personnel (clergy, works of the missions) and especially the diocese of Clermont, gave them precious assistance, even without keeping count, in terms of priests, seminarists, and nuns. Some were even accompanied by their parents.
In contrast to other missions launched in other parts of the world, this mission was not founded on new congregations specially developed for the purpose. Quite the contrary: from the beginning, as of the early 1850s, the missions in New Mexico were based on largely rural secular clergy. The few incursions of Jesuit missions were relatively brief, except for the Jesuit intervention as of 1857 in Albuquerque.
In 1846, the arrival of some protestant families following the United States assuming control of this territory, was considered by the Catholic Church a serious threat in a country long evangelized by the Spanish. In 1850, from the start, the coming of Bishop Lamy, his friend Projectus Macheboeuf, followed by missionaries from Auvergne, were well regarded by the Federal authorities of the United States. With the departure of Spanish Franciscans at the time of Mexican independence, the very distant Bishop of Durango, 1600 kilometers south of Santa Fe (more than five weeks on horseback), was nominally in charge of this region, but had in fact abandoned it. What was true for the church, was also true for civil administration. From 1821 to 1846, the administration of this distant New Mexico, was abandoned by the new republic of Mexico, which was too much preoccupied with endless power struggles in its capital, Mexico City.
It is therefore not surprising that the population of this region, has been accustomed to self-government, enjoying quasi autonomy. Besides, was it really aware that it belonged to a Mexico that had become independent? Incapable of organizing its own defense, the governor of this territory, more interested in commerce than in the management of the country, accommodated the Federal troops from Missouri when they presented themselves. Santa Fe was occupied without any resistance. To win over the population, General Kearny, commanding the American troops, emphasized that he will not change local customs; that there will be no looting; that private property and that the religion in force will be respected. To facilitate the transition to a new administration of the territory, Kearny had even made provision to be accompanied by a Spanish speaking Catholic priest.
Plateau near Socorro (NM).
Its status as territory and not as state, implied that its administration was to be determined by the Federal administration from Washington. This process of partial assimilation relied on the newly appointed Bishop Lamy whose sober and puritanical style was a break from the bad habits of independence and the taking of liberties with religion of certain remaining Spanish speaking priests. His energetic application of proper Christian moral principles was certainly appreciated by the Anglo-American administrators who were more accustomed to scrupulous moral precepts, not to say, puritanical.
From the beginning of the 1830s, the American Catholic bishops, had anticipated the probable arrival of Protestant missionaries coming from the east of the United States. Such arrival was inevitable, although not imminent. As soon as he arrived in Santa Fe, Jean–Baptiste Lamy considered it urgent to take under control this territory by dispatching priests to abandoned parishes. He launched the construction or reconstruction of 45 churches. All the same, given the lack of schools, he saw the value of developing, without waiting, and under his close control, the teaching of children, boys and girls. It is clear that the arrival of Europeans from the religious establishment was favorably viewed upon by the new civil and military authorities. Besides, it was not rare to see officers from small forts situated far from the State capital have cavalry platoons accompany him during his pastoral visits in regions considered dangerous. Probably, on several occasions, his life was saved by such protection.
In order to obtain the absolutely necessary financial and human resources, he never stopped to insist to the Holy See and to French religious authorities, in his correspondence and during his visits to the old continent, on the importance of the Protestant threat which he considered severe. The exaggeration was glaring, which is corroborated by the correspondence in 1852 of a Federal Government representative who mentioned that there was only one Methodist household in Santa Fe, which “until now, had neither succeeded to convert even a single resident nor attract more than a dozen or so of listeners to his sermons”. In subsequent years, it would seem that Baptist missionaries who followed him were not more successful.
The efforts at conviction of Bishop Lamy, and his reinforcements from Auvergne, Bishop Macheboeuf, Bishop Salpointe, and his Very Reverend Pierre Éguillon were all not in vain. From the first days, the support given by Bishop Féron of Clermont was outstanding. With pomp and circumstance, Catholic teaching of the vicarage was put in place from Santa Fe by the energetic nuns of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto; followed soon after, by the Brothers of Christian Schools. If we do not know exactly the total financial resources that Bishop Lamy had at his disposal, we know they were substantial. One only needs to consider the numerous real estate investments that were undertaken over the span of less than forty years: fixing up churches and chapels; constructing lodgings for priests and convents for nuns; and including erecting the magnificent cathedral.
Apart from the brief tentative of 1853, the first time Protestantism burst onto the scene in New Mexico, found our native of Bussières, Pierre Éguillon in the Fall of 1857, in the miserable parish of Socorro. He had to confront the evangelizing attempt of a Baptist missionary named John M. Shaw. He succeeded in forming a congregation of 22 members. Soon after, a new arrival from his native Auvergne, priest Augustin Truchard, the successor to Éguillon, witnessing the increasing success of the Protestant congregation, took matters in hand and the confrontation became more serious. We are at a period during which the Church in France, especially the masters of the seminaries in Clermont, did not prepare him to accept such rivalry. In any case, this attempt by the Baptists was localized. The Protestants did not succeed being too much of North American style for populations of Spanish culture. It will only be towards the end of the 1860s, when competing schools were being set up, that Protestants slowly gained a footing in New Mexico. As of 1873, free public schools were beginning to be financed by local taxes. Although in more than half the counties of the territory, Catholics were in charge of the administration of the schools, the competition became more serious. In any case, ever since his arrival to New Mexico and Arizona and until his death, the spread of Protestantism was a dominant preoccupation for Bishop Lamy, and for his successor, Bishop Salpointe.
Benefitting from the support (active or passive) of local authorities of the region when still an administered territory, the increasing Americanization of New Mexico did not really impact on the dominant position and the financing of the Catholic clergy. The relative independence of local administration in decision making made it possible to maintain this advantage. However, this situation was not completely independent of the delay taken by the United States Congress to integrate New Mexico as a new State. In fact, as of that time, public financing of the Church and its schools by the Federal Government was not possible. It would seem that the French clergy of New Mexico and Arizona who with great anxiety, had learnt the political and material consequences of the French laws on the separation of church and state, had done everything in their power to discreetly delay the occurrence of a comparable situation in their region. In fact, these territories became States of the United States: for New Mexico as the 47th State not until January 1912, and a month later, as the 48th State for Arizona.
The rigorous religious education received from the French seminaries by the priests from France, of whom some 30 were from the Puy-de-Dôme alone (Bishop Macheboeuf even characterized New Mexico as ‘small Auvergne’), as well as the style in which they built or rebuilt parish churches, and particularly the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, leave very visible legacies of Auvergne in these Southwest American regions. One will not be astonished therefore that the tiny station, situated some 20 kilometers south of Santa Fe, through which stops daily the Amtrak railway line linking Los Angeles to Chicago, is still named after the first Archbishop of the diocese: “Lamy”.
SOME CONCLUDING REMARKS …
In the middle of the XIXth century, Pierre Éguillon, a young priest, son of a farm family in Bussières, settled abroad in a distant and inhospitable region in the American southwest. Trusted by Bishop Lamy, he was at first a simple parish priest in a small parish lost in the desert between Santa Fe and the Mexican border. Then, rector of the principal parish of Santa Fe and Vicar-General, he assisted without any break, the two first archbishops, themselves natives of the Puy-de-Dôme, in the administration of their new diocese. He was involved in the development of a major architectural work, in many respects inspired by his native Auvergne, the cathedral of Santa Fe. An article which appeared after his death, recounted his severe style, but also his noble heart, his generosity, his wisdom and his gift for appeasing quarrels.
The old indian village of Taos in the mountains, North of Santa Fe (NM).
Nevertheless, as is often concerning church matters, internal inter-personal problems remain hidden and are buried as deeply as possible. Only some scattered indices hint of their existence. In fact, the history of New Mexico, in the second half of the XIXth century, is not free of diverse tensions. With the arrival of the bishop, the apostolic vicar and following him, missionaries coming from a different continent with a view of taking control of the region, rather difficult adjustments of a cultural nature had to be undertaken. On one hand, French culture with Sulpician priests accustomed to the authority within a hierarchy as well as strict observance of dogma and religious practice; and on the other hand, solidly anchored more flexible traditions resulting from the remoteness this region found itself for a long time from religious and political Mexican authorities. These more accommodating local customs could not but clash with the right-minded Catholic way of bourgeois thinking and Sulpician rigor acquired in France. This phenomenon, largely ignored in most French and Anglo Saxon writing—Defouri, Salpointe, Horgan, etc.—is evident in the writings of Angelico Chavez, a Spanish language historian, a native of New Mexico. Brother Chavez is a historian recognized for his competence and genuineness. Pillar of the National History of Santa Fe, the library of the National History Museum of Santa Fe was named after him. Having full access to the archives of the archdiocese, he was able to examine in detail all the documents. In his work on the eventful history of Father Martinez, priest of Taos in the mountains of New Mexico, Brother Chavez analyzed the often tense relationships between this priest in the field and Bishop Lamy as largely the result of misunderstanding between two cultures. According to the same author, some information, often false or exaggerated, on still existing customs of some religious men in New Mexico, seemed to have been instilled in the minds of Lamy and Macheboeuf even before their arrival to Santa Fe. Brother Chavez elaborates on a thesis based on the lack of cultural understanding between Bishop Lamy, and even more so with Macheboeuf and this pastor Martinez, a native full of himself, and proud of his successes in evangelizing this northern part of New Mexico. For the ones as for the other, their remoteness, in fact their near total isolation from their religious superiors, whether they be Mexican, American or Roman, did not enable them to regain their calm composure. The final solution of Bishop Lamy was brutal: the ex-communication of Chavez, an ex-communication which may be justified in the eyes of the church, but not, even until today, in the eyes of a number of the local non-European populations.
More broadly, the negative a priori resulting from a reputation of loose morals and hidden alcoholism which would characterize some priests somewhat abandoned in New Mexico after the Mexican Revolution and the arrival of the Americans, was behind the appeal launched by J-B Lamy for an army of French priests. After hardly landing in these inhospitable deserts and mountains from their Auvergne, their mission was to take back under control these parishes abandoned by the Spaniards. It would seem, that, on several occasions, their arrival was not welcomed, evidently, by priests still in their posts but were being dismissed, and also by the parishioners who did not understand the underlying reason. Chavez thinks that this bad reputation was imparted to Bishop Lamy by the Bishop of Galveston whom he met shortly before he arrived in Santa Fe. But it is also possible that the Sulpician training that Bishop Lamy underwent also could not but predispose him to this prejudice. Even worse, this opinion was held by Projectus Macheboeuf who viewed his holy mission to be the putting in order of the diocese in the form of frequent field visits which he himself decided to carry out during the long and frequent absences of his bishop.
In this context, the dispatch of Pierre Éguillon to Socorro was without doubt due to some uneasiness of mind. All evidence points to such uneasiness, as he must have received the mission to counteract the first attempt of a Protestant congregation to insert itself in the parish shortly before his arrival. Indeed, was it not to counteract such an invasion, that Bishop Purcell undertook the journey from Cincinatti to Clermont Ferrand to seek reinforcements?
The first steps of our Auvergne natives was thus not without anxiety. However, it would seem, that very quickly, the establishment of schools for girls at first, and then for boys, as well as the repair of churches and the creation of hospitals run by nuns who were themselves brought over by Bishop Lamy, were valued by the population. More generally, the training of priests from Auvergne, although in the strict environment of the Sulpician seminary of Clermont Ferrand, probably explains the appreciation of the population, if one compares their style with the memory of the “vigorous” proselytism of the previous Spanish Franciscans. Everything is relative…This may have calmed down the initial tensions between the natives, the Amerindians, Mexicans and our natives from Puy-de-Dôme. Besides, Brother Chavez willingly recognizes this evolution. One can then ask oneself why, given the remarkable results obtained under such difficult circumstances by J-B Lamy and his army of priests, procedures for the beatification of the prelate was not attempted after his death. Even if one does not consider hagiographic writings of Defouri and Salpointe about him, the vigor with which he gained control of Catholicism in this Southwest American region, with typically Sulpician inspiration, could also be appreciated by the princes of the Church.
What was the real impact of our priests from Auvergne on the evangelism of New Mexico? The radical methods of their Spanish predecessors had largely annihilated ancient tribal beliefs. It is curious, that until the appointment of Bishop Salpointe to the archdiocese, assisted by Father Jouvenceau, the writings do not mention the conversion of Indians to Christianity. In 1884, Defouri estimated that 12,000 Indian pueblos could be considered Catholic in New Mexico. The impact of the presence of our French priests on native Amerindian populations is, until now, still difficult to assess. Each pueblo community, has its own, generally, well-maintained church to be sure; but since the epoch of conquistadors, traditional beliefs had no other option but to be celebrated in private. A 2014 research by the Pew Center estimated that 34 percent of the population of New Mexico declared themselves Catholic, against an average of 20.8 percent for the rest of the United States.
Despite the difficulties of their relationships with the population of New Mexico, the courage and determination of these priests from Auvergne were remarkable. Pierre Éguillon assumed an important role in the missionary intervention of this army of priests. Until today, the cathedral erected in the administrative capital of the State, is still a surprising and magnificent testimony. Gratitude to the Very Reverend Father Éguillon, shown by the Catholic Church, by the local political authorities, and by the population is expressed in the decision to place his vault in the crypt next to Bishop Lamy, in the very choir of his dear cathedral. Coming from his Limagne, a narrow but fertile plain in the Central mountains of France, to this American Far West, in his real pioneer wagons, his true Indians, his cavalry and their traditions, even if he remained in the shadow of the very energetic Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the journey of Pierre Éguillon will have certainly left its mark on New Mexico.
Waiting for the Los Angeles-Chicago Amtrak, the author in the one and only saloon, across from Lamy railway station.