Rev. Charles B. Maguire Monument, St. Mary’s Cemetery

Maguire statue
Charles B. Maguire monument

DIED JULY 17, 1833.


This monument, with portrait statue, stands in the clergy section of St. Mary’s Cemetery. Father Maguire died before the cemetery opened, and was buried in Allegheny until better accommodations could be found for him. The monument is in the style of the late 1800s.

When Father Maguire came to Pittsburgh in 1820, it was largely a Presbyterian and Methodist city, but with a growing population of Irish and German Catholics. His cosmopolitan education—supposedly he spoke seventeen languages—made him a celebrity in the rapidly growing city. As the Catholic population grew, Father Maguire founded a second congregation for them—the one that later became St. Paul’s Cathedral, which stood on Grant Street until the diocese sold it to Henry Frick and moved the cathedral to Oakland.

One obituary seems to be the main source of details on Maguire’s life. It was printed in the American Manufacturer, a paper published in Pittsburgh. Msgr. A. A. Lambing, the Catholic historian, excerpts it in his History of the Catholic Church in the Dioceses of Pittsburg and Allegheny (1880); we found the whole thing reprinted in The Jesuit at the Boston College Libraries site.


[From the Pittsburgh Manufacturer.]

The Rev. Charles B. Maguire.

This venerable clergyman died on last Wednesday evening, (July [17, 1833]) about five o’clock, at his residence in this city. He had been unwell for some weeks, and on last Friday, 12th inst., was attacked by a diarrhoea, which progressed until Monday without medical aid, and terminated his existence on Wednesday. He had been subjected to dysentery at this season for some years, which we learn was the reason he deferred calling in medical aid, supposing that it would disappear as usual. On Wednesday night at nine o’clock, his body was removed in an open coffin to the Catholic chapel, where it remained, dressed in the vestment robes of the Catholic priesthood, until eleven o’clock, A. M. of Thursday, when it was taken to the Convent of the Sisters of the Order of St. Clair, on the hill above Alleghany-town, and deposited in the grave yard of the Order, until the Catholic church now built shall be finished, when his removal to a vault prepared for the purpose under the church is contemplated. From the time his death was announced, crowds of citizens thronged the house, and when his body was removed to the church, numbers remained with it during the night, and until the time of its burial next day, most of which time was spent in the performance of the Catholic ceremonies for the dead. The concourse of citizens that attended the funeral was probably twice as large as on any funeral occasion ever occurring in this city. Its length was about one mile —its number exceeded three thousand. All religious classes joined in paying the last tribute of respect to the remains of one so well known and so universally beloved.

From the degree of celebrity which the deceased possessed, created by his untiring devotion to his clerical duties, his distinguished acquirements as a scholar, his amiable qualities as a friend and companion, a biography of him would we know be acceptable to bur readers. If we can obtain it we will be happy to publish it; in the meantime we will attempt to sketch a few of the principal events of his very eventful life.

Charles Bonaventure Maguire was born near the town of Dungannon in the county Tyrone, Ireland, in the year 1768, and was descended from a very ancient and respectable family, residing principally in the county Fermanagh. From an early age he was destined for the Priesthood, and received the rudiments of an education for that purpose in the land of his nativity. His studies were completed in Louvain of Brabant, a city in the Netherlands, celebrated for its colleges, and its learned men. Here he was ordained in 1788, and practised the duties of his holy office, for the space of seven years in various parts of the Netherlands and in Germany. During this period he acquired a remarkably correct knowledge of the German language, using it in nearly all his public discourses from the pulpit. It was during this period that the French revolution commenced in 1787, raged in all its violence throughout France. Its fury extended to-the Netherlands, and among other places to Louvain, where the subject of our sketch principally resided. He was among the clergy, who, in defence of their own rights, and the interests of religion, took part with the French government against the revolutionists. For this he in common with the rest of the clergy were proscribed and their lives forfeited.

On one occasion he was seized and dragged towards the guillotine, when a cooper who knew him, heroically attacked with an edged instrument of his trade, the persons who had him in custody, and effected his rescue. He fled and escaped, but not until he had witnessed the massacre of his noble-souled and lion-hearted deliverer, who was instantly cut to pieces by the infuriated insurgents. From Louvain he escaped to the city of Rome, where he remained for six years in the performance of his clerical duties. He left that city at the time that the armed legions of Napoleon tyrannized over the Pope and his adherents throughout Italy. He then travelled over most of the continent of Europe, making observations on every thing worthy of notice, doing good and creating warm and distinguished friends in every place he visited. In 1815, he was engaged, by the king of Bohemia, to perform a religious office towards a member of the royal family of that house, who was at Brussels in the Netherlands. In the performance of this mission it so happened that he reached that city just at the time of the memorable battle of Waterloo. The field of battle was only fourteen miles from Brussels, so that the wounded and the dying, as they were carried into the city from the scene of conflict came under his notice. To many of these he performed the last rites of the Catholic church for the dying. Immediately after the battle he traversed the ground and witnessed the horrible sights that told so plainly of the carnage of that dreadful conflict. We have often heard him speak of fragments of military equipments which he there collected, and which he preserved as relics of the scene.

Shortly after this period he started for America, and reached our shores in His pastoral duties began immediately on his arrival in this country. Though not regularly stationed, for nearly a year after his arrival he officiated in his clerical character constantly.

He was then stationed as pastor of a congregation in Westmoreland county, where he remained only little more than one year, when he was selected to watch over the spiritual interests of the Catholics of this city and vicinity. We have now come to a period of his life where, if our readers were confined to Pittsburgh alone, we would stop, under the impression that his efforts to promote the interests of the Catholic religion and the welfare of those around him, are too well known to need any kind of illustration. But others may read this, and we therefore proceed with our brief sketch. He arrived here in 1819, when the Catholics of this city were generally poor and not very numerous. With his appearance a new era commenced with the entire body. Religion in him found an expositor and an advocate worthy of herself—and the Catholic body gradually assumed and maintained henceforward, a dignity, a respectability, in the opinions of dissenting Christians which were not allowed them before his arrival. By his eloquence and his untiring exertions in behalf of his faith, many converts were made to the Catholic religion—all of whom we believe at the present day are willing to bear testimony to the efficacious means he used for their conversion. He was the originator and it may be said the architect and builder of the splendid Catholic church on Grant’s Hill, now nearly finished. We mean that he first projected, and afterwards, by unparalleled exertions, raised the means, by soliciting contributions, necessary to its erection thus far.—Well does he deserve a resting place within one of its vaults.

As a man—as a Priest—as a scholar, none knew him but to respect and to love him. He was one among those rare beings who unite the traits of liberality—urbanity and sociableness, with the qualities of a pious Christian and an eminent scholar. Master of four or five languages—well versed in classic lore, he was withal, as simple, as inoffensive, as innocent as a child. His genius and his learning were ever subservient to the interests of his religion. His friendship, his sociableness, his cheerfulness, were always for the happiness of those whom circumstances placed around. Years will roll by “ere we meet again. He was truly a man whom none knew but to love.” Though he has gone the way of all flesh, his deeds, his name, his character will live long in the hearts of those who enjoyed his acquaintance and are capable of appreciating the noble qualities of human nature.

In the above sketch we have not mentioned any of the distinguished honors which he received from various eminent and religious bodies in Europe. These were striking and numerous.

Charles B. Maguire

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