The Magazine of Marquette University | Fall 2006

 

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Marquette History

THE BEGINNING

These excerpts are taken from a soon-to-be released history of Marquette

MILWAUKEE'S ENTIRE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY seemed to have climbed the steep slopes northwest of the city center. They had gathered to witness the laying of a cornerstone for Marquette College’s first building. It was Aug. 15, 1880, Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven. Placed within the stone were photographs of Pope Leo XIII, Archbishop John Martin Henni (Milwaukee’s prelate) and Rev. Stanislaus Lalumiere (the local Jesuit superior); pictures of St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Aloysius (another Jesuit saint); various medals and coins; a list of principal churches in the diocese; and, finally, the latest map of Milwaukee.


The religious mementos certainly captured the day’s sacred purpose. But this last item, a simple spatial representation of the city, hinted at another emotion stirring within this throng. A quiet, patriotic energy infused the proceedings — quiet, that is, until it burst forth in the keynote address.

Speaking in German, Rev. Leonard Batz, the Milwaukee Diocese’s vicar general, explained how Catholic boys required monitoring even after graduation from the city’s 12 parish schools. At Marquette College, he explained, Milwaukee’s young men would learn how to save their souls through “the science of salvation,” a mainstay of any Jesuit undertaking.
Dr. Thomas Jablonsky, director of the Institute for Urban Life and Harry G. John Professor of Urban Studies, traces 100 years of Marquette history in a book due out in time for the university’s 125th anniversary. Enjoy the first story in a three-part series featuring excerpts from History of Marquette University 1881-1981. Look for more in the Winter and Spring 2007 issues of Marquette Magazine. This book will be published in 2007.
125 Years of Faith and Learning in Action
Click on the image to see uncropped photograph with names of the individuals
 
Marquette's Digital Archives

Father Batz concluded his message with a curt dismissal of what he feared some in the audience felt about this new institution: that it would “be little German, too much Irish.” Rather, he exclaimed, it would be “Catholic American. We are proud to live in this land and we shall make it the object of our lives to be people who are ready to give our property and shed our blood for our faith and American citizenship.”

Registration day

The home for Marquette College was a new four-story red-brick building on the northwest corner of 10th and State streets. ... Intended to accommodate 450 students, the building was 60 feet wide facing State Street and 140 feet deep along 10th Street. Rows of windows along the east and west sides augmented the building’s gas lamps and provided the only ventilation during warm weather. A kitchen, dining area and storerooms were located in the basement, guaranteeing that aromas from meal preparations would slowly waft upward into 14 classrooms, a chapel, the Jesuit apartments and a 400-person assembly hall.

Three Jesuit pioneers moved into their new accommodations in late June (1881), before the building was fully furnished. ... After floors had been swept of construction dust and blackboards installed, registration day, Sept. 5, finally arrived. Staff members were as nervous as the students, according to a firsthand account. The doorbell rang for the first time at 7:30 a.m. Visitors were greeted, registered and passed on to the prefect of study for an evaluation of each student’s competency. Book distribution followed. Young men came from the Third and Fourth wards near St. Gall’s; from the Tory Hill neighbor-hood, the new Irish enclave six blocks away; from the Silver City area of Milwaukee’s South Side; and from as far away as Hales Corners. The staff’s excitement led them to anticipate at least 100 students, perhaps even 150. Within the first 90 minutes, 28 young men enrolled.

Campus shenanigans

The most memorable disciplinary challenge during these early years came a week before Christmas in 1881, only three months after the school opened. Word reached the prefect of study that “parish roughs” from St. Gall’s and some Irish lads from Marquette College were badgering their German classmates when the latter tried to cross the viaduct to the South Side after class. At 8:45 the next morning, the entire student body was assembled before the faculty and the neighborhood watchman. After administrators reviewed the rules of conduct and decried the shame that these engagements brought to the school’s still-evolving reputation, they called out three youngsters who were “severely strapped.” ... A policeman was stationed at the bridge and the ethnic tussles ended. By the next year, a specific admonition in the college catalogue warned that any “gross violation of gentlemanly conduct on the streets” could lead to dismissal. On college property, chewing tobacco, smoking and profanity were forbidden.

 

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