Mount Calvary, WI Church Fire, Dec 1868

The Conflagration of 1868
Mount Calvary Fond du Lac County Wisconsin

The east wing of the monastery had been completed in 1858, the south wing had been added as a college, the church had been built in 1861, and now enlarged by the addition of St. Francis chapel on the south, above which there was ample room for a library and a hall for entertainments.

On January 4th, 1868, the Fathers and clerics entered their new apartments of the west wing, of which the first and second story were ready. The work finished in the late fall of 1868.

December 26th, the community was awoken by the cry of Fire! The building was full of smoke; nobody knew its source. During the night the fire had stealthily crept along between the walls of the east wing, having originated in the sacristy, and it needed only a gust of wind to encircle the whole wing in a mass of flames. The students and their belongings were saved, but little could be rescued from the monastery. The alarm was sounded, and the good villagers joined the Religious and students in making heroic efforts to check the flames.

A calamity of this kind had not been anticipated, and no preparations had been made for such an emergency. The rescuers were able to save the tabernacle of the high alter, the ciorium with the Blessed Sacrament was carried to Mount Carmel chapel. At the other end of the church the women of the parish were ingeniously piling up bricks in front of the door that connected the church to the monastery, and now rightly claim the credit of having saved their church. At the southeastern extremity Peter Schrage was stationed with a crowd of students, and succeeded in saving the granary. The flames rapidly leaped over to the south wing, the walls of which soon tottered and fell; in the meantime they had engulfed the west wing, of which they left nothing but the bare walls.

At daybreak the hill presented a sad appearance; the nave of the church, the granary, the naked walls of the east and west wing and a mass of debris, were all that could be seen besides the disconsolate Capuchins, the unhappy possessors of a large debt, now deprived of their home and completed either to disband or begin anew.

No lives were lost.

Source: The Rise and Progress of the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order in the United States, Published 1907