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Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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DEMETRIUS AUGUSTINE GALLITZIN (1770-1840), American Roman Catholic priest, called "The Apostle of the Alleghenies," was born at the Hague on the 22nd of December 1770. His name is a form of Golitsuin (q.v.), the Russian family from which he came. His father, Dimitri Alexeievich Gallitzin (1735-1803), Russian ambassador to Holland, was an intimate friend of Voltaire and a follower of Diderot; so, too, for many years was his mother, Countess Adelheid Amalie von Schmettau (1748-1806), until a severe illness in 1786 led her back to the Roman Catholic church, in which she had been reared. At the age of seventeen he too became a member of that church. His father had planned for him a diplomatic or military career, and in 1792 he was aide-de-camp to the commander of the Austrian troops in Brabant; but, after the assassination of the king of Sweden, he, like all other foreigners, was dismissed from the service. He then set out to complete his education by travel, and on the 28th of October 1792 arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, where he finally decided to enter the priesthood. He was ordained priest in March 1795, being the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in America, and then worked in the mission at Port Tobacco, Maryland, whence he was soon transferred to the Conewago district. His impulsive objection to some of Bishop Carroll's instructions was sharply rebuked, and he was recalled to Baltimore. But in 1796 he removed to Taneytown, Maryland, and in both Maryland and Pennsylvania worked with such misdirected zeal and autocratic manners that he was again reproved by his bishop in 1798. In the Alleghenies, in 1799, he planned a settlement in what is now Cambria county, Pennsylvania, and bought up much land which he gave or sold at low prices to Catholic immigrants, spending $150,000 or more in the purchase of some 20,000 acres in a spot singularly ill suited for such an enterprise. In 1808, after his father's death, he was disinherited by the emperor Alexander I. of Russia "by reason of your Catholic faith and your ecclesiastical profession"; and although his sister Anne repeatedly promised him his half of the valuable estate and sent him money from time to time, after her death her brother received little or nothing from the estate. The priest, who after his father's death had in 1809 discarded the name of Augustine Smith, under which he had been naturalized, and had taken his real name, was soon deeply in debt. No small part was a loan from Charles Carroll, and when Gallitzin was suggested for the see of Philadelphia in 1814, Bishop Carroll gave as an objection Gallitzin's "great load of debt rashly, though for excellent and charitable purposes, contracted." In 1815 Gallitzin was suggested for the bishopric of Bardstown, Kentucky, and in 1827 for the proposed see of Pittsburg, and he refused the bishopric of Cincinnati. He died at Loretto, the settlement he had founded in Cambria county, on tr_° 6th of May 1840. Among his parishioners Gallitzin was a great power for good. His part in building up the Roman Catholic Church in western Pennsylvania cannot be estimated; but it is said that at his death there were 10,000 members of his church in the district where forty years before he had found a scant dozen. One of the villages he founded bears his name. Among his controversial pamphlets are: A Defence of Catholic Principles (1816), Letter to a Protestant Friend on the Holy Scriptures (1820), Appeal to the Protestant Public (1834), and Six Letters of Advice (1834), in reply to attacks on the Catholic Church by a Presbyterian synod.

See Sarah M. Brownson, Life of D. A. Gallitzin, Prince and Priest (New York, 1873); a brief summary of his life by A. A. Lambing in American Catholic Records (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, October 1886, pp. 58-68); and a good bibliography by Thomas C. Middleton in The Gallitzin Memorandum Book, in American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, Researches, vol. 4, pp. 32 sqq.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​d/demetrius-augustine-gallitzin.html. 1910.
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