Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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GALLITZIN, Demetrius Augustine, clergyman, born in the Hague,
Holland, 22 December 1770, died in Loretto, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, 6 May,
1841. His father was Russian ambassador to Holland. The Gallitzin family was one
of the oldest and noblest in Russia, and had always exercised a great and
sometimes a controlling influence in the affairs of that country. The mother of
the young prince was a daughter of Field-Marshal Count yon Schmettau, one of the
favorite generals of Frederick the Great. Both father and mother were admirers
of Voltaire and Diderot, and their son was brought up without religious
In 1786 the princess, after a severe illness,
returned to the Roman Catholic Church, of which she had once been a member. A
year afterward Demetrius also became a Christian, taking the name of Augustine
on his conversion. He served as aide-de-camp to the Austrian general, Van Lilien,
in 1792, in the first campaign against France. Before its close he was
dismissed, the Austrian government having decided to discharge foreign officers.
His parents now wished him to travel, and the
unsettled state of the continent determined them to send Demetrius to the United
States. The Reverend Felix Brosius was appointed his tutor. To avoid the
inconvenience of rank, he took the name of Augustine Sehmettau, which was
afterward Americanized into Smith, and was borne by him for some time after his
ordination. Supplied with letters of introduction from the prince-bishops of
Hildesheim and Paderborn to Bishop Carroll, to whom his mother confided him, he
sailed from Rotterdam, 18 August, 1792.
He arrived in Baltimore on 28 October, shortly
afterward expressed a wish to become a priest, and entered the seminary of St.
Sulpice, Baltimore, with this intention. Both his parents were dissatisfied with
his choice, and his father, who had procured him a commission in the Russian
army, begged him to come home, saying that his becoming a priest would of itself
prevent his succession to the family inheritance.
The young prince, however, persevered, and was
ordained on 18 March, 1795. He was the second priest, ordained in the United
States, and the first who received holy orders in this country, as the Reverend
Theodore Bazin had been made deacon in France before coming to America. Desiring
to remain in the seminary, Father Gallitzin, or Father Smith, as he was then
called, became a member of the order of Sulpicians. But Bishop Carroll, with a
view to recruiting his health, sent him to the mission at Port Tobacco. Finding
that he was not improving, the bishop directed him to go to the extensive
mission of which Conewago was the centre, and at which his friend, Father
Brosius, then was.
His reply to the bishop was of such a
character as to call forth a severe reprimand and a summons to Baltimore. Here
he was placed in charge of all the German Catholics of the City. In 1796 he
entered on the Conewago mission, residing in Taneytown, and visiting several
places in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The zeal of the young priest was not always
according to prudence. His too great haste to correct abuses, and the complaints
made of his arbitrary measures, called forth a second letter of admonition from
Bishop Carroll in 1798.
In 1799 the Roman Catholics of Maguire's
settlement petitioned the bishop for a resident pastor. Father Gallitzin was
appointed, and at once set about the work of establishing a Roman Catholic
colony. The district he selected for this purpose was one of the wildest and
most uncultivated of the Alleghanies, in what is now Cambria County,
Pennsylvania. It contained hardly a dozen Roman Catholic families. In 1800 he
had a Church built of pine logs, the only one between Lancaster and St. Louis.
He bought more than 20,000 acres, and invited settlers, supplying them with
homes on easy terms, and waiting until such time as they would be able to pay
for them. But his expectation of realizing from his inherited estates made him
incur obligations, which for a long time were a source of humiliation and
His father died in 1803, and his relatives in
Russia immediately took possession of the estates. It was thought by his mother
that his presence in Russia would be advantageous to his interests, but no
consideration could prevail on him to leave the settlement he had founded. By
her advice he appointed three noblemen his agents, with full power of attorney
to bring suit against his relatives, while she, in the event of failure, took
steps to secure the property for herself, through her contract of marriage.
He built a village, which he named Loretto, in
1803, on his own land. It is situated about four miles northwest of Cresson
station, on the Pennsylvania railroad, and at the time of his death had a
population of 150. He used his influence to have it made the capital of Cambria
County when the latter was laid out, but without success, and, as he was the
agent for several firms in Philadelphia and other large cities for the sale of
lands in western Pennsylvania, the formation of the new County only multiplied
his business and increased his embarrassments.
Up to the death of his mother in 1806 he had
received remittances from her regularly. Although the emperor of Russia decided
in 1808 that, having become a Roman Catholic priest, he could inherit no part of
his father's property, his sister, the Princess Maria, continued for some time
to send him large sums, which he employed in meeting his engagements, but on her
marriage with the penniless Prince of Salm this resource also failed.
Meanwhile his colony began to branch out and
lay the foundation of other congregations at Ebensburg, Carrolltown, St.
Augustine, Wilmore, Summitville, and several other parts of Pennsylvania, and
as, owing to the scarcity of priests, he could not obtain an assistant, his
labors were unceasing.
In 1809 he passed from the jurisdiction of the
archbishop of Baltimore to that of the newly appointed bishop of Philadelphia.
His real name also had become generally known, and as he had been naturalized as
Augustine Smith, the legislature, on his petition, gave him the right to resume
that of Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, in 1811 he was visited by Bishop Egan of
Philadelphia, and confirmation was administered for the first time in the part
of the diocese of Pittsburg lying west of the Alleghenies.