Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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NOBILI, John, clergyman, born in Rome, Italy, 8 April, 1812; died in Santa Clara, California, 1 March, 1856. He belonged to a well-known family, and his early education was directed by some of the best masters in Rome. In 1828 he entered the Society of Jesus, and, after filling professorships in the colleges of the order in Italy, he was ordained priest in 1843. A short time afterward he accompanied Father De Smet (q. v.) to Oregon, where he took charge of the men of the Hudson bay company and the Indians along the shores of Columbia river. He gained the affection of the latter by his fearlessness and devotion during a virulent epidemic, and availed himself of his popularity among them to acquire a knowledge of their languages. In June, 1845, he began to visit the tribes of New Caledonia. His journal, dated Fort Colville, June, 1846, and published in the "Oregon Missions" (New York, 1847), gives a vivid description of his labors and privations. He spent eleven days among the Indians of Nesqually river, and during that time abolished among them the custom of burning the dead and inflicting torments on the bodies of the surviving wives and husbands. Among the Chilcotins he succeeded first in abolishing polygamy, and then in converting the several tribes. He was equally successful among other tribes, and built a large number of frame churches. During one year he lived on herbs and roots, and for the six years when he resided with the Indians his chief food was the flesh of horses, dogs, and sometimes of wolves. In 1849 he was ordered by his superiors to California. After staying a few months in San Francisco to recruit, his enfeebled constitution, he was sent, to San Jose. His labors during the cholera in 1850 made his name well known over a large part, of the country. He was appointed pastor of the mission of Santa Clara in 1851, and shortly afterward founded the College of Santa Clara, which grew into prosperity under his direction, and was for a long time the principal seat of learning in California.
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