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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 biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Simon Gabriel Brute

BRUTE, Simon Gabriel, R. C. bishop, born in Rennes, France, in 1779; died in Vincennes, Indiana, in 1889. His father, who was superintendent of the royal domains in Brittany, died, leaving his affairs in such embarrassment that his widow was obliged to sacrifice her private fortune to pay her debts. Being a woman of cultivated intellect, she conducted the education of her son, assisted by the celebrated Abbs Carron. He afterward studied in one of the Colleges of his native City, where he prepared himself to enter the polytechnic school; but the breaking out of the French revolution changed all his plans. During the reign of terror many priests were secreted in his mother's house, and he visited and relieved others in their retreats. His mother having been forced to open a printing office on account, of family reverses, he worked at type-set-ting, and became a skillful compositor. In 1796 he entered the medical College of Rennes, and in 1799 went to Paris to complete his professional studies. He was graduated in 1803, winning the first prize among the 120 students selected to compete for it out of the 1,100 that attended the College. He was immediately appointed physician to the First Dispensary of Paris; but he had already determined upon a different career, and in November entered the seminary of St. Sulpice, at Paris, where he devoted himself ardently to the study of theology and canon law. He was ordained in 1808, and was offered several places, among them that of chaplain to the Emperor Napoleon; but, preferring to be the guide of young candidates for the ministry, he refused them all, and was appointed professor of theology in the Sulpitian seminary of his native city. In 1810 he met Bishop Flaget, of Kentucky. During his ecclesiastical course in the seminary he had often thought of devoting himself to the foreign missions, and his intercourse with the American prelate now revived his early intentions, and, with the consent of his superiors, he embarked at Bordeaux, and landed at Baltimore in 1810. Immediately on his arrival he was made professor of philosophy in the College of St. Mary's, and during his two years' residence he did much to elevate the reputation of that institution. In 1812 he was summoned by Father Dubois to assist him in his missionary work at Emmittsburg, where he became spiritual attendant to the sisters of charity, and was principally instrumental in building up the institution they had established. He went to Francein 1815 with the object of interesting the French church in the American mission, and also of bringing over his valuable library of more than 5,000 volumes, which he presented to St. Mary's College. After spending two years as president of St. Mary's, he returned to Emmittsburg, where, in addition to his pastoral duties, he lectured on sacred Scripture, and was professor of theology and moral philosophy in the ecclesiastical seminary, and taught natural philosophy and various other branches in the College. Here the clergy and bishops of America on the most abstruse subjects consulted him, and it is doubtful if any priest has since exercised the same influence over the entire Catholic church of the United States. The see of Vincennes, comprising Indiana and the greater part of Illinois, was created in 1833, and Father Brute was nominated its first bishop. Being struck on his first visit to his diocese by its impoverished condition and dearth of priests, he went to France, hoping to secure both money and missionaries, and was successful, but returned in failing health. He employed the money he had collected in Europe in establishing a diocesan seminary at Vincennes, as well as an orphan asylum and free school. The surplus he devoted to the erection of his cathedral, and of small churches in other parts of his diocese. He afterward crossed the ocean eight times to obtain resources for carrying on his mission. When he entered his diocese he had but two priests; when he died he left twenty-four. He built twenty-three churches, one theological seminary, one College for young men, one female academy, and two free schools. He also established two religious communities, and he did all this without incurring debt or leaving a mortgage.

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