Burtsell, Richard Lalor

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Pastor, civic leader, canonist, writer; b. New York City, April 14, 1840; d. Kingston, N.Y., Feb. 5, 1912. His parents, John Low and Dorothea (Morrogh) Burtsell, were both members of old New York Catholic families. After attending Catholic schools in New York, he began his theological studies in the Sulpician Seminary in Montreal, Canada. In 1857 he went to Propaganda College in Rome, where he obtained doctorates in philosophy (1858) and theology (1862), and was ordained on Aug. 10, 1862. From 1862 to 1868 he was assistant to T. S. preston, vicar-general and pastor of St. Ann's, New York City. There, Thomas Farrell (182380), pastor of St. Joseph's, Waverly Place, exercised a lasting influence on him and a small group of his young priest friends.

Burtsell founded Epiphany parish (1867) and was responsible for establishing St. Benedict the Moor parish (1883), the first in the New York archdiocese for Negroes. From 1887 to 1892 Burtsell was canonical advisor and advocate for his friend, Rev. Edward mcglynn, supporter of the controversial single-tax theory of Henry George. At least indirectly as the result of his association with McGlynn, Burtsell was deprived in 1889 of his parish, the Epiphany. He won his appeal in Rome, and in 1890 he was appointed pastor of St. Mary's in Kingston, where he remained until his death.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, Burtsell was one of the few canonists of note in the eastern United States. As an effective parish administrator, he cleared the debt on both Epiphany and St. Mary's churches and had them consecrated. Burtsell was a contributor to the old Catholic Encyclopedia and wrote regularly for scholarly journals. He was also more civic minded than most pastors of his time. He was a member of the Kingston Board of Trade, a founder and onetime president of the City of Kingston Hospital, trustee of the Kingston Library, and probably the most highly esteemed citizen of the city. He was named papal chamberlain in 1905 and appointed a domestic prelate in November of 1911.

Bibliography: Burtsell Diaries (18651912), Archives, Archdiocese of New York. f. j. zwierlein, Life and Letters of Bishop McQuaid, 3 v. (Rochester 192527); Letters of Archbishop Corrigan to Bishop McQuaid and Allied Documents (Rochester 1946). c. a. barker, Henry George (New York 1955). s. bell, Rebel, Priest and Prophet: A Biography of Edward McGlynn (New York 1937), partial to McGlynn and largely undocumented but with pertinent factual information. Historical Records and Studies of the U.S. Catholic Historical Society of New York (1900) 6.2 (1912) 171, 300.

[e. h. smith]