Fifth archbishop of Baltimore, Md.; b. Kent County, Md., June 27, 1801; d. Washington, D.C., April 22, 1851. His English grandfather settled in Maryland, where he became a merchant and then a planter. Samuel's parents were members of the Episcopal Church; but after his father died, his mother married a Catholic. As a consequence, Samuel was sent in 1812 to St. Mary's College, Baltimore, conducted by the Sulpician Fathers. While there he became a Catholic, decided to study for the priesthood, and entered St. Mary's Seminary on July 23, 1819, despite opposition from relatives. As a seminarian, he acted as an instructor at St. Mary's College. After ordination on April 24, 1825, he entered the Society of the Priests of St. Sulpice and was sent to Issy, France, for further training.
In 1827 Eccleston returned to St. Mary's College, where he served two years as professor and vice president, and five years as president. He was then named coadjutor of Baltimore, consecrated on Sept. 14, 1834, and succeeded Abp. James whitfield at his death on Oct. 19, 1834. Eccleston served Baltimore for 17 years, playing a significant part in the growth of the Church in the U.S. He presided over five provincial councils, the third to the seventh, which met in Baltimore every third year from 1837 to 1849. He played as active a part in the council of 1849, when there were 25 bishops present, as he did in 1837 when there were only 9.
During his tenure, Eccleston encouraged the establishment of the first American preparatory seminary, St. Charles College, which opened in 1848. Many new churches were founded and work on the cathedral was almost completed. The Visitation Nuns and the Christian Brothers opened schools for girls and boys, respectively, in Baltimore. The number of priests nearly doubled during his episcopate, in part because of the coming of the Redemptorists for German-speaking Catholics and the Lazarists.
Bibliography: p. k. guilday, A History of the Councils of Baltimore, 1791–1884 (New York 1932). c. g. herbermann, The Sulpicians in the United States (New York 1916). m. j. riordan, Cathedral Records from the Beginning of Catholicism in Baltimore (Baltimore 1906). j. g. d. shea, The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States (New York 1887).
[e. f. schmitz]