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Gallagher, Simon Felix


Missionary; b. Ireland, 1756; d. Natchez, Miss., Dec. 13, 1825. As a priest of the Diocese of Dublin, Ireland, and, from his own statement, a graduate of the University of Paris, he presented himself to Bp. John carroll of Baltimore, Md., on Feb. 3, 1793, bearing a letter of recommendation from Bp. John Troy of Dublin. Carroll sent him as third pastor to Charleston, S.C., where organized Catholicism had begun in 1788. Gallagher immediately became a popular orator who made many friends, including Charles Carroll of Carrollton. He organized the Hibernian Society of Charleston and became an instructor at the College of Charleston, helping to enhance its reputation for learning.

Shortly after his arrival, Gallagher began to have trouble with trusteeism, which deprived him of real authority over the church at Charleston. In 1800, Gallagher was suspended for intemperance, and the vestry refused to acknowledge Carroll's new appointment. Gallagher's repentance and reinstatement relieved Carroll of action for the moment. In 1812 Carroll appointed Joseph Picot de Clorivière as an assistant to Gallagher to serve the large number of French in the congregation, and the two seemed to work amicably. But when Clorivière went to Europe in 1814, Gallagher called Rev. Robert Browne, pastor at Augusta, Ga., to assist him, and on Clorivière's return, Gallagher and Browne resisted the French priest's effort to take up his duties in Charleston. The vestry upheld Gallagher and, as holders of the incorporating charter, claimed the right to decide who would serve in the church.

Abp. Leonard neale, who had succeeded Carroll, confirmed Clorivière's appointment and suspended Gallagher and Browne. He also ordered Clorivière to open another place of worship for the faithful, placing under interdict the church controlled by Gallagher and the trustees. In 1818 the archbishop sent Rev. Benedict Fenwick to Charleston to effect a peace. During the negotiations Gallagher spent the winter of 181920 at Philadelphia, Pa., assisting Rev. Louis de Barth at St. Mary's Church. When Charleston was established as a diocese in 1820, its new bishop, John England, reinstated Gallagher, but considered him "an old man to whom no duty can be committed." In August 1822, Gallagher requested a change to St. Augustine, Fla., where he remained until the following January, when he left for Havana, Cuba. While serving in New Orleans, La., in 1825, he preached at the cathedral for the annual commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans. By March 1825 he had moved to Natchez, Miss., and accepted the duties of pastor of St. Mary's Church, where he died the following December.

Bibliography: j. h. easterby, History of the College of Charleston (Charleston 1935). p. k. guilday, The Life and Times of John England, 2 v. (New York 1927). c. j. neusse, The Social Thought of American Catholics, 16341829 (Westminster, Md.1945).

[r. c. madden]

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