First bishop of Chicago, Ill.; b. Killurine, King's County, Ireland, Jan. 24, 1806; d. Chicago, April 10, 1848. He left Ireland at age 16 to enter Mt. St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Maryland, and was ordained for the Diocese of New York on Sept. 19, 1829. After four years as curate at St. Peter's Church, New York City, he was appointed pastor of St. Mary's, where he soon established a parochial school. When Chicago was named a diocese in 1843, Quarter was consecrated its first ordinary by Bishop John Hughes of New York on March 10, 1844. The new bishop arrived in Chicago with his brother, Rev. Walter Quarter, on May 5, 1844, and found only eight priests serving a diocese that included the entire state of Illinois. In less than a month, he opened the College of St. Mary's as a boys' school and seminary. Later the same year it was incorporated by the state legislature as the University of St. Mary of the Lake, and a university building, for which Quarter solicited funds in New York, was dedicated on July 4, 1846. At his invitation, the Sisters of Mercy opened St. Xavier's Academy for girls in September of 1846. The bishop turned over his own residence to the sisters for a convent.
Early in his administration, Quarter successfully petitioned the state legislature to enact a law constituting the Catholic bishop of Chicago and his successors a corporation sole to hold property for religious purposes. To obtain funds for expanding diocesan needs, he appealed to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at Lyons, France, and to the leopoldinen stiftung of Vienna. The two Quarter brothers also spent their personal funds to purchase property for churches and a cemetery. In addition to extensive travels throughout the diocese preaching and administering the sacraments, Quarter built 30 churches and ordained 29 priests; he kept a diary that still exists. He convened the first diocesan synod in April of 1847, and assembled what was perhaps the first theological conference in the United States in the university chapel on Nov. 12, 1847. Quarter, apparently in good health, preached on Passion Sunday, April 9, 1848, but died suddenly the following morning. His last will left all his property to the University of St. Mary of the Lake.
Bibliography: j. e. mcgirr, Life of the Rt. Rev. William Quarter, D.D. (Des Plaines, Ill. 1920). g. j. garraghan, The Catholic Church in Chicago, 1673–1871 (Chicago 1921).
[h. c. koenig]