Verwyst, Chrysostom Adrian

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Franciscan missionary, linguist, historiographer; b. Uden, Netherlands, Nov. 23, 1841; d. Bayfield, WI, June 23, 1925. He went to the U.S. with his family in 1848 at the urging of Theodore Van den Broek, OP, a fellow countryman and a missionary. Lack of funds detained the family in New England until 1855, when the Verwysts joined the other Dutch who had settled near Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. Verwyst studied at St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee. Following his ordination on Nov. 5, 1865, he held pastorates at New London, Hudson, and Seneca, WI, and worked among the native peoples and whites on the southern shore of Lake Superior. After four years of itinerant preaching he joined the Franciscans at Teutopolis, Ill., and was assigned to Bayfield. Except for three years spent in Missouri and California for his health, he worked along Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior until his death.

Verwyst acquired such proficiency in the Chippewa language that he issued a monthly magazine in it. He published Chippewa Exercises: Being a Practical Introduction into the Study of the Chippewa Language (Harbor Springs, MI 1901), and he spent seven more years compiling an (unpublished) native-language dictionary. Growing interested in the Jesuit missionaries who had been at Chequamegon Bay around 1640, he sought out Rev. Edward Jacker, who had excavated Marquette's grave at St. Ignace in 1877. Before long Verwyst published Missionary Labors of Fathers Marquette, Menard, and Allouez in the Lake Superior Region (Milwaukee 1886). After that he gathered material for another monograph, Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga (Milwaukee 1900). His "Reminiscences," published in the Wisconsin Historical Society's Proceedings, provide source material for the history of Wisconsin and of the Dutch in the New World.

Bibliography: b. j. blied, "The Rev. Chrysostom Verwyst, Early Alumnus and Historiographer," Salesianum 54 (July 1959) 9199.

[b. j. blied]