following excerpt is from Francis Wallace's history of the University,
Notre Dame: Its People and Its Legends (1969). It describes the
journey of Sorin's band of seven Brothers to the to the shores
of St. Mary's Lake, to the site of Badin's cabin, the future home of
The suggestion of a college in the north part of the diocese
had not been a chance thought. Badin's five hundred twenty-four acres
had been left in trust to the Bishop, to be given to anyone who would
start a school. The deed had been transferred to the
Fathers of Mercy, who had made such an attempt in 1840; but after
surveying the project, the effort was abandoned and the deed returned,
along with one for an additional three hundred seventy-five acres.
This is why, and some consider it providential, the modern Notre Dame
has had seemingly inexhaustible acreage upon which to build and build.
Only men of faith would have begun such an effort on a bleak, snowy
November 16,1842. They were Sorin and seven Brothers, only two of
whom, Gatian and Marie (originally Francis Xavier) were of the colony
from France. Four of the five who had been trained at St. Peter's were
from Ireland. All were young and robust, as they needed to be. They
took turns at riding and walking, and all joined in getting the single
wagon out of the ruts of what passed for a road. There is some
confusion about the time of arrival, but tradition has settled on
November 26th as the date when the two hundred fifty miles to South
Bend were completed.
First they had stopped at the cabin of Alexis Coquillard. Now they
were being guided by his nephew, seventeen-year-old Alexis. They had
crossed the frozen St. Joseph River and put their shoulders to the
wagon to help the horses up the steep, slippery road. They had
traveled for two miles through dense forest. With a suddenness there
had come a clearing, a small, frozen lake whose shores were circled by
deep green fir trees capped with snow.
"Is this it?" Sorin asked.
It was. The younger Brothers hastened away, exploring, gesticulating
with delight. Sorin was led by Alexis to the little cabin where M.
Charron and his wife lived. Both were half-breeds, and M. Charron had
long served the missionaries as interpreter.
Sorin paused before the chapel, and its stark history. Inside it was
bleak and cold. A tiny strip of worn brown carpet covered a space
before the altar. The half-breed pointed: "Priest die here.
Priest buried." He pointed to the loft: "Sleep up
Kneeling at the grave of Father Deseille, with heads close together
and hands joined, they prayed.
A priest had come.
The priest arose to what young Alexis thought was a fearful black
height. His black eyes fastened on young Alexis. His hearty voice
cried: "You will be our first student" Which was exactly
what young Alexis had feared.
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