Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Seton, Elizabeth Ann

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SETON, Elizabeth Ann, philanthropist, b. in New York city. 28 Aug., 1774; d. in Emmettsburg, Md., 4 Jan., 1821. She was the daughter of Dr. Richard Bayley, a physician of New York, and married William Seton, of the same city. Her husband's father, William Seton (1746-1798), belonged to an impoverished noble Scottish family, emigrated to New York in 1758, and became superintendent and part owner of the iron-works of Ringwood, N. J. He was a loyalist, and the last royal public notary for the city and province of New York during the war. His silver notarial seal, dated 1779, is still in the possession of his family. He was ruined financially at the close of the Revolution, but remained in New York, where he founded the once famous mercantile house of Seton, Maitland and Co. In 1803 she went to Italy with her family. On the death of her husband she returned to the United States, and in 1805 she was received into the Roman Catholic church. To support her five children she opened a school in New York, but, not meeting with success, she was about to remove to Canada, when she made the acquaintance of Dr. William Louis Dubourg, then president of St. Mary's college, who invited her to reside in Baltimore and open a school for girls. Before this she had formed the design of founding a congregation of women for the service of children and orphans, and $8,000, given by a young convert to Dr. Dubourg for charitable uses and transferred by the latter to Mrs. Seton, enabled her to carry out this purpose. A farm was purchased at Emmettsburg, Md., and on 22 June, 1809, Mrs. Seton moved thither, with three companions, forming the nucleus of an order that afterward spread over the United States. The community increased rapidly in numbers, and pupils flocked to the school. In 1811 Mother Seton adopted the rules and constitution of St. Vincent de Paul, with some modifications, and the institution, having received the sanction of the highest ecclesiastical authority, became a religious order. Afterward a group of buildings, embracing a residence for the Sisters, a novitiate, a boarding-school for young girls, a school for poor children, and an orphan asylum, was erected. In 1814 Mother Seton sent a colony of Sisters to Philadelphia to take charge of the orphan asylum. In 1817, in response to another application from New York, another body came to that city. At her death there were more than twenty communities of Sisters of Charity, conducting free schools, orphanages, boarding-schools, and hospitals, in the states of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Delaware, Massachusetts, Virginia, Missouri, and Louisiana, and in the District of Columbia. Although, according to the constitution of her order, no one could be elected to the office of mother-superior for more than two terms successively, an exception was made in her favor by the unanimous desire of her companions, and she held the office during life. See “Memoirs of Mrs. S——, written by Herself: A Fragment of Real History” (Elizabethtown, N. J., 1817); “Life of Mrs. Seton, Foundress and First Superior of the Sisters of Charity in the United States,” by Rev. Charles I. White, D. D. (7th revised ed., Baltimore, 1872); and “Vie de Madame Elizabeth Seton,” by Madame de Barbary (Paris, 1868). A collection of her letters and papers, edited by her grandson, Monsignor Seton, has been published (2 vols., New York, 1869). — Her grandson, William, author, b. in New York city, 28 Jan., 1835, is son of William Seton, an officer in the U. S. navy. He is recognized by Burke's “Peerage” as the head of the ancient family of the Setons of Parbroath, senior cadets of the Earls of Winton in Scotland. He was educated at Mount St. Mary's college, Emmettsburg, Md., and by private tutors, and served as captain of the 4th New York volunteers, during the first part of the civil war, until he was disabled by wounds that he received at Antietam. He is a frequent contributor to periodicals and journals, and has published “Romance of the Charter Oak” (New York, 1870); “The Pride of Lexington: a Tale of the American Revolution” (1871); “Rachel's Fate and Other Tales” (1882); “The Poor Millionaire, a Tale of New York Life” (1884); and “The Shamrock gone West, and Moida, a Tale of the Tyrol” (New York, 1884). He is also the author of “The Pioneer,” a poem (1874). — Robert, another grandson of Elizabeth Ann, clergyman, b. in Pisa, Italy, 28 Aug., 1839, was educated in Mount St. Mary's college, Emmettsburg, Md., and in the Academia ecclesiastica, Rome, where he was graduated with the degree of D. D. In 1866 he was raised to the rank of private chamberlain to Pope Pius IX. He is the first American that was honored with the Roman Prelatura, and is the dean of all the monsignori in the United States. He was made prothonotary apostolic in 1867, and rector of St. Joseph's church, Jersey City, in 1876. He has written “Memoirs, Letters, and Journal of Elizabeth Seton” (2 vols., New York, 1869) and “Essays on Various Subjects, chiefly Roman” (1882), and is also a frequent contributor to Roman Catholic periodicals.