My Search Begins
The Indiana Province Archives Center on the grounds of Holy Cross House, seemed the more familiar place to start. I had received permission from Mrs. Kintz to give them a copy of the Kintz genealogy, which they were pleased to receive.
Although I found very little information about the Grotto itself, other than undated pictures, I did find a December, 1953 letter of correction(6) written by Father Joseph Maguire to Father Thomas T. McAvoy, who was the University Archivist at the time. It seemed to dispute a number of commonly held beliefs about the Grotto's history. Many times since, I have blessed Father Maguire for taking the time to leave a little bit of himself and his remembrances on paper. Feeling a kinship with the writer, I took a copy of it as my first clue little knowing that it would form the backbone of my search.
Having explored all the information available there, the suggestion was made to try the University of Notre Dame Archives on the 6th floor of the Hesburgh Library. It was a daunting suggestion I wasn't sure I wanted to follow. I knew nothing about research, had no knowledge of archiving, microfilm machines or court records and I had no literary ambitions. Any writing I had ever done had been spontaneous creative expression for my own personal pleasure.
It almost seemed too overwhelming a task for a novice to undertake. I was uncertain where to begin my search or even how to go about it. Yet, something inside would not allow me to waver from the course I found myself taking. It was as if a mission had been bestowed upon me and the confidence to carry it out went along with it. Once committed, my enthusiasm for it never diminished. I soon found myself tackling each task day-by-day energized by new clues and fresh evidence, and bolstered by the kindness and encouragement of countless new acquaintances along the way.
And so, with a copy of the Maguire letter and the Kintz Genealogy in hand, I entered the unknown, once again, this time fortified by the encouraging words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh:
We tend not to choose the unknown, which might be a shock or a disappointment or simply a little too difficult to cope with. And yet it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching.(7)
The procedure alone almost put me off. One is asked to sign the register and a document of intent concerning the use of archival material. The glassed-in reading room was pointed out and the rules noted; pencils only and no coats or briefcases on the table top where items might be concealed. I was beginning to wonder what I was getting myself into, but Sharon Sumpter, who welcomed me when I arrived, was so kindly and casual about it all that I began to feel more at home in at least giving it a try.
Once the procedures were explained she introduced me to the Assistant Archivist, Peter Lysy. He explained that it was their mission to "flesh-out" the history of the University and any item of historical interest concerning farm families associated with the Notre Dame campus was always welcome.
Of special interest was a more formal and extensive documentation of the maternal side of one member of the Kintz family. A son married a Slocum, a descendent of the family whose daughter, Frances Slocum -- a well known name in history books -- was stolen by the Indians when she was four years old. Members of her family searched for her all their lives. Two books(8) about her made a deep impression on me. They detailed her captivity and wanderings among the Indians and gave a first-hand view of this unusual family situation including letters written during their search for her and documented family visits with her when she was finally located more than sixty years later.
Pleased to find a home for the Kintz genealogy, I turned my attention to my own avid interest in finding material on the Notre Dame Grotto. Peter Lysy very kindly explained indexed areas of research that might be of help. One of those first sources was the Scholastic(9) which was first published in 1867. In the early days, it chronicled the daily campus activities and turned out to be a gold mine of information.
In the articles Brother James had sent to me, the present Grotto was attributed to Father Sorin. Because my own questions about the Grotto's history had gone unanswered for 27 years, I too, began to question even this assertion. Now, Father Maguire's 1953 letter of correction began to lay the groundwork for my search. He had written his letter to correct this same wrong impression, however, it must not have gotten beyond the archives to correct future interpretations of people who weren't around at the time. Verifying every item mentioned in this long forgotten letter was to keep me on the trail until there were no more clues to follow.
Father Maguire was ordained in Sacred Heart Church in December of 1896, the year the Grotto was built, and was one of the few people alive in 1953, who had known Father Sorin. In his 1953 letter to Father McAvoy he states:
Father Sorin may have expressed a wish for a Grotto and he may have made one somewhere on the grounds but I never saw it or heard of it. If he did construct one he probably built it on the grounds of the Sisters.
The first effort to build a grotto was made by Father William Corby in 1896 when he was Provincial. Father Sorin had died in 1893. Father Thomas Carroll, of Oil City, PA supplied not only part of the money but all of it -- so I was told -- as an expression of his devotion to Our Blessed Mother.
At Peter Lysy's suggestion, I began my search in the index files of the Scholastic magazine. I found the following entries which, upon reading them, began to suggest that Father Maguire's statement, that the present Grotto was not the one Father Sorin built, was correct. However, it also suggested that Father Sorin had built a Grotto, as well. But if so, where had it been and what had happened to it?
Scholastic: September 29, 1877
It is the intention of Father Sorin to erect a facsimile of the original (Lourdes Grotto) with the exception of the immense rock 200' high. The hill at the rear of the church presents every advantage for a facsimile which he wishes to reproduce with scrupulous exactness as regards, height, length, depth etc. Ever since his first visit to Lourdes in 1873 his resolution to satisfy the wishes of pious pilgrims and visitors in this respect has constantly increased. Being there is quite a concourse of pilgrims at Notre Dame from time to time the facsimile of the wonder-working Grotto cannot fail to be an object of attraction to all who visit the place.(10)
Scholastic: April 6, 1878
Work on the imitation of the Grotto Of Lourdes, just to the Northwest of the new church has commenced in a little wooded dell regarded as one of the charming spots at Notre Dame.(11)
A little wooded dell" would be an apt description even today. It is still "one of the charming spots" on campus. A favorite meeting place and praying place in all seasons. "However, once again, Father Maguire disputes the "little wooded dell description:"
The spot chosen was not a "beautiful dell" but an old midden where everything from old shoes and tin cans or what have you were thrown -- just a dump heap. When it was decided to build the grotto there old Brother Philip had his crew clean up the rubbish before the work was begun.
The "wooded dell" appears to be a common description of the area behind the church from the late 1870s until 1896 when the present Grotto was begun. His assertion that the spot chosen was "just a dump heap," has yet to be proven. However, if true, it would be of significant interest to the faithful since this was the same description given of the site of the Lourdes Grotto in France.
The Scholastic was not printed during the summer months, and so far, no other information on the erection or completion of a Grotto built by Sorin in the late 1870s has been found.
The next indexed entry pertaining to the present Grotto appeared 18 years later.
Scholastic: August 20,1896 (Issued after summer vacation)
Constructed entirely of unhewn rocks, great boulders, some of them weighing as much as 2 to 3 tons go to make up the foundation and even near the keystone of the arch the stones are so large as to give the impression of instability.(12)
Brief entries in the Scholastic pinpointed the dates the present Grotto was begun and completed and also revealed evidence that indeed it could not have been Sorin's Grotto because, as Father Maguire pointed out in his letter to Father McAvoy, he had been deceased three years when it was begun. Yet the misconceptions continued. I hung that information on a peg for later study and zeroed in on looking for financial records of the building of the present Grotto.
While I was pouring over the Scholastic, Peter disappeared. As I was about to call it a day, he reappeared with a rolling cart containing two huge heavy ledgers, too heavy for me to lift. He motioned me into the reading room where he placed the two ledgers on a table and opened them to their Grotto entries. He then began to explain how to read the codes with the entries and told me I should document every entry listed on the Grotto, both debit and credit, because in that way evidence might come to light that otherwise might be missed at first glance, or they might tie in with something else later on.
I knew nothing about ledgers used in business accounting, but with that kind of kindly cooperation and the very effort of carting the heavy ledgers to the reading room, I knew I couldn't back out now. While he had been out of sight in the store rooms of the archives, and I was searching through the Scholastics, he had found what he knew I was looking for -- financial entries in the ledgers on the expenses for the Grotto.
Before I was fully aware of it, I'm sure he knew we were on to something. And he was willing to make the effort on my behalf to instruct me in a rational, procedural, search for the answers. Whether he knew it or not -- at a point where I thought I really didn't belong there -- I was hooked. And like a bloodhound on the trail I had to follow it to the end wherever it might lead me.
These 1896 ledger(13) entries on the Grotto turned the tide. The first entry appeared on June 6, 1896, Item No. 1113, $500 "pd. on contr." to Gill the contractor. Further on was another $500 entry with the names McCoy and Gill etc. The existence of a John Gill, masonry contractor, was also verified by Peter in the 1896 South Bend City Directory.
My hunch had been right, the Kintz family had not actually built the Grotto, unless they had been hired as brick masons which would be difficult to prove. Instead, as was undoubtedly the custom of the day, they might have pitched in upon delivering their stone to the Grotto. In glancing through the ledger at random, I did find an entry of "Milk and Meat" being sold to the campus by the Kintz family about the same time. So there was a strong possibility that they may have been helpers as well as providing some of the stone.
In repayment for sharing their genealogy, I decided to try to find more information about the Kintz family and their relationship to the campus before pursuing the two names of the masons. In doing so, I stumbled upon several unexpected pieces to add to my Grotto puzzle.
More Unexplored Areas
My decision to make this alternate search in behalf of the Kintz family took me into more and more unexplored areas, plat books, census records, old 1896 newspapers and records of deeds in the recorder's office at the County-City Building. I also made numerous phone calls to people related to the properties in question which prepared me for later research into the backgrounds of the two masons, Charles McCoy and John Gill. Especially, John Gill who was referred to as the contractor.
These searches, although not directly related to the Grotto itself, proved invaluable later on in "fleshing-out" the history of the University and the farm families surrounding it in the last quarter of the 19th century. All of it fueled my desire to pinpoint every lead I encountered that might be related to Our Lady or the building of the Grotto itself. I found no effort wasted and no conversation without value in piecing together a picture of what South Bend and Notre Dame University were like almost l00 years ago. The longer I talked and listened to the remembrances of the elderly the more I found interesting new connections between local families and the University. Our Lady and the Grotto were introducing me to new people I would remember with fondness for a long time to come.
A poem I unearthed in the Scholastic while looking for something else stirred my thoughts about that connection between the past and the present. It was written "By Coz" 123 years ago:
A Hundred Years to Come
Who'll press for gold this crowded street
It is interesting to find the "who" in his poem embodied in our generation 123 years later. Sharing thoughts in a poem or a book is much like the spontaneous gesture of placing a message in a bottle and casting it into the sea. It becomes a little bit of one's self to be found by someone else in another time and place. In a like way, it gives me pleasure to envision this story being read by someone like myself 100 years from now. Who knows it might even happen in the same way I stumbled upon Father Maguire's 40 year old letter.
Edna St. Vincent Millay put it so well in this favorite thought-provoking excerpt from one of her poems:
This book, when I am dead, will be
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay
I began to encounter that same kind of "perfume" from the past, in digging more deeply into the Kintz family heritage. I found one descendent of the Kintz family, Victor Couch, still living on the family land a mile from Notre Dame. He was the first person I contacted who led me through a maze of South Bend family names that touched Notre Dame in countless ways and went back well over 100 years. He, himself, has been an usher at Notre Dame football games for 52 years. He also remembers ushering for Rockne games, in 1928-29, when he was a 2nd class Boy Scout and there were wooden bleachers. He continues to farm his family's inherited ten acres and says the Kintz land is still full of big rocks and boulders.
I was soon to learn why this family, in particular, had close ties with the University of Notre Dame and how they, and many other surrounding farm families, were connected with the doings on campus. He produced his abstract for the 80 acres of Kintz property which told a story in itself.