Field Trip: Emmitsburg, Maryland

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It is a kind of poetic justice that I would find a trove of information for Emmett’s book in a town bearing his name.

I surely did not see that one coming.

Emmitsburg, Maryland, is a small college town 10 miles south of Gettysburg, near the state line. What brought me here today was the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archive. As reported in the last post, the Daughters of Charity built Pensacola Hospital in 1915, where Emmett died in 1918.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine and Daughters of Charity Provincial Archive

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine and Daughters of Charity Provincial Archive

What I was looking for was specific information on where he died in the hospital (ward photos, descriptions), who cared for him, what his medical treatment was like, and any other details about the hospital and its staff from 1915-1918.

Holdings at the Provincial Archive specific to Pensacola Hospital.

Holdings at the Provincial Archive specific to Pensacola Hospital.

The most useful information was a set of correspondence from the Sisters who organized the hospital and, basically, ran it. The letters were chatty, which surprised me (my experience with Sisters has always been that they kept a lot to themselves). These letters documented some local scandals, hospital-related, of course, and provided an excellent insight into certain personalities of Pensacola.

Nothing was specifically said about Emmett. However, his doctors were mentioned, and the Sisters gave great insight into their personalities, bedside manners, and the like.

Also, I found a document that was very influential in the Sisters’ in psychiatric nursing training back in the day. It is descriptive, and from that, I have a good idea of how Emmett was cared for as he lay dying in Pensacola Hospital.

The archivists at the Provincial Archive are wonderful; I had a great time hanging out with them and talking about the Sisters who ran Pensacola Hospital in 1918.

Before I left, I wanted to pay a visit to a very special person on the premises — Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

There aren’t too many places where you can hang out with nice folks, do research, dig in an archive, and visit an honest-to-goodness Saint. Well, you can in Emmitsburg.

The Basilica is large, quiet, airy. There was no crowd, thankfully. The entire experience was peaceful, dignified.

There were a few people at prayer in the Basilica; I don't like taking photos when people are praying in a church, so I don't have many photos of the interior of the Shrine for that reason.

There were a few people at prayer in the Basilica; I don’t like taking photos when people are praying in a church, so I don’t have many photos of the interior of the Shrine for that reason.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. This is a small altar on the right side of the basilica, with her relics.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. This is a small altar on the right side of the basilica, with her relics.

A tiny relic close up, at the kneeler.

A tiny relic close up, at the kneeler.

Spending a few quiet moments in the Basilica was a nice way to end the research visit. Food for the mind, food for the soul.


Now that I have some new data to work into Emmett’s story, I’ll need to spend a few days reading the letters carefully, and cataloging what I find.

But not tomorrow; alas, I have mandatory faculty training all day. It’s all good. I do better processing new information after I step away from it for a day or so.

Have a good evening, everyone!

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