Postcard views of Notre Dame

The Log Chapel in winter
The Log Chapel in winter

Now forth the cloud's white troopers go;
The pines stand ready, row on row
To bear the blossoms of the snow--
The Winter's flowers.

The Dome, 1923

The 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 Notre Dame...

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 there."

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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