September 21, 1854 - The
Newark Riot - Death of Michael McDermott
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church was organized in 1841. Work on the church at Grand and Court Streets began in 1841 with the first mass being celebrated on January 31, 1842. On September 5, 1854 the church was ransacked by marchers of the American Protestant Association Lodge of New Jersey during a parade, destroying its organ, chairs and doors. An Irish onlooker was killed by gunshots during the fight. In 1857 the church building was put on rollers and moved to the site on High Street. It was dedicated on December 20, 1857. The parish school was founded in 1863. On December 19, 1884 the church was raised to an abbey.
From: Rider's Newark 1916
The interior is highly decorated with mural paintings and memorial windows
Over the altar are figures of the Virgin Mary, St. Boniface and St. Benedict; below are the four evangelists. The nave is supported upon rows of arches, resting on massive pillars. Above these arches are paintings of the principal scenes in the life of the Saviour. Above the arch of the sanctuary is The Coronation of the Virgin. Above a side altar at the northeast corner, is preserved under glass the mutilated gilded figure of the Blessed Virgin, which together with the earlier St. Mary's Church on this same site was destroyed by a band of rioting Orangemen from New York, September 5, 1854.
From: The Benedictines in Newark 1842 - 1992
The great influx of immigrants did not sit well with everyone. There was slowly developing a movement of resentment against these newly arrived Irish and German Catholics on the part of the Protestants who made up the majority of the population at this time. Political movements arose that fed on this xenophobia. There had been quite a bit of violence against Catholic churches throughout the East, and Newark was no exception.
In 1854, Saint Mary's Church was attacked and nearly destroyed when a group from the Newark Lodge of Orangemen, who were affiliated with the American Protestant Association, decided to have a parade. They had connections with the Know-Nothing Party, a group of Nativists who resented the recent influx of immigrants. On the morning of September fifth Orangemen from as far away as New York City, Paterson, and Brooklyn joi9ned forces with their Newark counterparts and began their parade. Then, after breaking for lunch, they regrouped about half past three to continue the march. They left Broad Street and headed up William STreet. Tradition suggests that their ultimate object was Saint Patrick's on Washington Street, which had been designated the cathedral of the new Diocese of Newark less than a year before. They never made it there. On the way, they passed Saint Mary's. Whether it was premeditated or merely a result of the passions of the moment, the marchers attacked the little church.
The pastor's study was in a room behind the altar. Upon hearing the commotion, Father Charles entered the church to retrieve the Blessed Sacrament. The priests then went out the back to escape the marauders. Only the housekeeper, a widow whose grandson, James Zilliox, would later become the first Abbot of Saint Mary's Abbey, was left in the rooms when the crowd broke in.
In the meantime, people from the neighborhood answered the alarm that had been sounded, and the rioters left without achieving their goal of burring the church to the ground. But they left their mark. The New York Times of September seventh described the destruction: "The fences ar torn down, the windows and doors shattered, the shrubs about the door crushed and broken, and, in the interior, the altar overturned, the sacred utensils and sacerdotal robes strewed around and trampled upon, the organ broken to pieces. The images, consisting of a costly Munich figure of the Madonna, and crucifix corresponding, together with the pictures, altar piece, and a splendid holy water font were also destroyed"
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