Father Joseph Carrier, CSC (1833-1904)

The youngest of ten children in a respected and wealthy French family, he received his early education under the care of a private tutor before attending Belley College where he excelled in science and mathematics.  In his early teens he was appointed professor of natural science (physics) in a small college in Geneva, Switzerland.  In 1855, he came to America and joined Holy Cross being ordained in 1861.  In 1863 while teaching Latin and Greek at Notre Dame and serving as pastor of a South Bend Church, Father Sorin told him to be ready at a moment’s notice to join Ulysses S. Grant as a chaplain. Days later he was commissioned to the 6th Missouri Infantry Regiment and became chaplain of Grant’s entire army.  (Schmidt, James M. Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory, 2010, pp. 35-37)

Father Carrier organized courses in botany and established two botanical gardens, the first to the west of the old Church in 1867, and a second, much larger and more permanent, at the southeast end of St. Joseph’s Lake. During his relatively short period in charge of the museum — he was made President of St. Mary’s College, Galveston, Texas in 1874 — he added several thousand specimens to the collection of minerals and of zoological and botanical specimens. In 1869 Doctor Boyd’s large collection of skeletons was acquired, and the minerals, fossils, fauna collected by J. W. Veasey in Colorado, valued at six thousand dollars, were purchased by Notre Dame in 1878. About the same time a collection of New Zealand plants, particularly ferns, was given to the museum by a missionary in that far-off island, Father S. Barthos. When Father Carrier took up his new position in Texas, the museum was transferred to the care of Father John A. Zahm. But like the early collection of Edwards, all of these precious treasures of science were lost in the conflagration of 1879, except for a small collection of specimens which were not in the building at the time. The destruction of the herbarium, containing over eight thousand distinct species of plants, which Carrier called one of the most precious and complete to be found in America, was surely the most important loss to the museum. And Zahm, like Edwards and Sorin, immediately set to work to build up again an even greater collection than that which had been lost. Carrier himself, who passed his last years at St. Laurent College, near Montreal, and who never lost his enthusiasm for collecting, gave his second collection, composed of Canadian plants, to Notre Dame after presenting it, on exposition, at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. A substantial gain was likewise made when the University procured the collection of four thousand specimens of W. E. Calkins, of Chicago, in 1887. He died in Montreal in 1904.” (Hope, CSC Father Arthur, Notre Dame – 100 Years, 1942)

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