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John McElroy, SJ, President's Office records

Collection BC-2002-126: John McElroy, SJ, President's Office records


  • Creation: 1813 - 2005
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1813 - 1878

Scope and Contents

This collection consists mainly of photocopies of material created by John McElroy, SJ, in the course of his work as a Jesuit priest, long-time campaigner for a Jesuit college in Boston, and founder of Boston College. Material types include correspondence both to and from Father McElroy, as well as a letter of introduction for McElroy from former First Lady Dolley Madison to Army General Zachary Taylor; McElroy's personal diaries; two manuscripts he authored about his time as a Mexican missionary and the history of Boston College; publications by or about McElroy; McElroy's naturalization certificate from a court in Washington, DC; and an accounts ledger dating 1848-1869. These materials are all photocopies. The only original material in this collection are two letters that McElroy wrote to Ellen (Ahern) Rush in 1871 and 1872 when she was a student of the Sisters of Notre Dame.


Language of Materials

Materials in this collection are primarily in English, with some Latin.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

John McElroy was born in 1782 in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Following a rudimentary education due to the penal laws prohibiting Irish schoolmasters from teaching Catholic students, McElroy worked on his father’s farm. In 1803, he left for America on a flax ship bound for Baltimore, Maryland. From Baltimore, McElroy moved to Georgetown. In Georgetown, while working as a store clerk, McElroy felt a calling to the religious life. In 1806, following the reinstatement of the Jesuit Order in America, John McElroy entered the Society of Jesus at Georgetown College as a novice.

During his probationary period, McElroy worked at Georgetown and witnessed the 1814 burning of Washington, DC. In 1815, he was elevated to the Scholasticate and began studying for the priesthood. By 1816, he had received tonsure and minor orders, and by 1817, he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Neale. In 1818, McElroy was appointed assistant pastor, and later full pastor, of Trinity Church, Georgetown, where he was known for his oratorical gifts.

McElroy engaged in the missionary work of his parish and the surrounding areas, supported the development of local Catholic education, and lead spiritual retreats. His work brought him the recognition of superiors and Church leaders, including Archbishop Hughes, Bishop Purcell, and Bishop Flaget. A further honor came in 1845, when, in response to a request of President Polk, McElroy was chosen as one of the first two Catholic priests to be appointed chaplains for the United States Army. McElroy served in Matamoras, Mexico, until 1847.

The establishment of a Jesuit school serving the city of Boston had long been an aspiration of McElroy’s, and his transfer to that city in 1847 enabled him actively to pursue the cause. Overcoming obstacles such as financial problems, public anti-Catholic sentiment, and turmoil caused by the Civil War, McElroy realized his dream in 1863 when Boston College was formally incorporated. He served as the College’s first vice-president and was instrumental in the building of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the College’s first chapel.

Following his tenure in Boston, McElroy retired to the novitiate house in Frederick City, Maryland, where he continued to serve as a priest. He died in 1877.


Dunigan, David R. A History of Boston College. Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Co., 1947.

Clippings, Box 1, Folder 27, John McElroy, SJ, President's Office Records, BC2002.126, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.


0.5 Linear Feet (2 containers)


This collection consists mainly of photocopies of material created by John McElroy, SJ, in the course of his work as a Jesuit priest, long-time campaigner for a Jesuit college in Boston, and founder of Boston College. Material types include primarily photocopies of correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, publications, legal documents, and accounts.


The records are arranged into five series: I. Correspondence; II. Diaries; III. Legal documents and accounts; IV. Manuscripts; V. Publications. The correspondence, diaries, and legal documents and accounts are arranged in chronological order. Manuscripts and publications are arranged by author.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time. Many of the photocopies were made by David R. Dunigan, SJ, in the 1940s. Two original letters written to Ellen (Ahern) Ruth were donated by Paul Nelligan, SJ, in October 2002.

Existence and Location of Originals

Original copies of materials in this collection exist at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and the Archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, now on deposit at Georgetown University. Some photocopies date back into the 1940s.

Related Materials

President's Office Records, University Archives, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Rev. John McElroy, SJ Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Georgetown University.

Processing Information

The original processing archivist for this collection is unknown. In April 2010, AnneMarie Anderson revised the original processing and created a finding aid; in May 2013, Stephanie Bennett further refined the processing and created a finding aid in Archivists' Toolkit. Changes to the 2010 finding aid include applying (chronological or alphabetical) order to individual series; editing folder titles for clarity and DACS compliance; and editing and adding additional details to the front matter notes to make the finding aid DACS-compliant and more informative.

John McElroy, SJ, President's Office Records
1813-2005 (bulk 1813-1878)
unknown; revised by AnneMarie Anderson, April 2010; revised by Stephanie Bennett
June 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023 November: Added Roster of subscriptions to the St. Mary's Male and Female Charitable Society (BC.2023.156)

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States