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James H. Defouri

Very Rev. James H. Defouri, pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Catholic, at Las Vegas, is a native of Savoy, France, born at the villa of La Palud, in the parish of St. Jean de la Porte, on the 29th of August, 1830. At the age of two years he was adopted by the young Count Hyppolite de Chambost, who was then a widower and childless.

Young James was first taught at home by clergymen, and when nine years of age, was sent by his adopted father to the College of St. Pierre d'Albigny, a beautiful place in that grand valley of the Yser, which extends as far as Valence in France. At sixteen the young student was sent to the seminary of Chambery, where he completed his philosophical and theological courses. In 1853, while a deacon, the young Levite was sent to teach a class at the College of Pont de Beauvoisin, on the boundary of France, and on the 23d of December, 1854, he was ordained priest by the Most Rev. Archbishop Alexis Billiet, who soon afterward was created cardinal.

In the meantime the desire of engaging in mission work was becoming stronger in the mind of the young priest, while he was employed in teaching. At length, in 1856, he obtained from the good cardinal permission to leave the diocese of Chambery, and he was appointed to the Vicariate "East of the Rocky Mountains," whose bishop, as apostolic vicar, was the Rt. Rev. J. B. Miege, S. J., also from Savoy. The jurisdiction of Bishop Miege extended over what is now Indian Territory, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and the two Dakotas. In this vast field Father Defouri was an indefatigable laborer for years. There were very few priests in this vast diocese.

May 1, 1862, Father Defouri was sent to Topeka, where, in the midst of poverty and innumerable difficulties, and even in the midst of war and bloodshed, he remained until 1875, faithful at his post, when he was recalled to Leavenworth. In 1864, however, by order of Bishop Miege, he spent sixteen months in Europe, as Vicar General, on duties of the church. The bishop, having chosen the Rt. Rev. L. M. Fink, O. S. B., for a coadjutor, soon after resigned and left the diocese to Bishop Fink. In 1875 the latter created Father Defouri Vicar General, and he remained there till 1880. In the meantime he paid a large portion of the debt which was incumbent on the cathedral, attended to parish duties, and also to his diocesan responsibilities.

His attention being called to the subject of immigration, he contributed articles to the public press,—newspapers and magazines,—as the Kansas Farmer, Kansas Magazine, Catholic World, etc. When the last mentioned periodical was started he was one of its regular correspondents.

At length disease of the larynx drove him away from the rather damp atmosphere of Kansas. Physicians ordered a change of climate, advising that of New Mexico, whither he accordingly came. He was received with open arms by the good Archbishop Lamy. Leaving his charge at Leavenworth in September, 1880, he spent one year at the call of Bishop Macheboeuf in Denver, and at the beginning of August, 1881, left Denver for Santa Fe, having been appointed second Vicar General, pastor of the American congregation of Santa Fe, and private secretary to the archbishop. Here his labors can be seen in the restoration of the fine church edifice at Guadaloupe and the planting of the beautiful trees there and the establishment of many improvements. Indeed, he made a fine church out of nothing, for old Guadaloupe, built probably in 1598, was a ruin at the time of his coming to Santa Fe. Besides attending to his pastoral duties Father Defouri has found time to write and publish a Month of Mary in Spanish, with a beautiful introduction by Archbishop Salpointe. He also compiled and published the book entitled, "A Historical Sketch of the Catholic Church in New Mexico," also, "The Martyrs of New Mexico," and is now engaged in translating the History of the Apparition of the Holy Mary of Guadaloupe into English for the multitude in this country who are not familiar with the Spanish tongue. We understand that he also wrote for a French paper, a history of the Mormons, published in Paris.

On the 5th of August Archbishop Chapelle appointed Father Defouri pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows at Las Vegas, and the good father bade adieu to his flock at Guadaloupe, having served fifteen years, "day for day," in Santa Fe, where he is now at labor and where we wish him full success.

He is a member of several scientific societies, and last year he was admitted a member of the Historical Society of Kansas. We read in the report of the meeting of the society held January 17, 1893, the following: "The persons whose names were presented at the meeting of the board of directors in the afternoon for nomination as members of the society were unanimously elected, as follows: Honorary members—Rev. James H. Defouri, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Hon. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., Boston, Massachusetts; Rev. Dr. J. A. Lippincott, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and General Eugene A. Carr, Washington, District of Columbia."

Reference: An Illustrated History of New Mexico: Containing a History of this Important Section of the Great Southwest, from the Earliest Period of its Discovery to the Present Time, together with Glimpses of it Auspicious Future; Illustrations and Full-page Portraits of some of its Eminent Men, and Biographical Mention of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Citizens of To-day. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1895.