John Carroll

John Carroll (1735 - 1815)

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Archbishop John Carroll
Born in Upper Marlborough, Prince George's County, Marylandmap
Ancestors ancestors
[spouse(s) unknown]
Died in Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 27 Jan 2015
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John Carroll, (January 8, 1735 – December 3, 1815) was the first Roman Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States — serving as the ordinary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He is also known as the founder of Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the United States, and St. John the Evangelist Parish of Rock Creek (now Forest Glen), the first secular (diocesan) parish in the country.

John Carroll was born to Daniel Carroll, a native of Ireland, and Eleanor Darnall Carroll, of English descent,in 1735, at the large plantation which Eleanor Darnall had inherited from her family. He spent his early years at the family home, sited on thousands of acres in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. (Several acres are now associated with the house museum known as Darnall's Chance, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.) His older brother Daniel Carroll became one of only five men to sign both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States.

John Carroll was educated at the College of St. Omer in French Flanders from 1748 - 1753. (The Jesuit run college was established for the education of English Catholics after discrimination following the Protestant Reformation in England. During the upheavals following the French Revolution, the college migrated to Bruges, and then Liège before finally settling at Stonyhurst in England in 1794, where it remains.) Attending St. Omer with him was his cousin Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who was to become the only Catholic signatory to the Declaration of Independence and the first United States Senator from Maryland.

Noted mainly for his role in the formation of the Roman Catholic Church in America, he also is remembered for his journey to Canada in 1776 for the purpose of persuading Canada to unite with the thirteen colonies in the Revolution. In 1789, Carroll was nominated by representatives of the American Catholic clergy to be the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in America. His nomination was confirmed by the Vatican in 1790. In the same year, he founded Georgetown College, known today as Georgetown University. In 1803, Carroll was elevated to the level of archbishop, this making him the first archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in America. He died in December, 1815, in Georgetown.

Carroll joined the Society of Jesus as a postulant at the age of 18 in 1753. In 1755, he began his studies of philosophy and theology at Liège. After fourteen years he was ordained to the priesthood in 1769. Carroll remained in Europe until he was almost 40, teaching at St Omer and Liège, and acting as chaplain to several British aristocrats traveling on the continent.

When the Pope suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773, Carroll made arrangements to return to Maryland. As a result of laws discriminating against Catholics, there was then no public Catholic Church in Maryland, so Carroll worked as a missionary in Maryland and Virginia.

Carroll founded St. John the Evangelist Parish at Forest Glen (Silver Spring) in 1774. In 1776, the Continental Congress asked Carroll, his cousin Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, and Benjamin Franklin to travel to Quebec and attempt to persuade the French Canadians to join the revolution. Although the group was unsuccessful, it made Carroll well known to the government of the new republic. Carroll was excommunicated by the local Quebec bishop, Jean-Olivier Briand, for his political activities.

The Jesuit fathers, led by Carroll and five other priests, began a series of meetings at White Marsh beginning on 27 June 1783; through these General Chapters, they organized the Catholic Church in the United States on what is now the site of Sacred Heart Church in Maryland.

Among the major educational concerns of Carroll were the education of the faithful, providing proper training for priests and the inclusion of women in higher education (something he had encountered resistance to). As a result, Carroll orchestrated the founding and early development of Georgetown University. Administration of the school was entrusted to the Jesuits. Instruction at the school began on November 22, 1791 under the direction of its first President, Robert Plunkett, with future Congressman William Gaston as its first student.

In 1806, Carroll oversaw the construction of the first cathedral in the 13 United States, the Cathedral of the Assumption (today called the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in Baltimore, Maryland, which was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the United States Capitol. The cornerstone of the cathedral was laid on July 7, 1806, by Carroll, but he did not live to see its completion.


Carroll died in Baltimore on December 3, 1815. His remains are interred in the crypt of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which can be visited by the public.


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John is 24 degrees from Rosa Parks, 19 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 12 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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