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Series 4: Papers of Founder: Charles Neale, SJ (1751-1823)

Identifier: Series 4

Scope and Contents

Charles Neale was born in Maryland in 1751 of a founding Maryland family that could reach back to Captain James Neale who arrived before 1642 and whose close relationship to the Calverts is well documented. Like his four brothers who also became priests, Neale was educated abroad by the Jesuits at Bruges and Liege (Low Countries). Entering the Society, he was ordained in 1771. In 1780 he became chaplain to the Carmelite nuns at English Antwerp; during that time the Society of Jesus was officially suppressed. Neale's relationship to the prioresses of both Antwerp and Hoogstraet (he was a cousin of the Antwerp prioress (Mother Mary Margaret Brent) and was related by both blood-ties and marriage to Mother Bernardina Matthews, then prioress at Hoogstraet Carmel, meant that Neale was well apprised of the desire on the part of these American-born nuns to found a new Carmel in America. He, too, would become absorbed in the plans--even to the extent of influencing the choice of a replacement for Mother Mary Margaret Brent who died in 1784--and found himself practical leader of the founding party. By the time of their departure for American in April of 1790, Charles Neale had become the spokesperson and manager of the party. He it was who took care of all business and legal affairs, transacted the oceanic voyage and led the four nuns first to his own patrimonial land at Chandler's Hope, in Maryland, and then to land he both negotiated for, and purchased, from Baker Brooke, at Port Tobacco. From the establishment there until his death in April 27, 1823, Charles Neale remained as chaplain, spiritual director, financial and legal advisor, and overseer of the spacious farm at Mt. Carmel, this despite the fact that his reentering the Society of Jesus often simultaneously involved him in that community as well. Neale's influence over the Carmel at Port Tobacco was enormous. All decisions were laid before him. Both Mothers Bernardina and Clare Joseph relied on his skills, judgement, and spiritual advice. Clare Joseph referred to him as "father, friend, confessor and director." He was part of the community itself, living in a separate dwelling, but participating in almost every aspect of the ceremonial life of the community. Although not robust, he worked unstintingly for the sake of the monastery. His personal asceticism and simplicity of life edified all who witnessed the almost-reclusive life he spent there; he was seldom seen occupied in other tasks than those related to the development of the Carmel. His death also proved inspiring to the entire community who witnessed his final moments as he "peaceably, sweetly, without a groan..." died. The records of Charles Neale reflect his preoccupation with building Carmel in America: whether his time was spent working the farm, involved in business or legal concerns, negotiating the bonded labor of the some fifty negroes who dwelt there, looking after the spiritual needs of the monastery, or even becoming involved in the various forms of recreation to which the nuns resorted. Family genealogies and biographical sketches, one by a fellow Jesuit, Benedict Fenwick (later Bishop of Boston), are also included among the Charles Neale papers. Arranged chronologically, within subseries.


  • 1650-1831
  • Majority of material found in 1780-1830


From the Record Group: 3 linear feet

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore Repository

1318 Dulaney Valley Road
Baltimore MD 21286 USA