111th anniversary of the death of Fr. Ernest Forge!
Today is the 111th anniversary of the death of Fr. Ernest Forge. He served as the Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Ville Platte from 1868-1873, where he ministered to many in the Vidrine Family. These are some of the many:
Louis Arsena Vidrine (1868), son of Leon Levi Vidrine, Sr. and Manette Soileau on 7 May 1868
Jean-Francois “Frank” Vidrine (1868–1924), son of Alcin Vidrine and Estelle Andrepont on 23 May 1869
Appolinaire Hypolite Vidrine Jr. (1868–1946), son of Appolinaire Hypolite Vidrine, Sr. and Emelie Ardoin on 20 June 1869
Pierre (Eli) Vidrine V (1869–1921) son of Pierre Vidrine, IV and Marie Osite Fontenot on 21 January 1870
Erasme Vidrine (1869-) son of Leandre Vidrine and Marie Alida Fontenot on 28 January 1870
Eugenie Vidrine (1869–1923) daughter of Theodule A Vidrine and Octavie Tate on 22 May 1870
Jean Eloi Vidrine (1871-1944) son of Eloi Vidrine, Jr. and Emelie Fontenot on 7 June 1870
Dr. Julius C “Jules” Vidrine (1870–1945), son of Aurelie Vidrine and Zoe Fusilier on 7 February 1871
Armand Vidrine (1871-1893) son of Archille Vidrine and Euphemie Bordelon on 25 February 1872
Prospere Vidrine (1869–1935), son of Pierre Etienne O’Neil Vidrine and Oline Larose Fontenot on 30 July 1872
Arthur “Buck” Vidrine (1872–1908), son of Theodule A Vidrine and Octavie Tate on 16 June 1872
Alida J Vidrine (1872-1933) daughter of Leandre Vidrine and Marie Alida Fontenot on 22 January 1873
Evariste Vidrine (1849-) son of Eloi Vidrine, Sr. and Felonise Fontenot and Azelie Reed on 26 October 1872
1837 Born in Loire, France
1856 Arrived in USA at 19 years old
Attended seminary in New Orleans/Ordained for Diocese of Natchitoches, LA
1865 Assistant Priest, New Orleans
May 31, 1866 Assistant at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception,
1868-1873 Pastor of Sacred Heart, Ville Platte, LA
1874-1881 Pastor of St. Bernard, Breaux Bridge, LA
1881-1905 Pastor of St. John, Lafayette, LA
Oct 30, 1905 Died at Lafayette, LA at 68 years, 6 months, and 25 days old
FORGE – Very Reverend Father E. Forge, pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church, died at the Presbytery at 10 p. m., Monday Oct. 30. Father Forge had been in ill health for a long time, and recently became so seriously ill that his death was seen to be inevitable He was tenderly and assiduously cared for during his sickness by warm friends – laymen of the town and clergymen from the neighboring parishes, many of whom were present during his last moments. Father Forge was well-known and highly esteemed throughout Southwest Louisiana. He was of a most sociable disposition and his open house and kindly hospitality was often enjoyed by his friends both among the laity and the clergy. He was greatly beloved in Lafayette where he has labored in the Lord’s vineyard for twenty-five years. It was on Palm Sunday, 1881, as many can recall to their minds, that he came from Breaux Bridge to Lafayette, where he has ever since been pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church. Father Forge was born in Loire, France, in 1837. He received his education in Gascony, France; when 19 years of age, he came over to this country. He studied at Spring Hill College where he completed his theological course. He was ordained by Bishop Martin, of Natchitoches. He was appointed president of Natchitoches College, which place he filled acceptably for a few years, and he also labored for some time as a missionary in that section. He next served as assistant priest in New Orleans one year where he was appointed parish priest of St. Bernard. He also served at Ville Platte, then Breaux Bridge and last at Lafayette where he has spent the twenty-five years as pastor of St. John’s Church. Father Forge was 68 years, 6 months and 25 days of age at the time of his death. Funeral services will be held Friday, Nov. 3, at 9 a. m.
(Lafayette Advertiser, 11-1-1903)
OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE SCHOOL BOARD AND PARISH OF LAFAYETTE. VOLUME XLI. LAFAYETTE, LOUISIANA, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 1903. NUMBER 9.
REV. E. FORGE, Pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church, Passes Away After Serving This Parish Twenty-five Years. Well Known Throughout the State and Greatly Esteemed by the Catholic Clergy and by His Parishioners. Services to Be Held Friday. Very Reverend Father Forge, pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church, died at the Presbytery at 10 p.m., Monday Oct. 10. Father Forge had been in ill health for a long time, and recently became so seriously ill that his death was seen to be inevitable He was tenderly and assiduously cared for during his sickness by warm fiends laymen of the town and clergymen from the neighboring parishes, many of whom were present during his last moments. Father Forge was well-known and highly esteemed throughout Southwest Louisiana. He was of a most sociable disposition and his open house and kindly hospitality was often enjoyed by his friends both among the laity and the clergy. He was greatly beloved in Lafayette where he has labored in the Lord’s vineyard for twenty-five years. It was on Palm Sunday, l881, as many can recall to their minds, that he came from Breaux Bridge to Lafayette, where he has ever since been pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church. Not long ago Archbishop Chapelle promoted Father Forge to the dignity of a canon of his cathedral, New Orleans, and a beautiful ceremony was planned for the occasion when the investiture of that dignity was to be conferred on him. Confreres from every part of Louisiana were to attend this ceremony, and dignitaries of the church had not been slow in accepting the invitation extended to them to honor with their presence this ceremony of investiture. All seemed to understand that the ceremony meant recognition of merit. But when least expected Archbishop Chapelle died a victim of yellow fever, after an extended trip of connfiliation through the Louisiana parishes, and the ceremony had to be postponed. But it was the wish of many, that the investiture take place, and though it could not be with the same splendor, yet it was agreed the ceremony be performed. The time was appointed when quarantine would be raised everywhere, then the priests could come and in their presence Father Forge was to put on the insignia of his new dignity. But “man proposes and God disposes.” For his labors in this parish it was deemed just and tit that Father Forge should be rewarded with a public recognition. God thought otherwise and called him unto himself to receive reward which his long service merited. Father Forge was born in Loire, France, in 1837. He received his education in Gascony, France; when 19 years of age, he came over to this country. He studied at Spring Hill College where he completed his theological course. He was ordained by Bishop Martin, of Natchitoches. He was appointed president of Natchitoches College, which place he filled acceptably for a few years, and he also labored for some time as a missionary in that section. He next served as assistant priest in New Orleans one year where he was appointed parish priest of St. Bernard. He also served at Ville Platte, then Breaux Bridge and last at Lafayette where he has spent the twenty-five years as pastor of St. John’s Church. Father Forge was 68 years, 6 months and 25 days of age at the time of his death. Funeral services will be held Friday, Nov. 3, at 9 a. m. Reverend Father A. Charles extends his thanks to the Catholic laymen of Lafayette for their much appreciated help, having come in so great numbers to watch over their pastor at night; Messrs. Vavasseur Mouton, Julien Mouton, Gus Lacoste and Alex Delahoussaye have been prominent in this work. Also, that Dr. Trahan could not be too much thanked for his thorough gentlemanliness to his patient and fatherly care bestowed on him. Father Langlinois and Father Bollard, too, lavished incessant care on Father Forge, greatly assisting Father Charles who had his hands full with his parish work, which seldom at any time of the year is so great as at this season.
Jake, Fifine, and Father Forge
by Jim Bradshaw
Three thousand people, about half of the town population, attended the last rites for Father Ernest Forge, a beloved and long-time pastor of St. John Cathedral in Lafayette in 1905. He was so loved that his remains were placed beneath the church floor.
He’d come to Louisiana from his native France at the age of 19 and was ordained by a fellow Frenchman, Bishop Augustus Martin of what was then the Diocese of Natchitoches and is today the Diocese of Alexandria. He served for a while as president of Natchitoches College and held pastoral assignments in New Orleans, Ville Platte, and Breaux Bridge before coming to Lafayette on Palm Sunday, 1881.
He was said to be a saintly man and a lover of flowers. And he also was remembered for his monkeys.
According to a document in the archives at UL’s Dupre Library, Father Forge helped to give Lafayette the nickname of “city of flowers.” He converted a plot between the church and the rectory into a rose garden and “people came from far and near” to see the 1,300 named varieties planted there.
The monkeys were a different story, according to an account recorded some years ago by the late “Tante Ruth” Hamilton. She said Father Forge kept two monkeys, Jake and Fifine, and that Jake was a rascal.
“Father had a house for them in the yard, but there were times when Jake got out and roamed around the neighborhood,” according to Mrs. Hamilton’s remembrance. “When Jake was on the loose, Father would ring the church bell and everybody would know to come and help recapture him,”
One day Jake got into the kitchen of a house near the church, grabbed the cook’s infant child, and climbed into a pecan tree. Father Forge brought bananas and apples and – speaking in French (which was apparently Jake’s semi-native tongue) – tried to coax the monkey from the tree.
Mrs. Hamilton remembered, “Finally, as the crowd watched, Jake began to come down, unable to resist the temptation of the fruit. The people … held their breath for fear Jake would throw the baby down. But he didn’t. When he climbed down, he gave the baby to Father in exchange for a banana.”
Father Forge died Oct. 30, 1905 after a long illness, during which the newspaper reported, “he was tenderly and assiduously care for … by warm friends – laymen of the town and clergymen from neighboring parishes, many of whom were present during his last moments.”
In the precise calculation commonly found in obituaries of Father Forge’s time, he was 68 years, 6 months, and 25 days old at the time of his death. He was buried in front of the altar inside the church, but the remains were moved eight years later during a renovation of the church.
The Lafayette Advertiser of Sept. 26, 1913, reported, “Tuesday evening the vault containing the body of the Rev. E. Forge was opened in the process of laying the foundations for the new Catholic church and the casket removed to [a] new chamber prepared for it [beneath the church]. While the casket was exposed, many people viewed the remains which were still in [an] excellent state of preservation. … The features were said to be perfectly natural and lifelike.”
Fifine died during Father Forge’s lifetime, and may be buried somewhere on the cathedral grounds.
Jake outlived the pastor and was sent to the Audubon Zoo for a while, and was then sent to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, where, presumably, he got more apples, bananas, and conversations in French.
Jake in the City
December 20, 1905 (page 4) of The Lafayette Advertiser:
Jake, the large baboon, kept by the late Father Forge is now a resident of New Orleans, having been presented to the city park by Father Bollard. He was sent by express last week.
The Kansas City Gazette.
March 3, 1906
Page 5; Column 4
FATHER FORGE’S MONK.
Baboon Rang Bell Calling Parishioners to Worship.
His name was Jake. He is the monkey which has recently been donated by a priest to the City park. He is a monkey with a history. Not a common everyday history such as might be boasted of by his ancestors of the jungle, but a history in which mankind his plyer [sic] a conspicuous part, for Jake used to summon worshipers to church on Sundays and feast days. And with that he is 23 years old.
Jake was the pet of Father Forge, of Lafayette, La., with whom he made his home for twenty-two years. Father Forge got him when he was a few months old, a wee tiny baboon baby, from a passing trader. Jake was then a blinking, squirming little brat with scarcely enough strength to raise the bottle which its foster parent used to give it three times a day. Jake was put in a comfortable box of nicely padded, and there he thrived and grew strong and soon developed into a big, healthy baboon.
When he was old enough Father Forge christened him. The chronicles state that the christening was quiet an event in the town. All the children were there. They grew up to be men and women beside Jake, whom they got to know as a friend.
When he reached man’s estate he began to show signs of intelligence which he exhibited by imitating gestures, and doing what others around him did. Jake was a wise monkey, and with it all, very sensitive. He would not stand fooling. Instead of getting mad like other baboons when the boys would attempt to tease him, he would hang his head in mute appeal to be let alone. This is one of the things which endeared him to all who got to know him and he numbered his friends by the legion.
Father Forge made Jake his bell ringer, a task which he enjoyed hugely. Jake’s habitation was just in front of Father Forge’s residence, and near the church. At service hour he was given a big bell, such as used in schools, and when he began to ring it he did it with a will. The sound of his bell brought the parishioners to church from near and far. He rang the bell for a funeral. He rang the bell for a wedding. He rang the bell for a christening. [Note; other articles suggest Jake knew the cadence of which to ring the bell for each event.] Jake didn’t know what it all meant, but he did his part just the same.
For twenty-two years he filled this good position with credit. The souls he brought to the altar in prayer in all those years were summoned by the bell which Jake tolled.
Two months ago, Father Forge died [sic]. Jake could not be made a beneficiary in his will, but Father Forge made provision for his welfare. He inserted a clause in his testament, which directed Father Bollard, the executor of his estate, to donate Jake to the City Park at New Orleans. This was done in accordance not only with the provisions of the will but in accordance with an expressed wish of the priest just before he died. Jake had been his friend in life, and he provided for him after his death.
Jake was accordingly brought to New Orleans and transferred to the park. He was given comfortable enough quarters, but these are in the stable. He cannot be kept with the other animals, and is secluded in the rear.
And here is where Jake has forgotten himself. He has lost sight of his religious life, and if he could say things he would. As it is, he acts them. Jake does not like his surroundings and sulks for hours at a time. He will not even touch the bell which his keepers give him to ring. He has lost his appetite and refuses to eat from a plate as he used to.
This is not because Jake is badly raised. For he is not. He can drink out of glass just the same as any person can, he can use a knife and fork, but he will not, now. He eats with his fingers most of the time, and it is only on rare occasions when he condescends to act civilized.
Jake can be a jolly good fellow. He can drink whiskey, likes beer, and revels in pop. He has been on several sprees in his home town, but only a few of his intimates knows this. He has worn dresses, too, but not often, for he does not like them.
This is the history, an interesting one for a baboon. He is growing old, but he is still strong and vigorous. He has left a void in Lafayette where he lived for many years. But Jake has a host of admirers in this city who will be glad to know him better. A few people have met him already, and he is becoming accustomed, though very gradually, to his new environments. – New Orleans Times-Democrat.