Nearly 180 years ago, a mob of anywhere between 50 to 200 men – all with their faces painted – climbed the hill where the Ursuline convent and school stood overlooking Charlestown.
Within a few hours in August 1834, the buildings of the Catholic order was burned to the ground as thousand of spectators and a number of fire companies watched as the fire consumed the site.
There are reports that 2,000-4,000 spectators including a number of fire companies watched the fire. The next day, the mob returned to destroy anything that wasn't burned the day before: the gardens, orchards and fences.
There are a number of possible reasons that this riot and fire happened. Many believe that the men who attacked were primarily workers in the brick factories, who were being displaced by Irish Catholics. Some believe the strong-willed Mother Superior, may have fueled the rioters, when she was heard “Telling the rioters that 20,000 Irishmen were going to burn the roofs over their heads.”
But no one knows for sure what caused a group of men to direct their hate at a school run by a small group of Ursuline nuns who came from Montreal whose primary purpose was to educate young women, many from the Protestant upper class.
Learn more about what happened on a hill overlooking Charlestown behind Sullivan Station as the Charlestown Historical Society's hosts a talk by Nancy Lusignan Schultz, author of "Fire & Roses: The Burning of the Charlestown Convent, 1834," at 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the American Legion's J. W. Conway Bunker Hill Post 26 at 23 Adams St.