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Anti-Catholic Violence In Charlestown, 176 Years Ago

On August 10, 1834, rioters burned down the Charlestown convent. (Courtesy of Northeastern University Press)

At midnight on August 10, 1834, rioters gathered outside the Mt. Benedict Academy for Girls, an Ursuline convent located in what is now East Somerville, demanding to see Sister Mary John, a nun who had escaped the convent walls two weeks before.

Rebecca Reed fled the convent in 1832. (Northeastern University Press)

Mother St. George, also known as Sister Mary Ann Moffat, insisted that the cloistered nun was resting.

She asked that the rioters from the brickyards surrounding the verdant 24-acre compound leave the premises, threatening that the Bishop of Boston would send his army of 20,000 Irishmen to “burn the roofs” over their heads.

This was not the best strategy to mollify the crowd.

What followed is called the worst act of anti-Catholic violence in United States history. Today, we explore it in detail.

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