Madame Clara O’Rorke

On 25 January 2013, a post on Michael Waricher’s Battlefield Perspectives Facebook page showed a photo of Colonel Patrick Henry O’Rorke’s tombstone in Rochester, NY.

Col. O’Rorke commanded the 140th New York Infantry (3B, 2D, 5C, AOP) and died on the second day at Gettysburg as he famously led a bayonet charge down the southwest slope of Little Round Top.

In the resulting Facebook discussion, Licensed Battlefield Guide Deb Novotny asked if anyone knew the burial location of Col. O’Rorke’s widow. I did a little research and this is what I found:

Madame Clara O'Rorke (click to enlarge)

Madame Clara O\’Rorke (click to enlarge)

“Madame Clara O’Rorke”1 (née Clarissa Wadsworth Bishop2) was born in Rochester, NY on 29 March 18373, daughter of Edward and Helena/Hanna Bishop.4 She married Patrick Henry O’Rorke at St. Bridget’s Church, Rochester, NY, on 9 July 18625. Just a week before their first anniversary, Colonel O’Rorke was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. On 14 September 1863, Mrs. O’Rorke applied for and received a widow’s pension of $30.00 per month.6 She took her vows and entered the Society of the Sacred Heart on 19 March 1865,7 serving later as Mother Superior in convents in Detroit, Michigan, Albany, NY, and lastly Providence, RI.

Academy of the Sacred Heart (click to enlarge)

Academy of the Sacred Heart (click to enlarge)

Madame O’Rorke (photo above)8 died on 18 Feb 18939 and was buried in the cemetery of the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Elmhurst10, (736 Smith Street11) in Providence, RI. In 1960, the convent sold the 29-acre12 property and moved the convent and associated school (“Academy of the Sacred Heart, Elmhurst”13; later “Elmhurst Academy”14) to Portsmouth, RI.15 The original buildings in Elmhurst (photo on left)16 were razed and the remains of those interred in the cemetery were moved to the Boston area.17 The original convent area is now the home of a modern medical center.18

Madame O’Rorke was reinterred in St. Joseph Cemetery,19 West Roxbury, Massachusetts, Field of the Sacred Heart, Lot #1, grave #36.20

Addendum 1:
Pursuant to our original post, LBG Deb Novotny visited St. Joseph Cemetery on 7 Apr 2013 and provided this photo of Madame Clara O’Rorke’s tombstone:








Addendum 2 (29 Nov 2017):

On, “EFB III” offers this early photo of Clarissa Wadsworth Bishop O’Rorke:



Notes and sources:
1 “Sadliers’ Catholic Directory, Almanac and Ordo, For the Year of Our Lord 1883 with Reports of the Dioceses in the United States, British America, Ireland, England, and Scotland”, 51st Annual Publication (New York: D. & J. Sadlier and Co., 1883), p292.
2 Despite a variety of online sources which identify her as “Clarrisa” or “Clarrissa,” it was spelled “Clarissa” on her marriage record and in her own hand on her widow’s pension application.

Signature from her pension application (digitally cleaned to remove surrounding text)

Signature from her pension application (digitally cleaned to remove surrounding text)

3 “Annual Letters of the Society of the Sacred Heart,” 1892-1893, Part II, pg 270.
4 Her parents are recorded as Edward and Hannah in the 1860 census but the marriage record (translated from Latin) lists them as Edward and Helena.
5 Marriage Record, St. Bridget’s Church, Rochester, NY, 9 July 1862.
6 Federal Pension File, Patrick Henry O’Rorke, Widow’s pension application #32785 (14 Sep 1863), certificate #6885.
7 “Annual Letters of the Society of the Sacred Heart,” ibid.
8 Michael Pera, Assistant Archivist, Society of the Sacred Heart U.S. Province Archives, St. Louis, MO.
9 “Rhode Island, Deaths, 1630-1930” on Next of kin is listed as “Jane Orne”.
10 United States. Army, 155th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, “Under the Maltese Cross, Antietam to Appomattox: The Loyal Uprising in Western Pennsylvania, 1861-1865” (Pittsburg [sic]: The 155th Regimental Association, 1910), p738.
11 Providence City Directory, 1892.
12 Steiger, Ernst, “Steiger’s Educational Directory for 1878” (New York: E. Steiger, 1878).
13 “The Official Catholic Directory,” (New York : P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1952), p521.
14 Portsmouth Patch Newsletter,
15 Portsmouth Patch Newsletter,
16 Photo:
17 Sister Catherine, of St. Pius V Catholic Church (Elmhurst Ave, Providence, RI), who grew up in the area and whose grandfather was the caretaker of the convent grounds; interviewed 28 Jan 2012.
18 Google Maps, lat: 41.838427 lon:-71.435423
19 Michael Pera, ibid.; interviewed 30 Jan 2013.
20 Holyhood Cemetery Association (St. Joseph’s Cemetery), 990 LaGrange Street, West Roxbury, MA 02132.

2 Responses to “Madame Clara O’Rorke”

  1. Deb Novotny Says:

    Bob, You get a big A+ from me. Thanks loads for sharing your research!

  2. admin Says:

    You’re welcome, Deb. It was a fun little challenge. As you might guess, I’ve spoken to a lot of nuns in the last few days and they always end the conversation with a blessing. So I think my soul is good to go for a while… 🙂


Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.