(October 15, 1767 – September 13, 1832)
The history of the Catholic Church in Michigan in the early nineteenth century centers on Father Gabriel Richard. Born in Saintes, France in 1767, ordained at the Society of Saint-Sulpice in 1791, Fr. Richard was sent from France during the French Revolution and assigned to preach to Indians in southern Illinois. He transferred to Detroit in 1798 where he was placed in charge of all missions in Michigan and Wisconsin. Additionally, from 1802 to 1832, Fr. Richard was pastor of St. Anne’s Catholic Church, the first Catholic church established in Michigan (1701).
Always interested in education, Fr. Richard and the Rev. John Monteith, a Presbyterian minister, established, in 1817, a Detroit school called “Catholepistemiad of Michigania”, which in 1837 moved to Ann Arbor with the official name, “The University of Michigan”.
In addition to being one of the founders of the University of Michigan, Fr. Gabriel Richard had many other achievements including:
* The first priest to serve in the U.S. Congress.
* He gave Detroit its first library.
* Brought the first printing press to Michigan and published many pamphlets.
* Published Detroit’s first newspaper, The Observer.
* Convinced Congress to provide the monies to build the first road from Detroit to Chicago (now know as Michigan Avenue).
* Co-founded the Michigan Historical Society.
Ministering to the sick during a cholera epidemic, Fr. Richard died on September 13, 1832, the last victim of the disease. His remains are entombed in a special chapel at Ste. Anne’s Parish in Detroit.
Father Gabriel Richard High School
Father Gabriel Richard High School is a private, Roman Catholic high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is located in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing. The school is the part of the natural progression of Catholic Education that began with the establishment of St.Thomas the Apostle school which was established in 1868. By 1880 the original facilities had been outgrown and the school moved for the first time. In 1900 a vast new church was begun for the overgrown parish and was completed in 1905.
The parish and church were a vibrant part of Ann Arbor’s early history and in the early 1920s the old school building was torn down and a new enlarged building was constructed that remains to this day. The school survived World War I and grew throughout the Great Depression and in the post -World War II era. In the fall of 1977, St. Thomas split from the elementary school, St. Thomas. The High School was named Father Gabriel Richard Catholic High School. As the turn of the century approached, the original 1920s building became too small and obsolete, and in 2003, Father Gabriel Richard High School moved to a new campus adjacent to the beautiful pastoral grounds of Domino’s Farms. The original St. Thomas elementary school building was renovated and remains on its original spot and continues to operate independently of Father Gabriel Richard High School..
In 2008, Father Gabriel Richard High School was put on the Top 50 List of best Catholic high schools in the nation. As of October 2015, it has been placed on this list for seven consecutive years.