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Arthur Spearman, S.J.

Arthur Dunning Spearman, S.J. served as University Archivist at Santa Clara from 1957-1977. He was a prolific writer, producing books, essays and articles on the history of Mission Santa Clara and Santa Clara University, his family history, religion, and Native Americans. His first major book was The Five Franciscan Churches of Mission Santa Clara, 1777-1825, published in 1963. In 1967 he published a biography of local aviation pioneer John J. Montgomery titled, John Joseph Montgomery, Father of Basic Flying.

Spearman was born on August 26, 1899 in Wheaton, Illinois to Frank Hamilton Spearman and Eugenie Amelia Lonergan Spearman. His father was a well-known author of Western novels and short stories. The Spearman family moved from Wheaton, Illinois to Hollywood in 1905 after Frank Hamilton Spearman's best-selling novel, Whispering Smith, was purchased by early filmmakers for adaptation to the big screen. The Spearman family was quite well-travelled. In 1906, they spent a year in Rome and Florence. During this time, an audience with the Pope made a deep impression on Spearman.

Spearman completed his BA in Theology in 1926 and his MA in English in 1927 at Gonzaga. In 1927-28 he taught high school English and history as a scholastic at Gonzaga. Spearman began studies for the Sacred Theology Licentiate (STL) in 1928 at Wheaton College in Illinois. The rector at Wheaton thought he was "too meticulous" to be ordained; Spearman was transferred to St. Louis and ordained a week later on June 25, 1931. He was awarded the STL at St. Louis University in l932.

After ordination Spearman suffered a physical breakdown from which he never fully recovered. He attributed this to the "over-intensity and mild friction" of 13 years of novitiate and difficult study. It is unclear how long this illness lasted, or where he was when it overtook him. Spearman returned to Santa Clara in 1933-34 to teach English and religion, before moving to Los Angeles to become director of the Loyola University library from 1935 to 1947. He was transferred to San Diego in 1947 to work in Spanish-speaking and African American parishes. During the 1949 to 1954 period, he began his research in the history of early Maryland and Delaware, and he compiled a four-volume family history.

In 1954 Spearman returned to Loyola University in Los Angeles and began his research on the early years of Mission Santa Clara and Santa Clara University. He returned to Santa Clara in 1957 to serve as University Archivist and continue his historical research. From 1957 to 1971 Spearman also served as chaplain of the Santa Clara Carmelite nuns and of the Catholic Daughters of San Jose. He was chairman of the Historical Landmarks Commission for the city of Santa Clara from 1960 to 1964, and was curator of Mission exhibits at the de Saisset Museum from 1960 to 1971. Spearman suffered a stroke in 1971, which sharply curtailed his involvement in local history and research, although he continued to serve as University Archivist. Spearman died in Santa Clara on April 9, 1977.

The biographical information provided here is an edited version of the Biographical History section of a legacy finding aid at Santa Clara University.


The collection


The Arthur D. Spearman, S.J. Papers, 1824-1977 (1955-1975), documents his life as priest, author, and University Archivist. The bulk of the collection consists of subject files and photographs used by Fr. Spearman for his historical research. Fr. Spearman was an avid collector of materials related to his many research interests, including mission history, the history of Santa Clara Valley, Santa Clara University, Native Americans, Jesuits, and his family genealogy. The collection contains numerous newspaper clippings, informational literature, research notes, as well as various manuscripts for published and unpublished articles written by Fr. Spearman. This online collection draws from all of these resources, but is only a small portion of the entire physical collection. For more information about the Arthur D. Spearman, S.J. Papers, please visit our finding aid at the Online Archive of California.

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