Father Antonio Ubach: Last Will and Testament

Father Antonio Ubach: Last Will and Testament

By Dr. Melinda Blade, Director of Mission Integration & Historian

Father Antonio Dominic Ubach, OFM (1835-1907), was the famous pastor to the Catholic community of San Diego during the late 19th century. He arrived in San Diego in 1866 and remained here until his death on March 27, 1907. Father Ubach was the priest who prayed for 12 years that the Sisters of St. Joseph would come to San Diego and begin a school. His faithful perseverance paid off in 1882 when the Sisters came to San Diego and opened up the Academy of Our Lady of Peace.

Father Ubach was a good friend to the Sisters and students of OLP. His original monetary contribution allowed the Sisters to open the school on May 10, 1882. He attended numerous OLP activities and was always present at Commencement ceremonies. He is frequently listed as the presenter of the diplomas to the graduates.

On file in the OLP Archives is a copy of Father Ubach’s Last Will and Testament. The document, dating from 1908, is on the turn-of-the-century version of onion paper, and was presented in the San Diego County Superior Court by his lawyers, H.C. Gordon and J.B. Mannix* on December 8, 1908. The 12-page typed document listed the numerous people and organizations to whom the beloved priest had left his belongings and funds.

Father Ubach’s estate was valued at $21,701.69 (excluding cash and bank deposits). Funds were left to St. Anthony’s Indian School, the Catholic Knights of America, his housekeeper, his niece in Spain, and his library (it went to the monastery of La Trappe, in Gethsemane, Kentucky, known as the home of Thomas Merton), and assorted other organizations and people.

To OLP, he left the following instructions:

“I give and bequeath to Mother St. Claire, or her successor Superioress at the time of my death of the Academy of Our Lady of Peace at San Diego, the sum of Five Hundred (500) dollars for the use and benefit of said Academy, on condition that she pay one (1) dollar a month for a mass for the repose of the souls of my parents for the term of ten (10) years….”

The Will goes on to state in Item VIII that all of his remaining estate after all other bequeaths and bills owed are settled were to go to “Sarah Bresnahan, known in religious life as Mother St. Claire, of San Diego, California, whom I nominate as my residuary devisee and legatee.” Mother St. Claire was the principal of OLP from 1900 to 1906. A legatee is usually a person who took care of personal property left by the deceased and a devisee usually took care of land that was left.

Father Ubach’s debts owed at the time of his death included commercial names still recognized in San Diego business circles:

  • Sherwin-Williams for paints ($5.72)
  • West Coast Lumber Company
  • Spreckles Brothers
  • St. Joseph’s Hospital and Sanitarium (Now Mercy Hospital)

The role of Father Ubach in OLP’s history is invaluable. His perseverance in convincing the Sisters to come from Missouri to found a school for girls in San Diego is only one of his innumerable contributions to San Diego. He is known as the “Last of the Padres” and famously said once that the boundaries of his parish encompassed San Diego to the Colorado River.

*John B. Mannix, later a San Diego Judge, had daughters who attended OLP

Read next month’s historical corner here.