I. M. E. (Isabella Margaret Elizabeth) Blandin.

History of higher education of women in the South prior to 1860. online

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Nazareth Academy, 1808-1908

When Bishop Flaget was appointed pioneer Bishop
of the West, in 1808, he conceived the idea of forming
a band of women to educate the children of his dio-
cese. He chose as the director of this new community
his friend and companion, Rev. John B. David, su-
perior of the newly created theological seminary of
St. Thomas. A farm located amidst the picturesque
knobs of Nelson county was secured, and Father
David and the seminarians built a log cabin on it
about nine miles from Bardstown, and here the Sis-
ters of Charity of Nazareth began to teach the chil-
dren of the sturdy farmers who lived around the
Episcopal residence, which was also a log cabin, De-
cember i. Before Easter three others had joined the
order. As soon as the Bishop's plan became known
Sister Teresa Carico and Sister Elizabeth Wells of-
fered for the work, and before the end of the first
month Sister Catherine Spalding joined the commu-

This little band of five women patiently endured
the hardships, and faithfully performed the tasks that
fell to the lot of pioneer women. They supported
themselves, and in addition to the labor of teaching
and nursing the sick, they spun and wove and made
garments for themselves and the seminarians, and
worked in the fields. The little school prospered, and
in 1814 Nazareth Academy was established; and al-
though many other educational institutions have been
established since Nazareth was founded, it has retained
its early prestige, and keeps abreast in all essentials.

The community came out of those days of trial
victoriously, and after a decade they numbered thirty-
five, including sisters, postulants, and novices ; and the
number of pupils thirty. They now felt encouraged


to seek a more extensive field of labor, and selected
a tract of land lying two and half miles north of
Bardstown, owned by Mr. William Hynes, which the
donation of Sister Scholastica O'Connell enabled them
to buy. A frame house, the dwelling of the former
occupant, was converted into a schoolhouse and no-
vitiate ; the log cabin near served for a chapel, in which
Father David celebrated the first mass ever said on
the premises.

June n, 1822, was truly a joyful day, the day on
which the sisters took possession of their new home.
The new site was called Nazareth also, and from this
date Nazareth Academy became a boarding-school
only. Since the purchase of the farm the school has
had no further endowment; the income derived from
tuition has been devoted to improvement and expan-
sion. Within six years after the removal $20,000 had
been spent in improving the place, and in eight years
the number of pupils had increased from thirty to
one hundred and twenty. Not only has the parent
school been maintained, but as many as sixty-seven
branch schools have been established in the West and
South. Teachers for all these schools are furnished
by a normal school conducted at Nazareth, where all
these teachers are trained.

Nazareth Academy was chartered by the Kentucky
Legislature in 1829, under the title of " Nazareth Lit-
erary and Benevolent Institution," and was given the
usual powers and privileges. Under this charter the
institution is managed by the community, under the
general supervision of a board of seven trustees, of
whom the Bishop of Louisville is moderator.

The most prominent of the early members of the
order were Mother Catherine Spaldinsr, Sister Ellen
O'Connell, and Sister Harriet Gardiner. Mother
Catherine Spalding, a member of the talented Ken-
tucky family of that name, and a cousin of Archbishop
Spalding, seventh archbishop of Baltimore, joined the
community in the first month of its existence; and


shortly afterward was elected mother superior of the
order, a position she held for twenty-four years. She
was the pivot on which the affairs of the growing
sisterhood turned for many years. She had the at-
tributes of mind that peculiarly fitted her for leader-
ship purity of intention and an indomitable will.
She was noted for her clear convictions of duty and
her faithful performance of its demands.

Mother Frances Gardiner succeeded Mother Cath-
erine, and for thirty-five years was mother superior
of the community. She had a great talent for admin-
istration, and successfully managed the affairs of the

A name held in great esteem by Catholics of Ken-
tucky is Mother Columba Carroll. She was a pupil
of Nazareth, and was trained intellectually by "Sister
Ellen O'Connell and spiritually by the saintly Sister
Columba Tarleton. She was Sister Ellen O'Connell's
successor as directress of studies, and held this posi-
tion for thirty-five years. Mother Columba possessed
extraordinary zeal and tact in ruling the sisterhood.

Sister Ellen O'Connell was the first directress of
studies, and held this position thirty-five years, dating
from the first opening of the school at St. Thomas.
She imparted to the course from the beginning that
strength and thoroughness which soon made Nazareth
prominent and attracted pupils from a distance. Her
sister, Sister Scolastica O'Connell, was the first music
teacher in the school.

When a member of the sisterhood of Nazareth lives
to see the fiftieth anniversary of the day she devoted
herself to God in the service of the young poor the
day is celebrated as a golden jubilee. The Community
Annals record twenty-one golden jubilees since the
celebration of the first, that of Sister Elizabeth Sut-
tle, December I, 1866. Sister Martha Drnry, one
of the original five that started at " Old Nazareth,"
lived to see her diamond anniversary. The 4th of
November, 1896, will be long remembered by those


who were present at the golden jubilee of Mother
Helena Tormey and Sister Alexia Macky. The most
impressive ceremony of the day was the Pontifical
Mass. The Mestag Mass, composed for Nazareth
Convent, was artistically rendered with organ and
full orchestra accompaniment. All the priests whose
parochial schools are taught by the Sisters of Charity
of Nazareth had been invited to attend, and when
dinner was served there were, including the Bishop,
exactly fifty priests present.

Mother Helena was chosen to succeed Mother Co-
lumba as mother superior, a charge rendered more
difficult on account of the eminent qualifications of her
predecessors. During her administration the com-
munity prospered, new houses were opened in the East
and the South, and the membership of the sisterhood
increased every day.

Sister Alexia devoted her life to the orphans, and
for nearly fifty years rose at half-past four that she
might be ready for the labors of the day.

On the twentieth of June, 1896, the venerable
daughters of Nazareth assembled to organize an alum-
nae association. Mrs. E. Miles, nee Bradford, was
elected president, and Mrs. E. Snowden, nee Tarleton,
counsellor. Among those in attendance at this meet-
ing were three generations of one family. Miss Mar-
garet Fossick, who had received her laurels but an
hour ago, her mother, Mrs. T. L. Fossick, nee
O'Reilly, who was graduated in 1871, and her great-
aunt, Mrs. R. Davis, nee O'Reilly, of the class of 1853.
The circular setting forth the plan called out enthusias-
tic responses from all parts of the country, and even
from beyond the sea, where several of Nazareth's
daughters now reside. Some ninety to one hundred
of the alumnae assembled at Nazareth, June 15, 1896.

An interesting feature of the alumnae meeting of
1897 was tne reading of a letter to the alumnae by
Eliza Kinkead, who represented the sixteenth member
of her family who had been pupils of this institution,


written by her great-aunt, Mrs. H. Pridle, a former
graduate her great-great-grand-aunt having been
one of Nazareth's earliest pupils and first graduates.

The meeting of the alumnae in 1899 was remarkable
for the number of those present whose school days
at Nazareth had ended fifty, sixty, even seventy years
before. Among this number was the venerable Mrs.
Elizabeth Henshaw, a representative of the class of
1829, but not a graduate. Seventy years had passed
since she bade farewell to school days, and still she
was hale and hearty.

Mrs. Rudd Alexander and Mrs. Emily Snowden,
both of Louisville, were graduated in 1839, and were
the oldest living graduates of Nazareth. Others num-
bered forty, fifty years since they had left the classic
shades of Nazareth.

The course of instruction extends through seven
years, ranging from primary to collegiate grades, and
having normal, business, and domestic science depart-
ments; also the departments of music and art. A
large, well-trained faculty has always been maintained,
and a library (containing 5000 volumes), a museum,
and laboratories furnish good facilities for teaching.
The patronage has always been large, the attendance
having been frequently over two hundred in a year,
and has come from Kentucky and the Southern States
generally, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas,
and Alabama having been and are still well repre-
sented. The average number of graduates in recent
years has been about twelve, and the total number of
alumnae is about seven hundred. The latter are quite
widely distributed throughout the Union, and many
of them occupy prominent positions in teaching and
other professions, especially in the West.

(Lewis's History of Higher Education in Kentucky.
Catalogues and correspondence.)


Loretta Academy, Loretta, Kentucky, 1812-1908

The Loretta Order is a plant of no foreign growth.
A tiny seed sown amid the virgin forests of Kentucky,
it germinated and flourished in the New World, and
recognizes America as its native soil. In 1812 Rev.
Charles Nerinckx, a devoted missionary priest of Bel-
gium, lately attached to the diocese and greatly inter-
ested in education, started a small school near the site
of the present Academy. At first Miss Anne Rhodes
was the only teacher. A few months later she was
joined by Misses Christine Stuart and Anna Haven;
Misses Mary Rhodes and Nellie Morgan were very-
soon added to the number. The school prospered,
and the ladies in charge wishing to become a perma-
nent religious body, applied to Rome, through their
founder, to obtain this boon. Pope Pius VII. readily
granted this favor, and in 1816, the new order having
received a formal recognition from the Holy See,
was taken under the special protection of the Propa-
ganda. From this small beginning of 1812 the teach-
ing force has increased to thirty, and colonies of
Sisters have gone forth from the mother-house and
established themselves in various parts of the United
States. These branch houses now number forty-five,
and the teachers employed are provided by a normal
school at Loretta, and the faculties of the various
schools wherever located are appointed by the superior
of the order.

The first three postulants were received by Father
Nerinckx, who styled them " Friends of Mary at the
Foot of the Cross." They were consecrated at St.
Charles Church in Marion County, Kentucky, April
25, 1812.

Loretta Academy was incorporated in 1829 by the
Kentucky Legislature, and empowered to grant di-
plomas, and at once the Academy took a position as
one of the leading schools of the country, and as


such has been patronized by representative families
from different parts of the United States and Mexico.

The Academy and other buildings are located on a
tract of fifteen hundred acres. This is partly laid out
in orchards and gardens, while other sections are used
for raising grain and various food products. Much
of the land is covered with magnificent forest trees,
interspersed by winding brooks and murmuring water-
falls, thus affording the pupils facilities for delightful

The Academy is a commodious building, four stories
in height, with all modern improvements, such as
steam heat, gas, etc. The study hall, refectory, class,
recreation, and music-rooms are cheerful and inviting.
Large airy dormitories occupy the second floor, com-
municating with bath and toilet-rooms supplied with
hot and cold water.

The other principal buildings at Loretta are the
church, convent, visitors' house, chaplain's residence,
novitiate, steam laundry, workmen's dwelling, and
last but most interesting, a small brick building erected
by the Rev. S. T. Badin, the pioneer priest of Ken-
tucky. This house was afterward used by Bishop
Flaget as an Episcopal residence and seminary, and is
now reserved for gentlemen guests at Loretta.

The course of study may be completed in four vears.
The languages taught are French, German, and Span-
ish by native teachers, and Latin and Greek. Music
in all its branches is taught on the plan of the best
conservatories under the direction of teachers of ac-
knowledged ability. A large concert hall and numer-
ous music-rooms are equipped with pianos, organs,
harps, and the smaller musical instruments for lessons
or practice.

In the art department every advantage is offered
to pupils interested in this pursuit. Instructions are
given in object drawing, crayon, pastel, oil, china,
and water colors, and in various branches of decora-
tive art.


Miss Mary Jane Lancaster was the first graduate
of Loretta, and the only one of that year. Her di-
ploma, which is still in existence, bears the date of
July 16, 1837. The names of the directors of the
school at that time are also on the diploma ; they were,
Mother Isabella Clarke, Generose Mattingly, secre-
tary, and Sister Bridget Spalding, directress of studies ;
Bishop Flaget, Ordinary of the Diocese of Louisville.

The Museum contains a well-arranged collection of
specimens illustrative of the sciences: botany, min-
eralogy, zoology, and geology. Two laboratories,
chemical and physical, are also a part of the equipment.

A well-selected library of several thousand volumes
forms a part of the furnishing of the Academy, and
here are a number of periodicals and late papers.

Elisabeth Academy, Old Washington, Mississippi,


Salem Academy celebrated the one hundredth com-
mencement in June, 1902, and Nazareth Academy cel-
ebrated her diamond jubilee in June, 1897, and it is
now ninety-three years since the Academy was es-
tablished at " Old Nazareth," but it was reserved for
Mississippi to be the first State to provide collegiate
training for women. This was accomplished when
Elizabeth Academy, at " Old Washington," was es-
tablished in 1817. Because of the name " Academy "
some have refused to recognize this school as a col-
lege. It is not the name, but the powers granted by
the charter and the curriculum taught that differen-
tiates a college. By the terms of its charter Elizabeth
Academy was a college, and there is ample credible
testimony that a college course of study was taught.
In addition to this proof, Dr. W. T. Harris, Commis-
sioner of Education, remarked after reading the his-
tory of this school as given in " History of Education
in Mississippi," by Edward Mayes, LL. D. : "That
school was a college in all but name."


This institution was celebrated in its day for the
thoroughness of its work and for its large measure
of success. It is also memorable for several other
facts. It was the first school for girls exclusively,
incorporated by either the Territorial or the State
Legislature of Mississippi. It was the first school in
Mississippi or any other State to aspire to the dignity
of a college, and it was the first college for girls es-
tablished by the Methodist Church anywhere, and
the first fruits of Protestantism in the extreme

This institution was situated near Washington,
Adams County, one-half mile from the town, and
near Jefferson College. The land and buildings were
donated to the Methodist Church by Mrs. Elizabeth
Roach, afterward Mrs. Greenfield, in 1818, and the
school began its work in November, 1818. The
formal act of incorporation was passed February 17,
1819. This act provides that the Academy should be
under the superintendence of John Menefee, David
Rawlings, Alexander Covington, John W. Bryant, and
Beverly R. Grayson and their successors, who shall
constitute a board politic and corporate, by the name
and style of " the Trustees of the Elizabeth Female
Academy," and they and their successors are made
capable of receiving and acquiring real and personal
estate, either by donation or purchase, for the bene-
fit of the institution, not exceeding $100,000.

These trustees were enabled to grant diplomas or
other certificates or to confer degrees. All vacancies
in said board shall be filled by the members of the
Methodist Mississippi Annual Conference. The con-
dition was that the Conference should maintain a
high school for the education of girls. On these
terms the Conference accepted the donation, and in
token of gratitude for the gift, the institution was
called by the Christian name of the donor.

The building, in style of Spanish architecture of
colonial times, was two and a half stories high, the


first of brick and the others of frame. A fire con-
sumed it more than twenty years ago, leaving only
the solid masonry as a memorial of the educational
ambition and spiritual consecration of early Missis-
sippi Methodism. Some of the grandest women of
the Southwest received their well-earned diplomas
within those now scarred walls, and went out to pre-
side over their own model and magnificent homes.
The early catalogues contain the names of fair daugh-
ters who afterward became the accomplished matrons
of historic families. For ten years the Elizabeth Acad-
emy was the only college for girls in the Southwest;
all others have been the followers and beneficiaries
of this brave heroine.

The Academy opened its doors to pupils November
12, 1818, under the presidency of Chillon F. Stiles,
with Mrs Jane B. Sanderson as governess. Of the
first president and first lady principal of that first
college for young ladies in all the Southwest, the
distinguished Dr. William Winans thus writes most
interestingly in his autobiography:

" Chillon F. Stiles was a man of high intellectual
and moral character, and eminent for piety. The
governess was Mrs. Jane B. Sanderson, a Presbyterian
lady of fine manners and an excellent teacher, but
subject to great and frequent depression of spirits.
This resulted, no doubt, from the shock she had re-
ceived from the murder of her husband a few years
previously, by a robber. Though a Presbyterian, and
stanch to her sect, she acted her part with so much
prudence and liberality as to give entire satisfaction
to her Methodist employers and patrons.

" Some of the most improving, as well as the most
agreeable, hours of relaxation from my official duties
were at the Academy in the society of Brother Stiles,
who combined in an eminent degree, sociability of
disposition, good sense, extensive information on vari-
ous subjects, and fervent piety, rendering him an
agreeable and instructive companion. He was the only


person I ever knew who owed his adoption of a re-
ligious course of life to the instrumentality of Free
Masonry. He was awakened to a sense of his sinful-
ness in the process of initiation into that fraternity.
Up to that time he had been a gay man of the world,
and a skeptic, if not an infidel in regard to the Chris-
tian religion. But so powerful and effective was the
influence upon him by something in his initiation, that
from that hour he turned to God with purpose of heart,
soon entered into peace, and thenceforth walked before
God in newness of life, till his pilgrimage terminated in
a triumphant death.

" Mr. Stiles was succeeded in the^presidency by Rev.
John C. Burruss, an elegant gentleman, a finished
scholar, and an eloquent preacher. The school greatly
prospered under his administration, as it continued to
do under his immediate successor, Rev. B. M. Drake,
a name that ever lived among us as the synonym for
consecrated scholarship, perfect propriety, unaffected
piety, and singular sincerity. In 1833 Dr. Drake re-
signed to devote himself entirely to pastoral work, and
was succeeded by Rev. J. P. Thomas, and in 1836 he
gave way to Rev. Bradford Frazee of Louisville,
Kentucky. Rev. R. D. Smith, well known throughout
the Southwest for his rare devotion, was called to
the president's chair in 1839."

Some of the by-laws adopted by the board of trus-
tees for the government and regulation of the Acad-
emy recall in a measure the rigid and elaborate rules
prescribed by Mr. Wesley for the school in Kings-
wood. A few are given :

" The president of the Academy . . . shall be
reputed for piety and learning, and for order and
economy in the government of his family. If married
he shall not be less than thirty; if not married, not
less than fifty years of age.

" The governess shall be pious, learned, and of grave
and dignified deportment. She shall have charge of
the school, its order, discipline, and instructions, and


the general deportment and behavior of the pupils
who board in or out of commons.


" On the last day of every academic year the board
of trustees shall choose three respectable matrons, who
shall be acting patronesses of the Academy. It shall
be the duty of the patronesses to visit the school as
often as they think necessary, and inspect the sleep-
ing-rooms, dress, and deportment of the pupils, and
generally the economy and management of the Acad-
emy, and report the same in writing to the board of
trustees for correction, if needed.


" All pupils boarding in commons shall convene in
the large school-room at sunrise in the morning, and
at eight o'clock in the evening for prayers.

" The hours of teaching shall be from nine o'clock
in the morning until noon; and from two o'clock in
the afternoon until five; but in May, June, and July
they shall begin one hour sooner in the morning and
continue until noon; and from three o'clock in the
afternoon until six, Friday evenings excepted, when
the school shall be dismissed at five.

" No pupil shall be allowed to receive ceremonious
visits. All boarders in commons shall wear a plain
dress and uniform bonnets. No pupil shall be per-
mitted to wear beads, jewelry, artificial flowers, curls,
feathers, or any superfluous decoration. No pupil
shall be allowed to attend balls, dancing parties, the-
atrical performances, or festive entertainments."

What would the women trained in such a school


think of the college training and manners of the pres-
ent day, should they be permitted to return to wit-
ness it?


First Session Chemistry, natural philosophy, moral
philosophy, botany; Latin, ^Esop's Fables, Sacra His-
toria, Viri Roma Illustres. Second Session In-
tellectual philosophy, evidences of Christianity, my-
thology, general history, Latin, Cccsar's Bella Gallica.

Students who have completed the full course above
shall be entitled to the honors of the institution, with
a diploma on parchment for the degree of Domina
Scientiarum. Those who have pursued with honor
the whole course of study shall be entitled to remain
one academic year, free of charge for tuition, and be
associated in an honorary class, to be engaged in the
pursuit of science and polite literature, and ornamen-
tal studies, after which they shall be entitled to an
honorary diploma.

In Mrs. Thayer's report to the board of trustees
she gives some of the principles of teaching used in
the Academy.

" By your regulations I am required to teach the
principles of the Government of the United States.
On that subject I have found no book suitable to
place in the hands of young ladies. This deficiency
has been supplied, to the best of my ability, by familiar
lectures, in which I have made The Federalist my text-
book of politics.

" In arithmetic, we begin with Colburn's introduc-
tion. The system, of which this work gives the ele-
mentary principles, is founded on the maxim that chil-
dren should be instructed in every science just as fast
as they are able to understand it. In conformity to
this principle the pupil is led progressively and by a
process so easy and gradual to the more complex and
difficult combinations of numbers, that he finds him-
self familiar with the subject and enjoys a satisfac-

Online LibraryI. M. E. (Isabella Margaret Elizabeth) BlandinHistory of higher education of women in the South prior to 1860. → online text (page 3 of 24)