Thursday, August 18, 2011

Historic St. Vincent's Academy

The following information has been abstracted from an article, "St. Vincent Academy is Historic Kentucky School," published in the Evansville (Indiana) Press, Sunday, 9 February 1936.

Five miles north of Morganfield in Union County, hidden from the highway by towering trees and shrubs, stands the oldest secondary educational institution in western Kentucky. It is St. Vincent Academy, founded in 1820 by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

Prior to 1881, Sisters of the Academy sponsored a small school for boys across the road from the academy. In 1881, the boys' school was closed because of small attendance. It was reopened in 1914 and is September 1923, for the first time in the history of St. Vincent's, 22 boys were enrolled in the academy proper. Francis Murphy was the first graduate of this group.

In 1820, Sisters Angela Spinks, Frances Gardiner and Cecily O'Brien were sent by their superiors to organize a school in Union County on a farm set aside for use of the Sacred Heart Church. They made the journey of some 150 miles on horseback through what was then a wilderness. Their equipment consisted only of what they could tied in three aprons and carry in their arms.

Hardships of that journey were many and the three pioneers met discouragement when they arrived at the log cabin farm house only to find it occupied by a family that refused to move. The three educators spent their first night on what was later to become the academy farm in a poultry house.

Once established in the primitive log cabin, it fell to the lot of Cecily O'Brien and Frances Gardiner to teach the "large" class of five students. The following year the sisters were joined by three more instructors. A log cabin lean-to was added to the cabin. The school started to grow.

By 1842, there were 35 students. To keep pace with the growing enrollment, cabin after cabin was built. In 1852 or 1853, the academy's land totaled some 400 acres, including the property on which the old Sacred Heart Church stood. Construction was started in that year on a new brick academy building. For years the old Sacred Heart Church was used as a recreational hall. A second floor was added to the building and it was to this portion of the school that students were "sentenced" for misdemeanors. Punishment usually consisted of mending clothes or memorizing columns of words from a dictionary.

Perhaps one the best word pictures of the school in the 1850s was left by the wife of General John A. Logan of Civil War fame, in her book, "Reminiscences of a Soldier's Wife." She tells how students were coached in manners, or how to enter a parlor and meet guests without being awkward; of sewing all her own clothes, and of the Sister Superior's journeys to Louisville by boat to buy material for graduation costumes and of graduation exercises under the trees on the lawn.

The school was now housed completely in brick buildings. It had its own light plant, its own power plant, orchard, truck garden, dairy and bakery. The enrollment in 1936 was around 135 pupils.

St. Vincent's Academy was in operation until 1967.


Unknown said...

I had the honor graduating from Saint Vincent’s Academy in 1967. I was in its last graduating class. It was so sad to see it close. However, being a young boy at the time, I did not see the tremendous good this school had given Union County. I was from Morganfield and had friends from all around the county who attend Saint Vincent’s with me. The nuns who ran and taught at the school were good people who cared about us. At this writing in 2018 the school has been closed over fifty years, the property sold and much of the school’s building gone.

Submitted by: Larry Padgett

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

Thank you for your comments about St. Vincent's Academy.

Faye Stallings said...

Brenda, do you know by chance where the original records for St. Vincent are kept?

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

NO, I don't. Someone else asked about them recently, but I have no answers. Sorry.

Beth said...

There are some report card records at Union County High School in the records room, not quite sure how far back they go.

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

Thank you very much! I appreciate the information.

Unknown said...

My. Mother attended St. Vincent Academy about 1934/35. She would have graduated in 1938/39. Her maiden name was Wyanda Marie Kurtz. Mom was born in 1919. Several months are used in different records. Some show February while others show April.
Is it possible to find out about her time at St. Vincent's

Elizabeth Jones Donahue

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

I wish I could help you, but I have no idea where you should check for information. Maybe another person will see you message and have some information.

Darlene said...

I have a book "The Mass" with St Vincent Academy St Vincent, Ky stamped inside. And a seal with a date 1820,St Vincent Academy, Union County, KY but the book says copyright 1924

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

That is quite a treasure.

Peggy said...

I have a post card from a Sister Augustine dated Dec 2 1882 to a vendor in Dayton Ohio. I was hoping to find some information on her. Was sad to her the school closed. The card reads,"St Vincent Acd. Dec '82
Dear Sir; I presume you forgot to put in a gross of No.210 Gruse Reose Leaves when you mailed the other gross. Please let me have them at your earliest convenience. the goods are received but I have not seen the bill for them.
respectfully Sister Augustine

Then there is a pencil notation from the vendor on the card. "#210 have been sent Dec 18th"

Don't know what a gruse reose leaves are, but thought the card was very interesting. Hope you do also Mike in San Diego Ca

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

It is an interesting card. Hmmm - The closest I found was Grouse Rose, which is a ground cover rose, but it doesn't fit with "a gross of No. 210 Gruse Reose Leaves." Very curious.

Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

This is a very interesting article and I have enjoyed reading the comments. I recently discovered that my great-grandmother was a student 1880-1881. However, she was orphaned and had to leave school. I found letters sent between her family and the school regarding her attendance. It would be wonderful to find more information on this school.

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

Thank you for your comments. For other posts on St. Vincent, scroll to the index at the bottom of the page and click on St. Vincent.