One of the first sights to impress early visitors to Atchison, Kansas, was the imposing collection of buildings that crown its southern hill, which comprised the Academy of Mount St. Scholastica.
At the request of Reverend Augustine Wirth, O.S.B., before St. Benedict’s College was established and the first pastor of the church in Atchison, Mother Evangelista Kremmeter and six Benedictine sisters were sent from the Benedictine convent in St. Cloud, Minnesota, to establish a school for girls in Atchison. They arrived on November 11, 1863, and immediately began their work. The academy organized its classes on December 1, 1863.
Two more sisters were sent in April 1864. They were detained at Hannibal, Missouri, for two days as they were on their way. The funeral procession of President Abraham Lincoln, having reached that city at the same time as the sisters, one of their sad privileges was that of attending the obsequies of the martyred President before continuing their journey to Kansas.
The little convent, opposite St. Benedict’s Abbey, at the corner of Second and Division Streets, was the cradle of the academy. The second street at that time was not a street at all but rather a passageway cut through the hazel brush that was so abundant.
The academy was incorporated in 1873, with its roster bearing the names of many of Atchison County’s best families.
In the summer of 1877, the Price Villa, a large three-story brick structure finely arranged by the academy, was purchased for over $60,000 and renamed St. Cecilia’s. With a mansard roof, it was situated in the suburbs, on a beautiful elevation commanding an extensive view of the city and the surrounding country. The size of the building is 80 by 120 feet, with large bay windows and wide porticos and verandas, giving it an outward appearance of homelike comfort. It was heated by steam and supplied hot and cold water, bathrooms, and other amenities.
Nine teachers were employed to instill a course of instruction that embraced every useful and ornamental branch of education suitable for young ladies. Differences of religion were no obstacle to admission, provided the young ladies were prepared to conform to the general regulations of the academy. Semi-annual bulletins were transmitted to parents or guardians, informing them of their children or wards’ conduct proficiency and health.
Another new building was added in 1889. The third building was commenced in 1900. The buildings were surrounded by 38 acres of woodlands and meadows.
A comprehensive study plan was pursued at Mt. St. Scholastica that included all branches for a thorough, literal, and refined education. Besides the academic or classical course, Mt. St. Scholastica furnished a complete commercial course with special advantages for studying music and art.
The Academy of Mount St. Scholastica was a home where young ladies were instructed by the Mother and Sisters who took a personal interest and pride in their students’ well-being.
The sisters also supplied teachers for many missions or parochial schools in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa, as well as one large school in Walsenburg, Colorado. The institution in Atchison was the mother house of these branch houses, and on vacation, all the sisters from the missions assemble here for the annual retreat and the summer normal.
Mother Evangelista, the first mother and foundress, was succeeded in office by Sister Theresa, who governed the community as Reverend Mother for the next 12 years. Afterward, Mother Aloysia has carried on the work of her predecessors.
Mount St. Scholastica College opened in 1923.
In 1949, Donnelly College, a ministry of Mount St. Scholastica, opened in Kansas City, Kansas. It still operates today at 608 N. 18th Street, conferring Associate and Bachelor degrees, nursing programs, and business and information technology certificates.
In 1971, Mount St. Scholastica College merged with St. Benedict’s College to form Benedictine College in Atchison.
In 2003, Mount St. Scholastica Academy merged with the Benedictine monks’ Maur Hill Prep to become Maur Hill-Mount Academy.
Blackmar, Frank W.; Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Vol I; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912.
Cutler, William G; History of Kansas; A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL, 1883.
Kansas State Historical Society, The Columbian History of Education in Kansas, Hamilton Printing Company, Topeka, KS, 1893.
Mt. St. Scholastica