Why are they called the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station?

Train station, Convent Station NJ

Front of campus and train station, 1880s (Courtesy Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, NJ)

Based on the research of Sister Hildegarde Marie Mahoney, former General Superior of the Sisters of Charity, Convent Station

On July 2, 1860 the Motherhouse of the New Jersey Sisters of Charity was transferred from Newark, NJ, to what would be called in future years “Convent Station.” Mother M. Xavier Mehegan, founder and Mother General, purchased 63 acres of land and a wooden structure that still stands near the northern entrance to the campus from James Roosevelt Bayley, nephew of Mother Seton and first Bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Newark. The land purchased by the Sisters included a narrow strip which extended over the hill to the tracks of the Morris and Essex Railroad, a branch of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad.

Because the nearest train station was nearly three miles distant in Madison, Mother M. Xavier petitioned the railroad company to make a stop at convent grounds and in 1867 she had received a favorable response. This was an advantage to the students of the Academy of Saint Elizabeth (founded in 1860), as well as to the Sisters. In return the Sisters built a simple little station on the north side of the tracks and for many years paid the salary of the stationmaster.

In 1870 Mother M. Xavier wrote to the Honorable T. F. Randolph, Governor of New Jersey and former President of the Board of the railroad. She asked that he further her request that more trains stop at “Convent Station,” including the Oswego Express and the Binghamton Mail trains, and that freight be delivered at “our own depot.” The request concerning the Oswego and Binghamton trains was related to the fact that students at the Academy came from upstate New York, as well as from towns and cities along the Lackawanna route.

The railroad in 1876 erected a new station, which it named “Convent,” on the present site, some distance to the southwest of the original depot. Thus, while there is no such municipality, the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth are often known as the Charities from Convent Station.


Filed under Sisters of Charity Federation, Sisters of Charity of Convent Station

5 responses to “Why are they called the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station?

  1. Sister Rita Bozel

    That is a very interesting story. Mother Superior certainly had a lot of forsight and much initiative.


  2. There used to be a train stop in front of St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg, too.


  3. Gail Sansbury

    Dear Sister Hildegarde Marie Mahoney,

    I am so please to see this amazing photograph and your detailed narrative about the original Convent Station — thank you so much for making it available online. I am working on a biography of Nathan F. Barrett (1845-1919), a well-known landscape architect who was a founder of the American Society of Landscape Architects. He grew up in Staten Island, and began his career in landscape design while working with his older brother who ran a plant nursery. Together they worked on a long-term project for the New Jersey Railroad, designing and implementing landscaping around railroad stations. In an article written by Nathan Barrett in 1916, just a few years before his death, he mentioned that he was looking forward to working on the campus of St. Paul’s College in Washington, DC, and he mentioned Convent State as a much earlier project. I am wondering if you have any information related to the landscaping around Convent Station in your archives. The photograph shows a quite formal plan, something that he would have done — in consultation with Mother M. Xavier , of course.

    Thank you in advance for any information or assistance you might be able to give me — I hope you see this message!

    Gail Sansbury, PhD


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