“Soon scenes may change, soon friends prove untrue
When for I rove, from dear Saint Josephs view
Yet naught can chase, thy image from my mind”-From “Farewell to St. Joseph’s,” 1830, by “Remember Maria”
This is part of a yearlong series about the early days of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of the community. In 1850, the Emmitsburg-based Sisters united with the international community of the French Daughters of Charity.
In many archives that gather administrative or corporate records, the voices of the people who used those services can be frustratingly absent. Luckily, the collection of St. Joseph’s Academy, the school founded by Mother Seton and the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, features many of the voices of students, including their creations and their writings.
Some of the earliest examples of students’ surviving works include their needlework samplers, several of which come from the era when Mother Seton directly ran the Academy before her death in January 1821.
While the number of surviving student mementos from Mother Seton’s era are limited, they become more voluminous as time goes on until St. Joseph’s Academy received a charter as St. Joseph College in 1902. Other markers of the students’ work include “premiums,” which are what would be called in the modern day certificates of achievement or small awards for top performers in the class in different subjects.
Other materials in the archives contain some more direct creations from students of the Academy. Although we refer to it as “Sr. Joannah Hickey’s Journal,” this small volume dated 1830 contains writings from a variety of individuals. It includes the complete version of the poem at the start of this post.
The Sister Mary Raphael Smith Scrapbook contains similar pieces, written by Smith herself, other sisters, and students of the Academy. Sister Mary Raphael had been a student at the Academy before becoming a Sister; she later became Directress of the school. In addition to poetry, the scrapbook contains accounts of events that occurred in the Academy between the 1830s and the 1890s.
A handful of these additional “Scrapbooks” from the Academy exist across the middle of the 19th century. Other materials address the education provided by the Academy more directly. Katherine McDonough’s lecture notes from 1899 show an average day of education in science, geology, and grammar.
The students of the Academy also contributed to a display of their schoolwork for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
In addition to a lucky genealogist looking for an Academy student-ancestor who may stumble upon their ancestor’s writing or work, the collection provides a valuable tool of the community and its earliest mission in the United States, along with a picture of education during this time period.