Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Galveston Research Summary #2 - Sister Act!

Readers of this blog will recall that I am working on a new book project about Galveston and the Civil War...I described the mission of my book in a previous post (here) and my first "Research Summary" in another post (here).

The publisher of this project - The History Press - is also the publisher of my most recent book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory. One of the subjects of that book was the important and interesting role played by the Holy Cross sister-nurses during the war (you can see posts on this subject at my "Notre Dame in the Civil War" blog here, here, and here).

As it turns out, the Notre Dame project and the Galveston project share something in common: the role of Catholic sister-nurses!

While the Holy Cross sister-nurses represented one of the largest contingents of Catholic sisters to serve as nurses, the sisters in Galveston - of the Ursuline order - represented one of the smallest, if not the smallest, contingent, but their contributions and sacrifices were no less important and their bravery no less intrepid.

URSULINE ACADEMY, GALVESTON. The Ursuline Academy at Galveston was established in February 1847 by Ursuline Sisters from New Orleans, who had arrived on January 16. The school, Galveston's first parochial school, was on a ten-acre campus. Attended by girls of all faiths, the academy opened in 1854, closed for a time in 1857 during a yellow fever epidemic, and was used as a hospital by both sides during the Civil War. The main Victorian Gothic building, constructed by Nicholas J. Clayton along with the convent in the mid-1890s, sheltered more than 1,000 refugees during the Galveston hurricane of 1900. A total of 306 students enrolled in 1930, and the girls' high school, elementary school, and kindergarten had an enrollment of 225 in 1940. In January 1947 the school celebrated its centennial, and by 1949 the campus comprised seven or eight acres with the academy building, a brick chapel, and monastery. Hurricane Carla damaged both the academy and convent in 1961, and the buildings were subsequently demolished. The campus chapel, redesigned by Clayton, stood from 1871 to 1961, while the convent remained from 1854 to 1973. In 1968 the Ursuline girls' school consolidated with Kirwin Catholic High School and the Dominican girls' school; it was renamed O'Connell High School for Msgr. Dan O'Connell.

See also at the "Handbook":

I am really looking forward to telling their story as part of this new project!

I will use some of my favorite secondary sources on Catholic sister-nurses in the Civil War, sources on the history of Catholic institutions in Texas, the Archives of the Central Province of the Ursuline Sisters, and a rarely-used archival source that I will feature in a future blog post! If you have other ideas, let me know!

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