Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
St. Catherine Academy
A Roman Catholic School on the Frontier
Bringing Education to Arkansas
In 1845, the first and at that time only Catholic school in Arkansas closed, the discouraged Sisters of Loretto fleeing Arkansas Post and the frontier. Four years later, Bishop Andrew Byrne founded a school for boys near Fort Smith Shortly afterward, he traveled to his homeland, Ireland, to recruit teachers for a school for young women. To Byrne's dismay, he found that tales of the lawless frontier had preceded him. Finally, the local Bishop relented, allowing four Sisters of Mercy to accompany Byrne to the New World.
"We should praise and bless the hand that wounds us."
St. Catherine Academy
Bishop Byrne purchased the Henry Biscoe estate just outside of Helena. The Sisters of Mercy arrived in January 1858, and established a
St. Catherine Academy prospered until the Union army occupied Helena in 1862. Many planters left, or sent their families away. Others found their finances reduced. The school had few students, and therefore little income. St. Catherine Academy struggled for several years, finally closing in 1868.
Sacred Heart Academy
In 1879, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky. purchased the St. Catherine property and reopened the school as Sacred Heart Academy. A decade later it was one of the finest boarding schools for girls in Arkansas. Sacred Heart Academy was an important part of Helena for ninety years. Lack of funds and teachers forced it to close in 1968. Five years later it was razed.
Top right: Founded in 1831 by Catherine McAuley, above, Sisters of Mercy were charged with "the relief of the suffering and the instruction of the ignorant."
Bottom right: St. Catherine Academy occupied the building topped by the cupola in the postcard to the left. Sacred Heart Academy opened in the same building in 1879. Classrooms, dormitories and other additions were constructed between 1880
Erected 2013 by Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
Location. 34° 31.307′ N, 90° 35.5′ W. Marker is in Helena, Arkansas, in Phillips County. Marker is at the intersection of Columbia Street and Arkansas Street, on the right when traveling south on Columbia Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 100 Columbia Street, Helena AR 72342, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Civil War Brings Hardship (here, next to this marker); Sacred Heart Academy (a few steps from this marker); The Guns (approx. ¼ mile away); Flags over Fort Curtis (approx. ¼ mile away); Battery D (approx. ¼ mile away); Life Under Union Occupation (approx. ¼ mile away); General J.F. Fagan's Attack (approx. ¼ mile away); The New Fort Curtis (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Helena.
More about this marker. An Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial site and a part of the Arkansas Civil War Discovery Trail.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
Categories. • Churches & Religion • Education • Women •
More. Search the internet for St. Catherine Academy.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 18, 2018. This page originally submitted on September 7, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 118 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 7, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.