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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
 

St. Catherine Academy

A Roman Catholic School on the Frontier

 
 
St. Catherine Academy Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 26, 2017
1. St. Catherine Academy Marker
Inscription. This was the site of St. Catherine Convent and Academy. When it opened in 1858, it was one of two Roman Catholic schools in Arkansas. Opportunities for a classical education were rare in Arkansas and the school founded by the Sisters of Mercy flourished.

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."
Catherine McAuley

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 convent and school in Biscoe's former home Planters and businessmen of all religions sent their daughters to St. Catherine Academy, eager to take advantage of the fine education the Sisters offered.

St.
The Civil War Brings Hardship Marker on left. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 26, 2017
2. The Civil War Brings Hardship Marker on left.
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.

[Photo captions]
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 and 1895. In 1917, the building was faced with brick.

 
Erected 2013 by Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
 
Location.
St. Catherine Academy image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 26, 2017
3. St. Catherine Academy
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.
 
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. mile away); Flags over Fort Curtis (approx. mile away); Battery D (approx. mile away); Life Under Union Occupation (approx. mile away); General J.F. Fagan's Attack (approx. mile away); The New Fort Curtis (approx. 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 & ReligionEducation
 
The view north on Columbia Street from the marker. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 26, 2017
4. The view north on Columbia Street from the marker.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 7, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 7, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 54 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 7, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
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