Academy at Holly Springs in 1870
By William S. Parks
Catholics were more prominent in the population of Holly Springs after the War For Southern Independence than in 1857, when only three or four families lived in the town. In 1869, they established Bethlehem Academy. This academy, a boarding school for girls and young ladies, was staffed by the Sisters of Charity from the Nazareth Convent of Bardstown, Kentucky.
The U.S. 1870 census of Marshall County listed at Bethlehem Academy (pages 352-353) 12 Sisters of Charity, 57 scholars, 5 domestic (or other) servants, and 1 cook. Thirty-year-old Sister Adelaide (Bickett) was listed as the head of household. Real estate was valued at $23,000 and the personal estate at $6,000.
The Sisters of Charity, scholars, domestic servants, and cook were all white females, except for one servant who was a 10-year-old mulatto male. The nuns ranged in age from 20- to 30-years old and were born in Ireland, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The scholars ranged in age from 6- to 19-years old and were born in Mississippi, except for 3 in Arkansas, 1 in Michigan, and 1 in Ohio.
Bethlehem Academy at Holly Springs in 1870
Bethlehem Academy suffered a huge setback when yellow fever devastated the population of Holly Springs in September-October 1878. The Sisters of Charity closed the school and with Father Anacletus Oberti attended to the sick at a makeshift hospital in the Marshall County Courthouse. By the end of the epidemic, the priest and 6 of the 12 nuns had died of the disease. Those who died were Father Oberti, Sister Corinthia, Sister Lorentia, Sister Margarette, Sister Stanislaus, Sister Stella, and Sister Victoria. Sister Victoria was the only nun listed on the staff of Bethlehem Academy in 1870. After the epidemic, the school re-opened and continued until about 1890.
Hamilton, William B., Holly Springs, Mississippi, to the Year 1878: Written in 1931 as a thesis for a M.A. degree in history from the University of Mississippi; published by The Marshall County Historical Society, Holly Springs, Mississippi, 1984.
Pillar, James J., The Catholic Church in Mississippi, 1837-1865: The Hauser Press, New Orleans, 1964.
Pruitt, Olga R., It Happened Here, True Stories of Holly Springs: South Reporter Printing Co., 1950; reprinted with additions by the Marshall County Historical Museum, Holly Springs, Mississippi, 1998.
Copyright © William S. Parks 1999-2006. All rights reserved.
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