Bethlehem Academy

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

Birth Place
Birth Place
Sisters of Charity
Bickett, Adelaide 30 Kentucky Stafford, Victoria 24 Pennsylvania
[smudged], Havier 25 Virginia Hanon, Laura 23 Ireland
Hayden, Florentine 24 Kentucky Purcill, Cecilia 18 Kentucky
Doolan, Angela 20 Ireland Dolan, Euphrosyne 22 Ireland
Harkins, Nina 21 Ireland Moffatt, Lavinia 20 Ireland
Elgin, Salesia 20 Kentucky Riley, Lamberta 25 Ireland
Ayecock, Emma 13 Mississippi Hedge, America 12 Miss.
Ayecock, Martha 11 Miss. Hedge, Katie 8 Miss.
Anderson, Jennie 16 Miss. Johnson, Lelia 14 Miss.
Benson, Spencer 16 Miss. Jones, Lula 6 Miss.
Benson, Mary 14 Miss. Murdock, Mary 15 Miss.
Burrows, Jennie 15 Ohio Meek, Hattie 15 Miss.
Brown, Marens 12 Miss. Myers, Lillie 15 Miss.
Boswell, Angela 15 Miss. McCann, Julia 15 Miss.
Cooper, Bettie 16 Miss. Norris, Jennie 16 Miss.
Carruth, Georgia 16 Miss. Noonan, Fannie 13 Miss.
Crittenden, Sophorina 14 Miss. Richmond, Mary 16 Miss.
Cummings, Johmie 16 Miss. Rogers, Ellen 14 Miss.
Casey, Mary 16 Miss. Sims, Mary 18 Miss.
Dean, Georgia 19 Miss. Sims, Lillia 15 Miss.
Dupuy, Pearl 12 Arkansas Sims, Lula 13 Miss.
Dupuy, Mansfield 11 Arkansas Starks, Sarah 16 Miss.
Flautt, Mary 17 Miss. Starks, Fannie 14 Miss.
Flautt, Adna 14 Miss. Starks, Mollie 11 Miss.
Gillispie, Lucy 13 Miss. Sanderson, Helen 14 Miss.
Gaffery, Bridget 14 Miss. Sullivan, Patty 13 Arkansas
Gatewood, Ella 11 Miss. Strong, Julia 13 Miss.
Harden, Lipspie 16 Miss. Sutton, Belle 12 Miss.
Hawkins, Sarah 16 Miss. Staten, Emma 14 Miss.
Hawkins, Ruth 14 Miss. Vaughan, Jennie 12 Miss.
Hunt, Aelia 15 Miss. Wooten, Veleria 17 Miss.
Hudson, Mary 14 Miss. Wynn, Sallie 11 Miss.
Hudson, Lizzie 11 Miss. Weber, Mary 9 Michigan
Harris, Florence 13 Miss. Young, Anna 16 Miss.
Hill, Adina 12 Miss. . . .
Domestic Servants and Cook (c)
Burrows, Mary 40 England Boughton, Mary (c) 20 Ohio
Murray, Mary 16 Ireland Keinan, Mary A. 28 Ireland
Murray, Anna 15 Ireland Wells, John 10 Miss.

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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