St. Mary's Catholic School

Dixon IL 1897

Established as a day school in 1897, St. Mary's Catholic School opened with an enrollment of 250 students and a faculty of seven including a music teacher. First classes were held in the church building but soon with the "living endowment" so generously extended by the Sisters of the Dominican Order of Sinsinawa Wisc. the school was enlarged in new facilities located at 710-716 S. Peoria Av. The land was purchasd from the estate of George L. Schuler for $9,000 and the building was overhauled and rearranged to meet the neds of an educational facility. Additional land on Peoria Avenue was also reserved for school property.

Describing the dedication ceremonies, the Telegraph wrote, on Sept. 23, 1897; "The Dixon Post of the Grand Army of the republic took part in raising a flag to the top of a fine flag staff 51 feet high. The lawn has been put in fine shape, new verandas and steps have been erected, the windows enlarged and filled with single light sashes. The interior has been given a light, airy and cheerful appearance. A new broad oak staircase of easy ascent leads from the front hall to the upper story, which is subdivided into reception and living rooms, with dormitory etc. to be occupied by the sisters who will have charge of the school. The house is supplied with all the modern conveniences, heated by the most approved hot water system and lighted by electricity in every room and all the verandas." "The first floor is divided into school rooms and supplied with desks and noiseless folding seats, elegantly finished. North of the hall is a large room seated for over 100 pupils. There are three other school rooms, seating 27, 28 and 39 pupils, respectively. The dining room and kitchen are in the basement. In these improvements and expenditure of $3,000 to $3,500 has been made. The school had 200 pupils under the care of the Superioress Sister Regina with five assistant teachers and a music teacher. The school is under the supervision of Father Foley."

Memories of those days at the turn of the century include thoughts of Sister Joachin who was very strict, and would place a troublesome student between two people he didn't like... in the classroom's double seat. Children, now grown to men and women with grandchildren of their own, can recall the women of the parish "opening up" the convent and scrubbing and cleaning it before the Sisters returned for each school year. There are those who fondly speak of Father Foley borrowing a horse and surrey to take the Sisters for rides on Sunday afterooons, and of his big homely dog named Jack who would patrol the corridors of the school while Father visited the classrooms. But perhaps one of the most precious memories is that of Sister Vincentia Williams, O.P. a woman of refinement and culture who did so much to shape the tone and character of the pupils of this learning institution from the time of its inception until its destruction by fire 15 years later. Between the years of 1897 and 1912 the school continued to grow and became a strong force int he community. Annual programs featuring the pupils were presented in late Spring each year at the dixon Opera House, now the Dixon Theatre.

On Nov. 30, 1912 an electrical short touched off a blaze in the attic of the school causing $9,000 damage. Classes continued at the site and in 1935 the school was enlarged. The remodeling program came after the acquisition of the residence of the l ate Judge and Mrs. R.S. Farrand which became the new sisters home. On dedication day Oct. 6, 1935, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Edward F. Hoban, Bishop of Rockford, blessed the school The remodeling project made the school "one of the finest institutions of its kind in this part of the state." After the blessing of the school and sisters' home, Bishop Hoban celebrated pontifical high mass at st. Patricks Church.

The Telegraph announced May 6, 1950, Dixon Catholics were planning to erect a new $250,000 school to replace the old institution. And on Sept. 20, 1959 the dedication of the present school was held. The program included the Liturgical Blessing of the school by the Most Reverend Loras t. Lane, Bishop of Rockford. Main speakers were Mayor George Lindquist, John Toreens, Lee Co. Super. of schools, Sherwood Dees, Dixon Super. of Schools and Bishop Lane. Sister Patricia Tyson is the principal and oversees a faculty of 17. The present site contains 16 classrooms, including a library and learning center for the Primary Grades.

  From the Dixon Evening Telegraph 28 February 1976

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