The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 2, Page 21.


Established In 1864 It Has Had Loyal Backing; Father O'Reilly Was Its Founder

For more than seventy years St. Paul's Catholic Parochial school has played a prominent part in the education of Valparaiso and Porter county boys and girls.

This school, established in 1864, has trained hundreds of young folk in the fundamentals of education and religion, ably preparing them for more advanced study in secondary schools, colleges and universities.

The history of the Catholic parochial school organization in this city has been a tribute to the loyalty of parishionors who financed the program through the years, and to the well equipped faculties and administrative leaders who have had charge of actual direction of the schools.

Today St. Paul's parochial school enrollment in Valparaiso approached 125 students, divided between the eight elementary grades. Seventy-two years ago when St. Paul's was opened, the initial attendance was only a small percentage of this total.

The Rev. Fr. Michael J. O'Reilly, pastor of St. Paul's church from Jan. 1, 1863, until his death August 4, 1887, is credited with taking the initial steps which were to lead to the building of the school.

When Father O'Reilly came to Valparaiso he found church affairs in a deplorable condition. The church building was in the hands of the sheriff; law suits pending on every hand, debts unlimited to be paid and a division existing among the church members.

First he made the acquaintance of the members of his flock. Then he rented Hughart's hall, now the upper story of the old Empire building, next to Meagher's drug store. Here he held church services and taught a few children.

On Easter Sunday, 1863, he obtained the use of the old church. The building had been permitted run into partial decay. He made a few repairs and opened a day school in it.

This was the start of St. Paul's parochial school.

The next step was to procure a site for all future buildings of St. Paul's. He purchased an acre of T. A. E. Campbell, the present site of the church and school. Then he started out to build an $8,000 building with $35. This structure was built during 1864 when gold was at its highest premium. Upon completion of the building the school was opened with three teachers. One of these was Miss Eliza Collins of Huntington, Ind.

In 1872 the Sisters of Providence came here from St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Terre Haute, Ind., to take charge of the instruction program of the school. They were a teaching order and St. Paul's school became St. Paul's Academy and Boarding school.

In a short time a large hall was erected on the lot south of the sister's home. On the second floor was a dormitory for the young lady boarders. This building was called the Music hall, and there entertainments were given. It also served for the meeting of the Columbian society. It was torn down shortly after the Sisters of Providence left. They were here about thirty years.

The first commencement of St. Paul's was held on December 19, 1879, in the old Academy of Music, corner Lincolnway and Washington, which burned in 1926. Father James Hartnett delivered the address on "True and False Education."

During Father O'Reilly's pastorate, a band and dramatic society were organized. The band was organized in 1873 with Professor Kopf and Professor Schusler as tutors. Both men had received considerable experience playing with circus bands.

The old Columbia society, comprising St. Paul students, was famous in its day. Not only did the organization put on shows in this city, but traveled to other cities. One time they were selected to go to Anderson, Ind., to open the Doxie opera house, a $1,000 building. There they played two nights with tremendous success. Among some of the stars of the organization were P. W. Clifford, Mary Walsh Long, Lizzie Fox McCormick, Mary Noel, Julia Carver, Mathilda LeClaire Noel, Tom McLaughlin, Johnny Stokes, Nellie Power, Mary Bennett and P. O'Sullivan.

During Father O'Reilly's regime he furnished the bishop with five candidates for the priesthood, and all made good. They were Father James Hartnett, Tom O'Leary, Frank Moran, John Quinlan and William Quinlan.

The Sisters of Providence were succeeded here by the Sisters of the Holy Cross of Notre Dame. They are still in charge of the instruction work.

In 1925, St. Paul's, which at that time had nine grades, was changed and three grades added, giving the students the benefits of a complete high school course. Five classes were graduated with complete school credits during the next five years, when the high school course was abolished and the school reverted back to the eight elementary grades.

In addition to a large number of young men contributed to the priesthood, St. Paul's has also sent a number of young women who became members of various Sister orders.

Thus St. Paul's parochial school was established in Valparaiso, an institution which in the intervening years, has rendered invaluable service to countless youths seeking the light of knowledge..

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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