Tuesday, July 16, 2019

St. Vincent’s School for Boys



Don Timeteo Murphy, from Wexford, Ireland, while on his deathbed with appendicitis, bequeathed 317 acres to the first archbishop of San Francisco—on a dare, to build an orphanage for boys who lost their family from cholera (it was called an orphan asylum), and the stipulation was to have it up and running within two years—or forfeit the land. So Alemeny called the nuns in— Sister Frances McEnnis. Fellow Wexfordian, James Miller helped to build it. He was also a benefactor of St. Vincent's School, lending the school his financial support in its earliest years.

St. Vincent's RC, 1855 - 1924, Orphan Asylum

"The lumber and supplies were hauled by ox team and Mr. Miller and a Mr. Kirk built the building. The school was completed and named St. Vincent’s Seminary, the name of the patron saint of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul." —Dixie Schoolhouse


On January 7, 1855, St. Vincent's School for boys opened its doors—“to aid in the establishment of a seminary or institution of learning.”


"On his deathbed, San Rafael land grantee Timothy Murphy promised 317 acres of land to Joseph Alemany, the first Archbishop of San Francisco. But as with any good Irishman, there was a catch to Murphy’s offer: the acreage would revert back to Murphy’s heirs unless a school was operating on the premises within two years. And as often happens, the best man for the job was . . . a woman. At the time, however, Sister Frances McEnnis was living with the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

According to A Mission That Endures: A History of St. Vincent’s School for Boys by Peter Rudy, when notified by Archbishop Alemany that the Sisters of Charity were needed to care for children orphaned by a recent cholera plague, Sister McEnnis and a small band of nuns agreed to make the hazardous trip and immediately headed west. After a grueling cross-country journey, they raised the necessary funds and made sure the school was open for students on January 1, 1855—beating Murphy’s deadline by ten days. As for naming the school, Sister McEnnis reached back to her roots: it would be called St. Vincent’s.


By 1868, the orphanage was housing 150 boys. By 1884—after initiation of farming operations, building expansion and outreach, and bringing in the Dominican Sisters to help with teaching—St. Vincent’s was home to nearly 500 orphaned as well as neglected or abused kids. —Marin Magazine

In 1855, Timothy Murphy, Irish-born pioneer of Marin County, gave 317 acres of land to Archbishop Alemany for educational purposes Here, the Sisters of Charity, in 1855, founded a school now called St. Vincent's School for Boys. It has been maintained and enlarged by successive archbishops of San Francisco. California registered historical landmark no. 830. Plaque placed by the California State Park Commission in cooperation with the Marin Committee on History, and landmarks of the Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West, October 19, 1953.

St. Vincent’s was located in the Dixie School District where the small one-room Dixie school had only ten pupils. By 1921, both schools were in danger of closing. St. Vincent’s had no teachers. Dixie had no students, so they proposed to add nearly 400 pupils to the Dixie school district.



"With the help of the State Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Will C. Wood, the County Superintendent of Schools, Mr. James B. Davidson, with the cooperation of the Dixie District Board of Trustees, and with the financial backing, for five months, of Archbishop Hanna of San Francisco, St. Vincent’s School was able to continue. The domestic help was secured from lay people, and the institution continued to do its job. It is noteworthy that teachers from Marin County public schools left their regular jobs for a year to assist at St. Vincent’s."  —Dixie Schoolhouse


The orphanage is at present 770 acres, so I wonder if James Miller donated even more land? His spring was the school's water source. Our old paned windows came from the old St Vincent's Orphanage ca. 1957. It was a trip to see their brethren in situ.


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