Our History

Tradition and Excellence in Education Since 1864

Founded in August of 1864, St. Mary’s Academy came to life with the arrival of Sister M. Francis Assisi, Sister M. Francis Xavier, Sister Mary Arsenius, and Sister Mary Agatha. Upon their arrival in The Dalles, Oregon, the Sisters were taken by Father L. Vermeersch to a small frame building on Fourth and Lincoln. One of the wings of the building was used as a convent and chapel, and the adjoining two-story structure served as a parlor, music room and classrooms. Over 143 students were enrolled the first year.

In 1871, the first school proved too small, thus a new school was built on Third and Lincoln. Yet again this school proved to be too small as the student enrollment increased. In 1883, Father Alphonsus Bronsgeest organized a building committee for the third school. On July 29, 1883 the cornerstone of St. Mary’s Academy was laid and blessed by Archbishop Charles J. Seghers, D.D. The large school was completed by 1884, the top floor had dormitories for 50 students and the classrooms were located on the second floor.

During the fire of 1891, St. Mary’s Academy served as a shelter for many The Dalles residents who lost their homes and possessions. Eighteen blocks of business and residential buildings were destroyed. The fire was only two blocks from the Academy when it suddenly shifted to the East and burned itself out. Unfortunately, St. Mary’s Academy did suffer another disaster. In the Spring of 1884, The Dalles experienced the worst flood in its history. On May 31, school was dismissed because of flood danger, and on June 2, the Sisters and boarders were forced to leave. Water stood 61 inches high in the first floor hall. Following the flood and fire, St. Mary’s Academy experienced another growth in their students – ┬áin 1931 boys were allowed in the school.

By 1950 there were numerous growing pains. The increase in traffic, enrollment, and repairs forced the administration to look into its fourth building. Due to the lack of space and facilities the high school closed in 1956, simultaneously the new elementary school opened on 10th and Cherry Heights, its present location. The old Academy served as a convent for the teaching staff until March of 1962. In September 1963, work was completed on a new convent and a gymnasium for the school. Due to the generous and devoted people of The Dalles, no debt has ever remained on the Academy for any length of time. This was true in 1864, and has been for 150 years.

The Sisters of the Holy Names, following the example of their predecessors, were endeavoring to faithfully inculcate those principles that will prepare our students of today to meet the challenges of tomorrow. These traditions are continued today through our dedicated, creative, and innovative lay faculty and staff. St. Mary’s Academy is looking forward to the future and offering the community the unique opportunity of a Catholic education.