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100 N. 5th St.
Leavenworth, KS 66048
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Wayside Tour Marker at USM (#20)


From 4th Street (7 Hwy), turn west into the campus of the University of Saint Mary. The wayside sits in front of the Administrative Offices near the center of campus.

About This Location

Historic Wayside Tour #20
The University of Saint Mary
On November 11, 1858, the first Sisters of Charity arrived in Leavenworth to establish a religious community. Mother Xavier Ross, who had sought approval to relocate the religious community from Nashville, Tennessee to the Kansas Territory, was urged by Bishop John Baptist Miege to "Come north as soon as possible." Within days of their arrival they had taken over the instruction of boys who had previously been taught by a Jesuit brother. The sisters also cared for the four orphan girls who had come with them from Tennessee and opened the Saint Mary's Female Academy Boarding and Day School in March 1859.

Also in 1859, St. Joseph's School was opened with one Sister of Charity, one man, and the Carmelite Fathers and Brothers as teachers. Two years later, Bishop Miege asked the sisters to teach African American children, and by September of that year, 35 girls and 25 boys began classes in a house opposite the sisters' residence on Kickapoo Street. This school, the Holy Epiphany School, was turned over to the Oblate Sisters of Divine Providence in 1888.

The sisters established St. John's Hospital, the first civilian hospital in Kansas, for the care of the sick in 1863. In 1866, an orphanage was built to accommodate the growing number of children placed in the care of the sisters, completing the sisters' final mission of education, care of children and the sick.

In the period from 1865 to1869, the sisters expanded their service outside the Leavenworth area. They opened schools and academies in Lawrence, Topeka, and Wyandotte (now Kansas City, Kansas). The sisters expanded their service to Montana, opening an orphanage, an academy, and the first hospital for the mentally ill in the territory. Since that time, the sisters have served in institutions in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Illinois, California and New Mexico.

By 1868, the Leavenworth site that housed the convent, classroom, student housing and orphanage was overcrowded. Mother Xavier and Bishop Miege looked for space outside the city for a new facility. The building you face is Saint Mary Hall, opened in 1870, to fill this need. The new school accommodated children from six years of age to high school graduation.

Following World War I, Mother Mary Berchmans saw the need to expand educational offerings beyond the high school level. The answer was to establish a college. In 1923, Mother Berchmans opened Saint Mary College as a two-year institution for young women. In 1930, Saint Mary College became a four-year institution and in 1950 instituted Master's level education. Saint Mary College became a coeducational institution in 1988. The sisters' mission has continued to expand and follow the dictum of Saint Vincent dePaul, their patron saint, "Whatever lies at hand, that do."

As of 1998, the Sisters of Charity serve in 15 states in the United States and two countries in South America.


  • Wayside

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