Early Life at St. Mary of the Springs Academy

Edward Fenwick, O.P., Ohio's first bishop, asked St. Magdalen's convent in Kentucky to send over sisters to open a school in Ohio. Four sisters answered his call, and established the oldest school founded by the congregation of Dominican sisters in 1830 at Somerset, Ohio. They named this foundation St. Mary's after Mary, the Mother of God. The school accepted students of all faiths and was acknowledged by both Catholics and non-Catholics as providing a superior education.

Disaster struck in 1866 when a fire burned through the chapel, convent, and academy. Theodore Leonard, a prominent Columbus businessman who had two daughters at the school and one in the novitiate, convinced the sisters to rebuild their academy in Columbus, Ohio. He provided the land and paid for an architect, builders, and all the bricks. The new school opened in 1868 under the name of St. Mary of the Springs Academy.

The Academy continued to act as a boarding school. In 1924, the school began accepting day students for elementary and secondary (middle and high school level) education, although only girls could attend the secondary school. By 1947, however, the academy had stopped elementary and kindergarten classes and no longer boarded students. St. Mary of the Springs Academy strictly served as a secondary school for girls until June of 1966--when the academy officially closed so that the nearby College of St. Mary of the Springs (now known as Ohio Dominican University) could have enough funds and space to grow.

These documents and images offer a glimpse into the history and everyday life of those who lived and attended St. Mary's original dwellings in Somerset and Columbus. Click on the items in this exhibit for a closer look and to learn more details.

Exhibit created November 2022


Dominican Sisters of Peace Archives, Donna Taja