most early elementary
schools were rudimentary, families who could afford to educate their
children beyond basic reading and writing sought schooling that would
continue the strict moral foundations of home.
O'Fallon valued education early on and saw the connection between education and creating a good place in which to live. Richard Pitman, Methodist minister and a well-educated man, opened Fairview School in 1862 about four miles west of O'Fallon. In 1878, with assistance from Darius Heald, the primary, secondary and collegiate school was moved to O'Fallon and opened as the Woodlawn Institute. The mission of the school was to provide young women with boarding, supervision and instruction in the proper Victorian manners. The young ladies were also provided a classical education in literature, mathematics, politics, music, Latin and Greek. For all this education, training and supervision, parents paid a $10 registration fee and $75 per semester. The building was large for its time and by the height of attendance, 100 students boarded there. Expansion of other area schools and the close proximity of another women's institution of learning, Lindenwood College, brought declining enrollment and the school closed in 1910.
The J. W. Williams family bought the property and turned the 19-room school into their home. A daughter of this family, Miss Marcia Williams, worked tirelessly for many years to preserve the history of the Institute and of the neighboring historic landmark, the remains of Zumwalt's Fort and the Heald home. The Woodlawn Institute was located at what is now the corner of Veteran's Memorial Parkway and Old Woodlawn Drive.
Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, St. Mary's Academy and College
The Sisters of the Most Precious Blood settled in St. Louis and by 1873 they had established schools in eight different cities, one of which was O'Fallon. Two of the nuns, Sr. Camilla and Sr. Blanche, taught in O'Fallon and resided in a little log house, along with others who supervised the building of their permanent home. By June of 1875, the first convent building in O'Fallon was completed. Between 1885 and 1920, many additions and expansions were made to the facility. In 1925 a new chapel was begun, a building of extraordinary Gothic grandeur. Later, a Novitiate (residences and classrooms for the training of new sisters) was added. In 1878, a Normal School for Teachers was opened, and this was the future St. Mary's College of O'Fallon, which continued to educate area residents until 1988. St. Mary's College was well known for its exceptional nursing school. In 1964, St. Mary's Academy began as a small private Catholic high school for girls and it continued there until 1990.
After 120 years in O'Fallon, the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood had built and beautifully maintained their campus. They had provided many jobs for their O'Fallon neighbors. They had been a partner with the city and its residents on spiritual, educational, and economic levels throughout the years. When some of the convent, college and academy buildings were no longer needed, the Sisters looked for a way to downsize and to preserve the character and beauty of the campus. By this time, the O'Fallon City Hall, at the corner of Main and East Elm Streets, was too small to accommodate the city's growing staff and citizen's needs. The City of O'Fallon bought the underused buildings on the southernmost edge of the convent properties and, after extensive renovations, those buildings became the new O'Fallon City Hall in 1999. Today, the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood Convent and City Hall, together in the heart of the original downtown area, are a perfect blend of cooperation and tradition.
The Assumption School
Assumption School had its beginning in the little log house that was erected at the same time the first church was built. Mr. Joseph Rustige was hired as the first teacher for $25 per month. Then in September of 1873, the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood took charge of the school.
In 1876 the log school was replaced with a brick building to accommodate the increased elementary enrollment. This three-story brick building served the Parish until it was torn down in the early 1960's. Today the eight grades at Assumption School are housed in the second high school building that was built in 1955, plus another building erected in 1959.
In 1923 Assumption High School opened its doors. From its beginning the school was under the tutelage of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood. The first Assumption High School building stood at the corner of Main and Third Street until 1965 when it was moved several blocks away to serve as the Knights of Columbus Hall. Assumption High School was transitioned into St. Dominic Archdiocesan Regional High School in 1963 and admits students from eleven feeder parishes in the area.