St. Francis Sisters, Baker County, Oregon

Leonides Morgan, Rose de Lima and Florita Springer
Photo by S. John Collins

     A lot of history has transpired since the first St. Francis of Philadelphia sisters came to Baker City August 29, 1885.

     This year the Franciscan sisters are celebrating 100 years since the arrival of sisters M. Stanislaus, Marcella, Ferdinand, de Pazzi and Angelica in Baker city and within the Western Province.

     During the past 100years, St. Francis Academy was born, then closed later in 1970.

     The sisters who traveled by rail through the wild herds of buffalo and bands of Indians.

     When they arrived in Baker City they were greeted by the Rev. P. DeRoo, pastor of St. Francis Church.

     The sisters’ convent contained five borrowed beds, five chairs, a small basin and a few tallow candles stuck into bottles. Dishes that were used during the welcoming meal were loaned, so a few household items were purchased.

     Upon arriving, the Rev. DeRoo asked the sisters to conduct an academy. A telegram from the motherhouse in Philadelphia encouraged the idea saying,” Remain in obedience. Start your school. Letter follows.”

     Preparations for school began. The sisters opened a school for girls September 4 with 60 students. Etta Cleaver and Stella Randal were the first two boarders at the academy, which the sisters renamed after the patron of Assisi.

     No desks were available and the youngest children were taught in church, using the kneeling benches foe seats.

     A few weeks later, the Brothers of St. Viator’s pastor asked the sisters to teach the boys.
     Sr. Stanislaus was appointed to take charge of more than 40 boys, ranging from seven to 18 years in about six grades.

     On Christmas 1885, the school had 80 students, 15 were boarders. The sisters erected a crib and decorated the church with paper flowers for the altars. It was recorded by Sr. Marcella that, “ The boarders all remained at school since we did not want them to go to these country dances.”

     In 1904 an academy was built to suit the needs of the schooling. The same building served to educate students until 1970.

Sister Polycarp

      The first mother superior was Sr. M. Stanislaus; Sr. Polycarp, who came to the academy in 1889, became superior in 1904. She was reputedly at the academy for more than 40 years. The last superior at the academy was Sr. M. Ruth.

     St. Francis Academy was closed in 1970 due to financial difficulties and a shortage of sisters.

     In Baker, the Franciscan sisters have worked in
St. Elizabeth Hospital since 1903, and in the St. Elizabeth Nursing Home, which was started in 1940.

     At this time 19 sisters work in the hospital and nursing home.


The Western Province of Franciscan sisters ( now designated as Sacred Heart Province ) expanded service around Oregon since members arrived in Baker City.

     In 1902, the Oregon Archdiocese was divided and the Baker Diocese was created.


      In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Franciscan sisters, St. Francis Cathedral is having a special mass celebration at 11 a.m. August 24, followed by a luncheon in the hall.

     Attending will be Sr. Rose Ceclia, minister general of Sisters of St. Francis, headquartered in Philadelphia. Sr. Ester Anderson, provincial general for the Pacific Northwest also will attend. The public is invited to attend.

     This article was printed in the Democrat Herald sometime in August 1985. It was under the heading Religion  Andrea Newsome, religion editor. Reprinted here with the permission of Baker City Herald

More pictures of St. Francis, Academy, Church, and Hospital

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