Private and Parochial Schools in Baker County, Oregon

Private and Parochial Schools

     Baker County has had private and parochial schools from its beginning. The first were private schools on an informal basis. There have been some which lasted for years, such as the Baker City Academy. Four men started that institution on land which had been set aside for educational purposes in 1869. That ground is between Broadway and Washington Streets, and west of Fourth. The Academy burned, was rebuilt, and was discontinued for financial reasons in 1887. The public school district inherited the building and the grounds, since it was dedicated for educational use.

     Religious schools were popular in the East and pioneers brought that idea with them.

     In 1872, the Sisters of the Holy Names apparently started a school on Court Street with four pupils. In 1874, they authorized a foundation and raised funds for the Notre Dame Academy on Church property near the corner of Second and Church Street. In 1884, that school opened with 23 girls.

Father DeRoo, an active educational organizer, promoted a Catholic Boys' School called St. Joseph's College on Main Street just north of Campbell Street. It opened under the Canadian Victorian order in 1883 and closed in 1885, the Baker City Academy was phasing out; Notre Dame Academy and the St. Joseph's College closed, and the Episcopal school was in the planning. The latter lasted two years.
    The Sisters of St. Francis opened a school in 1885 in the Notre Dame Academy building and used it until 1892. They then bought the Virtue home between Main and First Streets and bounded on the south by Church Street. They added a wing to that building and set up the St. Francis School.

     The Notre Dame Building then became home for the first St. Elizabeth Hospital (1887).

     In 1901, the Sisters of St. Francis moved the Virtue House westward on Church Street and built the St. Francis Academy. They operated there successfully until 1970 as a boarding school, day school, music and art center and as an elementary and high school.

Parochial Training in 1986

     The Seventh Day Adventists maintained school at 2430 Madison Street from 1897 until 1936, when they moved to Seventh and Church Street. In 1955, they built a brick school at Valley and Ash, which they used until 1976, when they moved to a new facility at Seventh Street and Pocahontas Road.

From 1921 until 1925 they maintained a 2-year high school program at Hereford, but discontinued when Hereford High School was organized.

     Three organizations operate parochial schools in Baker in 1986. They include the Seventh Day Adventists, the Baker Valley Christian Assembly, and the Agape Christian Center.

Baker Community Kindergarten

     The Baker Community Kindergarten sponsored by the A.A.U.W., opened in September, 1952 in the old Central building on Washington Ave. Freida Tremain was the teacher and Caroline R. Sherrieb was the organization's president. Tuition was $6.00/month.

     When the schools became more crowed the Kindergarten was held in a private home, the City Hall basement, wherever there was available space. For several years, it has been using two rooms in the North Baker School serving 75 children. The two teachers have been Sandy Hall and Heather Vaughn. Tuition is $35.00 per month.


     The Whitney Business College operated in Baker from 1887 until 1891 and the Baker Business College from 1891 until 1976. These were noted for their training in theory and practice of business. They utilized the upstairs offices of business buildings, notably the Shoemaker Building, the Baker Bank Building at Broadway and Main and the Rand Building at First and Washington. This training was especially useful before public schools offered vocational training to the extent common today.

    Baker has not successfully offered extended college training through its school system and colleges.

     The General Extension Division offered selected courses in the 1950's and 60's if enrollment justified.

     In the school district reorganization, the "Twenty-year Plan" included Community College Training. The district operated the state's first community college for two years, having introduced the legislation from the Superintendent's office here. However, the Legislature set a minimum high school graduation of 200 per year for a district to offer such college training. That requirement precluded continuation of the program.

     At the present time, Eastern Oregon State College offers limited courses on an off-campus basis.

(Please see complete story of Education in Baker County in Gold Dust and Chalk Dust, by J.R. Evans. Baker Printing and Lithography)

Baker County History Book



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