Monday, September 18, 2017
The first house of the Society in the New World
Philippine and her companions arrived in St. Charles after the long trip from St. Louis across the Missouri river on September 7, 1818. Within a week they had opened the first free school west of the Mississippi and the first house of the Society of the Sacred Heart in America. The rented house that the Bishop had found for them was only the size of a large dining room, but it had seven rooms and more doors than windows! There was one large room in the front with a narrow corridor behind and three tiny rooms on each side of this passageway. The children of St. Charles came first, but by the beginning of October, there were three boarders from St. Louis.
The winter was very cold; even the Missouri river froze that year and the nuns had to chop ice to obtain water. In the house, the water froze in the pitchers. Since they had arrived too late to be able to plant, food was scarce. The Bishop realized that they could not stay another year in those conditions and decided that they should move again. This time it was on the other side of the Missouri and a bit closer to St. Louis. The Bishop gave them some land in Florissant and the new convent was to be built there with the money he had from the Society in France.
Although the new building would not be ready until near the end of December, the nuns had to leave St. Charles in September to begin school. The parish priest had been living in a farm-house belonging to the Bishop, but he moved out to give us possession. The move across the river was made by coaxing the cow onto the ferry with cabbages. Philippine was sorry to leave the children of the free school behind but realized that the move was necessary.