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Sisters of the Holy Family at the Stewart Indian School and Corpus Christi Chapel Collection: Carson City and Summer Vacation Schools in Western Nevada
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Hand-written annals manuscripts documenting life and work of Sisters, and photographs and digitized films of students at the Stewart Indian School and the Corpus Christi Chapel. 3 linear feet of materials and 9 digitized films, predominantly from 1933 to 1971.
The Sisters of the Holy Family were established in San Francisco in 1872 by a young woman named Elizabeth “Lizzie” Armer. Born in 1850 in Sydney, Australia, Lizzie moved with her family to San Francisco while still a young child and was eventually adopted by the wealthy San Francisco banker Richard Tobin and his family. In 1872, at the age of twenty-two, Lizzie Armer approached a local priest named Father Prendergast and expressed her desire to join a community of women religious. Prendergast, with the support of Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany, urged Lizzie to form a new community of Sisters with a focus on charitable work for families in need: the Sisters of the Holy Family of San Francisco (SHF). Between 1872 and 1878, Lizzie, now Mother Dolores Armer, and the second woman to join the new community, Sister Teresa O’Connor, worked to establish the Holy Family Sisters as a small order under the San Francisco Archdiocese. By the first decades of the 20th century, membership in SHF had expanded significantly and the Sisters began to spread out their operations further afield in California. Residential houses that served as sub-convents were established in San Jose, Oakland and Los Angeles; soon SHF also moved into Nevada and the Hawaiian Islands. From their new houses, SHF Sisters continued their ministries, including child care and Catholic summer schools for working class families, and for low-income and often marginalized communities such as migrant agricultural workers. The first Holy Family Sisters arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1932. The population in Las Vegas was expanding rapidly in the early 1930s as workers came into the area to work on the Hoover Dam. In 1940, the Sisters based out of the SHF residence in Reno began to do missionary work at the Corpus Christ Chapel at Stewart Indian School, also known as the Stewart Institute, Carson Institute, and the Carson Indian School. The Stewart Indian School was established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1890 as a boarding school for Native American students from a variety of Western tribes. Tribes with students at the school likely included the Washoe and Paiute of Nevada, as well as Hopi, Navajo, Apache, Pima, Mohave, Walapai, Ute, Pipage, Coropah and Tewa communities. The Stewart School had a reputation among Native American communities for strict, and sometimes harsh, treatment of students and for enforcement of a policy banning native languages. In June of 1950, a small Catholic church was constructed out of local Nevada stone at the Stewart School and named the Corpus Christi Chapel. Stewart closed as a school in 1980, and now is under the operation of the State of Nevada as a location for state agencies including the Nevada Indian Commission. Many of the characteristic stone-work buildings were created by students from the school’s masonry program using stone from a Carson City quarry and the structures are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
3 Linear Feet
Please contact the Sisters of the Holy Family Archives for permission to publish
Collection is open for research