The current observance of St. Joseph School’s 100th anniversary invites a look back even farther to the beginnings of Catholic education in Bowling Green. In the late 1850s, Father Joseph deVries appealed to the Sisters of Charity in Bardstown to send teachers for a school to serve his Catholic constituents. In 1863, despite the upheaval of the Civil War, he got his wish. Sister Constantia Robinson and 3 other nuns set up shop in a rented building that had been variously occupied by Union and Confederate troops, and St. Columba Academy was born.
In 1869, St. Columba moved to a new home in the 1100 block of Center Street, where it accepted day and boarding students. The curriculum was rigorous but, in accordance with custom, female students were offered “ornamental” subjects like embroidery, painting and piano alongside their studies in algebra, history, philosophy, botany and literature.
In 1910, the pastor of St. Joseph Church purchased a lot at Church and Nugent streets and put the sisters in charge of the new St. Joseph Parochial School. Accordingly, St. Columba held its last commencement on June 14, 1911. The old school on Center Street was sold to the city board of education and became home to Bowling Green High School and later the junior high.
WKU’s Special Collections Library holds a class register for St. Columba Academy covering (with a few gaps) 1887-1911, when the school enrolled about 140 children each year. Turn past the final page, however, and the enrollment register for St. Joseph’s begins, running from 1911-1936–a testament to the continuity of Catholic education in Bowling Green.