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Reflections by Sammy Way: O'Donnell House hosted St. Catherine's Kindergarten students

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 10/25/19

Reflections remembers St. Catherine's, one of Sumter's most successful kindergartens. The facility was located in The O'Donnell House, a magnificent mansion on East Liberty Street. According to Mrs. O'Donnell's will, the house was left to the …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: O'Donnell House hosted St. Catherine's Kindergarten students

Posted

Reflections remembers St. Catherine's, one of Sumter's most successful kindergartens. The facility was located in The O'Donnell House, a magnificent mansion on East Liberty Street. According to Mrs. O'Donnell's will, the house was left to the Catholic Church and became St. Catherine's convent.

The school originated in 1933 through the efforts of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, who served as its directors and teachers. The school was opened to four- and five-year-olds with tuition being set at $10 monthly including a registration and supply fee of $5 due at the semester. The history of the Catholic school was recorded in Historical Sketches of Sumter County written by Cassie Nicholes. Additional information was obtained from The Sumter Item archives.

"In 1887, the young merchant Neill O'Donnell married Kate Bogin, second daughter of William and Johanna Bogin. The older daughter, Ella, was married to Timothy J. Tuomey. The Bogins had one son, William, who was married to Agnes Moise. Little is known of him."

"The Bogin home was adjacent to their store but was later moved to East Liberty by Neill and Kate O'Donnell. Still later it was extensively renovated, becoming one of the finest homes in Sumter. The mansion was furnished throughout with beautiful and expensive antiques."

Queen of Victory crowned in kindergarten program

In May 1945, the kindergarten staged a musical (one of many) culminating with the crowning of the queen of victory (signaling the end of the conflict in Europe). The event was performed during the last class of the semester, and all the students of the school were involved with the general public invited to attend the proceedings. The performance began with "little Virginia Harvin, as Columbia, being crowned Queen of Victory in a unique coronation ceremony at St. Catherine's Kindergarten in the convent garden. Dressed in characteristic costumes, George Foxworth, as Uncle Sam, assisted by Ann Thompson, Miss America, crowned Columbia before an improvised throne which consisted of an immense 'V' decorated in patriotic colors."

"The processional was announced by tiny 4-year-old boys as heralds carrying toy trumpets. Rueben Irby, the color bearer, led the 'soldier boys' and little girl attendants carrying service flags across the lawn and up to the throne. They were followed by Uncle Sam and Miss America. Columbia was preceded by the crown bearer, Andrena Ray, a tiny tot of three years. After the queen was crowned, the children sang 'America.' Then the color bearer knelt before the Queen of Victory, who held hands outstretched in blessing over the flag. Then the children stood at attention while a recording of the national anthem was being played. Afterward the queen, preceded by the color bearer and heralds, led Uncle Sam with Miss America, the 'soldiers' and attendants in a march."

"The school ceased operation when the sisters were assigned other responsibilities due to the sale of the convent. The home was occupied by the Shelly-Brunson Funeral Home, which held its grand opening at The O'Donnell House in 1962."