Many people think Quincy Notre Dame’s history starts with Christian Brothers High School in 1959. However, Notre Dame’s history dates all the way back to 1597, which is when Blessed Alix LeClerc founded the original congregation of Notre Dame Sisters. In 1833, a student of the original Sisters, Caroline Gerhardinger, reestablished the Sisters in Germany, who were then known as the School Sisters of Notre Dame. In 1847, four School Sisters came to the United States. One was Mother Mary Caroline, who was the first major superior of the School Sisters in America.
Mother Caroline met Rt. Reverend Henry D. Juncker, the first bishop of Alton, Illinois, when she visited St. Louis in 1859. He urged her and the School Sisters to take charge of St. Boniface in Quincy, which at that point was being taught by secular teachers. Mother Caroline decided she would help if it would further children’s Christian education. Mother Caroline went to survey Quincy soon after she met Bishop Juncker. When she arrived in Quincy, she saw that the pastor of St. Boniface did need her help. The day after she arrived, Mother Caroline met the entire congregation of St. Boniface, and that afternoon plans were made for the Sisters to start working in Quincy. The next year, the Sisters started teaching in St. Lawrence O’Toole School, which is now St. Peter.
In the early 1860s, the people of Quincy, whose daughters had finished their elementary education, wanted their daughters to attend a private school to further their education. Therefore, Mother Caroline appointed Sisters to teach advanced classes as well as drawing, needlework, and French in the extra rooms of St. Boniface School.
On September 2, 1863, Mother Boniface arrived in Quincy and was appointed superior of the school. She held this position for 45 years until she died in 1908.
In 1852, the Plenary Council in Baltimore decided to make the Chicago diocese two separate dioceses, a Chicago diocese and a Quincy diocese. The See in Quincy was established in 1853. Bishop James Oliver Van deVelde from Chicago bought land in Quincy sufficient for a bishop’s home and a cathedral. However, the See was moved to Alton in 1857, and a bishop never lived in Quincy.
Soon after the See was moved to Alton, Rev. Peter Damien Juncker was consecrated the bishop of Alton. He believed the See needed to be moved back to Quincy because Alton was developing slowly as a city. Despite Bishop Juncker’s push to make Quincy the See, it never happened. The people of Alton did everything in their power to get the bishop back and succeeded. Since Bishop Juncker was then back in Alton, he no longer needed the land and building he had bought at Eighth and Vermont and let the Sisters of St. Francis use it as a hospital in 1866.
At that time, Bishop Juncker asked Mother Caroline to buy the property and land and open an institution of higher education for girls.This was after he asked Mother Boniface and a local priest to open the school. She told him the School Sisters had very little money and could not carry the debt they would incur if they bought the land. Mother Caroline also told the bishop she did not have enough Sisters to work at the existing schools much less a new one.
Bishop Juncker understood Mother Caroline’s opposition, but he wanted the Sisters to open an institution in his diocese. He had Mother Caroline look at locations in Mount Sterling and Springfield and compare them to Quincy. She decided she liked Quincy the best and bought the Bishop’s home, and the property at Eighth and Vermont belonging to the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
The Eighth and Vermont property was transformed into the Convent School of the Infant Jesus by September 1, 1867. Courses were offered for elementary and advanced levels. Classes included orthography, reading, grammar, arithmetic, history, botany, astronomy, chemistry, mythology, drawing and painting, needlework, and bead, hair, and wax works.
On the first day of classes, 12 students were enrolled in the school. The next year, enrollment increased to 116 students. Within two years of the school’s opening, it started accepting boarders, and by the third year the school was open, there were 16 boarders.
Due to the boarders and increased enrollment, central and north additions were built in 1872. In 1873, the Illinois legislature chartered the school as St. Mary’s Institute. Over time, a high school course of study was introduced. A two-year, advanced level course was established in 1878. It was extended to three years in 1890 and to four years in 1894. Eventually, another wing was built for boarders because there was no longer room for them in the other buildings. Eventually, more surrounding land was bought to expand the school’s campus and more fields of study were added to the curriculum, mainly music.
In 1924, the name of the school was changed to Notre Dame Academy, and in 1935, the school became a member of the North Central Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges.
A huge change took place at Notre Dame when the Franciscan Fathers at Quincy College had to close Quincy College Academy, the only Catholic secondary school for boys in Quincy, to meet requirements for the college. At this time, the bishop of Springfield, Rt. Rev. James A. Griffin, requested that Notre Dame Academy become co-educational. The school was co-educational from September 1940 to May 1959. By the late 1950s, the school was becoming too crowded so another Catholic secondary school had to be opened. Christian Brothers High School, an all-boys school, was opened at 10th and Jackson in 1959, once again making Notre Dame Academy an all-girls school.
The schools were consolidated again in 1975, and the school became known as Quincy Notre Dame High School in 1976. The school operates under this name at 10th and Jackson today.