Posted by: newenglandarchivist | April 12, 2017

Plantation Street Worcester Annals

Swan Farm, c. 1920

The Lake, c. 1910


In 1899, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur bought the Swan Farm,  located on Plantation in Worcester. The Farm, as the sisters called it for many years, had been rented out for over thirty years to various tenants. The property included 145 acres of farmland. When the sisters arrived on April 9, 1900 to begin their work, they found the house filled with trash and in great disrepair. During those first months, the sisters wrote constantly about their work, the conditions and the beginnings of what was to become a rest home for aging and ill sisters. To help them with the work, the sisters also hire 4 farmhands to manage the fields and animals.

Those first annals not only describe the sisters’ challenges, but also amusing stories, such as sheep that like to sleep in beds and the rescue of their missing dog. The original annals are provided here along with a transcription because the penmanship of the annalist is often difficult to decipher. Enjoy these tales from more than a century ago.

Plantation Street Convent Annals 1900-1901

Transcription Plantation Street Convent Annals 1900-1901


Posted by: newenglandarchivist | September 7, 2016

Columbian Exposition of 1893


As the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the new world approached, Catholic educators around the U.S. were determined to claim Columbus as their own. What better way to claim Columbus as their own than to participate in the 400th anniversary which was scheduled for 1892?

Because the planning took longer than expected, the Columbian Exposition or the Chicago World’s Fair, didn’t open until May of 1893. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Massachusetts organized their students to produce shining examples of what Catholic education offered to children across the country.

For example, the students at the Notre Dame Academy in Lowell, Massachusetts created a volume to combine the known information and belief regarding Christopher Columbus along with artwork created by the students.  They won an award for this volume which was on display at the Exposition from May until October of 1893. Unfortunately, after it was returned to Lowell, it was stored in damp conditions for many years and the pages are now rippled. Despite that, it is a lovely example of student work from the Notre Dame Academy in Lowell, MA.

Enjoy this work from 1893. Columbus 1893,

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | July 13, 2016

Lawrence, Massachusetts 1934 Scrapbook

art decoart deco 2

I have found that old scrapbooks offer a wonderful insight into the times and events when they were created. In 1934, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur celebrated their 75th anniversary of their mission in the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. While most of the scrapbook offers the usual tidbits of news clippings documenting the celebrations and events for that anniversary, it also contains many art deco drawings created by either one of the students or alumni of St. Mary’s High School. Have a look and enjoy stepping back in time Scrapbook 1934


Posted by: newenglandarchivist | May 11, 2016

Little Surprises in Old Photographs

With the wonders of Iphone technology, I was able to take a panoramic photograph of this graduation photo taken at St. Mary’s High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1928. It took a few tries because of my wobbling hand, but when I finally had the image, I saw to my surprise faces in the second window from the right. That was a fun surprise, as was the man in the top hat on the far left. I hope you enjoy this picture as much as I have.

St. Mary's 1928
              To enlarge photo, click on it

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | December 8, 2015

Sr. Frances of the Sacred Heart’s Japan Scrapbook

Frances of the Sacred Heart

Sister Frances of the Sacred Heart, 1856-1935

In 1929, Sr. Frances of the Sacred Heart, the Provincial for the Waltham Province, went to Japan to visit the Sisters of Notre Dame who had been in Okayama for five years. During her journey, she stopped in Hawaii, then sailed onto Japan. She assembled a scrapbook of her journey and visit to Japan, which can be viewed by clicking on the link below.

Frances of the Sacred Heart Scrapbook

Enjoy these images from nearly a century ago!

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | September 14, 2015

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur during World War I

With the start of WWI now at little more than a hundred years passed, I thought it would be interesting to post a journal written by one Sister during WWI when Belgium was under German occupation. The Oudenburg Journal, which is posted below, describes the horrors of living under occupation and of war. Because the Sisters in Belgium had to destroy all journals, letters, etc. for fear of them falling into German hands, this journal was written after the war ended. The unnamed Sister responsible for the letter describes her fear and struggle during the first two years of the war. The letters end in 1916 and it is unknown whether she wrote any more.

While the handwriting is quite clear, I also am posting the typed transcriptions of the journal for ease of reading. While often sad and horrifying, this journal offers an interesting window into World War I.

Oudenburg Journal      Oudenburg, Belgium journal 1919 transcription


Posted by: newenglandarchivist | July 21, 2015

The Lure of Unidentified Photographs

A new exhibit has just opened at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston entitled, “Unfinished Stories: Snapshots from the Peter J. Cohen Collection.” What’s interesting about the exhibit is these are amateur photos collected by Peter J. Cohen that span more than a century. These are lost, tossed and unidentified photographs and yet remain of interest to so many. The lure of old photos is one I understand. I find myself looking at the faces or where the pictures were taken, drawn in by the old vehicles and old buildings as I wonder about the people and events in the scene.

Just recently, I have been working on the oversized group of photographs, creating secure housing for them and identifying them. One small group has eluded identification, beyond the fact that they are pictures taken to commemorate a school graduation during a particular year. I am almost certain they were taken in Massachusetts, but so far cannot pin them down to a school or community. And so I offer them to you, to enjoy and to wonder as I have who these girls were and where Life might have taken them in the years after these images were developed.

These images below are from Graduating Classes between 1896 and 1914, all of them unknown schools. All can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Class of 1896

Class of 1896

Class of 1896

Class of 1896

Class of 1896

Class of 1896

Class of 1896

Class of 1896

Class of 1896

Class of 1896

Class of 1897

Class of 1897

Class of 1898

Class of 1898

Class of 1899

Class of 1899

Class of 1900

Class of 1900

Class of 1901

Class of 1901

Class of 1902

Class of 1902

Class of 1914

Class of 1914





















Posted by: newenglandarchivist | March 10, 2015

The Old Habit worn by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur

Lowell0012 edited for web
Click on image to enlarge

I have found that there is some interest in the habits once worn by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Some people ask if I have a habit in the archives–I do–and if they can borrow it–they can’t. For those people who are interested, I do have a small pamphlet written in 1937 by a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur outlining the process to make the full habit. Anyone interested can learn more about sewing one by clicking here. Enjoy!!

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | November 19, 2014

Notre Dame Federation Picnic in 1924

               Click on photo to enlarge

Until 1927, Tyngsboro served as a summer place for the Sisters of Notre Dame. After teaching and attending summer classes to learn new teaching methods and practices, many of the sisters went to Tyngsboro for a brief vacation before school resumed once again in September. More information on the residence can be found in the July 2014 Annals from the Archives.

The Lowell Annals report in June 1924 that “this month brought the usual Musical, Distribution, First Communion of St. Patrick’s little ones, Alumnae Picnic and Corpus Christi Procession.” This photo was taken on June 21, 1924 at the Notre Dame Alumnae picnic in Tyngsboro.

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | October 6, 2014

Julie Billiart’s Beatification Scrapbook

Beatification Album 2 025 adjusted
Procession to Church in Namur, Belgium, 1922

I always love going through old scrapbooks. The arrangement of photos or clippings tells so much about the creator, their loves and interests and lives. I don’t know who originally arranged the 1922 scrapbook to commemorate the 1906 Beatification of St. Julie Billiart, but the photos from nearly than a century past of the celebration in Namur, Belgium offer so much insight into the times and dreams of a people who had suffered much during WWI.

To enjoy the latest online exhibit of this historic scrapbook, click here.

Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: