You’ve probably zoomed past the historical marker at the crest of Route 30 across from Wimmerton lots of time, but have you ever wondered what St. Xavier’s Academy was and what happened to it?

When I was younger I passed the sign and the historical marker tons of times, but one time I asked my mom what was back there. She said that there had been a school back there but it burned down years ago. I didn’t give much more thought to it until several years ago when I really started getting into local history (not to mention we had bought a house down St. Xavier Road) that I really began to start wondering about the old school. I wondered where it was located and were there any clues to what was left.

St. Xavier’s was originally started by the Sister’s of Mercy who came to the United States from Ireland in 1843. It is actually the oldest institution of the Sisters of Mercy. Originally started in a small building at St. Vincent, Mount St. Vincent Academy for Young Ladies started in 1945. In 1847 with the help of a donation from a local benefactor, St. Francis Xavier’s Academy was opened. 

Beatty, PA - St. Xavier Academy Main Entrance Vestibule - a

It operated as an academy for women, run by the Sisters of Mercy, up until 1972 when a large fire destroyed the entire building.

One evening when I was on my way to Walmart I decided to stop at the site and see if I could determine where the old school was located. I had read some conflicting things about where exactly the school was situated so I decided to figure it out for myself. When you leave Route 30, there are two roads. One is St. Xavier Road which has the old convent house, which once welcomed new recruits but is now used for offices, sits. The other was the path that led across the lawn and through the trees to the school itself. This one is gated off.

The statue of the Blessed Mother and Lawn of St. Xavier's in Latrobe

A remaining vestige of the former school is a statue of the Blessed Mother that stands at the entrance to the driveway. In fact, you can see this exact same statue on the right-hand side in one of my old postcards.

As you can see the path that leads to the school is slowly being taken back over by nature. Cracks are forming in the pavement and the overhang of trees is getting more dense. However, the grounds are very well taken care of. I followed the path through the grove of trees until I got to some benches, a large cluster of shrubs, and a clearing. My intuition told me the clearing was where the school once was since the benches seemed to be undisturbed, but I wasn’t sure. 

I happened to notice that inside the large clump of shrubs there seemed to be the pedestal for a statue. The statue had obviously been removed, and the shrubs seemed to have been planted to obscure it.

When I went home I dug out some of my old St. Xavier’s postcards and sure enough, there was a statue with the same sort of pedestal that was once facing the academy. This meant that my suspicions were correct and the statute (which we figured out was one of St. Xavier) had been facing the clearing where the school once stood. You can see the statue on the left of the postcard.

Beatty, PA - St. Xavier's Academy

Although there isn’t much to see anymore, the grounds of the former St. Xavier’s academy are still well-maintained and very peaceful. It’s a shame that I never actually got to see the school, but if anyone has any pictures they would like to share, I would love to see them! Also, if anyone knows what happened to the St. Xavier statue I would also be interested in finding out!


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  1. Rachel,

    I learned about your blog/web site and have to tell you that I really enjoy it! I am so glad to read your story and see the pictures of St. Xavier’s. I was a sophomore in high school when it burned down. I remember my mother and I drove around the site at one time and you could see the school from the field along Route 30. I am Catholic and so I was interested in the school although I never attended. Several times I have walked through the grounds (you can park at the sisters cemetery below and walk up the path) and also tried to pinpoint where the actual structure stood. I am amazed at the research you’ve done!

  2. My mother went to St. Xavier’s Academy when she was just a teenager. Mom passed about five years ago just shy of 80 years old. I miss her and have been thinking about her life, which brought me here. My dad was in college at St. Vincent’s nearby at the same time.

  3. My best high school years (my junior and senior years) were spent at St. X (as we used to call it). I was a student there in 1961 – 63. I went to West Virginia University where I got my bachelors in teaching (with major teaching fields of biology, speech and drama), and went on to do a Master of Arts in Theatre at WVU—and finally got my Ph.D. at Pitt in Theatre Arts. I really spent most of spare time while at St. X working on the plays and musicals at St. Vincent Prep, and I have always said I owe my career in theatre to my time at St. X and St. Vincent’s. So St. X will always have a special place in my heart.

    1. I was also a student at St.X.(60-61) school year. Boys up to grade eight were also students when I was there. I was taught sixth grade by the best teacher I ever had, her name was Sister Aldegondes. (Spelling of her name not sure). It was a classroom of about 20-25 boys and girls . Also believe it or not half the class was fifth graders. Sister taught both classes 5th and sixth grade in the same room at the same time.
      From the pictures and post cards I can still see the room window where I slept . Facing the school, the boys wing was on the right and the girls dorms were assigned to the main building all dorms were upstairs floors 2 and 3 . Behind the wing on the right the land sloped down about 100 yards as I remember and then back way up another hill where we would sled ride down in winter snows. A male student from St. Vincents would come across and coach the boys and watch us during hikes and outdoor activities.
      Thank you for the posts and pics.
      I very much remember going down to breakfast in strict silent lines (tallest in back short boys up front) . The cafeteria was down in the basement of the main building toward the back. It was always warm down there due to the boilers .I sure they were coal.

  4. I attended St. Xavier and graduated in 1966. It was such a beautiful school. Too bad you couldn’t see it.

  5. My aunt was a Sister of Mercy, Sister M Norbertine. Spent many summer days there in the ’50’s & ’60’s, picnicking and running around with my extended family while visiting.

  6. I was actually in the building on the day of the fire – March 16, 1972 – as well as my brother and two sisters. I remember the building and grounds well and have stopped there to visit and remember often. I would love to hear from any others who were students at the time of the fire.

    1. @Brian Moyer, Adrienne Brennan was their yr before the fire I move toWedt Chester Pa hear about the fire from a friend .I lost all of the teachers .First Thur third grade miss the teacher went back 1987in October walk around it made me sad love Hear from ( 1969 to January 1971) anyone Adrienne Brennan Henkle address 3409 Cedar Creek Ln, Sachse Texas 75048 email

  7. My mother attended, graduating around 1935 or so. My great aunt, Sister Mary Theophane, taught sciences at the school and is buried in the cemetery there. The cemetery is well worth a visit. You will see veterans’ flags on many of the sisters’ graves, since they were nurses of returning wounded from the Civil War as well as during a cholera epidemic.

    1. I graduated in 1958 best years of my life! I was very close to Sister Theophane after I married she came to our home many times with Sister Angela. There were only 22 in our class we still are very close today ( we have had 7 pass away) loved loved st Xavier❤️

  8. Good memories for the most part. Quality education. Attended 4-5-6th grades in the early 60’s. My father taught nearby at St Vincent’s College.

  9. Thank you for your history and especially photos and pictures. My sister and I were borders at St. Xavier in about about 1955-1957. My sister JoAnn Fisherkeller was my big sissy and lived on the dorm floor above me. Sister Jeanette was her dorm mother and a tremendous positive influence of JoAnn and myself. She was such a beautiful and loving soul. We were in contract with her until 1990. She is many ways was our mother. The academy and its teachers, sisters, mothers were a foundation in our lives and many of the good things my sister and I are came from them. Sister Dolores was my dorm mother. She was Irish, and a disciplinarian. We toed the line. Our alcove, bed and clothes were perfect, our shoes shined, or else. I was a mass server and remember being awakened prior to the rest of the boys to serve mass for the sisters. The beautiful chapel, filled with sisters, singing prayers and responses in Latin was other worldly in the predawn. The sisters singing Gregorian Chant was hauntingly beautiful and to this day a cherished memory.

    1. Hi Mark
      I went to St Xavier when u did and remember u and your sister. I hung out with JoAnn pretending we were horses running around the grove. I lived in dorm with her with Sister Jeannette. I reached out to JoAnn on Facebook when your Mom died. Haven’t heard back from her. Love to communicate with her. Bachmanrm@comcast,net

    2. @mark fisherkeller, oh my gosh! I just recently found your comments about St. X. I am going to the dedication of the property this weekend, Sept. 9, 2023. We have a history. My father knew your handsome father. I remember he was a pilot. My mother had died and your father told him about St. X. My father investigated and I attended St. X from 1958 until 1964 when I graduated. As I recall you and Joanne were only there one year with me. I remember you and Sister Dolores. What a hoot to find you again. Share your life with me.

  10. This historical gift was a “Deja Vu” remembrance of things past, vintage early 70s, post Pirates’ ’71Winning World Series; also the name of our Yearbook. Ironically, that iconoclastic 3-16-72 GREAT FIRE was on an extremely WET Monday early afternoon, eerily preceding St. Patrick’s Day; given that the Sister’s emigrated from Ireland. Tragically, SCARCITY of WATER(despite a nearby pond, but NO pumping capability) was the culprit in extinguishing the flames; which originated in the Infirmary of the Convent. Also, the All Brick structure was framed with extremely well dried varnished aged wood; reminiscent of the recent Notre Dame de Paris Fire. That ’72 School Term concluded at nearby St. Joseph’s Academy; as though by Divine helpful happenstance. In accordance with the traditional right of passage, the Graduating Class names were personally etched into the Courtyard Trees. At that time, it had become Co-ed; it was my Sophomore Year. Contact , IF interested in an historically accurate accounting.

  11. Went to 7th and 8th Grade at St. X in 1948-49. My classmates were Grimm, DuVall, and Siebert.
    Sister Jamesina was in charge of the Boys Hall.
    I often wonder what happened to Anita Felix.
    She loved horses and seemed very talented.
    I thought she would become famous.

  12. I found a pamphlet from a 1913 St. Xaviers music recital tucked inside a book of E. B. Browning’s poetry in a bookstore in N.C. Was doing some digging on the school and found this. Thank you for your research..

    1. @S. M., just curious, what did you do with the pamphlet? I have found a 1912 Journel, sort of like their monthly newsletter and trying to figure out what to do with this amazing piece of history.

  13. I attended with my sister in 1964 and was a border 1965. I remember the Sisters being very kind to us after our parent’s died.

  14. I went to grade school in the fifties. It was a great experience. The nuns were very strict and keep everyone on the straight and narrow.
    Mark Fisherkeller. I hung out with your sister, JoAnn and stayed in the dorm with Sister Jeannette. I reached out to her on Facebook when your Mom passed away but she didn’t respond. Would love to hear from her

  15. I was a senior at SXA in 1972 when the fire occurred between the Ides of March and St Patrick’s Day. We were in class with Sr Magdalene, our Principal. I’ll always remember the surprise on her face when the alarm sounded and thought, hmmm, the Principal would know if we were having a drill. We were still wearing our winter uniforms, blue wool suits, which got wet and ruined in the rain. I was a day hop, a term ppl are not so familiar with these days. I took turns driving to school every other day with another student and it was her day to drive. Because we were seniors, and didn’t follow the rules, we parked in front of the school instead of across the grove. She left the car keys in the building so we had no ride home. Students came from St Vincent to help get the Sisters from the infirmary. It was so sad. The fire started in the kitchen on the lower level. The chapel there was so beautiful. Sr Magdalene made an impact on my education and life. We were off for one week then finished at St Joseph.

    1. @Debbie Campbell, sister Magdalene was our principal at St Peter McKeesport. 1956-60. Great woman as they all were. I visited St X once during that time.

    1. Hi Debbie.
      I was in the 125th graduating class. We were the first class to graduate boys and the last to graduate from the chapel! As much as I didn’t want to go there, that school gave me lifelong friends. Something my old school didn’t do. It was not easy going there and staying 5 days a week there. But my crazy bunch of friends kept me strong.

  16. I attended st. Xaviers in 1944/45 with my sister June who was 5 years younger. I was 12/13 years old then. The principal was Sister Jean and my dormitory mother Sister Bernadette. We were the only non Catholic girls in the school. Our parents had just separated and the nuns were extremely kind to us. I was very fond of Sister Kathleen who taught art and also Sister Sylvia. In 1946 my father who was Irish sent us to live with his parents in Ireland where we received a British education. I have lived in Ireland and England since 1946 and pursued a career in geology. Although the separation off our parents was very sad, The kindness of the nuns made the two years at St. Xaviers very happy ones.

    1. @Diane Knill (Judge), do you happen to know Mary Calvo? She attended during the same years. She also left at the same time you left but for Italy.

  17. I enjoyed seeing these old pictures of St. Xavier’s. Although I never attended classes there, I visited often with my parents as my Aunt was Sister Mary Francis Jerome. I still stop when I am in the area…..

  18. One of my projects during Covid lockdown was to clean my attic and I finally parted with my St. X scrapbook!! Sorry now that I did as I had saved so many memories, including the newspaper coverage of the fire my senior year. I was the last of 5 Mance sisters to go to St. X. Mary graduated in ‘60 or ‘61, Kathy -‘64, Margie- ‘68, Teppie -‘69 and I was class of 72. Sr. Ida was the only teacher all 5 of us had in common. We lived 2 1/2 hours away so spent many weekends there to fend for ourselves with a skeleton crew of nuns. I can point out the windows of every one of my dorm rooms over the years and the exact room we were in having English class with Sr. Magdalen when the fire alarm went off. I remember giving my wool uniform jacket to one of the informed nuns we helped wheel through the grove in the rain to the house on the corner. It was a sickening feeling seeing the flames engulf the part that was the chapel as they took us to St. Joe’s by bus. Everything I owned was in that building….it was my home.

    1. @Barbara Michael,
      I grew up in Latrobe and started working evenings and weekends at St X at 15 in 1969. I worked for Sister Bartholomew, started out washing pots and pans in the kitchen, but did everything from housekeeping (including washing windows across from the dorm rooms), working on the farm, helping the old carpenter, ending with working with the painter right up to the fire. I remember going there to help during the fire but the policeman didn’t believe me when I said that I worked there and wouldn’t let me through. Sister Bartholomew then had me sit in my car at the entrance to keep people out for a time. I also helped renovate the house near the entrance afterwards for some of the Sisters to use later. Anyway, I knew every square foot of that place (and a few of the girls) and have many fond memories. I moved to CA in 1977 (now in OR) and used to go by St X when visiting over the years. I loved that place was heartbroken when everything was demolished and leveled.

  19. What a delightful bit of nostalgia!

    I was in Sr. Mary Paul’s handwriting class when the bell rang for us to evacuate the building. It was an overcast March afternoon, and it began to spit rain on us after we’d been outside for a while. The sisters piled us into their cars until our parents could arrive. From there we watched the fire eat up the roof. We finished the year at St. Joseph Hall, closer to Greensburg. I remember taking a field trip back to St. X that spring, and we ran around on the lawn, thinking we’d be back in our old school in the fall. It was the last time I saw it.

    The building was enchanting. I used to have dreams about it well into adulthood–never about the fire itself, just the shadows and drafts and mysteries of that beautiful old place. I began putting those dreams onto paper so I wouldn’t forget what the building looked like. Those notes evolved into a semi-autobiographical novella called The Sacred Halls of St. Disaster. I had a lot of fun writing it. It’s on Amazon if you’re curious.

  20. I found a very lovely book of poetry written by a Sister Mercedes from the St. Xavier Academy. The poems are deeply spiritual and moving while also describing the gardens and chapel. I was excited to see the rose bushes in the pictures posted. One of her poems recounts how she gathered roses for the altar on Rosary Day. It was published in 1922. Any chance someone knew Sr. Mercedes?

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