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August 6, 1864: Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary Arrive in Parkersburg

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On August 6, 1864, a colony of eight Catholic nuns wound up their long treacherous wartime trek from Washington, D.C., to Parkersburg. The Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary established a teaching order in Parkersburg and, in 1867, founded a school for poor children.

In 1900, they took possession of a new home and school located on the outskirts of Parkersburg. They named the large red-and-brick monastery DeSales Heights, in honor of St. Francis DeSales. Their former school building became home to St. Joseph’s Hospital.

For the next 75 years, the sisters ran a boarding school for young women at DeSales Heights. In its heyday, it was considered one of the finest Catholic schools for young women in the country. And in the 1970s, the sisters introduced West Virginia’s first Montessori courses. Declining enrollment eventually took its toll, and the massive school building became too costly to maintain. In 1992, DeSales Heights closed its doors, ending a nearly 130-year run in one form or another. The building was put up for sale. After vandalism and a fire, the DeSales Heights building was demolished in 2002.

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