History of the Moravian Female Seminary

By Barb Johnson

From the time Martin Mauser founded our town, he began to ask the Elders of the Moravian Church to consider providing boarding schools for young men and young ladies as was the case in Salem, North Carolina. The Elders were hesitant to create such a school in the wilderness of Indiana. By 1859, Hope had grown and when the question was once more raised, the feelings were more favorable. The local church built a fine two story brick school on the church school property across Main Street from the Chapel to house temporarily the Moravian Day School for all children in the town, with the intent that it would eventually be turned into a Girl's School. As the Civil War ended, the Elders began to plan for such a school. By 1866 a larger three story building was added and plans were underway for the formation of the Moravian Female Seminary for Young Ladies.

Rev. Francis Holland was asked to leave his post as assistant principal at the Girl's School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to become the principal of the Hope school. He moved his family here in April of 1866 to begin work. The school opened in November, with two boarders, fifteen girls from the local community and a staff made up of five teachers, Rev. Holland, and his wife. All of these attended the dedication of the building as well as the workers who were attempting to complete the new building. By the end of the first year, enrollment has grown to include 8 boarders and 42 local students. Soon girls were coming from all over the midwest to attend school in this excellent educational environment which allowed students to progress at their own rate and to participate in very small classes that provided ample individual attention.

Students were offered classes in History, Literature, Astronomy, Botany, Chemistry, Geology, Philosophy, Christian Evidences, vocal music, drawing, painting, ornamental needlework, Latin, German, English, Rhetoric, Geography, Instrumental Music, and "other branches". Besides teaching classes, Rev. Holland's wife also directed the household.

Teachers lived at the school and spent all their time in the company of the students. They ate with students, conducted leisure time activities for the students, and even slept in the dormitories with the girls. Girls were required to be in the company of a "chum" at all times. That was another student of similar age.

The impressive school buildings sat on a 16 acre farm lot. Behind the school were vegetable gardens and other produce as well as chickens to provide some of the food for the school. In spite of the careful planning of Rev, Holland for the school, it was never financially sound. The Moravian Church saw a need to close the school because of its financial burden on the church. They replaced Rev. Holland with Rev. Blickensderfer in 1879, but this did nothing to improve the situation. The school closed in 1881. Later some of the past students returned to erect a set of iron gates at the location where they would enter Spring Woods for their Sunday strolls and to enjoy the merry-go-round and the lawn tennis courts that were there.

The school buildings later held the Hope Normal School which provided Commercial Training and Teacher Training classes. The school buildings no longer stand, but some of the bricks were used in the building where Shaton's is located.