Notre Dame Schools, Marysville

"Where would they find poor children in a land teeming with gold mines?"

Father Peter Magagnotto, Marysville pastor, had to make several trips to San Jose before he could persuade Sister Superior Mary Cornelia to open a school in Marysville. "Where would they find poor children in a land teeming with gold mines," she wondered. And, there were too few Sisters and no money to start a new convent and school. Fr. Peter, a practical man, raised the money, bought some land, and got his "yes." In October 1856, Sisters Mary Bernard Weber, Alphonse Marie Vermulyen, Maria Julia Walsh and Miss Louise Prevost, one of the first graduates of Notre Dame, San Jose, made the two-day trip by stage and steamer from San Jose to Marysville.

Notre Dame School, Marysville. Early days.

Fr. Peter's purchases were a half-block facing C street, between Seventh and Eighth. A three-story building on the property was adapted to provide two large classrooms, a parlor, a chapel and rooms for the little community. Classes opened on November 10, 1857, with a registration of 18 day pupils.

By 1871 the entire block was convent, day school and boarding school. New buildings were completed and a high brick wall surrounded the property. Over the next 80 years, buildings were renovated and additions constructed. The gardens and trees always made it a place of beauty for the students. Academic standards were high, and by 1924 the school was accredited to the University of California.

By the 1950s, the oldest buildings could no longer be renovated to meet changing needs and were torn down. The high school built in 1924 and the old elementary school remained, and became the high school. A new elementary school and convent were constructed. At this time, with the agreement of both the Sisters' community and the parish, the schools became parochial schools.

Alums with Sr. Barbara Hanagan at a reunion.

By 1970 the cost of education, especially teachers' salaries, increased while high school enrollment decreased. The parish could no longer afford the full subsidy. Sadly, it was necessary to close the high school. Thousands of young women had received an excellent education for life in that school. In September 2008, the elementary school merged with St. Isidore's School in Yuba City.

The Marysville Alumnae Association was formed in 1906 at the time of the Golden Jubilee of the convent and school. The Marysville alumnae are extraordinarily loyal to the memory of their school and to the Sisters and their ministries today.

Excerpts from the early annals:

For four days the Sisters have lodged and boarded at Father Pierre’s and have been busy preparing the beds and furnishing the rooms. They have had the great favor of having the Blessed Sacrament at the end of the first week and Holy Mass was celebrated for them at least twice a week; when they admitted boarders they had Holy Mass every day except Sunday. When all was in order, Sr. Marie Cornelie returned to San Jose leaving the little Community of three entrusted with the cultivation of this new vineyard; they did not really know how it would turn out. Confidence in God was its support for what would three poor little Sisters do?

All being ready, school was opened the second week of November. Nineteen pupils enrolled the first day, about 1/3 Protestants, as paying day pupils; at the end of the month this number was doubled. The Sunday classes were also well attended; thus the Sisters gained the confidence of the Protestants as well as of the Catholics. In the vacation of the same year it was decided to add a wing to the building to receive boarders. Sisters Victoria, M. Gonzaga, and M. Kostka came from Cincinnati to the assistance of the little community. The boarding school was opened and in a short time the little wing could no longer contain the number of children. The mines near Marysville were very rich. The population was increasing and it seemed that the Sisters would have many pupils and up to that time they were all paying; there were no poor; in fact, anyone who wished to work did not have to be poor. They, however, would have liked very much to have a charity class. To receive more pupils it was necessary to build and in order to build it was necessary to buy some land….

Since the boarders as well as the paying day pupils had increased it was easy to meet all these expenses of buying and building. After the year 1859 they had begun a small class of charity pupils but it was not for several years that it was at all attended because no one wanted to be poor at this time. In 1863 they began a class of small boys in a little building on one of the lots bought previously. The convent continued to prosper until the second flood.

In 1868 the classes were well attended and we had a good number of advanced boarders. We applied to the Legislature for the right to give diplomas. Mr. Montgomery, a lawyer in San Francisco, helped us very much in this matter. We had received our rights of incorporation the same year and after that our pupils could teach in the public schools without further formalities or examinations.


  1. I purchased a little book in a used book store in Long Beach last year. It was signed by Sr. Marie Eucharista of Notre Dame in 17 June 61. The book is My Way of Life – Pocket Edition of St. Thomas – The Summa Simplified for Everyone. My husband and I have been very touched by this book and it called me to research her online and led me here. I assume she is at rest with the Lord now, but thought that it would do her honor to know, even though she may not be with us any longer, this little gift she gave to a "Donna" has been passed on and is being treasured as much as she obviously treasured it. Therefore her good works continue today. It reminds me that God works through us all, in His time. Thank you Sr. Marie Eucharista for your gift.

    God bless,


  2. I had the privilege of attending Notre Dame Catholic school (in Marysville, Calif). From the 90's and 00's. Sadly, we didn't have any nuns or mother superiors. Wish we did, always wanted to know what it was like to have teaches from a religious organization.

    1. Hi Ric! Thanks for letting us know about your experience at Notre Dame Catholic in Marysville. We still have a few Sisters teaching in classrooms…but not many!

      Communications Associate

  3. I attempted Notre Dame elementary graduating in 1960 and High School graduating in 1964. Thank You for sharing. Sr Marie Eucharista taught me at Norte Dame High
    Gail Perkins Pfiester Kunsman

  4. I attended Notre Dame in the 70s and graduated 8th grade in 1983. I loved all my years there. My mother (Candy Reusser Miller) and all of her sisters as well as my grandfather (George Reusser) attended also. My mom graduated the high school in 1965 when it was an all girls high school.

  5. I attended Norte Dame during, I believe, 1959 to 1964. My first teacher was Sister Helen Claire. She scared everyone, but she was strict, but fair. I remember Sister Eileen Francis (I think) rolling up her sleeves and playing soccer during recess, her skirts and headdress flying with a sort of freeing joy. I remember the boys using spoons to dig through the wall (I am chuckling here) behind the grotto as an escape attempt. I remember May Day and the procession to the grotto. Those were precious times. I remember when Father Hines rocked back during Religion class and the chair slipped. Made him so very human.
    I was also appointed as a, for lack of a better word, tutor, for a student who had fairly severe cerebral palsy. I have always wondered what happened to her.

    1. Thank you for sharing your very evocative memories, Carol! What years were you at student there?

      (for the Sisters)

  6. my grandparents, mother, brother, and I all went to Notre Dame. I graduated in 1952. My brother in 1950. I remember my friends of that time frame; Mathews, Sperbecks, Vantress, Snetsinger. Is it possible to have communication with alumni through email or text. At my age maybe many have passed but it would be nice to bring up old memories. I would lilke my email published so I may connect if possible. It is Thank you

  7. I wrote yesterday about my years at Notre Dame in Marysville. I attended a reunion some time back and was able to meet some old classmates. More importantly I saw Sister Anthony who was my fourth grade teacher and found she was from Hollister. My 7th & 8th grade teacher was Sister Miriam Dolores who was strict (and realized in my later years) always fair. I went to school at San Jose State and then Santa Clara and she had transferred to Belmont. My company moved me to Monterey and Sister moved to Salinas. Talk about karma!! We became good friends and my wife, mother and I went to her golden jubilee in Belmont. Great lady. I was fortunate to have known her.

    1. Hello Paul, and thank you for sharing your memories. I'm not aware of an alumni group for Marysville, but will post your email address as you requested (normally we don't, to protect people's privacy, so let us know if you change your mind) in the hope that other alums will reach out to you. If you have first names of your school friends, I can check our records to see if we have any records of them as donors if you want to share them with me.


      (for the Sisters)

  8. My entire family Attended school at Notre Dame in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. We had nuns through my 5th grade year. That all changed when the high school closed. I graduated 7th grade and 1973 (my family then moved to Japan). I remember those days fondly.

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