Tracing the Expansion of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati through Story and Picture


Photograph of children and staff at St. Joseph Orphanage in Cumminsville, May 1922. Courtesy of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati via Ohio Memory.

This year, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati archives received an Ohio Archives Grant from the Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board to digitize thousands of photographs from mission collections throughout the country as well as manuscripts from the collection, many sharing extraordinary firsthand accounts of Sisters’ pioneering journeys and wartime service.

The photographs selected for digitization in this project represent missions that have been the most requested by scholars, researchers, and genealogists. Missions of the highest interest included are Good Samaritan Hospital and its School of Nursing in Cincinnati, St. Joseph Orphanage in Cincinnati, and St. Vincent Orphanage in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From St. Mary Academy in Dayton, the Sisters’ first mission outside of Cincinnati, to the groundbreaking EarthConnection environmental education ministry in Cincinnati, these collections visually reflect the entire 170-year legacy of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in Ohio and throughout the world.

Excerpt from the St. John’s Hospital ledger outlining amputations performed on soldiers from the Battle of Shiloh. Courtesy of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. Via Ohio Memory.

These trips to Shiloh were made on the boat of Captain Ross under the care of Sergeant Blackman. After the war, this gentleman was on the medical staff of the Good Samaritan Hospital and continued to be ever the kind friend to the Sisters that he was during the war. Whilst at Shiloh…what we endured on the field of battle whilst gathering up the wounded from among the dead is simply beyond description. At one time, there were seven hundred of these poor creatures crowded into one boat. We did the best we could under the circumstances to make the poor fellows comfortable and attend to their wounds.” — Sister Anthony O’Connell describes conditions at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.

The above quote from Sister Anthony O’Connell, the most identifiable Sister of Charity of Cincinnati to serve in the Civil War, shares what she witnessed both on the battlefield and on the floating hospital ship that brought soldiers to St. John’s Hospital in Cincinnati. Her account serves as an excellent companion to the excerpts from the hospital’s patient ledger featuring both Union and Confederate soldiers treated at St. John’s following the Battle of Shiloh.

Cover illustration for Sister Fidelis Goes to Trinidad. Sister Fidelis McCarthy wrote about her experiences as a pioneer missionary to Trinidad, Colorado in 1870 around the same time as Sister Catherine Mallon, seeming to indicate she may have also been inspired by Sister Blandina. Courtesy of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. Via Ohio Memory

Although Servant of God Blandina Segale is known for documenting her ministerial works in the Colorado and New Mexico territories through the best-selling book At the End of the Santa Fe Trail, it was interesting to learn through this project that she also encouraged other Sisters to preserve their own groundbreaking stories. Sister Catherine Mallon addresses her 1901 account of the harrowing trip to Santa Fe in 1865 to Sister Blandina, acknowledging how it was “an almost impossible thing…to put on paper things that transpired so many years ago.” Without Sister Blandina’s encouragement, this firsthand account documenting the foundation and formative years of St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe that has been celebrated by historians would have been entirely lost to time.

These are just a few of the hundreds of mission histories and firsthand accounts waiting to be uncovered in the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati’s Ohio Memory repository! For more information about the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati archives or to schedule an appointment to view more materials from our collections, please visit

Thank you to Veronica Buchanan, Archivist for the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, for this week’s post!

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