Nov 6, 2015

How Saint Martin's Came to Be

Fr. Peter Tynan, O.S.B.

How did Saint Martin’s University get here? We often take this beautiful place for granted, but just you have a family history, Saint Martin’s has a family history. Why not take a moment to find it out?

On the lower level of the O’Grady Library, just outside the curriculum room you will find a display that talks about our school’s early history. Saint Martin’s comes from a long lineage of monastic schools. In 1890 monks from Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota heard about the need for priests and schools out in the newly established Washington State (1889). They first came to Tacoma and founded Holy Rosary Parish, whose steeple is easily recognizable from I-5. Once this base parish was established the monastic priest, Fr. William Eversman, began looking for a good location to build a school and monastery. The search was not easy. Land to the north was at a premium. An available location west of Centralia was deemed too remote. What to do?

Fr. William Eversman

Fortunately, the former Olympia mayor and businessman, A. H. Chambers, heard of the monks desire to build a school and felt it would benefit his community. So Chambers contacted the monks and used his connections to have some public land near the Lacey (then called Woodland) train station put up for auction so the monks could build there. Not everyone was excited to have Roman Catholic monks move into the area, however. Members of an anti-Catholic organization attempted to outbid the monks for the land. They failed because the auctioneer deemed the sale to be cash only, which the Chambers and the monks had fortunately brought with them.

A. H. Chambers

The monks began building in January 1895 and sent out a prospectus to towns in the region. Despite having a tuition of $100 plus fees only one student arrived in September at the newly finished schoolhouse, Angus McDonald. Fortunately for the school, more students began to come here and the rest, as they say, is history.

Caricature of Angus McDonald

Come down and learn more about our University’s beginnings at the O’Grady Library.

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