Parochial and Private Schools

Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School (1952), Rock Springs
Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School (1952),
Rock Springs

Photo: Photographer: Mary Humstone, 2007
More than twenty private and parochial schools were established in Wyoming between 1868 and 1960. The Catholic Church has maintained the largest number of parochial schools in the state, with ten schools (excluding Indian schools) opened between 1878 and 1960, five of which continue to operate today. Other parochial schools were built by the Baptist, Congregational, Episcopal, Latter Day Saints, and Disciples of Christ churches; however, none of these is in operation today.

Catholic Schools

The Roman Catholic Church began establishing schools in southern Wyoming soon after the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad. Although many of these were short-lived, one church established in Cheyenne in 1886 (St. Mary’s) continues to operate a grade school today. The Academy of Holy Child of Jesus' constructed their school just east of the Capitol in 1886. In 1933 the school changed hands with St. Mary's Parish establishing St. Mary's Academy in the building. This building was demolished in 1952 and a new grade school and high school were built, and these were demolished in 2009 when the property was transferred to the state. A new school was built several blocks east of St. Mary's in 2008.

Wyoming State Capitol, foreground; Academy of Holy Child of Jesus (1886), background.
Wyoming State Capitol, foreground; Academy
of Holy Child of Jesus (1886), background.

Photo: Wyoming State Archives, Department of State
Parks and Cultural Resources, Photographer:
J.E. Stimson, 1906
Most of the existing Catholic schools in the state date from 1951 to 1956. During this period the number of Catholic schools in Wyoming almost doubled, due in large part to a $3,000,000 building program begun in 1947 under the auspices of Patrick Aloysius McGovern, bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne from 1912 to 1951. New school buildings were built in Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, and Rock Springs, and additions to the Casper and Sheridan elementary schools were constructed. Three of these mid-20th century schools and one gymnasium were designed by the architectural firm of Kellogg and Kellogg of Cheyenne and Rock Springs, who also designed public schools, government buildings, and several buildings on the University of Wyoming campus. Currently there are eight Catholic schools in Wyoming that are run by the diocese: Gillette's John Paul II School, Riverton's St. Margaret's School, Sheridan's Holy Name School, Casper's St. Anthony Tri-Parish School, Rock Springs Holy Spirit Catholic School, Torrington's St. Joseph Children's Home School, Laramie's St. Laurence School, and Cheyenne's St. Mary's School.

Other Parochial Schools

Several other parochial schools opened but none are operating today. The buildings of three of those schools, however, are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Big Horn Academy was organized by the Latter-Day Saints Church Board of Education and opened in Lovell in 1909. The school later moved into the 1907 stone schoolhouse built by the Mormons in Cowley. In 1916, this school was replaced by a new building built from stone quarried from the hills to the north of town. The Academy was operated as a church school until 1924, when its facilities were transferred to School District No. 28 and it became Cowley High School. In 1983 the Big Horn Academy was closed.

Big Horn Academy (1916) and its Cowley Gymnasium (1936), Cowley, Big Horn Co.
Big Horn Academy (1916) and its Cowley Gymnasium (1936), Cowley, Big Horn Co.
Photo: State Historic Preservation Office, Photographer: Richard Collier, 1985

Jane Ivinson Hall Cathedral School for Girls, Laramie, Albany Co.
Jane Ivinson Hall Cathedral School for Girls, Laramie,
Albany Co.

Photo: State Historic Preservation Office
St. Matthews Church in Laramie operated two successful boarding schools, the Cathedral School for Girls and the Cathedral School for Boys. Jane Ivinson Hall Cathedral School for Girls was opened in the Edward Ivinson Mansion in Laramie in 1921. The Ivinsons’ spacious home and carriage house constructed in 1892 were remodeled for the school. In 1924 a third building, Virginia Cottage, was built, adding a gymnasium, recreation hall, stage, dressing rooms, rooms for music students and a dormitory to the girls’ school campus. The school closed in 1958 and was purchased by the Laramie Plains Museum in 1972.

Jane Ivinson Hall Cathedral School for Girls, Laramie, Albany Co.
Cathedral School for Boys Sherwood Hall, Laramie,
Albany Co.

Photo: State Historic Preservation Office
Sherwood Hall, the Cathedral School for Boys at Laramie, opened in 1924. Sherwood Hall, on the grounds of St. Matthew’s Cathedral, was designed by architect Walter Thomas of Philadelphia and erected under the supervision of Wilbur Hitchcock of Laramie. The L-shaped building is built of native stone and stucco-covered clay tile and is Gothic Revival in style. The building, now known as Hunter Hall, is a contributing building in the St. Matthew's Cathedral Close Historic District.

Private schools

Judge W. A. Carter established in 1860 Wyoming’s first private school for his children at Fort Bridger. In 1869 George Lancaster established another private school in Laramie, but closed after a few years. In 1875, 25 pupils were enrolled in the private school of a Miss Ellis in Cheyenne, and in 1876 Miss Annie B. DeLany opened a “select day school” at the Rectory School House in Cheyenne, for children between 6 and 12 years old. Miss DeLany also announced that on Saturdays she would conduct a “class for little girls in sewing, embroidery, miniature dress making, and general deportment.”

The Valley Ranch School for Boys at Valley, Park County, began in 1922 as a college preparatory school, and was the first ranch preparatory school in the northwest. The school was founded by Irving Larom, a 1913 graduate of Princeton University, who believed that providing an eastern curriculum in a western setting would be of interest to young men who wished to combine riding, fishing and hunting with a first-class education. Larom purchased the former Leg Creek School building in Valley in 1919 for his school, and the school operated for 12 years until the Depression forced its closure.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources