Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Manger scene at St. Mary's Episcopal School for Indian Girls

This undated postcard features a manger scene1 with all Indian characters at St. Mary's Episcopal School for Indian Girls in Springfield, South Dakota.2

The postcard also states that the school building appears in the background and that the school was founded in 1873.3

But does St. Mary's still exist? It does not. My search for information about the school took me first to a message board on In December 2009, a woman started a thread seeking information on the whereabouts of an altar and cross that her grandfather had carved for the St. Mary's chapel.

It turns out that St. Mary's was closed (probably in the late 1980s) and turned into a privately owned detention center for male juveniles.4 But the altar and cross were saved and moved to an Episcopal church about 300 miles away in Eagle Butte, South Dakota.

One of the key figures in the history of St. Mary's was A.C. Kenyon Cull, who died in June of this year at age 90. He served as headmaster at the school from 1955 to 1985 and his life's experiences also included serving in the British Army with the Royal Corps of Signals and getting married in Jerusalem in 1946 and staying in a monastery guest house near the Sea of Galilee for his honeymoon.

Former students and administrators of St. Mary's remain in active communication through this Facebook page.

1. Our family has a big collection of manger scenes, also known as nativity scenes, crèches and cribs. (This is in addition to our big Christmas collections of decorative nutcrackers, Irish ornaments and snow globes.) Here is a sampling of the nativity scenes in our living room:1

2. Going off on a photographic tangent, I became fascinated by the photo of Main Street in Springfield, South Dakota, on Wikipedia. I made this list of things I see in the photo: air siren; barn-like facade on a brick structure; office for NorthWestern Energy; office for Bon Homme Insurance; Boschma Law Office (with lovely white curtains in the window); Libby's Steakhouse2 (with banners for Bud Light, Libby's Casino and an indoor golf range); a MR. Golf Car Inc. store; a Doug's Food Center4 on the corner, which offers fresh produce and quality meats and has both Pepsi and Coca-Cola vending machines out front; and a lot full of golf carts, presumably belonging to MR. Golf Car Inc.

3. For the record, here's the other information on the back of this undated, unused postcard: "Kolorvue by Artvue Post Card Co., 225 5th Ave, New York, N.Y. 10010"
4. Sadly, another local school -- the University of South Dakota at Springfield -- was closed in the 1980s and turned into a state prison. Turning schools into prisons is not a wonderful course for our country.

Secondary footnote
1. If you're wondering why all of the figures in the lower-left nativity scene, by Playmobil, are laying down, it's because my son Ashar had already "put them all to bed for the night" before I took this photo.
2. According to The Shadowlands' "Haunted Places in South Dakota," Libby's Steakhouse might be haunted. The website states: "It is believed the basement of this restaurant is haunted by a little girl, there has been only one sighting which was just a glimpse. If you leave the basement door open it causes stacks of soup bowls to fall over for no apparent reason. When you are actually down stairs you feel very uneasy and sometimes you will get 'tripped' going up the stairs. It is though she died of an overdose, the former building used to be drug store known as Hoch Drug."
3. [This secondary footnote intentionally left blank.]1
4. Doug's Food Center only has six "Likes" on Facebook. Help them out.

Tertiary footnote
1. I just wanted to see how small the type would get.


  1. I love this post for so many reasons. First of all, I love that Sarah puts the figurines to bed. I also love that you intentionally left the footnote blank and followed up with a tertiary footnote. Third, I love that you posted the Food Center's Facebook page. I could go on, but mostly I want to tell you to keep up the great work!

  2. I found a copy of "The Bugle", the quarterly bulletin of St Mary's Episcopal School from March 1978 among the papers belonging to my Aunt. She was a member of the DAR and they supported the School for Indian Girls. There was a picture of a snowy roadway with the rear of the manger that couldn't be removed until it thawed. They had had 68 consecutive days with the temperature below freezing. Elizabeth Conway