Sacred Heart Church, Palestine
Mrs. W. Rainbolt first taught small groups in the church, then the church organist, Prof. Amende, opened a little school on Magnolia Street. At that day the free school was at its infancy in the state, and the first experiment in that line was being made by the town of Palestine. The private school remained the choice of many, who, as of any new order or custom, looked askance at the public school, until it had proved its merit.
When the Sisters of St. Agnes had served their day and been withdrawn by their superiors, Father Chaland invited the Sisters of Divine Providence to take charge. Today St. Mary's Academy is a splendid memorial to those heroic souls who labored so zealously. Her position in Palestine's educational field is an honorable one. Her proficiency in music and the arts, in particular, adds much to the culture of the town. When it is added that the Academy is accredited by the State Department of Education, while she is also affiliated with the Catholic University at Washington, D. C., her true rating will be seen.
Father Badilon was succeeded by Father James Chaland in 1881. One of the new prelate's first accomplishments was the acquisition of four acres of ground for a cemetery. This was secured from the city of Palestine January 25, 1884, and forms the major portion of the Catholic cemetery.
Father C. M. Thion came in 1889 to find his greatest work cut out for him in the following year. In 1890 fire destroyed both the church and the priest's quarters and "all they contained." By a strange coincidence the Firemen of Texas were holding their state convention in Palestine at the time. A banquet was served the visitors at the opera house (the building now occupied by the Garrett Motor Co.) and fire broke out at its conclusion. The Palestine firemen sped away to their headquarters but soon found that their vehicles were useless. Some one (the visitors probably), as a prank, had removed the caps from all the wheels. Though never proven, incendiarism was suspected.
Again without a church home, services were held in the home of Mrs. Ormond, or in the convent chapel for the next three years. And then, on June 18, 1893, the Sacred Heart Church was dedicated. The congregation had lost no time in planning for a new church. A mammoth bazaar, which the following November netted $1200, together with the $2000 insurance paid, was the nucleus with which operations began. Father Thion insisted that his salary go on the church, with the result that the cornerstone of the new structure was laid the same year the old was destroyed. All Palestine points with pride to the Catholic Church. There are only seven other edifices in the State of Texas which offer as outstanding examples of Gothic architecture. N. J. Clayton and Co. of Galveston were the architects. Father Thion was adamant in one respect—no material excepting the finest could be used in that building. Consequently, the foundations were laid many months before work was continued. The brick used must be molded by hand—on the ground —and there were 675,000 of them!