Sisters of Charity Nunnery

Virginia City Historic District

A grueling journey by train and stagecoach brought three Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas, to Virginia City in 1876. The former Madison County Courthouse (now the Bonanza Inn) had been vacated. The sisters purchased the building, which then sat next to All Saints’ Catholic Church, and converted it to St. Mary’s Hospital for miners. Hospital patients paid ten to twelve dollars a week. Stabbings, gunshot wounds, mining accidents, tuberculosis, and pneumonia kept the sisters exhausted, and always the specter of epidemics loomed. This small, one-and-one-half-story frame saltbox style residence was built as the sisters’ convent. The sisters gathered their own firewood, drew water from a well, kept a huge kettle boiling over a fire in the yard for the endless hospital laundry, and prepared patients’ meals over a small cookstove. But by the end of the 1870s, the placer gold had played out, and the sisters—who were never meant to be ornamental—were reassigned. The convent became a private home. In 1946, Charles Bovey made improvements. For the next decades, the former convent housed summer theater staff.

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308 West Idaho Street, Virginia City, Montana ~ Public