As he penned these words, Augustin Verot, First Bishop of St. Augustine, set in motion the beginning of today’s St. Joseph Academy.
The year was 1866 and the south was recovering from the Civil War. Freed slaves needed the wherewithal to pursue a livelihood. Education was the key. Bishop Verot knew of an order of religious women in his home town of LePuy, France – the Sisters of St. Joseph. He requested eight to come to begin to teach literacy to the newly freed slaves. Many volunteered, eight were chosen and, amid heat, humidity and mosquitoes, they began classes in November 1866. It is from these classes that St. Joseph Academy proudly dates its founding. 1874 marked the first “graduation” – a class of 2! In 1876, the Academy was state chartered and in 1877 a boarding school for young women began. (It would remain until 1968.) A 4 story structure – dormitories and classrooms – was built in 1909 to accommodate resident and day students. Located in the historic district of St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, the structure was home and school for 8 decades to hundreds of students. 1924 marked the initial accreditation of SJA by the Southern Association of Schools (SACSCASI), an accreditation that is ongoing to this present date.
In 1980 the management of the Academy was transferred from the Sisters of St. Joseph to the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine. With this transition, the Academy relocated from St. George Street to its present site at 155 State Road 207.