001 Portland_Bible_College_campus_-_Portland,_Oregon

Portland Bible College on Rocky Butte Site

Witness Post: Unlikely School Allies

High on the side of Rocky Butte, where the Portland Bible College now sits, once stood an all boys’ school, called Hill Military Academy. It occupied 150 acres of the wooded Northeast Portland hilltop. The school had a long history before it closed, and it is best known for its strict military exercises and training. The military discipline was started and rigorously shaped by the school’s namesake, Dr. Joseph Wood Hill.

Joseph_Wood_Hill_Park_(Portland,_Oregon)Joseph Wood Hill Park on Rocky Butte


Bas-Relief of Dr. J. W. Hill on Rocky Butte

Founded in 1852, Hill Military Academy had deep Episcopalian roots. 70 years later those roots would intertwine with those of a venerable Catholic girls’ school, named St. Mary’s Academy.

St. Mary’s, founded in 1859, is a thriving enterprise today, while Hill Military Academy is barely a memory; however, these two schools would join forces to create a profound impact on private and religious education in America. These two Academies put aside their differences in gender and religion and focused on their shared principles. Their collective actions reshaped the legislative landscape of education in this country. Without their joint efforts, we might not have private schools nor religious-based education as viable choices for families today. This Witness Post seeks to define the similarities between these two academies, which became ‘unlikely allies’ in the pursuit of religious and educational freedoms.

For the first half century or so years of their co-existence, Hill Military and St. Mary’s were two academies separated by both faith and gender.


Episcopal School to Hill Military Academy

Hill Military Academy went through several name changes and new locations over the years.  Founded as the Episcopal School in 1852 by Rev. William Richmond and his wife. Richmond was an Episcopal missionary and his wife was a school teacher, when they arrived in Yamhill, Oregon. The school they founded was a crude log-cabin built with $200 of wood and the Rev. Richmond’s manual labor. Mrs. Richmond taught six male students during the first year that the school opened and it grew steadily. Over the next decade the school moved several times, first to Milwaukie, then to Lake Oswego (renamed twice: Diocesan School for Boys and Trinity School for Boys) and finally to Portland, where it was dubbed Portland Academy (1865).

In 1870 Portland Academy was again re-named. This time it was called Bishop Scott Grammar and Divinity School, in honor of Bishop Thomas Fielding Scott, the state’s first Episcopal Bishop. After a bad fire in 1877, where the school nearly burned to the ground, the Board hired Dr. Joseph W. Hill as Principal. The Board set to rebuild the school and chartered Dr. Hill to gradually seek a new direction.

Joseph Wood Hill, MD

Dr. Joseph W. Hill came to know Bishop Scott personally from an address Scott gave at Hill’s undergraduate college, Yale University. The Bishop urged young educators to move West to share their wisdom with children on the frontier. A real Connecticut Yankee, Hill was motivated by the force of Bishop Scott’s lecture and responded to his address by applying to become the next  school head at Scott’s namesake school. Hill reached out for a recommendation from Yale President, Noah Porter, who praised Hill for his character, teaching experience and maturity. The Bishop Scott Grammar and Divinity School Board read the correspondence from Hill and hired him to move to Oregon and lead the school. Before Hill’s arrival in Portland the school rebuilding projects were completed on the same site with a smaller footprint. This go- around the smaller campus fit well with the homes in the neighborhood.


Joseph Wood Hill, MD (1856 – 1930)

[Interestingly, Hill was very ambitious and kept himself busy doing work beyond the long school hours: shortly after arriving in Oregon, he earned a doctor’s degree from Willamette Medical School, though he never practiced medicine.]

One of Dr. Hill’s first marketing moves was to shortened the name of the school to Bishop Scott Grammar School. The curriculum mirrored that of the typical public schools of the day. The new name lasted a decade until 1887, when Hill and the Board sought to charter the school as a Military Academy.[1]

Military training was introduced to the Bishop Scott Grammar over the next two years. For a short time it was called Bishop Scott Academy; however, once it became a Military Academy, it was thereafter linked to the name of Joseph W. Hill, MD. Dr. Hill had a financial falling-out with the school’s Episcopal sponsors and he took on financial responsibility for the fledgling Academy. Hill put his money where his mouth was and became the named lessee of the property. A few years later the school moved to a prominent Portland hilltop, known as Rocky Butte, where Hill Military Academy stood for the rest of its history.[2]

Young Cadets Hill Military Academy FSDM2

In 1889 the school officially adopted the Military Academy moniker. The faculty and staff followed the national military conventions, as promulgated by schools such as Culver Academy (Indiana), McDonogh School (Maryland), Randolph-Macon Academy (Virginia), St. Thomas Academy (Minnesota) and many other military schools. These all-boy’s schools had strict military training, codes of honor, and dress codes. They also thrived with courses in riflery and pursuits in athletics. From those athletic fields, several men’s sporting clubs would emerge.[3]

With the guidance of Col. F. E. Patterson, who was trained at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, Hill Military Academy educated and disciplined young men to be leaders, often overcoming their social circumstances and modest backgrounds to earn their stripes.

The most influential military impact on the Academy was imprinted in the years from 1908 to 1917, when the school was reorganized under the leadership of  Major G. C. von Egloffstein, as Commandant, and Dr. Joseph A. Hill, as President. Despite the ups and downs of the economy, and the tumult of international conflicts, Hill Academy stayed true to its new-found military roots and was able to grow its student body.


Major G.C von Egloffstein

One might imagine that the military schools in the US flourished during times of armed conflict, when the citizenry rallied to its own internal defense, and conversely that these academies had trouble during peacetime; however, exactly the opposite was true. In the early 20th century, when World War I broke out, most military schools fell on hard times. In 1917 the enrollment at Hill Military Academy, for example, plummeted 75% from 40 students attending to just 10 students. (Three of those 10 students would later enlisted in the first Army Training Camp, taking actual enrollment to 7 students.) The popular slogan “I Didn’t Raise My Son To Be a Soldier” had gained serious traction among the community and the Academy’s parents. Dr. Hill, however, did not give up on his school. He fought for its survival. Hill chose the international conflict of the Great War as the perfect time to promote the ‘value of service.’ He put on a series of marketing blitzkriegs of his own.


Dr. Hill believed that everyone, young and old, male and female, must find a way to lend-a-hand to the War effort.  He redoubled his attention to community outreach and he organize recruiting programs for young boys. He appealed to war veterans and their families.  He personally drilled an honor guard composed of young girls interested in ‘War Work.’  Families made sacrifices. Mothers and sisters stepped up to work in the saw mills, the freight yards, and the Kaiser ship-building plants in Vancouver, Washington.  The strength of their sacrifices and personal commitments were testimonials to the importance of society rolling up its collective sleeves for the War effort.  [Dr. Hill’s female recruits would later become the Junior League of Portland and they marched in the annual Rose Parade and the first Decoration Day, which honored the returning war veterans.] Dr. Hill’s promotional push gave Hill Military Academy the boost it needed in enrollment to survive. In 1918 the student enrollment swelled to 28 students and Hill kept up the outreach over the next several years.


The all-male Hill Military Academy did well until 1923, when the metaphoric wheels fell off the private school artillery guns, sending it nose-down into the turf. Due to a state wide referendum on private schools, parents started to withdraw their sons from the Academy. The advent of the Oregon School Bill was causing some collateral damage. Other religious academies and private schools felt the pressure as well.

SMA Building Exterior web

St. Mary’s Academy[4]

In 1859, Oregon’s Archbishop Francis Blanchet reached out to Canadian communities of Sisters and pleaded with them to send some of their members to the Pacific Northwest to “open a school for frontier children.” One Order of Sisters responded promptly, the Sisters of the Holy Names. The Order had an interesting history in their mission of service.


Blessed Marie Rose Derocher (1811 – 1849)

Sister Marie Rose Derocher

Founded in 1843, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary owes its existence to a young 32 year-old nun, named Sister Marie Rose Durocher. Sr. Marie Rose founded the order in Longueuil, Quebec, Canada, with a mission to educate young boys and girls. In Canada at the time the urban and upper classes were well-cared for by their religious communities, but there was a great need to educate girls in the remote Canadian villages where there were no teachers. Tuition paid by the wealthier families enabled the Sisters to include the poor in their schools. Elevated by the Bishop of Quebec to the status of Mother Superior, Derocher continued to refine her funding strategy , which worked well: the number of students in Holy Names’ school multiplied. And so did her Congregation, which in a few years swelled to 72 members. Sadly, Mother Marie Rose was in poor health and she died of “wasting illness” in 1849 on her 38th birthday. Her strong hand helped the Order of Sisters to thrive.

Heeding the 1859 letter from Archbishop Blanchet’s, the Sisters of the Holy Names developed a plan to help the Archbishop. The new Mother Superior, Mother Theresa of Jesus, evaluated her resources and commissioned twelve Sisters to leave Montreal and travel to the Oregon Territory to start their first missionary school in the United States.


1890 Building of St. Mary’s Academy (SNJM Archives)

These dozen women, ranging in age from 18 to 33, traveled by boat and foot for 36 days to arrive in Portland. It was October 6, 1859. They knew little English, yet were willing to come to a distant outpost, knowing that they might never return to their homes and families in Canada. Ten Sisters spoke mostly French and two Irish Sisters spoke mostly English. After getting their bearings, the Sisters bought a new home in Portland. It was known as the Lownsdale House. Located on the east block across Fifth Avenue from the present-day St. Mary’s Academy, the house had been vacant for some time and was in shambles. Just 15 days after their arrival in Portland, the Sisters opened St. Mary’s Academy.

Six students (three Catholic, two Jewish and one Anglican) enrolled on the first day. Word of the school spread fast as the ‘school for frontier children’ was open for business. Less than a month later, on November 16, the Holy Names Sisters started a boarding program, when they were asked by the community to care for a 7-year-old orphan girl. By the end of the first school year, the student body reached 100, including 12 boarders and 88 day students. The Sisters were on a mission and they took to it with speed and passion.

Founders of the Oregon order, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus

10 French and 2 Irish Sisters arrive in Portland in 1859 (SNJM Archives)

By 1865, the Sisters of the Holy Names operated schools in six cities: Oregon City, St. Paul, Salem, The Dalles, Portland, and Jacksonville. The sisters incorporated St. Mary’s Academy in 1866, becoming one of the first religious schools to incorporate on the West Coast. In Jacksonville, two Sisters cared for the many victims of the dreaded smallpox epidemic, which ravaged the Northwest in 1869. Those acts of kindness in medical emergency were long remembered by the citizens of Southern Oregon.

SMA music 1893

 SMA Student Musicians (SNJM Archives)

St. Mary’s tradition of teaching the fine arts began with the early Sisters, who felt that art and music were important for a well-rounded education. They stopped in New York on their way from Montreal to Portland and purchased a piano. There was great rejoicing on February 24, 1860, when the piano arrived, having been shipped from New York, around the Horn of South America, and up the West Coast to Portland. St. Mary’s Academy also boasted of having one of the first sewing machines in Portland.

SMA science lab 1925

Science Labs at St. Mary’s Academy (c. 1925 – SNJM Archives))

In 1867, the first two St. Mary’s graduates received their diplomas. Since then, over 10,000 young women have graduated from SMA, the longest continuously operating secondary school in Oregon. In 1893, St. Mary’s Academy received a charter to grant college diplomas. It was the first women’s liberal arts college in the Northwest and was known until 1930 as St. Mary’s Academy and College.

In 1904, St. Mary’s entered a decorative float in Portland’s Rose Festival parade, winning a $25 prize!  In 1906, the first Rose Queen was Carrie Lee Chamberlain, a student at St. Mary’s and the daughter of Oregon Governor George Earle Chamberlain (who shows up later in this Witness Post).


The St. Mary’s Academy bell

Oregon School Bill

The early 1920’s in Portland were “Roaring” in more ways than one. Those years brought success to the Sisters of the Holy Names as well as much concern to their beloved St. Mary’s Academy. By 1920 there were 211 Sisters serving as teachers for 12 grades at the Academy, their ranks had swelled to 2,000 students. Simultaneously the anti-Catholic sentiment threatened the survival of SMA’s business model. Their mission of educating young women in Portland, as well as in the Catholic elementary schools, was under assault. The anti-Catholic sentiment promulgated by the Ku Klux Klan escalated and gained national prominence. These were trying times for all private and religious schools, due to the writing of the “Oregon School Bill.”

Mother Mary Flavia, the Principal and Superior of St. Mary’s Academy, was hearing among her constituents that private and Catholic Schools were being targeted politically. From her community outreach, she could read the handwriting on the walls: The Masonic Grand Lodge and the Ku Klux Klan were planning to put forward a bill whose passage would drive a stake in the heart of Catholic education. Mother Flavia was determined to muster whatever political capital the Sisters had from their years of investment in the Portland community and to take a stand against the Masons and the Klan.


Power of the Klan

In the early 1920’s the Ku Klux Klan of Oregon was active in political circles, often dictating “how things were done” in the state.  Among their mystic theories was that evil was created by the heresies promulgated by teachers in private, religious schools, and home schools.  The Klan, therefore, conceived a way to stop these rogue schools in their tracks.  They canvassed the electorate and wrote leaflets insisting that all of Oregon’s children must be educated exclusively in public schools. In 1922, the Klan carefully constructing a ballot measure to be presented to the voters in the fall elections. Innocuously named the “Oregon Compulsory School Act,” the bill aimed to destroy private and religious education in one fell swoop.


Compulsory School Act

The Compulsory School Act required all children between the ages of 8 and 16 to attend public schools, which seemed reasonable enough to the majority of voters. Plus the fact that most of the voters at the time were men, the ballot measure sounded correct to the job-oriented male electorate. Two years prior, women had earned the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment; however, many women were hesitant to go the polls. Archbishop of Oregon, Alexander Christie, though, encouraged the women in the Catholic community and throughout the state to exercise their new found rights and to vote. At the encouragement of the Principal, the Sisters of the Holy Names elbowed in line and joined the ranks of voters.

With the small percentage of Catholics in the state of Oregon at the time (approximately 10%), the Archbishop’s plea did not constitute a voting block of importance.  That said, with the influence of the Knights of Columbus on voting matters, the Knights could leverage a significant amount of local influence. (The Knights also had a national reach, which proved critical to the strategies that would follow the outcome of the final vote.) The Knights rallied behind Archbishop Christie, who urged his fellow priests to flex their biceps and use the “power of the pulpit” to campaign against the School Bill.  Oregon Governor Walter Pierce lent his political muscle to the Masons and the KKK and the battle lines were drawn.

The sons of Knights of Columbus members were reported to have eavesdropped on some of the KKK rallies and written down the license plates of the attendees. The boys turned over the list of license numbers to the Knights.  The Knights, in turn, handed the numbers to the Portland Police, who matched the plates to names of Portland Klan members. Mother Mary Flavia also received a copy of the list.  She cross-referenced the KKK names with the vendors who had contracted to work for St. Mary’s Academy. Mother Flavia sent form letters to the vendors, suggesting that, with their political stances against Catholic schools, they would no longer do business together. As one of the oldest and most reputable schools in the state, the word of dismissals surprised the vendors, who had neither anticipated the political fall-out nor the financial sting of the Sisters of the Holy Names.[5]

The Ballot Box Battle

In November 1922 the voting commenced on the School Bill with a flourish.  Despite the lobbying efforts of the Bishop, the Sisters of the Holy Names and the Knights of Columbus, when the polls closed and the votes were counted, the School Bill passed. It had received a slight majority, but enough to eek out a narrow margin of victory at the polls (115,506 to 103,685).  The first battle at the ballot box was lost.

The new Oregon School bill was slated to become law in 1926, which was four years away. The Knights of Columbus and the private and religious schools had time to repeal the law; however legislative appeals are labor-some. They had to huddle and react quickly. [6]

Heavy Fines Could be Levied

One major footnote to parents who had their children in private, military and religiously affiliated schools: this new School Bill wanted to pick their scofflaw pockets. There were heavy fines and possible imprisonment for those who did not follow the new law. The measure stipulated that “Any parent [or guardian] in Oregon, having custody of a child under the age of sixteen years, and of the age of eight years or over, at the commencement of the term of public school of the district in which said child resides, who shall fail or neglect or refuse to send such child to a public school for [the school year] shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and each day’s failure to send such child to a public school shall constitute a separate offense.”  In the final version of the measure there were four exceptions to the new law: it allowed parental ‘carve outs’ 1) for children who were physically unable; 2) children who had completed the eighth grade; 3) children who lived too far from a public school; and 4) children who had private instruction at home; however, these “home-schooled students” were required to pass an examination every three months.

If a parent or guardian refused to abide by the new Act, a fine was levied at “not less than $5.00 nor more than $100.00, or imprisonment in the County Jail not less than two days, not more than thirty days; or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court.” Now $100 may not sound like a lot of money to pay in fines; however, if calculated forward in today’s dollars, that $100 fine would cost families over $1,350 for every student attending private school. Feeling the pinch, many parents pulled their children from religious and private schools, starting in 1923. The School Bill was to take effective the first day of September, 1926, and parents wanted to have a margin-of-error around the date of those first fines.

Fearing a serious and increasing backlash from parents with school aged children, schools such as Oregon Episcopal School, Central Catholic High School, St. Mary’s Academy, and Hill Military Academy, as well as all of the archdiocesan parochial schools had work to do.  All of Boards of these institutions re-examined their missions closely.  Since many of the admissions offices of the schools were receiving letters of student withdrawal from parents, the pressure was mounting. Their survival as going-concerns was in jeopardy: their business plans were being assaulted by the Oregon School Bill.

Only one school stepped forward immediately to fight the new Law: St. Mary’s Academy.  Since the school was quasi-independent of the Archdiocese of Portland and the Order was governed by the Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the Sisters themselves were the defacto plaintiffs in the case. Still, the Knights of Columbus wanted to strengthen their legal position; they sought an additional plaintiff in their fight against Governor Walter Pierce and the KKK.

The other viable ally who agreed to stand with St. Mary’s was Hill Military Academy. At the eleventh hour  Dr. Hill and the Board of Hill Military Academy signed onto the suit and joined the Sisters of the Holy Names.  The unlikely duo of academies were going to go into this fight with one voice. Their futures, and the future of private education, hung in the balance. The year of their legal alliance was 1923 and the first court ruling would come a year later.


With the support of three judges of the United States Circuit Court, ‘sitting en banc’ in Portland, the judges heard the case of financial loss due to the removal of the right to conduct business on schools, such as St. Mary’s Academy and Hill Military Academy. Having schools with such long-standing histories in Portland as plaintiffs held significant weight with the Courts. After great deliberation, the judges ruled that the Oregon School Bill violated the US constitution. They declared that the Bill ran roughshod over the 14th Amendment.

Oregon Governor Walter Pierce and his KKK comrades appealed the circuit court ruling, pressing for the power of the people, as demonstrated by the previous popular vote. Their counter-suit wound its way through the courts. After legal wrangling and political debate, the case made it all the way to the highest court. The justices agreed to hear the case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

[The lawyers arguing the case and their clients had their “day in court” on this important legal matter: Willis Moore, George Chamberlain (former OR Governor and SMA past-parent), and Albert Putney spoke for the Governor and friends — the appellants. They argued against William Guthrie, J.P. Kavanaugh, and John Veatch who spoke for the Society of Sisters of the Holy Names and Hill Military Academy — the appellees.]

After hearing the arguments of the lawyers in the case, and deliberating for many months, Justice James Clark McReynolds delivered the majority opinion of the Supreme Court. It voted in FAVOR of St. Mary’s Academy and Hill Military Academy and AGAINST Governor Pierce and the KKK. [The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was William Howard Taft, who was the former President of the US and a college classmate of Dr. Joseph Wood Hill at Yale.]

The Academies had WON! To put the ruling in legalese, the court held that “the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed against the deprivation of property without due process of law consequent upon the unlawful interference with the free choice of patrons, present and prospective; and declared the right to conduct schools was property; that parents and guardians, as part of their liberty, might direct the education of children by selecting teachers and places. Also that the schools under consideration were not unfit or harmful to the public, and that the enforcement of the challenged statute would unlawfully deprive them of patronage, and thereby, destroy their business and property.”

In the hearing no question was raised concerning the power of the State of Oregon ‘to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise, and examine them, their teachers, and pupils; to require all children of proper age to attend some school; and that certain standards of curriculum and teachers be required.’ In the words of the Supreme Court proceedings, “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all government in this Union reposes, excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The Child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him (or her) and direct his (or her) destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him (or her) for additional obligations. Generally speaking, Corporations cannot claim for themselves the liberty which the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees. But Schools have business and property for which they claim protection. They are threatened with destruction through the unwarranted compulsion exercised over present and prospective patrons of their schools. The injunctions here sought, are not against the exercise of any proper power; but protection is asked against arbitrary, unreasonable and unlawful interference with their patrons and the ensuing destruction of their business and property. The suits are not premature; but present and very real, — not merely a possibility in the remote future. Prevention of impending injury by unlawful action is a well-recognized function of courts of equity. The decree was affirmed.” (See the APPENDIX for a full copy of the Supreme Court opinion.)

Thus on June 1, 1925, the Supreme Court agreed that the Oregon School Bill was unconstitutional, null and void. This famous decision upheld the right of parents in Oregon and in the entire United States to provide for the education of their children in private and religious-based schools, if they so chose.  It was great victory and a stunning defeat of the KKK and Governor Pierce.


What good fortune it is for those of us who so cherish the lessons and the education our children receive in Catholic, private and parochial schools today!  Without the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and the Board and administrators of the Hill Military Academy, we would not likely have these schools today. We owe these women and men a deep wellspring of gratitude for their righteousness.  Thank you, St. Mary’s, for your courageous, independent voice, and your long strides for justice.  Keep running ahead of the pack … and leading the way.



U.S. Supreme Court


268 U.S. 510

PIERCE, Governor of Oregon, et al.


Nos. 583, 584.
Argued March 16 and 17, 1925.
Decided June 1, 1925. 

[268 U.S. 510, 511]   Mr. Willis S. Moore, of Salem, Or., for other appellants.

[268 U.S. 510, 513]   Messrs. Wm. D. Guthrie, of New York City for appellee.

[268 U.S. 510, 521]   Mr. J. P. Kavanaugh, of Portland, Or., for appellee Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

Messrs. George E. Chamberlain, of Portland, Or., and Albert H. Putney, of Washington, D. C., for appellant Pierce.

Mr. John C. Veatch, of Portland, Or., for appellee Hill Military Academy.

[268 U.S. 510, 529]

Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

These appeals are from decrees, based upon undenied allegations, which granted preliminary orders restraining [268 U.S. 510, 530]   appellants from threatening or attempting to enforce the Compulsory Education Act1 adopted November 7, 1922 (Laws Or. 1923, p. 9), under the initiative provision of her Constitution by the voters of Oregon. Judicial Code, 266 (Comp. St. 1243). They present the same points of law; there are no controverted questions of fact. Rights said to be guaranteed by the federal Constitution were specially set up, and appropriate prayers asked for their protection.

The challenged act, effective September 1, 1926, requires every parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge or custody of a child between 8 and 16 years to send him ‘to a public school for the period of time a public school shall be held during the current year’ in the district where the child resides; and failure so to do is declared a misdemeanor. There are [268 U.S. 510, 531]  exemptions-not specially important here-for children who are not normal, or who have completed the eighth grade, or whose parents or private teachers reside at considerable distances from any public school, or who hold special permits from the county superintendent. The manifest purpose is to compel general attendance at public schools by normal children, between 8 and 16, who have not completed the eight grade. And without doubt enforcement of the statute would seriously impair, perhaps destroy, the profitable features of appellees’ business and greatly diminish the value of their property.

Appellee the Society of Sisters is an Oregon corporation, organized in 1880, with power to care for orphans, educate and instruct the youth, establish and maintain academies or schools, and acquire necessary real and personal [268 U.S. 510, 532]   property. It has long devoted its property and effort to the secular and religious education and care of children, and has acquired the valuable good will of many parents and guardians. It conducts interdependent primary and high schools and junior colleges, and maintains orphanages for the custody and control of children between 8 and 16. In its primary schools many children between those ages are taught the subjects usually pursued in Oregon public schools during the first eight years. Systematic religious instruction and moral training according to the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church are also regularly provided. All courses of study, both temporal and religious, contemplate continuity of training under appellee’s charge; the primary schools are essential to the system and the most profitable. It owns valuable buildings, especially constructed and equipped for school purposes. The business is remunerative-the annual income from primary schools exceeds $30,000-and the successful conduct of this requires long time contracts with teachers and parents. The Compulsory Education Act of 1922 has already caused the withdrawal from its schools of children who would otherwise continue, and their income has steadily declined. The appellants, public officers, have proclaimed their purpose strictly to enforce the statute.

After setting out the above facts, the Society’s bill alleges that the enactment conflicts with the right of parents to choose schools where their children will receive appropriate mental and religious training, the right of the child to influence the parents’ choice of a school, the right of schools and teachers therein to engage in a useful business or profession, and is accordingly repugnant to the Constitution and void. And, further, that unless enforcement of lthe measure is enjoined the corporation’s business and property will suffer irreparable injury.

Appellee Hill Military Academy is a private corporation organized in 1908 under the laws of Oregon, engaged [268 U.S. 510, 533]   in owning, operating, and conducting for profit an elementary, college preparatory, and military training school for boys between the ages of 5 and 21 years. The average attendance is 100, and the annual fees received for each student amount to some $800. The elementary department is divided into eight grades, as in the public schools; the college preparatory department has four grades, similar to those of the public high schools; the courses of study conform to the requirements of the state board of education. Military instruction and training are also given, under the supervision of an army officer. It owns considerable real and personal property, some useful only for school purposes. The business and incident good will are very valuable. In order to conduct its affairs, long time contracts must be made for supplies, equipment, teachers, and pupils. Appellants, law officers of the state and county, have publicly announced that the Act of November 7, 1922, is valid and have declared their intention to enforce it. By reason of the statute and threat of enforcement appellee’s business is being destroyed and its property depreciated; parents and guardians are refusing to make contracts for the future instruction of their sons, and some are being withdrawn.

The Academy’s bill states the foregoing facts and then alleges that the challenged act contravenes the corporation’s rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment and that unless appellants are restrained from proclaiming its validity and threatening to enforce it irreparable injury will result. The prayer is for an appropriate injunction.

No answer was interposed in either cause, and after proper notices they were heard by three judges (Judicial Code, 266 [Comp. St. 1243]) on motions for preliminary injunctions upon the specifically alleged facts. The court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed appellees against the [268 U.S. 510, 534]   deprivation of their property without due process of law consequent upon the unlawful interference by appellants with the free choice of patrons, present and prospective. It declared the right to conduct schools was property and that parents and guardians, as a part of their liberty, might direct the education of children by selecting reputable teachers and places. Also, that appellees’ schools were not unfit or harmful to the public, and that enforcement of the challenged statute would unlawfully deprive them of patronage and thereby destroy appellees’ business and property. Finally, that the threats to enforce the act would continue to cause irreparable injury; and the suits were not premature.

No question is raised concerning the power of the state reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.

The inevitable practical result of enforcing the act under consideration would be destruction of appellees’ primary schools, and perhaps all other private primary schools for normal children within the state of Oregon. Appellees are engaged in a kind of undertaking not inherently harmful, but long regarded as useful and meritorious. Certainly there is nothing in the present records to indicate that they have failed to discharge their obligations to patrons, students, or the state. And there are no peculiar circumstances or present emergencies which demand extraordinary measures relative to primary education.

Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 , 43 S. Ct. 625, 29 A. L. R. 1146, we think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children [268 U.S. 510, 535]   under their control. As often heretofore pointed out, rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the state. The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

Appellees are corporations, and therefore, it is said, they cannot claim for themselves the liberty which the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees. Accepted in the proper sense, this is true. Northwestern Life Ins. Co. v. Riggs, 203 U.S. 243, 255 , 27 S. Ct. 126, 7 Ann. Cas. 1104; Western Turf Association v. Greenberg, 204 U.S. 359, 363 , 27 S. Ct. 384. But they have business and property for which they claim protection. These are threatened with destruction through the unwarranted compulsion which appellants are exercising over present and prospective patrons of their schools. And this court has gone very far to protect against loss threatened by such action. Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33 , 36 S. Ct. 7, L. R. A. 1916D, 543, Ann. Cas. 1917B, 283; Truax v. Corrigan, 257 U.S. 312 , 42 S. Ct. 124, 27 A. L. R. 375; Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U.S. 197 , 44 S. Ct. 15.

The courts of the state have not construed the act, and we must determine its meaning for ourselves. Evidently it was expected to have general application and cannot be construed as though merely intended to amend the charters of certain private corporations, as in Berea College v. Kentucky, 211 U.S. 45 , 29 S. Ct. 33. No argument in favor of such view has been advanced.

Generally, it is entirely true, as urged by counsel, that no person in any business has such an interest in possible customers as to enable him to restrain exercise of proper power of the state upon the ground that he will be de prived [268 U.S. 510, 536]   of patronage. But the injunctions here sought are not against the exercise of any proper power. Appellees asked protection against arbitrary, unreasonable, and unlawful interference with their patrons and the consequent destruction of their business and property. Their interest is clear and immediate, within the rule approved in Truax v. Raich, Truax v. Corrigan, and Terrace v. Thompson, supra, and many other cases where injunctions have issued to protect business enterprises against interference with the freedom of patrons or customers. Hitchman Coal & Coke Co. v. Mitchell, 245 U.S. 229 , 38 S. Ct. 65, L. R. A. 1918C, 497, Ann. Cas. 1918B, 461; Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering, 254 U.S. 443 , 41 S. Ct. 172, 16 A. L. R. 196; American Steel Foundries v. Tri-City Central Trades Council, 257 U.S. 184 , 42 S. Ct. 72, 27 A. L. R. 360; Nebraska District, etc., v. McKelvie, 262 U.S. 404 , 43 S. Ct. 628; Truax v. Corrigan, supra, and cases there cited.

The suits were not premature. The injury to appellees was present and very real, not a mere possibility in the remote future. If no relief had been possible prior to the effective date of the act, the injury would have become irreparable. Prevention of impending injury by unlawful action is a well-recognized function of courts of equity.

The decrees below are affirmed.



[1] Dr. Hill stated in the Hill Military Academy school records, “When I, as a Young man, fresh from Yale College, entered upon this work, it was certainly a day of small things, as far as the school was concerned. I well remember the opening day in 1878, when I sat at the table with five boarding-pupils, one of whom, fortunately for me, was a full-pay pupil, two of them were half-pay, and the other two paid their board and tuition by doing janitor work about the school. Here it may be proper to say that from the beginning, I had assumed not only the management of the school, but also, the financial responsibility,–or in other words—that I conducted it under a lease from the Bishop, until 1889, when Oregon became a diocese.”


[2] From the top of the Butte today, as yesterday, visitors soak up gorgeous views up and down the Columbia River Valley: from the North and East the vistas show off Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens, as well as partial views of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Rainier.  The majestic Columbia and Willamette Rivers are in full view. The Butte is a Memorial Park to Joseph Wood Hill, one of Oregon’s most beloved Educators. JW Hill was the father of James Adams Hill and Benjamin Wood Hill, who served Hill Military Academy as President and Vice-President respectively.  At the base of the Butte is the Grotto, which is a Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sorrows, sponsored by the Order of Servite Fathers.

[3] Soon after the arrival in 1889 of faculty member John W. Gavin from Yale, the school organized a football team under the leadership of James White. The team played their first contest — the first football game played in the Northwest — against a team organized by Will Lipman, called The Star Athletic Club. Legend has it that from this contest developed the Multnomah Athletic Club of Portland. The first Inter-State football game was played the following season, against Seattle, Washington’s Olympic Club team. Over half of the men on the Multnomah Athletic Club team were from Hill (Bishop Scott) Academy. The school organized a baseball team in 1890, which was one of the earliest baseball teams in the Northwest.


SMA Students on 5th Avenue (SNJM Archives)

[4] Much of the history of St. Mary’s Academy can be found on the school’s website: www.stmaryspdx.org The website is the source of many of the comments in this section.

[5] Sarah Cantor, from the Heritage Center at Marylhurst serves as archivist for the Sisters of the Holy Names.  She offered to share her research into the background on Mother Mary Flavia. Born with the name Alicia Dunn, Flavia adopted the named Sister Mary Flavia, when she joined the order. In the 1920’s she was appointed as Mother Superior of St. Mary’s Academy.  Although it is likely that Mother Flavia was in constant contact with corresponded continually with the Sisters’ headquarters in Quebec, Canada, there are no copies of the correspondence in the archives.  The Provincial at the time, Sister Alphonsus Mary, would have received the correspondence if it had survived to this day. The Sisters agreed to let their order be the plaintiff in the case, while the Knights of Columbus and their lawyers did some of the heavy lifting with the legal defense.

[6] The Oregon Compulsory School Act — Be it enacted by the people of the state of Oregon: Section 1. That section 5259, Oregon Laws, be and the same is hereby amended so as to read as follows: Children Between the Ages of Eight and Sixteen Years.-Any parent, guardian or other person in the state of Oregon, having control or charge or custody of a child under the age of sixteen years and of the age of eight years or over at the commencement of a term of public school of the district in which said child resides, who shall fail or neglect or refuse to send such child to a public school for the period of time a public school shall be held during the current year in said district, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and each day’s failure to send such child to a public school shall constitute a separate offense; provided, that in the following cases, children shall not be required to attend public schools:

(a) Children Physically Unable.- Any child who is abnormal, subnormal or physically unable to attend school.

(b) Children Who Have Completed the Eighth Grade.- Any child who has completed the eighth grade, in accordance with the provisions of the state course of study.

(c) Distance from School.- Children between the ages of eight and ten years, inclusive, whose place of residence is more than one and one-half miles, and children over ten years of age whose place of residence is more than three miles, by the nearest traveled road, from a public school; provided, however, that if transportation to and from school is furnished by the school district, this exemption shall not apply.

(d) Private Instruction. Any child who is being taught for a like period of time by the parent or private teacher such subjects as are usually taught in the first eight years in the public school; but before such child can be taught by a parent or a private teacher, such parent or private teacher must receive written permission from the county superintendent, and such permission shall not extend longer than the end of the current school year. Such child must report to the county school superintendent or some person designated by him at least once every three months and take an examination in the work covered. If, after such examination, the county superintendent shall determine that such child is not being properly taught, then the county superintendent shall order the parent, guardian or other person, to send such child to the public school the remainder of the school year.

If any parent, guardian or other person having control or charge or custody of any child between the ages of eight and sixteen years, shall fail to comply with any provision of this section, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall, on conviction thereof, be subject to a fine of not less than $5, nor more than $100, or to imprisonment in the county jail not less than two nor more than thirty days, or by both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court. This act shall take effect and be and remain in force from and after the first day of September, 1926.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.