Victoria Female Academy

By: Craig H. Roell

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: August 1, 1995

Victoria Female Academy, probably the first Presbyterian school for girls in Texas, represented a successful application of Old School Presbyterian philosophy, which emphasized stern morality and intense learning, a philosophy that nineteenth-century missionaries felt obligated to extend to the educationally and spiritually destitute area they considered Texas to be. The academy was established in 1848 by John R. Shive, a Presbyterian minister from North Carolina, and his wife, Viola. In 1853 Reverend Shive died of yellow fever; his wife continued to maintain the school with her brother-in-law, Cowan Shive, assisted by Joel T. Case, a Presbyterian minister and Yale graduate from Ohio. Case had been associated with Aranama College in Goliad; he married Viola Shive in 1862. Victoria Female Academy already enjoyed a reputation as a leading state institution when it leased a new building from the city of Victoria in 1858. The curriculum included botany, history, philosophy, astronomy, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, English grammar, Latin, piano, voice, guitar, drawing, painting, and needlework. A city ordinance required teachers to keep the building and grounds in "thorough repair" at their own expense, including whitewashing the fence and building once a year. In 1862, however, the newly married Cases moved to Clinton, near Cuero in DeWitt County, ostensibly to accept a pastorship, though reportedly because of "Victoria's proximity to the coast" during the war. Miss M. A. Donnelly conducted a girls' school in the academy building for a while, though the Cases continued their school in Clinton. In 1866 they returned and reopened the academy in Victoria. Two years later Case died, and Col. John W. Allen, a West Point graduate, assumed supervision of the higher grades. When boys were admitted about 1869 the academy became one of the first coeducational schools in Texas. The city sold the school building, however, for financial reasons; the structure became a hotel, and then Victoria High School, a private corporation. The sale caused Mrs. Case to move the school to her own property in 1870. Thereafter, the institution was usually called Mrs. Case's Select School, or simply Case School. In 1873 Viola Case further distinguished her school with the organization of the Bronté Literary Society, the oldest women's club in Texas (see BRONTÉ CLUB). About 1881 she tried to sell the school to the Presbyterian Church, but the church would not buy it. Undaunted, she maintained the institution until her death in 1893, when, according to one source, she "dropped in the harness." The school closed, although it continued for a while as Nold Seminary under Allie Nold, a Case School teacher. Victoria Independent School District erected Mitchell School, the city's first public high school, on the old academy site in 1901.

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Mary Margaret Bierman, A History of Victoria, Texas, 1824–1900 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1948). Roy Grimes, ed., 300 Years in Victoria County (Victoria, Texas: Victoria Advocate, 1968; rpt., Austin: Nortex, 1985). Leopold Morris, Pictorial History of Victoria and Victoria County (San Antonio, 1953). Victoria Advocate, 88th Anniversary Number, September 28, 1934.
  • Education
  • Defunct Elementary and Secondary Schools
  • Religion
  • Presbyterian
  • Women

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Craig H. Roell, “Victoria Female Academy,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995

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