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Monastery of St. Gertrude: Influencing the Camas Prairie for more than 110 years

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Monastery of St. Gertrude’s building stones were quarried from local rock.

Photo by Lorie Palmer
Monastery of St. Gertrude’s building stones were quarried from local rock.

— Although the Benedictine Sisters of the Monastery of St. Gertrude have been a staple in Cottonwood for the past 110 years, it is not where their beginning is rooted.

Missionary sisters from a cloister in Sarnen, Switzerland, journeyed to their first U.S. home in Gervais, Ore. Their first missionary endeavor there was helping on the Indian mission in Grand Ronde.

In 1884, they established St. Andrew’s Convent and Academy in Uniontown. A decade later, they outgrew their space and moved to nearby Colton, Wash., where they opened St. Scholastica’s Convent and Academy.

They began several schools in the area and expanded their ministry into Idaho by staffing schools in Genesee and Cottonwood. In 1907 the Benedictine Sisters again outgrew their space. Given a piece of land near the new prairie town of Cottonwood, Mother Hildegard Vogler was determined to relocate.

Three miles from town, the new site, with a frame house and chapel, provided a view across the Camas Prairie that reminded the Swiss sisters of their homeland.

In the 1920s the present Monastery of St. Gertrude was built, using as its cornerstones the blue porphyry rock which was quarried from the hill behind it. The chapel is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Monastery of St. Gertrude

Monastery of St. Gertrude

465 Keuterville Road

Cottonwood, ID 83522


In addition to their work in education, the sisters also became active in health care. In the 1930s, they opened Our Lady of Consolation Hospital in Cottonwood. In the 1960s, they replaced it with St. Mary’s Hospital which they continued to operate until its management was transferred to Benedictine Health System of Duluth, Minn., in 1990, and is now part of Essentia Health.

The 1970s also saw the close of St. Gertrude’s Academy and the consolidation of the schools in the Cottonwood area. Today, the buildings of St. Gertrude’s Academy are home to Prairie Junior Senior High School.

Today, the Benedictine Sisters are ministering throughout the state of Idaho, and in Washington and California. Their ministries are varied. In 2008, the sisters were awarded the Kessler-Keener Award for their work in human rights.


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