St. Monica's School was founded by the Rt. Rev. J. H. Hobart Brown, first Bishop of Fond du Lac in the year of our Lord 1886 and placed in charge of the Sisters of St. Monica. In 1893 at the request of Mother Caroline, the Order was permitted to relinquish its work although an association with the Hall was maintained until the death of Sr. Anna Hobart, (widow of Bishop Brown) in 1917. The Rt. Rev. Charles Chapman Grafton who had succeeded Bishop Brown in 1889 appointed the Rev. B. Talbot Rogers to the position of Warden in 1893 and the name of the school was changed to Grafton Hall. During all this period the Academy had been housed in a group of buildings north of St. Paul's Cathedral; in the Autumn of 1896 the north wing of the present main buildings was in readiness for the use of thirty-five students.
On the festival of St. Katherine in the autumn of that year, the building was blessed. The day began with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the chapel at seven o'clock. At ten o'clock the Chapel was again well filled by the immediate friends of the school, who assembled for the special services of benediction. There were present the Rt. Rev. Charles Chapman Grafton, Bishop of Fond du Lac; seven Priests of the Diocese; the members of the school in white veils; the members of the Choir School in cassocks and cottas; and some fifty invited guests from Fond du Lac and neighboring cities. The service began with a hymn, "The Church's One Foundation", followed by the blessing of the chapel and altar. The Bishop then proceeded with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Cruikshank's musical setting being sung. At the close of the service the procession was formed as follows: Cross-bearer, members of the congregation, Banner of the Blessed Sacrament, Choir School, Faculty and Students of Grafton Hall, Sisters of the Holy Nativity and of St. Monica, Banner of the Diocese, Acolytes, Clergy, and the Bishop. The hymn was "Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart" as the procession marched to the Gymnasium where the first stop was made for prayers. From there a pilgrimage was made throughout the building with stops for prayers and particular blessings. Upon the return to the Chapel, the closing collects were said. In the afternoon from two until five the building was open to the public, a constant stream of visitors passing through the broad hall now so familiar to the people of Fond du Lac, and so dear to the many who pass in and out year after year. In the evening the Bishop and Faculty assisted by the Sisters received the many guests from Fond du Lac, Oconto, Appleton, Ripon, Oakfield, and Sheboygan Falls.
During the next few years (1896-1900) Bishop Grafton completed the south wing thus increasing the number of [35/36] rooms for students and adding the beautiful drawing rooms and the class rooms. Shortly after the new wing was in readiness the death of Captain Joseph Grafton occurred and the furnishings of his home were brought to the Hall: beautiful hand carved rosewood chairs and sofas in Italian Renaissance, lacquer cabinets of the period of Louis XV, bronzes, paintings, and statuary. From time to time other gifts including Piranesi prints from Captain Scriven, an attache of the American Embassy at Rome and son-in-law of General Bragg of Civil War fame, have added to the charm of what is not only a school but a beautiful home.
Among the names long associated with Grafton Hall are those of Bishop Brown, its founder; Mother Caroline, the first head of the School; gentle Sr. Anna Hobart, whose lovely spirit still pervades the Hall as it does the Cathedral she loved so well; Bishop Gratfon whose great spirit still lives on daily influencing the lives of all within the walls and courts he built, that his dream of a place where girls might grow into wise and beautiful womanhood, might be fulfilled; Bishop Weller, one of the charter members at the time of the incorporation under Bishop Grafton and now President, wise in his choice of able and devoted directors eager to carry on the Church's work begun by such great men as Bishop Brown and Bishop Grafton; Dr. Rogers, Warden for twenty-three years; Mrs. Rogers the devoted Principal; Margaret Thorn for three years Dean of the Faculty after Dr. Roger's resignation; and William L. Jaffe, head of the violin department from 1898 to the time of his death in 1925.
At the present time under the wise and devoted management of the Directors, President, Bishop Weller, Vice President, Dr. Frank S. Wiley, the Rev. Edwin W. Todd, Mr. Fred A. Foster, the Rev. B. Talbot Rogers, Mr. Henry R. Potter, Mr. Wm. Paulsen, Mr. T. T. Lyman, Mr. George K. Gibson, Mr. J. C. Kimberly, Mr. Harry Price, Mr. Hamilton Roddis, Mr. Hiram Below, and Mr. Isaac P. Witter), Grafton Hall is carrying out the ideals of its founders, in providing for girls and young women an opportunity to study and develop in an atmosphere of dignity and worth. Reports from colleges and universities throughout the country indicate that the scholarship is of the highest and that the moral and spiritual value of living within the school is of the greatest worth. The loyalty and devotion of the alumnae and of the students is not to be surpassed, being equalled only by that of the teachers who have come and gone throughout the years. At the present time in keeping with the traditions, the faculty under the leadership of Avis Jeanne Mooney, Dean, is composed of thoroughly prepared and trained teachers, all college or university [36/37] graduates, with experience in their chosen work and with enthusiasm for it.
May Grafton Hall built by Bishop Brown and Bishop Grafton, now entering on its fortieth year, be ever faithful to the ideals of her great founders.