For more than a century Loretto Academy educated generations of girls and young women in Santa Fe. The Allison James school for girls founded by the Presbyterian Church was an alternative to that Catholic institution. The school began in 1867 in the home of Rev. David MacFarland. The first teacher he hired was Charity Ann Gaston. In 1870 MacFarland purchased a property on Grant Avenue that included an old adobe building to house classrooms and a teachers’ residence. Matilda Allison arrived in 1881 to build up the little mission school started by the MacFarlands. Then in 1889 a new three-story brick dormitory was added and named the Santa Fe Industrial and Boarding School for Mexican Girls.
By 1901 the church had added a dormitory and two years later changed its name to the Allison School. That gesture was in recognition of the hard work and dedication of Matilda Allison. The Presbyterians also had a boys school in Santa Fe called the Mary E. James School for Boys. When that school closed in 1913 they changed the girl’s school to Allison-James.
The Allison-James School operated in Santa Fe for ninety-two years, closing in 1959. Evangelizing the Spanish population did not set well with the Roman Catholic Church, and there were early conflicts between Presbyterian missionaries and Catholic priests. The Presbyterians had a good run with Allison-James in a Catholic town.