History and Facts
The Academic Building of the Michigan Military Academy was constructed in 1877 and was described in an 1891 publication as “one of the most complete school buildings in the West.” The building still serves as an academic center for St. Mary’s Preparatory. Among those who attended classes here were Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of Tarzan, and Frank Joslyn Baum, whose father, L. Frank Baum, wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
On June 1, 1909, the history of the Michigan Military Academy at Orchard Lake came to an end with its sale by the Rogers family to attorney Allen Campbell, who represented an unknown purchaser. The bid had been $24,000 subject to nodded indebtedness held by the Union Trust Company, and the widow’s dower amounting to about $8,000. The final price came to $83,000 and the sale was completed on June 22, 1909, when attorney Campbell handed the attorney for the Rogers Estate a check for $24,000.
For a period of time, many had thought that the Jesuits had purchased the property; however, the rumor soon began that officers of the Polish Seminary in Detroit had been looking over the grounds since their present quarters in Detroit had proven inadequate for the growing number of students.
The only building to exist on the grounds prior to the founding of the
academy was built in 1858 by Judge Joseph Tarr Copeland upon his
retirement from the Michigan Supreme Court. The ten-room house was
converted into a hotel in 1872 with the addition of two wings constructed
of wood. The panic of 1873 killed the enterprise.
The cadets, dressed in “West Point Gray,” sit down to a meal in the Mess Hall with old-fashioned gas lights hanging above their heads.
The Class of 1892 poses for a photo. None of the cadets realized that 17 years later the academy would close its doors forever as a military school.
In 1877, Captain Joseph Sumner Rogers purchased the hotel and, on September 4, 1877, the Michigan Military Academy was incorporated. With a wing projecting from the back, the Mess Hall would later become the Campus Chapel and, finally, our “Galeria.” The rear wing later burned to the ground.
Joseph Sumner Rogers, Founder and Superintendent of the Michigan Military Academy, was a tragic figure who died within hours of President William McKinley’s death in 1901.
“. . . Liberty cannot be enjoyed by uneducated people.”Fr. Joseph Dąbrowski
The Orchard Lake Schools, originally known as the "Polish Seminary,” were founded in the late 19th century when the need arose for priests to care for Polish immigrants. In January 1879, Fr. Leopold Moczygemba, a Polish Franciscan priest, secured permission from Pope Leo XIII to establish a seminary in the United States to train men for the priesthood for that purpose. Fr. Moczygemba entrusted this papal charter to Fr. Joseph Dabrowski, another Polish immigrant. In July 1885, the cornerstone was laid for SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary on Detroit’s east side.
The first class of students enrolled in December 1886. After 24 years of growth and expansion, larger quarters were required. The seminary was transferred to Orchard Lake in 1909, some 25 miles northwest of Detroit, at the scenic grounds of the former Michigan Military Academy.
Remodeling and new construction from 1912 through 1928 ermitted
further growth in enrollment. Three distinct schools – SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary, St. Mary’s College and St. Mary’s Preparatory – emerged from a restructuring of the Seminary in 1927-28, each with a four-year program.
Through extensive fundraising efforts, support for the Schools in the
Polish American community increased, making possible the construction
of seven buildings, including a library, dormitory, dining hall, Shrine
Chapel of Our Lady of Orchard Lake and the Robert Dombrowski
Fieldhouse. Between 1957 and 1973, four auxiliary centers were
established on campus as unique resources to the community at large. In
2000, the Frank and Mary Padzieski Science Center and the Stanley
Bielawski Brent Chapel were dedicated.
Organizations, programs and policies of the Schools continued to change
as needs in society and in the Church changed. Non-divinity students were
again admitted to the college in 1969. Women and commuter students in
the college and theologate soon followed. The Seminary developed new
programs for lay ministries in addition to that of priesthood formation. The
preparatory offered a day-school option to its traditional boarding school
program in 1985.
Through extraordinary sacrifices of faculty, staff, alumni and benefactors, the Orchard Lake Schools have educated almost 9,000 students to date. Their mission and accomplishments continue to be unique. A virtual campus tour is available by visiting: