Although the term “Ursuline” can refer to a number of different institutes within the Catholic Church, the most well known group - and the one to which Galveston is beholden - was founded in 1535 in Brescia, Italy.
The seven Ursuline nuns quickly went about arranging their new home and schoolhouse, first selecting a room to designate and outfit as the chapel. Since the island population was sparse and still in its infancy, the nuns had little outside assistance, but two volunteers from the Ursuline Convent of Quebec were sent to help tend to the fields and fertile gardens that surrounded the new Galveston convent.
With the onset of the Civil War, the nuns' services were again diverted from their students. On September 10, 1861, the Ursuline nuns converted their still-unfinished building into a hospital, and they volunteered as nurses. They served Confederate soldiers in the beginning, then Union soldiers when the North won control of the island in 1862, but their most formidable test came on New Year’s Day 1863, during the Battle of Galveston.