After serving as a teacher and choral director in the Twin Cities and North Dakota, Sister Ann Thomasine Sampson embarked on a new career, writing the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in the Twin Cities.
Sampson, whose books and articles revealed lost history of the order to which she belonged, died on Aug. 18 at her Bethany Convent home in St. Paul. She was 93.
In 1970, she was organizing records and documents at St. Joseph's Academy in St. Paul, preparing for its closing. She thought to check the attic, where she found ledgers dating to the school's founding in 1851, when it was named St. Mary's School.
It was a "eureka" moment, and she dove headlong into researching the school's and the order's history along the Mississippi River.
Pioneering Sisters of St. Joseph, whose headquarters are in St. Louis, Mo., made the trip to St. Paul on a riverboat 160 years ago, so Sampson hitched rides on barge-lugging towboats to get a feel for what they experienced.
Among her publications, she wrote journal articles, crafted an oral history project and, in 2000, wrote "Seeds on the Ground," the biographies of 16 pioneer sisters.
"She didn't do anything half-heartedly," said Sister Joan Mitchell of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. "She was a kind of renaissance woman, with a rich curiosity."
Her biographies told the lives of past leaders known and revealed others' service, once lost to history, said Mitchell.
• In the 1920s, Mother Antonia McHugh stopped efforts to have Prior Avenue run through the campus of the College of St. Catherine.
• In December 1904, sisters led by Sister Hyacinth Werden trudged through the snow to open the school after defying some authorities who proclaimed college useless for young women.
• In the 1930s, Sister Julian made historical maps of pioneering sisters' travels, selling them to benefit a Mexican-American ministry in St. Paul, popular for four decades.
Her book "captured our real characters," as well as our leaders, said Mitchell, calling the book "moving."
Sampson graduated from St. Margaret Academy in Minneapolis in 1932 and from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul in 1939.
She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1935, and took her final vows in 1940.
For more than 30 years, she taught English, history, religion and music in Catholic schools in North Dakota and Minnesota, including the former St. Joseph's Academy, St. Paul; the Academy of Holy Angels, Richfield, and what is now Benilde-St. Margaret's, then in Minneapolis.
Sampson, an organist and composer, directed operettas and led chorale groups that sang "The Messiah" at the St. Paul Civic Center annually and that performed on WCCO Radio.
"She was a great one for having the sisters sing energetically," Mitchell said.
In 1951, she earned a master's degree in music education from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
She is survived by nieces and nephews. Services have been held.