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Mary Gregory Memorial School

Girls Dorm
Dorm for girls at Mary Gregory Memorial School
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Founder: Reverend Silas Valentine Fait
Reverend Silas Valentine Fait
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Four miles east of Anadarko immediately north of Highway 62, where the Caddo County Poor Farm was situated until a few years ago, was the site of the Mary Gregory Memorial School, a Presbyterian mission sponsored, supported and maintained by the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions, for Indian children and underprivileged whites of that area. Its founder and first superintendent was the Reverend Silas Valentine Fait, who passed up an opportunity to accept a lucrative pastorate in New York City in order to come to the Indian Territory and found this mission school (see Appendix A, page 193, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Summer Issue, 1954). For twenty-two years as superintendent of this school he gave the best of his time and efforts and was loved and respected by the students and teachers alike. A number of talented, inspired and dedicated people desirous of doing missionary work among the Indians came from the East and worked at this school.

While this school was established primarily for the benefit of Indian children of western Oklahoma, underprivileged white children were admitted. The pupils worked their way through school, going to school a half day and working the other half day.

The school maintained a dairy herd, beef cattle, a large farm and orchard sufficient to provide food for the students and for the livestock, and the students were detailed to work in these various activities. The school furnished its own meat, raised a good garden, and the girls canned vegetables and fruits for the school use. The needs of the school beyond that raised on the farm were purchased from Anadarko merchants. There were no automobiles at that time, and the trips to town were made with a wagon and team of mules.

Some of the students were supported by scholarships given by certain groups in the East. I was given a scholarship by a boys organization in Wilmington, Delaware.   I do not recall the name of the organization.

The school consisted of a large three story dormitory, one wing of which housed the girls and the other provided quarters for the younger boys. The older boys were housed in the cottage nearby. The lower floor of this dormitory was used for a dining room, library, kitchen, chapel and sitting rooms.

From fifty to seventy-five students were in attendance, ranging in ages from six to twenty-one.

On the campus was a school room, one-half of the same being for the higher grades and the other for the lower grade pupils, and nearby was the home of the superintendent. Just east of the dormitory and school were the barns for the horses, cattle and the dairy herd. The superintendent had a comfortable home where he and his wife and three sons lived. He had an elaborate library. These buildings were all connected by board sidewalks. The heating facilities were furnished by a large furnace in the basement fueled by wood. There were no bathing facilities. The rooms were equipped with pitcher and bowl, and the laundry building was equipped with many large tubs which were used for the regular bathing Saturday night. The girls bathed first, and the boys bathed later.

As you will note from the "Chronicles of Oklahoma," Summer, 1954, pg. 189, my maternal aunt attended this school. My father and mother separated when I was a very small boy, and my aunt was anxious that I have educational opportunities which my mother was unable to supply me, so she arranged for my admission, along with that of my sister and brother. At that time I was living with my mother at Maysville, I. T., now Oklahoma. My grandmother drove us to Chickasha where we were placed on the Rock Island train and arrived in Anadarko later in the afternoon in September, 1902. We were met at the Rock Island station at Anadarko by one of the employees with a wagon and team of mules. We drove to the school, which was located four miles east of Anadarko, just off the present highway to the north. I was very homesick, and as my brother, sister and I came within sight of the school we began to cry, but after meeting some of the children we became reconciled. Most of the children were of Indian descent, but a few of them were white. We were Cherokees,originally from the eastern part of the Territory. I was not long there before I began to amuse the Indian children by drawing pictures with my colored pencils. I attended this school for seven years, graduating from the ninth grade in 1909. I later attended Henry Kendall College, now Tulsa University, which was then sponsored and maintained by the Presbyterian Church.

This was truly a great institution and added immeasurably to the cultural and spiritual life of that era. As heretofore stated, its teachers made great sacrifices in leaving their homes in the East and coming to the Oklahoma Territory and giving a certain portion of their time to teaching these under-privileged children. The superintendent, Mr. S. V. Fait, was a most unusual man and occupied a high position in the East before coming to Anadarko. Miss Lavern Gossard was one of our outstanding teachers.   She died a few years ago as the wife of C. Ross Hume, who also passed away a few years ago. Dr. Edith Flagler of Chickasha was one of our great teachers. Many others came and spent from two to five years of their lives teaching at this school. The children were given good instruction, and the religious life of the child was emphasized. On Sundays we were not permitted to read ordinary literature, but our reading was confined to religious reading. We had excellent reading rooms and library for that day.

The food for the most part was good. The health of the children was very good, although we did have epidemics of colds, grippe (we would probably call it flu today) and ailments of that nature.

A very prominent woman who attended this school when I attended was Mrs. Maybelle McCandless of 166 Grand N.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan. She married a prominent doctor and became a missionary in China for many years and is an outstanding person. She and I were in the same graduating class of the school in 1909. A. A. Exendine, 4608 S. Evanston, Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a former student of the school and later became a member of the famous Carlisle football team with Jim Thorpe.

The Mary Gregory Memorial School was more or less a social center, and the faculty entertained women's organizations from nearby Anadarko. The Kiowas called the school "Mautame" which means a place of learning. It was indeed such a place, and we who have been beneficiaries of its teachings are grateful to the Presbyterian Church, the school and its great teachers for the opportunity it gave many of us who might not have otherwise had it.

Prominent people who visited the school now and then from the East were met at the Rock Island Railroad station with a wagon and team and were conveyed to the school.

The school also confronted the hazards of prairie fires and floods, and on more than one occasion the students and employees of the school used wet gunny sacks and fought off prairie fires. On one occasion along about 1904 or 1905, the entire campus of the school was flooded when the Washita River went on a rampage. The basement of the dormitory was filled with water; sidewalks were covered with the overflow, and it took several days for all hands to bail out the water in basements of the buildings.

I recall that while I was a pupil there, there was the Catholic School south of Anadarko run by Father Isadore, and there was a Methodist institution, Meth-vin Institute, a school which was on the south edge of Anadarko operated by the Methodist Church, under the supervision of J. J. Methvin. There was also a Baptist school northwest of Anadarko about which I know very little, but I believe that the public would be vitally interested in knowing about these early day places of learning and the interest the religious forces of the nation had in what was then thought to be the wild Indian country.

With the advent of statehood and the establishment of public schools, this institution was closed in 1909 by its sponsor, the Board of Home Missions. The buildings of the institution, except the buildings which are now being used for a residence for Russell Fait and Howard Fait's family, were utilized by Caddo County as a poor farm and were maintained as such for several years. I believe the building burned down, but I am not sure about that. The buildings used by the Faits were moved from there to another portion of the farm, and are now located just off of and north of Highway 62, about a mile east of where the dormitory was originally situated.

By N. B. Johnson
copied from: Prairie Lore, July 1964, volume 1, number 1


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