Goodland Presbyterian Home

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Goodland Presbyterian Home
Established 1835
Construction Began 1838
Opened 1835
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Hugo, OK
Alternate Names
  • Goodland Indian Orphanage
  • Yakni Achukma Mission Station
  • Goodland Academy


In 1835, Ebenezer Hotchkins and Cyrus Kingsbury, Presbyterian ministers, established the Yakni Achukma (Choctaw for “Good Land”) Mission station. In 1838, William Fields, a full-blood Choctaw, built the first home on the Goodland campus. As the community grew, the most vital concern of the Indian people was the education of their children.

In 1848, the first full-time minister took up residency on the grounds of present day Good Land. John Lathrop and his wife built the first home and mission, and ministered for two years to the Choctaws. As they returned home in 1850, Rev. Oliver Porter Stark and his wife, Margaret, were assigned to Good Land. His wife began the next day teaching any Indian children that would come to their two room log home.

Orphaned children were boarded by families on the property, so they could receive an education. Within two years, the number had grown to 42 Indian children. This was the beginnings of the boarding school. In 1852, Oliver Porter Stark (the superintendent) — with help from Henry L. Gooding and other Choctaw neighbors — built the structure that served the community as both church and school. Stark also dug the first well, which was still being used in 1932 when it was sealed and covered by the present concrete steps of the old Goodland High School.

During the Civil War, two Choctaw Indian regiments pitched their tents on the campus around the well that Rev. Stark dug. Stark wrote to the mission board to report on the bands of robbers and lawlessness that existed in the area at the time. He requested reassignment and was transferred to Paris, Texas, in 1866.

After the Civil War, the division within the Presbyterian Church was disorganized and continued to leave the mission without pastor, teacher or mission board to guide or encourage the work. Apparently, each "side", North and South, assumed that the other would pick up the mission. During this period, Indian families and their white friends in the area continued the work begun by the missionaries. Rev. John P. Turnbull, an Indian Presbyterian minister, operated the church and school until 1890 when Joseph P. Gibbons was assigned to the Goodland Mission.

Finally, in 1894, the Goodland Mission became a special responsibility of the Presbyterian Church, US, General Assembly's Executive Committee of Home Missions. In 1894, Goodland children were living in the homes of area families. A school building and the first dormitory went up that year. The dormitory was built from hand-hewn logs to house sixteen Indian boys on Goodland Mission property. It was a crude building — one large room with a sleeping loft overhead and a kitchen/dining room added on one side. A large front porch provided extra living space.

Supplies for the orphans were donated from Indian families who lived nearby. Each week one of the church members took a wagon from house to house, receiving liberal contributions of meat, lard, meal, flour, potatoes, sugar, molasses and coal oil for the boys to use.

In 1900, Silas Bacon, who grew up in the home and became a Presbyterian minister, became the first superintendent. For twenty years Bacon served as superintendent of the school and during his administration four dormitories and a bath house were built. Several Indian families deeded land to the institution during those years, and by 1920 the school owned a total of 75 acres. By 1921, Goodland was serving 250 Indian children and had a school system and five dormitories.

The 1929 financial crash had serious repercussions in Oklahoma. Goodland had a debt of over $30,000. The church called Rev. E. D. Miller to supervise the home during this time of crisis. Through the help of many friends, he paid the outstanding debt within six years. He repaired and painted the older buildings, fireproofed the roofs, sod the campus with grass, planted gardens and orchards, and built a poultry flock and a dairy herd. He laid out gravel drives and concrete walks and added a tennis court and football field.

Another milestone occurred in 1930, when the Goodland public school consolidated with the Home's own school on campus. The gym and auditorium, constructed by Works Progress Administration workers, became a community center for the neighborhood. From that point, the Goodland Mission was, by all practical means, a boarding home with schooling on campus.

During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, "the Presbyterian Church decided to open the door to others," and Non-Indians were welcomed. Normal wear and tear took their toll of the old dormitories, so smaller and safer cottages were built in the 1960s. During the 1970s, life at Goodland became "wild and crazy," much like the decade itself. Officials solved that in 1981 when they stopped accepting girls.

The Church building served for 42 years as both school and church for the area. Renovated several times since being built in 1852, the same church — restored and enlarged — stands on the Goodland campus today. Goodland Academy (as it is now called) is still in operation as a home for children under 18 who have lost parents or been abandoned by them. It is considered the oldest private boarding school in Oklahoma. They have plans to build an entirely new & updated campus on the grounds.