Oklahoma State School for the Blind
|Oklahoma State School for the Blind|
In 1897 Miss Lura A. Rowland, a graduate of the Arkansas School for the Blind and "a frail wisp of a girl," solicited funds and undertook to establish a school for the blind children of Indian Territory at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. She operated the school without any government assistance for ten years, though there are reams of correspondence indicating she implored governors, congressmen, and other public officials to assist her struggling organization. She did present a case sufficient to be permitted the use of the old Barracks Building to house her school. (Land owned by the Cherokee nation but leased by the Federal Government.)
Miss Rowland traveled all over Indian Territory, appearing before the various tribal councils, presenting her needs. Since few Native Americans were blind until Europeans brought diseases causing blindness to the tribes, there was not the acceptance that might have been the case otherwise. During the first four years the institution was supported solely by contributions from the people of the Indian Territory and sympathizing states. In 1900 the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations each made appropriations for the education of blind Choctaw and Cherokee children. Repeated but unsuccessful efforts were made to have Congress aid the school through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1907 the school became a state-supported institution. The school was moved to Wagoner but soon returned to Fort Gibson.
Oklahoma's first legislature appropriated $5,000 on May 29, 1908, for the maintenance of the "Lura A. Lowrey School for the Blind". As a state institution the school was supported by legislative appropriations, varying from twenty to thirty thousand dollars yearly. It remained in temporary quarters at Fort Gibson until June, 1913, when the fourth legislature acted to move it to Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Upon moving the school to Muskogee in 1911, first in a couple of temporary locations locally, the state began construction on several beautiful buildings of English architecture with steep roofs. 1913 Oklahoma School for the Blind was moved to its present location in June in accordance with an act of the fourth Legislature. An 80 acre tract of land was donated by Governor C.N. Haskell. The tornado of 1945 destroyed most of those roofs, demolished the gymnasium, in which three girls were killed, and wounded several others. In the rebuilding, flat roofs replaced the originals.