St. Joseph's Boarding School
|St. Joseph's Boarding School|
The first school in Chickasha, Oklahoma was started in September 1892 by the Presbyterian church. The following fall a school building was built. A subscription fee of $1.50 a month was charged, but that was not enough to pay for the lumber used to build it, so the Chickasha School Company made plans to sell the building in order to pay the debt.
In 1898, the property consisting of a whole block, with a two-story school building was purchased from the Chickasha School Company by Reverend Isidore Ricklin of the Catholic church, O.S.B. of Anadarko, for $1,650. Mother Mary Agnes, who was at the time Superior General of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania, sent four Sisters to open Saint Joseph School at Chickasha, Indian Territory, on the 25th of August, 1899. It was the only religious school in Grady County. St. Joseph School began with an enrollment of 135 students.
Improvements and addition were made through the first years to accommodate the increased number of children in the parish. When it was realized that the income of the Day School was insufficient to support the school, the Boarding School was initiated to provide more funds. The classrooms were on the first floor of the two-story building while the Sisters and the few children lived above. The number of children increased in the parish, therefore, more Sisters were needed. The Sisters needed more classrooms so they proceeded to build another small building from their funds. The Knights of Columbus urged the Sisters to enlarge the building, making a contract to occupy a portion of it until it was required for the school. It wasn’t long until the school required all available space for classrooms.
After twenty years of steady labor and determination, a campaign was started for the purpose of obtaining funds for the erection of a new school. The growth of the school had been very rapid and the buildings were entirely inadequate to the use of the increasing student body. The campaign was a success and the rough red brick building which the residents of Chickasha remember as St. Joseph’s Academy was built. The old white wooden building was moved, from the Northwest corner of 7th Street and Colorado Avenue to the Northeast corner of 8th and Colorado by the contractors, Monnot and Reid, and the building was later dismantled on July 30, 1937.
By 1924 the number of Sisters had increased to twelve; the number of boarders to seventy and the number of students in daily attendance to two hundred and fifty. By 1926, St. Joseph’s Academy provided, in addition to the regular grade work, a four-year High School Course accredited by the State of Oklahoma, a course in Business training, and special courses in vocal and instrumental music. The first graduates of St. Joseph’s Academy were Mayme Teefey in 1908, Mary Laflin and Leno Brien in 1910, Gertrude Spalding in 1912, and Margaret McCaull, Ada Link, and Isabella Brooks in 1915. The first class to graduate from an accredited St. Joseph's in 1917, consisted of Myrtle Link, Marie Decker (Ross), Opal Burson and Thelma Mahoney.
Saint Joseph's Academy is identified as St. Joseph's Catholic Boarding School on the Census of 1910. It was actually St. Joseph's Academy, a Catholic School conducted by the Sisters of Saint Francis. The census showed only 7 of the 25 boarding students were Indian. Those Indian students were also listed as residents of the St. Joseph Orphan School. The other students were found with their parents on the next census. Frequently, the orphan Indian students moved on to additional educational facilities. Some were found on the 1920 census in Murray County at the Murray State School of Agriculture in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.
St. Joseph's School, later called St. Joseph's Academy, was run by the Sisters of St. Francis. This order of religious nuns, in America, originated in 1855 in the city of Philadelphia. Bishop John W. Neumann enlisted the help of the sisters who had a base community in Ireland. Pope Pius IX counseled the bishop to found an American Community from within the ranks of his own parish in Pennsylvania. In reviewing the census records at St. Joseph we can see the prevalent Irish background of the Sisters, and also the Community's ties to the state of Pennsylvania.