Fort Sill Indian School

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Location Class:
Year Built: 1871 | Year Abandoned: 1988
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places Native American Heritage Site
Status: AbandonedEndangered
Photojournalist: AbandonedOK TeamBilly Dixon

Fort Sill Indian School has witnessed many changes during its more than 100 years in Lawton, Oklahoma. When established in 1871 it served Indian children as a reservation elementary school. It gradually became a boarding high school with an enrollment drawn from all over the nation.

On July 1, 1869, Lawrie Tatum, a Quaker, was placed in charge of the Agency of the Comanche, Kiowa and Kiowa-Apache tribes and one of the first assignments carried out by Tatum was the construction of a school. The school was first established in 1871 about a mile north of its present location and operated there until 1899-1900.

The first stone school building was one and one-half stories high. It contained two classrooms, a kitchen, dining room, and dormitories. Josiah and Elizabeth Butler of Ohio had been appointed to take charge of the school. The Butlers opened the first day of school to seven pupils. At the close of the first school year, Reverend Butler had enrolled thirty-three students.

In 1899-1900; the location of the Fort sill Indian School was moved to its current location. In a report to the Commissioner of Indian -Affairs, the first superintendent of the Fort Sill Indian School at its new location, Julian W. Haddon, made the following report:

Location: The school is located 35 miles south of Anadarko and two and one-half miles south of the military post of Fort Sill.

Buildings: There are twelve buildings belonging to the plant. All of which are in fairly good repair.

Health and Attendance: The health of the pupils was better than average. The attending physician is a very conscientious and competent man who is faithful and untiring in his efforts to restore the sick and protect the health of both pupils and employees.

Industries: Given that this school is in the heart of an agriculture and stock-raising country, we are concentrating our energies on making agriculture and stock-raising the leading features of our work. The school has a farm of 160 acres of fertile bottom land and 2,000 acres of pasture land under fence.

In 1908, the position of Superintendent was abolished and the school head was designated as “Principal”. J. A. Buntin was the first principal of Fort Sill Indian School. In May, 1955, the position of Superintendent was reestablished with James Wallace being promoted to that position. In the early years of the school, strict militaristic-type discipline was a part of the Fort Sill program. It was not uncommon to observe students participating in precision marching as they were moved from one part of the campus to the other. Former students state that corporal punishment was often administered harshly for infraction of rules.

Shortly after World War I, Fort Sill Indian School was under the leadership of Mr. Edward Shield. The predominate concern’ was teaching the Indian students English, the three R’s, and good personal hygiene. The enrollment was 200 with approximately 12 tribes represented.

The first new building to be added after a long period of time was the shop building which was constructed in 1933. In 1935, the gymnasium was built. The present building which houses the academic classrooms was built in 1933. the first senior class graduated in 1939.

During the decade, 1940-1950, the Fort Sill Indian School emphasized vocational training and home-making at the high school level. Two hundred thirty students, representing the Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, Caddo, and Wichita tribes, were enrolled in the first to the twelfth grades inclusive. Many of the students remained at the school throughout the year in order to care for student projects such as field crops, row crops, gardens, dairy, and beef cattle, swine, and poultry. In the elementary grades, the children had gardens, farm animals, and other projects in which they learned about rural life. In the intermediate grades, cooperative projects had been the means of making money for the pupils as well as training them.

Until the middle 1940’s, the Fort Sill Indian School enrollment had been limited to the following Oklahoma tribes: Kiowa, Comanche, Delaware, Apache, Wichita, and Kiowa-Apache. A combination change in the Bureau of Indian Affairs policy took place at the close of World War II when the school’s enrollment was reduced drastically. Oklahoma students were encouraged to attend the local public schools. Navajo students from New Mexico and Arizona were admitted. This change was justified because of the lack of adequate educational facilities for hundreds of Navajo students who were ready for Junior High and High School. The enrollment at one time was 80% Navajo. In 1960, the agriculture program was dropped from the curriculum of the school in favor of a more academically oriented program. That same year, first through sixth grades were dropped from the program as well. In 1963, grades seven and eight were dropped thus making Fort Sill Indian School strictly a high school.

Later the Seminoles from Florida, Alabama-Coushattas from Texas, Chippewas from Minnesota and a great influx of various tribes from the Northwest arrived to add to a multi-tribe enrollment. In 1970, more of the local tribes were admitted to the school enrollment. Over three hundred students were enrolled. Of that number, nearly 200 were from Oklahoma.

Taken from a 1973 report by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. ED 078 980 – RC 007 087

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Pattis Fixico
Pattis Fixico
4 years ago

I have lots of memories of the ole Fort. I was only there for 2 years. My Junior & Senior year. Made lots of friends from all over the states.(68-70). I'm from Shawnee,OK. I seen that Benita W. made a comment earlier. Was glad to see her name. It's sad to see the ole place like it is now,but I do have memories. I hope that there are still many friends out there, that is still going. Fixico (Larney) is still going.

Thomas Pearson
Thomas Pearson
2 months ago

My grandmother came to the school at the age of 5 in 1891 as a ward of her uncle, Julian W. Haddon. He had previously been the Superintendent of the Riverside School at Anadarko and in June 1891 was appointed the first Superintendent of the Fort Sill school. He was transferred in 1894 to the school in Shoshone, Wyoming but returned to Fort Sill as Superintendent in 1898. He remained there until 1908 when the superintendent position was eliminated and then transferred to the school at Rosebud, South Dakota. My grandmother met my grandfather, a BIA employee, at Rosebud. He… Read more »

Thomas Pearson
Thomas Pearson
2 months ago

Tom Pearson

Jerry R Osborn
Jerry R Osborn
4 months ago

My dad coached basketball there , his name is Dale Osborn.

Bobby Stroble
Bobby Stroble
3 years ago

If anyone has any pictures of Gladys Roughface, I am in search of some. She was my mother. My name is Bobby Stroble any pictures or stories shared would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

john bevis
john bevis
Reply to  Bobby Stroble
1 year ago

Join the discussion… I went to school with her she was my brother in law’s cousin from Ponca City, he was a BlueBack

Curtis Brien
Curtis Brien
Reply to  Bobby Stroble
3 months ago

Hello Bobby, I went to school there and I remember your Mother. She was such a nice person. I have alot of good memories of the old fort. I graduated in 75′.

Montana NDN
Montana NDN
3 years ago

My home away from home, my brothers and sisters from another place 🙂

EvilAngel07
EvilAngel07
4 years ago

I went there yesterday my dad had an appointment at the Indian hospital so I decided to go exploring because in December 2016 I drive by after leaving the hospital and a low humming began to grow in my ears I got out and stepped on the property and the humming grew into a whisper so I decided on our next trip I would go deeper onto the property so yesterday my dogs and I walked the property again as before the whispering started as soon as I got to the first building on the left the feelings that came… Read more »

Curtis Brien
Curtis Brien
Reply to  EvilAngel07
3 months ago

I just read your comments. I went there for a few years back in the early 70s. I had a lot of good memories while there but also some loneliness too being so far from home with no family close by. Weekends and Holidays were the hardest everyone one would go home and the place was so quiet. Sometimes on weekends or holidays a family would check me out and take me to their homes. I always appreciated those times and their kindness. I always remember coach Reed taking me home for Thanksgiving and meeting his family. They were so… Read more »

Joan Witt
Joan Witt
4 years ago

Sam and Amanda Moats taught at the Golebo School in the late 1800's. Is there any record of the school at that time. I have a small photo of them in that location.

She was my great aunt. I would appreciate any information the Historical Association could provide!
joanewitt23@gmail.com. Thank you!

janice johnson-jones
janice johnson-jones
4 years ago

I attended in my junior year for a few months of the school year, the year before it closed. I met a lot of great kids there. Too bad they closed it.

Mrs light
Mrs light
4 years ago

Anyone know LeRoi Light:D

Pattis Fixico
Pattis Fixico
5 years ago

I attended Fort Sill 1968 thru 1970. I graduated in 1970. I made many friends there. I'm from Oklahoma and it
was the best time of my life in High School years. My friend had already been there before I started school there. We were from the same town. I'm glad that she suggested that I attend Fort Sill. I made so many friends from so many states. Different tribes. It was sad to see the school close. Wasted buildings.

Crow Chick
Crow Chick
6 years ago

gosh I went to school there *74-75 and I loved the place,,,lots of wonderful memories and met a lot of awesome people and made friends with wonderful beautiful people, I will always cherish the time I spent at F.S.I.S.

Karli
Karli
6 years ago

How can there be achievement awards dated 1996 in that building if it was abandoned in 1988? (See slide 27.)

Karen Little Cook
6 years ago

Fort Sill Indian School was my home away from home for 4 school years. I graduated in 1966. Being at the ole Fort were the best days of my life, I made some close friendships there, and I still keep in touch with them, they are family to me. My wish is that the Fort would re-open someday.

Snaps Magee
Snaps Magee
6 years ago

Excellent photo set. My compliments to the photographer. That stack of award certificates that were inexplicably never handed out was quite haunting. They're dated 1996, so I'd say that was the last year the school was in use. Would that be accurate?

Jereaux Sanders
Jereaux Sanders
Reply to  Snaps Magee
5 years ago

No, there were other education programs in the Lawton area that utilized some of the building after the closing of the school. KCALUC was also there and operated the KCA lands.

Joseph Cortez
Joseph Cortez
Reply to  Snaps Magee
4 years ago

My name is Joseph Cortez I lived therein the80s my grandma was part of the rehab me ad my cousin we lived in front of the tenniscourts I. Was 6or7 well one day I was looking for my cat so I looked out the window in the firstdorm that faces are house it was the second floor like the fourth window I saw a girl looking at me it was clear as day she had gray clothes on and wild hair she looked write at me I remember my eyes got wet like I was crying i new that ever… Read more »

LSOlivas
LSOlivas
7 years ago

My mom attended high school and graduated from Ft. Sill Indian School during the early 1950's. She spoke of it fondly, especially of the friendships she made while she was there. She was Navajo from Arizona and a long way from home. I still have a newspaper article & picture of her as a Homecoming Queen nominee!

Michelle Conroy
Michelle Conroy
Reply to  LSOlivas
6 years ago

What was your mother's name then? My dad went to school there too, he graduated in the early 1950's too. His name is Walter J Conroy, he works at Haskell now (still, at 79 years young!)

Alan White
Alan White
Reply to  Michelle Conroy
1 year ago

myDad also went there in the 1950's and his name was William Henry White and went by Bill.

divona
divona
Reply to  LSOlivas
11 months ago

hello… reading the replies … my father went to school there in the 50’s as well (he’s now 83 turning 84). This is an awesome finding … ~arizona

bevis in oregon
bevis in oregon
7 years ago

went there in the mid seventies,lot's of good memories, had a good time meeting different people, stayed there for the christmas break, had a friend from Elgin that i stayed with, hope to go back some day

Tahko
Tahko
8 years ago

My Grandmother & her siblings went here in the early 1900's. She used to tell us about it when we would visit the Indian hospital in Lawton.

Taint
Taint
8 years ago

If there are any of the ole bops out there please comment, I MISS you all and all the good times we had at the Fort.

Taint
Taint
8 years ago

Been to that school even graduated there in one of the last classes really miss it and all the ole bop

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