1889 Territorial Schoolhouse: Edmond, OK

Hey friend! Welcome back to another post. Today, we’re talking about the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond, Oklahoma. I had driven by it before, but had never been inside – so it was really cool to finally be able to see it! Let’s go look around and talk about the fascinating history!

The schoolhouse is estimated to be the “oldest, documented, public building in Oklahoma County.”

Crowder, 1

*All photos used in this post were taken by myself at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse or the Edmond Historical Society Museum. Please see the captions for photos taken at the Edmond Historical Society.

Schoolhouse History

This Territorial Schoolhouse opened in 1889 in Edmond, Oklahoma Territory. Some have suggested it may have been the first schoolhouse built after the Land Run on April 22, 1889. This Land Run was for the so-called Unassigned Lands. U.S. President Benjamin Harrison ‘opened’ the lands at noon on April 22, 1889 and approximately 200 people staked their claim in Edmond. Hundreds more went to Guthrie and Oklahoma (City) Station, but I’ll talk more about the Land Run in my post about the Oklahoma Territorial Museum (I’ll link it here when it’s finished!)

The Ladies School Aid Society organized in June 1889 to raise funds to build the school and hire a teacher. The Ladies School Aid Society purchased lumber on credit in Edmond, Oklahoma Territory to build the schoolhouse. Jennie Foster was the president of the society which had 15 members. Julia Pfaff, Ellen Wilderson, and Fannie Morrison were active members named in James L. Crowder’s The History of Edmond’s 1889 Schoolhouse (2011). These women were able to pay back the credit and raise money for the teacher’s salary. This was to be a free school for students to attend which wasn’t normal at this time, as most schools required some form of tuition. The first class took place on September 16, 1889 and was taught by Miss Ollie McCormick who was paid $30 per month ($240 per year).

The schoolhouse was repainted for the 1890 school year costing a total of $20 (that is roughly $630 today). Miss McCormick left after her first year in Edmond and three other people volunteered to take her place. Col. H.H. Moose, Lucy E. Twyford, and Phoeba L. Bowen would be the temporary instructors. Ten students graduated from the eighth and final grade in 1890 – so a graduation ceremony was held! How exciting! 🙂

This photograph was taken by Charles Dake in Edmond, Oklahoma in 1890. You can see from the image the location of the schoolhouse and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. (This church will be discussed further in my post about the Edmond Historical Society Museum so stay tuned for that!)
Photo taken at the Edmond Historical Society. There are copies of this photo at the schoolhouse, but I wasn’t able to get a picture there because the historical interpreters were using it.

In 1891, Lucy E. Twyford and Ethel Gregg were the schoolhouse teachers. A bell tower was added to the schoolhouse building in February – it weighted 325 pounds! It was added to the north end of the structure.

The building wasn’t large enough to accommodate all of the students and had to be expanded in 1892. A 24′ x 24′ addition was built on the south side of the building. It was now officially a two-room schoolhouse! Estella Thompson and Ida Belt were the new teachers.

Events at the Schoolhouse

In addition to holding classes, the schoolhouse was considered to be the center of the community and many meetings were held there. Church services, funerals, and weddings are just a handful of events that took place at the schoolhouse in addition to classes.

There are four recorded churches that met in the schoolhouse. The Methodist Episcopal Church began meeting on November 9, 1889. The Christian Church held their first meeting on January 19, 1890. The Presbyterian Church met for the first time on April 6, 1890. Finally, the Baptist Church began meeting on May 11, 1890. (Crowder, 5)

Selling the Schoolhouse

The schoolhouse was sold in 1899 and it became a private residence. Hardy “Pete” Anglea bought the schoolhouse and some of the surrounding area. He had the 1892 addition taken off of the building because he didn’t like. In 1903, he moved the ENTIRE building 50 feet to a new foundation. He also added some new windows to the building.

In April 1908, Daniel McGowan bought the building from Anglea.

W.G. Pledger bought the home in 1919 (I assume from Pledger, but I am not sure).

The final owner – P.R. Sanders – purchased the home in 1927 for his family. The Sanders family lived there for many years and eventually opened a business on the first floor in 1950. This was known as “Sanders Camera Shop.” The business closed in 1975 and the building sat empty for the next 25 years… Paul Sanders loved the building and didn’t want to sell it to someone who would just knock it down. Interestingly, Sanders didn’t know about the building’s history as the original schoolhouse. Keep reading to find out how they discovered the building’s unknown history!

Saving the Schoolhouse

Lucille Warrick is credited with discovering the schoolhouse’s history! It is believed the schoolhouse is the final structure built in 1889 that is still standing in Edmond and this made the preservation efforts so much more important. The city of Edmond began the process to acquire the building in 1998. Several companies and foundations made contributions to the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust to help purchase the building from Sanders. In May 2001, the building was officially purchased from the Sanders Family Trust for $100,000.

In 2001, the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust began renovating the building. The inside of the schoolhouse was discovered after years of being covered up by wallpaper. The original wall paint was made from burnt sweet potatoes and milk – that’s interesting. During the restoration process, the original blackboards were discovered on the walls (see photos below). This put to rest any claims that the building wasn’t the original schoolhouse! 

The restoration was finished in time for the Oklahoma Centennial Project by the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust in 2007. The schoolhouse was officially opened to the public for tours in 2007 as a result.

Concluding Thoughts

The 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond, Oklahoma was a cool place to visit. The historical interpreters working were very kind and gave a presentation for all visitors who came through the door. They personalized their presentation based on the knowledge you had when you came in the door. It was very cool! I hope you’ll go check this place out!

Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

Visit

124 East 2nd Street

Edmond, OK 73034

TRAVEL TIP: The 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse is open on most Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. in the afternoons. Admission is free!

Sources

James L. Crowder. “The History of Edmond’s 1889 Schoolhouse.” Edmond Historic Preservation Trust. (2011).

“Welcome to Edmond’s 1889 Schoolhouse” – Flyer/Handout

Edmond Historical Society – Website

Edmond Historic Preservation Trust – Website

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