Darlington Mission School
|Darlington Mission School|
|Building Style||Cottage Plan|
|Location||Darlington, OK (near present El Reno, OK)|
Established as the first Mennonite Mission (partly supported by the Federal Gov) in the country, in 1880. The Mission School was founded by German Mennonite missionary Rev. Samuel S. Haury and his wife Susanna. The school building as completed was a large 2-story wood-frame building painted white.
Rev. Haury gave Sunday services to adults and children alike, but these services eventually turned to be all white gatherings, as Haury only spoke English and found preaching through an interpreter "does not have a sense for the truth and whose life stands in contradiction with the same, & often does more harm than good." To illustrate his point with the difficulties of the language, Haury gave an example that appeared in the November 1880 issue of the Nachrichten. "In order to express the word God, they have the word Tschaba Nihaathu (Tschaba = above; Nihaathu = white man) "the white man above". The expression is decidedly wrong, as the Indian sees in the white man only his blackmailer and oppressor." The main intent of the missionaries was to work with the Arapaho children and through them bring the adults to Christianity; teachings are recorded as having covered Christian idiology, Biblical history, and Sunday School. English was the only language allowed on campus, braids were cut off, and native garb was not allowed.
Then in February of 1882 on the night of the 19th, a very cold and stormy night, the mission building burned down. Four little children, including the Haurys' 9-month old son, Carl, and three half Indian, half white children (Jenny, Walter, and Emil) that the Haurys had taken into their home, died in the fire. The Haurys lost everything. In a special report published by the Nachrichten aus der Heidenwelt Haury wrote, "What my heart felt with a look at these 4 little corpses and everything that was connected, I am not able to say. One must be led in such depths of sorrow and pain in order to grasp it." After the fire the school continued in tents provided by the commander at Fort Reno and proposed that a new building made from bricks should be constructed.
By December 1882, a new brick Mission had been built, ($5000 of the $7000 appropriated by Congress, the remaining $2000 from Mennonite donations) complete with "kitchen and dining-room in the basement, a school-room and three private rooms on the first, five rooms on the second floor, and two dormitories in the garret." At this time they had 25 enrolled students; less than they could potentially hold in the new building. They implemented farming lessons for the boys, and kitchen and household lessons for the girls. Children were taught "the value of money."
1883 saw the Haurys move to Cantonment (another Mennonite Mission located close by in present Canton, OK) and Albert E. Funk placed in charge at Darlington. The following year Funk transferred to Cantonment and H. R. Voth became the superintendent at Darlington. V. R. Roth and his wife had come to Darlington in 1882 to begin an evening school for adults. Life at the Mission School at this time was praised far and above over childrens' life at one of the Federal Boarding Schools in the area, like the Cheyenne Indian Boarding School & the Arapaho Indian Boarding School. The mission work continued on for the next several years as it had in the first five. The quarterly reports indicated much sickness among the Indians, frequent loss of interpreters (usually young people who had gone to Carlisle, the Indian industrial school in Pennsylvania, and, after a brief time back in Indian Territory, returned to camp life and were no longer interested in either interpreting, teaching the language to the missionaries, or further Christianization).
In 1887 Voth wrote "that with the breaking up of the tribal relation of these Indians a great many of their old customs will be discontinued." This complaint came in response to a return by the Arapaho to their medicine dances which had been on the increase and drawing more and more Natives in the area. In the winter of 1890-1891, the Ghost Dance movement had spread to the Arapaho in Indian Territory and the result for the Mennonite missionaries was fewer children in attendance at their schools. Whereas the Darlington school had been running at or near capacity with between 45-50 students, in the fall of 1890, there were only thirty-five. Finally in June of 1888 the Mennonite mission had baptized its first convert to Christianity; a young girl, 17 year old Maggie Leonard.
In his 1891 third quarter report, Voth noted that much more effort and money was being placed into the government schools than had been previously. The Arapaho government school was to be improved and a large government school erected within the Seger Colony. Obtaining and keeping students had become increasingly difficult since 1887, and the "Rules in Regard to Attendance of Indian Youth at School" passed by Congress in the Indian Appropriation Act of March 3, 1891 and printed in the 1891 Commissioner's report began to effect the small Darlington School. "The chief cause of this difficulty seems to be, that the government schools at Darlington have both been greatly enlarged and that the government officials, as is quite natural, endeavor to have these filled with pupils first. The consequence is, that a portion of our former pupils have been persuaded to attend the government school instead of coming back to our mission school." wrote J. S. Krehbiel, the superintendent.
When in 1892 the number of pupils for the Darlington school was so small that the school didn't open, the Mission Board considered several options, including: a) an orphanage; b) a hospital; c) a home for older Indian boys and girls who have returned from school in order to assist them in establishing themselves in life; d) to take Negro children into the school. The last named plan seemed for a while the most practicable but finally the Government would not consent to the change and so this plan must be abandoned the idea of converting the school building into a hospital for sick and disabled Indians was carried out only in limited fashion to the extent that a room was arranged and furnished and a man appointed to care for sick Indians.
In 1893 the Darlington school opened again but with only 14 students the following year, the numbers were almost double, up to an average attendance of 27 students. But the government continued to decrease the amount of money appropriated for schools under private control. Reports for spring 1894 tell much the same story. Twenty pupils were enrolled, although only fourteen were present. Three of the absent students were ill.
BY 1897 Government monetary and ration support had completely ceased, and the new superintendent Edward H. Haury wrote "it seems difficult to continue the mission school in Darlington, and considering that the results attained through the school there seem to be out of proportion with the cost and the work required."
In June 1898 the school at Darlington was closed and never again reopened. In November 1898, A. B. Shelly, editor of the Mission Department of The Mennonite and Secretary of the Mission Board wrote an editorial entitled, Our Indian Mission—Its Present Needs, in which he said: "Not unfrequently the Missionboard has been hampered in its work on account of an insufficient number of workers. It was on this account mainly that the Board felt itself obliged to discontinue the school at Darlington. And although the Board has decided to retain the station as a mission station, by stationing a missionary there, it has thus far been unable to find the proper person for that position. Should our efforts in this direction prove as unavailing in the future as they have in the past, the Board will no doubt be obliged, against its will, to relinguish this station entirely."
The Darlington site has had a cherished history since it's closing in 1898. In 1909 it became a Masonic home, of which the 1913 chapel still remains; in 1923 it was taken over by the Oklahoma Narcotics Institution; and the Oklahoma Wildlife Dept. operated it from 1932-1996. It is now the Ag. Ed. and Applied Science building in the Darlington School District in El Reno, Oklahoma.