Whitaker State Children's Home

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Whitaker State Children's Home
Opened 1897
Current Status Active
Building Style Single Building
Alternate Names
  • East Oklahoma State Orphanage
  • Whitaker State Home
  • Thunderbird Military Youth Academy


Opened in 1897 by area trading post owner William T. Whitaker and his wife, Stacy, the orphanage became the first in Oklahoma Territory for homeless white children. The Whitakers gave their home and farm to Oklahoma at statehood for an orphanage. The first building or what was the administration building (a three-story stone, built in 1907), handled most of the needs until statehood. It was located on forty acres of land, being a part of the Whitaker allotment.

When the Cherokee Orphan Home burned in 1903, Mr. Whitaker then opened the doors of his home to the homeless Cherokees of the territory. Although crowded conditions prevailed, the children, with Federal aid, were cared for by donations & a working farm until statehood came and the home was converted to the East Oklahoma State Orphanage in 1908.

In 1911, the main campus consisted of 40-acres, a 320-acre farm, 14 buildings housing 287 children and 25 staff. By 1943 the number of children approached 350. In 1950 a modern "milking barn", accommodating 120 Holstien cows. In 1954 a swimming pool was constructed. For 30 years, Whitaker State Orphanage produced boxing & basketball programs.

Whitaker State Orphanage was later named Whitaker State Home and grew to populations of more than 500 before the 1960s, when it began taking in the state's troubled juveniles and became a detention center.

The home in 1962 switched roles from the care of orphaned children to juvenile-delinquent supervision. And in 1983 the property was transferred to the Oklahoma Military Department, who to this day rents the property to "Thunderbird Military Youth Academy", a modern reform school for "troubled" teen boys.

The 1983 auction papers state for sale "640 acres of land which includes the 40-acre campus, 50-75 buildings, a meat packing plant, and 556 acres of farming land."