Schools - Alumni
Kathy Stevenson Howry
with Linda Thompson Crownover
McLish -- The name that strikes a sentimental chord on the heartstrings of so many of us ...but long before there was a McLish, there were other communities and schools nearby which had been in existence for over 40 years. These early communities inhabited by staunch pioneers in the Indian Territory, were the beginnings of places dear to the heart of many of us.
One such community was Onward located just to the southeast of McLish. It was due east of the Walker Wyche homestead, the original land then being assigned Indian land. The exact location of Onward School was the NW1/4 of the NE1/4, section 5, 1N, 7E. My mother Jessie Oglesby Stevenson, spoke fondly of "Old Onward". She attended Onward as early as 1905 being then 7 years of age. Her parents, James R. and Minnie Lee (Fuller) Oglesby, homesteaded 60 acres of unassigned Indian land just 1/4 mile due south of the school. She remembered that J.J. Townsend was the teacher there for many years.
The record books in the Pontotoc county courthouse show the first bonded debt of the Onward School District was issued July 17, 1911. The amount was $800.00, to run through July 17, 1931, at 6% rate of interest. The second bonded debt occurred April 10, 1917, with the amount being $1500.00 to run through Jan. 1937- rate of interest 6%.
The first school census taken of Onward School district was taken of the school year ending June 30, 1912, showing a total of ninety-six students. The earliest Pontotoc County School Yearbook kept by county superintendent, A. Floyd, began in 1917-1918. It gave the following information for Onward for this school term:
Assessed value of personal property: $15,630
Real estate: $35,680
School board officers: C B. Mack, J.B. Howell and L.L. Alford.
Teachers: Mrs. Nellie Bough: salary, $85.00 per month. Anna Cottingham, salary, $65.00 per month.
Expenses for year: $860.00 (times have changed a little, huh?)
Other early teachers of Onward School were Mr. J.J Townsend, Jesse Brown, Francis Hooks and Lillie Perry.
The last census was taken in Jan 1935, with 120 students being enumerated. The Onward School building was dismantled and was used to build the home-economics building on the McLish campus in the summer of 1937. I remember being surprised one day when my mother told me, as we were passing the home-ec building, “Katherine, I attended school in that building for many years when it was "Old Onward.”
Another community with an interesting history is Franks, established in 1897 by B F. "Frank" Byrd when he bought the old mill from the Rev. J.R. Harden. Franks School was probably organized ca 1900-1905. Included in the photo section of this history are pictures of the 1906, 1907 and 1910 classes of Franks School, Mr. J.J. Townsend, teacher. The early schools were called subscription schools which meant that parents paid a certain amount of tuition before a child could attend. The official Franks School property was purchased for $25.00 from B.F. and Maime Byrd: Lots 5-6-7 of Block 19 of Franks; also 2-3-4 of block 20 of Franks. The first recorded bond issue was made June 11, 1909, in the amount of $1,000- rate of interest - 6%. The earliest school census reported was for 1912. There were 53 white male students, 47 white female students, 9 negro males and 8 negro females, making a total of 117 students.
Following is the record of the 1917-1918 school year at Franks:
with average daily attendance of only 40.
School Board officers: R L Hargis, T.W. Norris, and J.E. Craddock.
Teachers were J.J. Townsend with a salary of $100.00 a month and Marnie Honrahan, $50.00 a month.
Total expenses for the year were $800.00
Some of the other early teachers of Franks School were B.A. Howard, Mable Clark, A.L. Billingsley, and Mrs. A.L. Billingsley.
High school students of both districts went by bus to Stonewall.
The last school census for the Franks School District #39 was taken in 1935, showing a total of 289 students. Franks had been a thriving community for many years, supporting several stores (my grandfather, Robert H. Fuller owned a dry goods store in the early 1900s It was burned one night by some drunks. It was located just west of Lea's Park) a post office from Feb. 1, 1894, to Aug. 15, 1932. (my uncle, Dan Bradshaw, was the postmaster) two blacksmith shops, and a hotel(see Juanita Townsend's story for more info on Franks.)
When the oil boom came, Fittstown Townsite opened on Aug. 14, 1934, and was named for John Fitts, geologist. At this time, there was a population of 1,002; however, there were 5,000 residents in the Fitts Oil Field Proper. Fittstown now had a U.S. Post Office, electric lights, water works, telephone system, natural gas, ice plant, Baptist church, Methodist church, newspaper and 125 growing business concerns. Fittstown became a municipality May 5, 1935, with a town government being set up. Mrs. Jane Shaw, J.D. Braly, Roscoe Simpkins and Frank Bond were city managers. Mr. Braly was chosen mayor, and Mrs. Shaw, clerk.
The need quickly arose for new and larger school buildings since the present schools of Franks and Onward were only four rooms. They had served well the needs of the early pioneers, mostly farmers and ranchers, but now, they no longer could accommodate the influx of students of the oil field workers. Franks and Onward were Union Graded on June 11, 1935, to become U.G. District 2. The Fittstown Herald of June 25, 1935, in speaking of the school facilities printed the following articles: on June 11, the legal voters of the district met at the First Baptist Church at Fittstown and participated in an election of school trustees.
The meeting was called to order by Otto Strickland, who was chosen chairman by acclamation, as was also Lester Watson for secretary, and Glen Borin, assistant chairman. In the election which followed, Q.B. Mitchell was re-elected director by 252 votes. Ralph Moore of the Main Cafe, a new member of the board, also received 252 votes. For clerk Geo. D. Wood of Moore's Camp polled 219 votes while George McDonald, his opponent, received 28 votes. "The Fitts Oil Field is going to have adequate facilities for the children of oil field workers by the time school is scheduled to open. This was decisively decided at the bond election for $18,500.00 bonds which was held from 2 o'clock to 6 o'clock at the Baptist Church Monday, June 24, 1935, The enormous majority piled up for the bond issue is ample evidence that the citizens of the school district realize to the fullest that the welfare of the children in Fitts Oil Field was of more importance to the citizens than a few paltry dollars in taxes."
The Ada Evening news of July 21, 1935, printed the following: "The entire project of building the schools for the newly formed district will cost $65,000, according to Albert S. Ross, architect. They expect to get a WPA Grant of 45% of the cost. A bond issue of $18,500 was voted on in June to aid in the construction and a recent donation of $12,200 by E. H. Moore w111 be added to help supply the balance."
The name chosen for this UG2 was MCLISH named for one of the geological oil formations of that area. The oil formation is thought to have been named for the McLish Ranch, located in the southern part of Oklahoma. My research has produced R. L. McLish, a 1/ Chickasaw Indian, who lived near Ardmore, I.T. in 1900. He was at one time very active in the government of the Chickasaws Nation. He had a son, Richard, born In 1886 who was most likely the owner of the McLish Ranch.
The new district, UG2 McLish, contained 23.5 square miles. After the new district was formed, it became necessary to choose a location for the new schools. Elementary wing schools were built at Fittstown and Harden City. The surface rights for the Fittstown building were donated by Mr. P.A. Norris of Ada. Mr. and Mrs. George Smith of Onward donated the surface rights for Harden city and McLish. The big decision to be made was: where to build the new high school. The pressure was on to build at Fittstown. But through the concertive extorts of Mr. J. C. Ross, a Harden City grocer man, the school personnel decided to build between the two wing schools. The real estate conveyance made on July 11, 1935, recorded on pages 240 and 241 of Book 195, shows George E. Smith and his wife Julie May, grantor, for the sum of one dollar sold to Union Graded School district #2 in Pontotoc Country, 2 tracts of land: one located in Section 36, township 2 N, R 7 E, and the other: section 31: township 2 N, R 7 E.
In the 1935-36 school year, under the capable leadership of J.W. Owens, superintendent, and Joe Holmes, principal, wing grade buildings were completed at Fittstown and Harden City. School was conducted in the local church buildings until the two buildings were finished, which was about one month after the term began. The first school bus drivers were B.J. Howard and Chick Brannon. B.J. stated that they began Sept. 3rd or 5th of 1935. Grades 1-6 were moved into the two wing schools. The high school students went to the original Franks building while the 7th and 8th grade remained in the Onward building. Enrollment was 402 students. The real generosity of the oil men and companies came to the aid of the new system by providing free gas for the buildings, lights, drinking fountains, flag poles, much playground equipment and furnishings. An active PTA also helped where needed.
Mrs. Townsend made a comment that when the oil field came in 1934-35, they started with 2 teachers. By the end of the year classrooms were running over. In 1935 they built Harden City and Fittstown Grade schools. High school was in the Franks building. She had 69 students. They took 24 and moved to Franks. she was left with 45 students, and she was afraid she would get fired because she didn't have enough to do.
The McLish School building was ready for occupancy after the first six weeks of school in 1936. Mr. Joe Holmes was now superintendent. The gym and auditorium were added during the year. We are including portions of the first school annual, The Oiler 1937, courtesy of Neil Northcutt. We are very grateful and thrilled that he had these and that McLish faculty had the foresight to publish one even in the school's infancy. It is a very good yearbook with valuable history of the first year at the new McLish School – a very up-to-date-school system for the time, with many extra-curricula activities, some of which have long since ceased to exist. Some of these were Year Book Staff, Dramatics Club, Debate Club, Camp Fire, Band, Girls' and Boys' Glee Club. It seems that when the oil production declined in the early '40s, which brought about the elimination of some of the extra-curricular activities. The production of a yearbook was discontinued until the 1960s.
Some of the subjects taught during these first few years were: business math, bookkeeping, typing, commercial law, speech, general history, modern history, civics, music, biology, plane geometry, general science, geography, composite math, algebra, girls' glee club, accounting, theory of music, shop, English, agriculture, physical geography, democracy, Oklahoma history, and home-economics.
The enrollment for the 1937-19389 school term showed 1,134 students grades 1-12. The 1938-1939 term produced the highest enrollment in the history of the school with 1,325 students (this number was slightly smaller at the beginning of the 1938 term, but evidently more students came after the beginning, according to the records in the county superintendent's office.); however, by 1939-40, enrollment had dropped to less than 1,000. The school census of 1940-41 showed only 776 students. Over the years, several schools have been annexed to the McLish School District. The entire school district of #56 Blue Mound was attached to McLish School District on June 18, 1943. Later several more school districts were consolidated. They were: Pleasant Hill, District * 42, on July 2, 1948, Part of Jesse on July 5, 1957; part of Fitzhugh on July 8, 1964, and finally part of Pontotoc District #D-43: on Aug. 21, 1970.
The school board decided in 1947 to move the Harden City wing school to the McLish campus. The Fittstown building was moved to Ada, where it was converted into an apartment building In the 200 block of E. 16th. This building still exists at that location, but has had some additions since being moved.
In March, 1951 the P.T.A. organized an alumni association at McLish. At the first meeting, Mrs.Charles Auten nominated Harlan Turner to serve as temporary chairman. A motion was made by Wilma Lackey to form an Alumni Association of McLish High School. Bill Thompson suggested that we elect permanent officers, and not just temporary. Mrs. Auten nominated Bill Thompson for precedent. He was elected by acclamation. Marian Turner made the motion to elect Norman Crosson as vice-presidnet. Norman was elected by acclamation. Wilma Lackey was elected as the secretary. The group decided to have the banquet on June 2nd in the gymnasium. Lucllle Auten was elected as banquet chairman. She then appointed a commjtttee of six people: Marion Turner, Betty Rae Thompson Rogers, Shirley Doolittle, Pete Hobgood Evelyn Stone, and Linda Deleplain. The theme for the first alumni banquet wax "Spring." After the election of officers, several alumni presented a program with Dr. Carl Osborn as the main speaker. The first banquet was held on June 2, 1951. These first officers did a magnificent job in organizing and planning, with 72 people in attendance. We are thankful for the foresight of those P.T.A. Members, though they remain unnamed, and are indebted to them for their concern and help in organizing our alumni association. Mrs. Osborn reports that there are only three of the parents surviving of the original ones who helped organize the PTA: Mr. and Mrs. Murl Osborn and Mr. Carlton Corbin.
The McLish School buildings remain in good repair today. Many changes have taken place--additions, remodeling, revamping-- but no matter how many physical changes have been made, those of us who remain sentimental in our "olden days" still walk through those hallowed halls and remember those days of our youth when all seemed to be well with the world. I can almost hear the assertive but calm voice of Mr. McKeel("Did you get that algebra homework?"), the wonderful pep talks of Mrs. Sales, ("Now come on girls, you can learn this new Warm-up:screen, screen, in!"), the stern but caring voice of Mr. Pannell on the first day of school, as he stared at me from down the hall, and I worried about what I had done. ("You must be Clara Stevenson Thompson's daughter," he said. "You look a lot like her." With relief and a great deal of pride, I answered, "No, but I am her neice."), the sweet grammar lectures of Mrs. Jamar, ("Students, you must learn to use good grammar in order to succeed in life") I specifically remember Maurice Howell, having been away at college, coming into her classroom one day during my class to hug Mrs. Jamar and to say, "Thank you, Mrs. Jamar, for demanding excellence. I may not have appreciated you then, but I certainly do now.") the cautious voice of Mrs. Shipman, ("Now, girls, are you sure you only measured one teaspoon of soda, not two, and who ate all the cheese?") Those were the good old days!!!
With the unselfish support of a caring community, McLish has weathered many changes but has always been progressive. "A motto we like to go by," stated J.E. Pryor, present school superintendent, "is that we are big enough to challenge, but small enough to care." (PEC newsletter)
School has been blessed with many excellent teachers and administrators.
They were and are career people, concerned with providing the best education
possible. I remember being shocked (and pleased) In Dr. Baker's freshman
English class at ECSC when be remarked one day, "Kathy, you must have
graduated from McLish. They have excellent teachers there." Needless
to say, this comment bolstered the confidence of this scared little country
girl loom McLish,
SUPERINTENDENTS OF THE MCLISH SCHOOL SYSTEM
|MR. J.W. OWENS||Aug 1935 - May 1936|
|MR. JOE HOLMES||Aug 1936 - May 1940|
|MR. DALE ROGERS||Aug 1940 - May 1943|
|MR. BEN WEAVER||Aug 1943 - May 1944|
|MR. J.N. MCKEEL||Aug 1944 - May 1952|
|MR. H.L. MITCHUSSON||Aug 1952 - May 1955|
|MR. J.D. ENIS||Aug 1955 - May 1968|
|MR. JON ROSS||Aug 1968 - May 1969|
|MR. BILL SCOTT||Aug 1969 - May 1980|
|MR. J.E. “Woody” PRYOR||Aug 1980 -|