Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Development of early Frederick Schools

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, May 24, 2011
The first Frederick High School nears completion in 1908 at 300 East Grand (site of current middle school building)
Early buildings served Frederick students
When Vol. II of the Tillman County History was published in 1978, a comprehensive early history of the Frederick School District was written for the book by longtime Frederick educator Estelle Faulconer and former superintendent Prather Brown.
Following are excerpts from their work, explaining location and construction of school buildings in Frederick’s earliest decades.
“The public schools of Frederick were organized in 1903 in the little town of Hazel, with one teacher and very few students. Early in the history of the district, the school building was moved from Hazel to Frederick and an addition built, making it a commodious six-room building. Professor A.A. Rogers, county superintendent, became the school’s first administrator.”
“In 1906 W.T. Dodson became superintendent of schools, which by then included 339 pupils and six teachers. The school grew rapidly and it was decided to build a central high school building on a site a bit north of where the school from Hazel had been relocated. (This was in the 300 block of East Grand Avenue where the present junior high school [currently Frederick Middle School] now stands). During the erection of this building, the school board rented a hall and some offices in the business section of the town, and the high school and eighth grade classes were conducted there.
“One of the early-day teachers, Anne D. Caldwell, 1905-06-07, remembers teaching in a concrete block building on the southeast corner of North 9th Street and Floral Avenue“ [current site of Benson Law Firm].
“While classes were being held downtown, the course of high school study was increased from two to four years.
“After completion of the new high school building [at 300 E. Grand], the old building was moved across the Frisco tracks and used for a ward building in the west part of Frederick. During the school year 1909-10, the enrollment grew to 1,100, and it was decided to build two other ward buildings, one in the south and one in the north part of town.
“Lowell School was built in the 800 block between North 12th and 13th Streets in 1911. Whittier School was built in the 500 block between South 12th and 13th Streets in 1911. [NOTE: This location as cited in the Tillman County History, Vol. II is incorrect. The original Whittier School was actually located in the 500 block between South 13th and 14th Streets. It occupied the whole block. When the "new" Whittier was constructed in mid-1950s, it was built at the same location but occupied only half the block.]. 
"When west ward patrons complained that they had only the frame school building, the district voted $5,000 in bonds and Emerson School was built in the 500 block between North 3rd and 4th in 1914.”
The second Frederick High School (later Central Elementary) was completed in 1923 at South 12th and Dahlia.
“As enrollment in the high school continued to increase, the old high school building became inadequate, and plans for the erecting of a new high school were made. This allowed the former high school to become a junior high. The last class to graduate from the old high school building was the Class of 1922.”
“The site chosen for the new high school was south of the old school… on South 12th Street facing Dahlia Avenue.
“The new building was completed in 1923. That year’s seniors transferred from the old building and were the first to graduate from the new high school. [NOTE: this is the building that we know as Central Grade School]
“The 1923 graduation class left as a memorial a full-size statue of George Washington which stood on a pedestal by the south door of the stage in the auditorium. One of the pranks played on George was to place a ragged straw hat on his head. The effect was quite humorous.
Frederick Middle School building soon after its completion in 1938
“This building served as a high school until 1950 when the present high school [at North 15th and Gladstone] was completed.” At that time the building at South 12th and Dahlia became Central Grade School.
“In 1938 when W.P.A. projects were available, the present Frederick Junior High [currently Frederick Middle School] building was built with the help of the federal government.”

Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at tillmanokhistory@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First Lowell and Whittier Schools

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, May 17, 2011
Boys play football at the North Ward Lowell School, Frederick, in the 1940s
 Click on photos to see larger.

First ward schools were at different sites

Whoops. Sometimes, in the course of writing this column, I get something wrong. That’s easy to do when the subject is history, but some good folks usually let me know when they are sure that I have stated a fact incorrectly. I like that.
A few weeks ago when I wrote about the May Day festivities at the old North Ward Lowell School, I stated that the school was located at the site of present-day Frederick Elementary on North 15th Street.  As a matter of fact, I had assumed that when the “new” Lowell School and the “new” Whittier School were built in the mid-1950s, they had been built at the sites of the previous schools that bore these names.
Several folks called or e-mailed me to tell me that was not the case. In fact, the old North Ward Lowell School, a two-story brick building constructed in 1911, was located in the 800 block between North 12th and North 13th Street.
I received a couple of nice e-mails from Paul Nicholson who wrote the following about the first Lowell School:
Photo of Mrs. Arthur Kelly's class shows fire escape in background

“Actually the old school was on 13th Street. I went there for my 6th grade which was the last year it was open. It covered the whole block except for one house which housed Shoemaker's candy store where I bought all those great old bubblegum baseball cards and failed to keep them.”
“It was a two story brick building with big round enclosed fire slides from the 2nd floor. We used to climb up them and slide back down. I finished the 6th grade in May 1950 and they tore it down shortly thereafter. It seems all the kids went to Central Grade for a few years as the 6th grade was in junior high.”
“I think maybe at first they thought they could handle all the kids in Central Grade, but shortly decided to build North and South Ward for the first five grades”
It was in 1950 that the high school moved to the present school campus at 15th and Gladstone and the former high school building became Central Grade School.
The “new” Lowell School was built on 15th Street in the mid-‘50s and currently serves as the Frederick School District’s administration office. The current Frederick Elementary School was built next to the administration office in 1997.
According to The Tillman County History, Vol. II (1978), the original South Ward Whittier School, a two story brick building that was similar to the first Lowell, was also located at a site different site than the “new” Whittier, built in the mid-1950s.
The history book says, “Whittier School was built in the 500 block between South 12th and South 13th Street in 1911.”
The new Whittier School, a “modern” four classroom layout, was built at a site in the 500 block of South 14th Street.
Next week, we’ll look at a comprehensive history of early school buildings in Frederick.
         Numerous photos of the North Ward Lowell School follow:
Lowell Students circa 1912-1914.
Lowell Students, 1924-25
Legendary Frederick educator Blanche Hall served at teacher and principal at Lowell in 1945.

Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at tillmanokhistory@gmail.com.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Berry launched School Foundation

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, May 10, 2011
Frederick Elementary students helped Clara Berry celebrate her 96th birthday in January 1989.
Click photos to see larger

Clara Berry gave lasting gift to Frederick

The most special gifts are those that keep on giving.
That’s the kind of gift that Clara Berry gave to the citizens of Frederick in 1987.
Gilbert and Clara Berry
In the mid-1980s Frederick voters failed to pass a school bond issue that would have built a much-needed high school library. Mrs. Berry, then a resident of Pioneer Manor Nursing Home, offered to donate money to build the library. She was a former educator and she knew that libraries are important.
In stature, Mrs. Berry was a very small lady. She and her husband Gilbert had lived quietly in Frederick for about 60 years until his death in 1983. After his death, she had sold her home on North 12th Street and gone to the nursing home to live.
Mrs. Berry grew up south of Gillett, Arkansas, where her father, Dr. J.A. Hudson, was a prominent physician. Her mother died when she was very young. Clara was the oldest of four children.
She was educated at a private boarding school in Memphis and became a teacher and later a school principal in Arkansas.
In the early 1920s she came to southwest Oklahoma to teach at Randlett. At Randlett she met Gilbert Berry who worked at the First National Bank there.
Clara Berry as a young woman
Soon after their marriage the Berrys moved to Frederick. Mrs. Berry gave up her teaching career to be a housewife, and Mr. Berry worked as an accountant and bookkeeper for numerous Frederick businesses.
The Berrys lived simply, and they did so by choice. They never owned a car or a television. Their home was not air-conditioned. They ate simple, healthy foods and most days they went to the grocery store to buy just what they needed for that day.
At his death Mr. Berry, the careful accountant, left many pocket journals, each listing in careful detail their daily living expenses – what they bought and what each item cost. They spent their money carefully and wisely.
They had no children, although several nieces and nephews visited occasionally. Eventually, Mrs. Berry’s sister Ina Hudson came to Frederick from Arkansas to make her home with the Berrys.
Gilbert Berry died in November 1983 at age 94. Clara Berry’s sister Ina died in June 1985 at age 86.
Instead of being sad about her life at Pioneer Manor, Mrs. Berry viewed those years as a time of service. She was always positive and giving, and she liked to help other residents.
To structure Mrs. Berry’s donation to the Frederick Schools for construction of the library, the Frederick School Enrichment Foundation was created in 1987. Among the first Foundation trustees were Homer Tilley, a longtime Frederick insurance agent and Berry family friend; Howard McBee, longtime Frederick attorney; and Loyd Benson.
Clara Berry with one of her classes
Superintendent of Frederick Schools at that time was Tony Risinger. Mike Hagy served as high school principal.
Whenever Mrs. Berry discussed her donation for the library, she would often point out that it was not “her” money. It was primarily money that she had inherited from her father’s estate. She did not consider herself a wealthy woman.
Plans for the new high school library and computer lab were drawn by Oklahoma City architect Paul Meyer. During the building’s construction, Mrs. Berry was briefed on its progress and she was excited to see it slowly become a reality. During this time, she received countless cards and visits from Frederick students, thanking her for her generous gift. There is no doubt that it was a high point of her life. She loved every card and visit.
Gilbert Berry worked at the Randlett bank in the 1920s
As the library neared completion in May 1989, Mrs. Berry was very ill. She knew that she was dying.
During the days prior to the new library’s dedication, with the building not quite complete, Clara Berry was brought to the new building by ambulance. She was rolled through the building on a stretcher so that she could see the project that had brought her such joy – her gift to Frederick. She was pleased.
Fourth District Congressman Dave McCurdy was featured speaker at the building’s dedication later that week. Clara Berry was not able to attend.
She died on a Sunday morning, just days after the new library was dedicated. She was 96 years old.
The Berrys are buried at an old family cemetery south of Gillett, Arkansas, near the place where Clara Hudson Berry was raised.
Today one wall of the Gilbert and Clara Berry Library at Frederick High School contains photos and artifacts from the Berrys’ lives. Prominent is a wonderful portrait of the couple that was taken by Richard Tomlinson at their home on North 12th Street.
The display also contains photos of the Berrys from when they were young and from their careers in early education and banking.
In addition, the wall display contains plaques and awards that Mrs. Berry received from local and state organizations in recognition of her wonderful gift.

The Gift Keeps Giving
Mrs. Berry bequeathed part of her estate to the Frederick School Enrichment Foundation.
Each year at graduation, the Frederick School Enrichment Foundation gives the Clara Berry Twentieth Century Award and scholarship to one outstanding student. The award is the continuation of a tradition begun in 1918 by Frederick physician Dr. L.A. Mitchell and then assumed for decades by Frederick’s Twentieth Century Club.
The Frederick School Enrichment Foundation, established in 1987 by Clara Berry, is governed by a board of community trustees. It is not part of the Frederick Public School District, but works to supplement or enhance education for Frederick students.
It operates with donations from individuals and businesses, and interest from the Foundation endowment.
For more than two decades the Foundation has provided many thousands of dollars in grants to Frederick teachers for educational projects, enhancements to school facilities, and important educational supplies and equipment – things that the school would not have otherwise been able to provide.
Most recently the Foundation has provided funding for school libraries, science labs, and the Frederick School District’s artist-in-residence program.
Clara Berry’s gift keeps on giving.
NOTE: Donations to the Frederick School Enrichment Foundation can be made at Benson Law Firm, N. 9th and Floral, or mailed to P.O. Box 486, Frederick, OK 73542. The Frederick School Enrichment Foundation is a 501-C-3 organization. Contributions to the Foundation are tax-deductible.

Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at tillmanokhistory@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tornado brought death and destruction

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, May 3, 2011
Scene from downtown Snyder after the 1905 tornado.
1905 Tornado devastated Snyder

Spring of 1905 saw both celebration and tragedy in our area of Oklahoma Territory.
In May 1905, only one month after the area’s citizens greeted President Theodore Roosevelt on his arrival in Frederick for his famous wolf hunt, the town of Snyder was devastated by a massive tornado. The May 10, 1905 tornado claimed at least 97 lives and stands as one of the worst natural disasters in Oklahoma’s history.
In 1963 area historian Hugh D. Corwin, secretary of the Great Plains Historical Association, wrote about the Snyder tornado based primarily on 1905 Lawton newspaper accounts of the disaster.
Following is an excerpt from Corwin’s work:

The history of the south Kiowa County town of Snyder divides itself into two parts, “before cyclone” and “after cyclone.” In order to appreciate the courage and rugged tenacity of the citizens of Snyder, it might be well to first give an account of the great tornado which all but demolished the flourishing town on May 10, 1905.
At this time the population was estimated at about 1,200. The Frisco Railroad had built a round house and shops in the northeast part of the town. A large cotton compress, several gins, numerous lumber yards, feed yard, hotels and more than a hundred business buildings, along with several hundred dwellings made up the rapidly growing town, which was in the center of a good farming area. Snyder had become a railroad center, as two Frisco lines crossed there and freight as well as passenger traffic was heavy.
At 8:45 p.m. May 10, 1905, a great whirling, black, funnel-shaped cloud roared in from the southwest. In a few brief but terrible moments, the town of Snyder was wiped out. “The State Democrat”, a newspaper published at Lawton the next morning, May 11, 1905, carried big black headlines.

“A cyclone struck Snyder 33 miles west of here about 9 o’clock last night, leaving death and destruction in its wake. It was undoubtedly the worst storm ever witnessed in this section of the country, and hundreds of citizens of Lawton watched the storm last night.” (the writer, then nine years old, watched the terrifying electrical display, following this cyclone. The display lasted more than four hours. We watched it from the steps of our farm home storm-cellar.).

“The storm played havoc of death with Snyder. Although a distance of over 30 miles lay between Lawton and Snyder, the electrical features of the storm were so furious that it formed a grand but frightful spectacle for the people of Lawton who watched it with breathless awe.”
“Early this morning came a call for medical aid, saying that Snyder had been completely wiped out by a cyclone and that 400 persons had been killed and wounded.” (This proved to be too large an estimate). “Every physician in Lawton that could get away responded to the call and a special train was hurried to the horrible scene of destruction. Later another train pulled out from here with two or three hundred persons aboard, and the regular west-bound passenger train due here at 1:15 p.m. came in loaded with hundreds of persons anxious to get to Snyder, many of them having friends or relatives there.”
“Deputy Clerk of the District Court, A.C. Dolde was on the train, anxious to reach Snyder, where his wife and children were. A Miss Ralston, of Altus, was also on the train, she having received a dispatch from Altus that her father, J.B. Ralston, and her brother, Fred Ralston, were both killed in the storm at Snyder.”
“The Frisco Agent at Snyder, J.M. Egan, together with his entire family were killed, as also were the local manager of the telephone line and the girl employed in the telephone exchange. The telephone and telegraph lines were blown down, and it was impossible to get news direct from Snyder until about noon, when the general manager of the telephone line, telephoned the State Democrat, that, as the result of the cyclone, 82 people were killed outright and 200 injured, many of the latter being in dying condition, and not a building left standing in the town. He further stated that no calls would be received over the line for Snyder, as the company was in no position to handle the business.”
“The State Democrat sent a reporter to Snyder early this morning, who has been there the greater portion of the day, but owing to the inability to get wire service it has been impossible up to this hour to get a report from him.”
“At 3 p.m. today (May 11) The State Democrat was telephoned from Snyder, that the number killed was 83 and from 150 to 200 injured, many of them fatally.”
Then followed a long list of the dead and injured who had been identified.
“Every building north of the Frisco tracks, including the cotton compress and the round house, were destroyed. A few houses south of the tracks remain standing.”
“Word came here to Lawton this afternoon for bandages and cotton and all the coffins that could be spared. These are being sent as fast as they can be got out. At four o’clock this afternoon there were 97 dead bodies in the improvised morgue at Snyder, a large number of the dead not yet having been identified. Some of them being so mangled that it is impossible to recognize them.”
Another Lawton newspaper, “The Lawton News-Republican,” dated May 11, 1905, carried impressive headlines:


This article began with a long list of the dead and injured and then continued:
“The dead and dying were placed in the Hilton Hotel and Prichard saloon, both of which were damaged but not totally destroyed. There are over 100 houses destroyed north of the Frisco tracks. The body of one man was found three miles northeast of the city and brought in.”
“Two hundred and fifty residences were destroyed. Few business houses were left undamaged. Professor Hibbard, principal of the school, his wife and two children were killed, leaving one child.”


Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at tillmanokhistory@gmail.com.