Will Roger attended school in
Vinita, at Willie Halsell College
|William E. Halsell had
major influence on attaining the Willie Halsell College for Vinita After
making a monetary donation to the then Galloway College, the school
board changed the name. The school name was changed to Willie Halsell in
memory of Halsell*s
Willie, who died in 1884.
|Before he promised to
ride In Vinita*s
first rodeo parade, Will Rogers attended school In Vinita during his
One name has been associated with Vinita schools since 1889. Two of
the present Vinita schools carry the Halsell name. Hall-Halsell
Elementary and Ewing Halsell Middle School.
Before the public schools of today, there was a Methodist school In
Vinita called ‘Willie Halsell College" which, by the way, Will
Rogers attended from 1895-1896.
Reports from former Vinita Daily Journal owner O.B. Campbell*s
book, Vinita, I.T., specifically in the ‘First Schools*
section, reflect how Rogers looked and acted at the age of 16.
Being portrayed as one of the most famous students, Rogers started to
Willie Halsell College In 1895. He was described as a "tall and
gangling, freckle-faced boy with mischievous eyes."
Rogers is quoted, in the publication, expressing his memories while
at the school. ‘The two years I spent at old Willie Halsell College
were, the happiest I ever knew. The best friends I have In the world are
these old cowhands around here that I went to school with, I always feel
more at home In Vinita than any other town in Oklahoma and I*ll
tell you why: I used to visit around Oolagah quite a bit when I lived on
the ranch and I knew a lot of people there. They called me ‘Bill.*
At Claremore I wasn*t
very well acquainted and they called me Will,*
but here in Vinita I knew everybody and they called me ‘Rabbit."
It Is reported that he could outrun any of the boys in a footrace,
son, Ewing, was one of Rogers*
classmates. He was nearly two years older than Rogers, but they had
known each other as boys and were close friends for life.
Reports state that the pasture surrounding the school was used as an
for roping, riding calves and breaking horses. This and horse racing
were the pastime for the boys,
The Halsell family had major influence in getting the school in
Vinita. Back in 1886, at the session of the Indian Mission Conference of
the M.E. Church, South, held in Eufaula, I.T., with Bishop Galloway
presiding, a committee was appointed to select a location for a male
According to reports, after a study of various locations, it was
believed that Vinita had offered the best Inducements, so the school was
located In Vinita. Vinita citizens showed a lot of response by seeking
funding for the project. Reports state that St. Louis was also vying for
At that time, 160 acres of land was granted to the project by an act
of the Cherokee Council in concordance with the treaty of 1866. Credit
is given to W.E. Halsell, J.O. Hall and Bob Beatty for the major
influence they had in getting the large track of land. This track was
just north of the corporate limits, extending from North Avenue
northward, east to the Katy tracks and west.
The school opened In 1888 and the first session was held in the
Methodist Church, a small white frame structure near the corner of
Thompson and Canadian.
The school first opened in September as Galloway College, named for
the presiding Methodist bishop. After a large monetary contribution was
made by W. E. Halsell, relieving the heavy debt Incurred while building
the school, the school board changed the school name to Willie Halsell
College In memory of the Halsells*
11-year-old daughter who had died in 1884.
What started out as a boys school, became co-educational in 1893. The
school had 12 grades, primer through high school. It never conducted
With most students being from the Immediate area, the school*s
enrollment peaked at 500, with some boarding students, during Its
When the school closed, it was used by the Vinita Public Schools as a
high school, before the new building was completed,
By BETH GRISWOLD, Vinita Daily
Journal Reporter, Aug 26, 2002
Other related links:
Halsell Family Ties
William E. Halsell
to History Index