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 11-year-old daughter, Willie, who died in 1884.

Before he promised to ride In Vinita*s first rodeo parade, Will Rogers attended school In Vinita during his teen years.

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,

Halsell*s 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 ‘arena* 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 school.

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 the school.

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 college-level classes.

With most students being from the Immediate area, the school*s enrollment peaked at 500, with some boarding students, during Its 18-year-span.

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 Mansion
Halsell Family Ties
Ewing Halsell

William E. Halsell

dat 2003

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