Wheelock Academy Photo by Dawn Standridge

Wheelock Academy, is a former Native American girl's boarding school originally founded in 1832 and is also the home of Oklahoma's oldest church.

Wheelock Academy Reunion

August 1, 2021

Wheelock Academy was founded in 1832 by Christian missionaries Alfred and Harriet Wright. Wheelock served as a boarding school for Choctaw youth from 1832 until it was ultimately closed in 1955. Located in McCurtain County, Wheelock Academy is a testament to the Choctaw Nation’s commitment to education. Wheelock Academy was built as a missionary school in 1832. Ten years later, the site became Wheelock Female Seminary, an all-girls school.

Students were exposed to English, history, geography and science, home economics and Bible studies. Upon the Civil War in 1861, the academy was closed. A fire destroyed every building on campus in 1869, and Wheelock Academy was reconstructed in the 1880s just northeast of its original location. Between 1884 and 1955, Wheelock Academy was once again a thriving learning environment.

After Wheelock Academy’s closure in 1955, the campus underwent several changes. What had grown to 17 buildings dwindled down to just six, including an old seminary, dining hall, barn, chapel, a domestic science building and an arts and crafts building.

Wheelock Alumni
Photo by Dawn Standridge

Former student, Margie Pollard, hugs Wheelock Historic Site Director, Wanda Howard.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Choctaw Nation made efforts to restore some of the buildings. In 1998 the Nation’s officials initiated another effort to restore the surviving buildings for reuse. Wheelock Academy received the National Historic Landmark designation in 1965, and in 1966 was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2000, Wheelock was listed as one of America’s “eleven most endangered historic places” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was included in the federal “Save America’s Treasures” program.

Events are usually held throughout the year on the campus, including an annual reunion of alumni, youth camps, and school field trips. A Museum is located on the grounds in the refurbished LeFlore Hall. Its exhibits about the school and its students’ lives include many historic photographs, personal items, and unique artifacts. Tours of the museum and grounds are available upon request.

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, a reunion was not possible in 2020. This year, four former Wheelock students, Margie Pollard, Mary Watson, Lydia McClure and Lucille Olive, gathered together on June 26 and shared memories of their time at the school.

Wheelock Alumni
Photo by Dawn Standridge

Pat Miller (left) and Shanna Steele (right), pinning corsages on their mothers, Mary Watson and Lydia McClure. Mary and Lyndia are both former Wheelock students.

Wheelock Academy Alumni Reunion
Photo by Dawn Standridge

Alumni and guests were welcomed to the Wheelock Academy grounds for a reunion.