First Presbyterian Church, Tahlequah was established on September 18, 1881. The organizing pastor was Willie Weaver.
Pastors in the years before statehood were: Gideon Thompson from 1883-1884, W.L. Miller from 1884-1889, A.R. Thomson from 1890-1892, W.H. King from 1892-1893, Leonidas Dobson from 1893-1894, W.H. Hamilton from 1894-1898, D.N. Allen from 1899-1903, Gilbert T. Thompson from 1903-1906, and Leonidas Dobson returned again to be pastor from 1906-1907, which is the year Oklahoma received statehood status.
In 1883, Tahlequah Presbyterians founded a school, The Tahlequah Institute, which continued until 1907. It was located at that time at the corner of Muskogee/Shawnee, where Teague Heating and Air is now located. The church at that time stood just down the block at the corner of Shawnee and College (where the Bank of America drive thru sits now.)
Since the Presbyterian Church in Tahlequah was only organized in 1881, it is noted that the congregation then seemed to waste no time getting to work for the community. The school was established to primarily educate Native Americans, especially girls, but because there were no other local schools at the time, whites were also admitted. The school boarded girls at this time but boys attended during the day. This school burned down in 1894 and again in 1898.
After the second fire, the school was rebuilt on Mission St. where Tahlequah Bible Church is located now. In fact, the old part of their building was from the old schoolhouse. There was also a 3 story boarding house there and the school sat on 4 acres. Other area churches helped to finance this school at this time as it was growing larger. In 1902 there were 200 children enrolled and that year they had a graduating class of 2. The school had graduated ten students before 1902.
As stated earlier, this was a school that had started for girls, but boys attended in the daytime. Dwight Mission, which we are all familiar with, transferred their female students to the Tahlequah Institute in 1896. It should also be mentioned that as Oklahoma was not a state until 1907, it was rare to find schools in “Indian Territory”. Tahlequah was unique in that respect because while most of the state did not have schools, Tahlequah by 1902 had four of them. The male and female Seminaries, the Baptists had a school and the Presbyterians sponsored Tahlequah Institute which many called, “The Presbyterian School.”.
This information was gathered through materials found through PC(USA) and the Presbyterian Historical Society. We also used materials found in special collections at the NSU library and old newspaper articles from the Tahlequah newspaper at the time. Local historian, Beth Herrington was also very helpful. Most of the “leg-work” research was done by Gary Wing, who came upon this information while researching for his book about sports in Oklahoma. He called our church to ask about it, and the research began from there.
If you are interested in looking at pictures and documents that we were able to accrue during our research, you will find scans of some of them below. There are more items coming that will be added to this page when they arrive (from NSU special collections) if you would like to check back sometime in the future.
Scanned pages of a book in the Presbyterian Historical Society Collection, Missions Among The North American Indians:
Scanned page from PC(USA) of the “Tahlequah Missions School Timeline”