Haskell State School of Agriculture
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
News from Haskell State School was carried in both the Tulsa World and the Daily Oklahoman. The “Visit Broken Arrow” website has a history of the school and building. Michael Overall did a 2018 feature story on the Esslinger House for Tulsa World. The image of Charles N. Haskell (right) is from Wikimedia Commons.
Haskell State School of Agriculture was created by an act of the state legislature in 1908, one of six such schools created. The school was named for Charles N. Haskell, the first governor of Oklahoma. Classes opened on November 15, 1909 for 133 students. Enrollment reached 176 by the end of the term and averaged between 150 and 200 thereafter. The 1912-13 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Education shows 153 students (78 males,75 females) taught by a faculty of 10.
In addition to domestic science and art, manual training, and agricultural instruction, students received the usual literary courses in music, math, English, drawing and expression. Commercial courses were added in 1916. Students enjoyed the full range of extracurricular activities. They had exhibits at the Oklahoma State Fair; they had a school orchestra, a band, and a choral club; Junior and Senior classes put on plays directed by the expression teacher; they had
A 2011 Google Streetview of the Esslinger House. The last building connected with Haskell State School of Agriculture, it was razed in 2018.
a literary society and chapters of both the YMCA and YWCA. There was a quarterly school publication called Items. Newspapers reported a Junior-Senior reception and a Halloween party.
But as early as 1913 the legislature began discussions of removing funding from the school. Finally in 1917 that funding was actually removed, closing the school.
Bricks and Mortar
Broken Arrow, a town of 1576 in 1910, was located 17 miles southeast of Tulsa. The town provided 80 acres on its east side for the new school. Classes began in the fall of 1909 in the Opera House on Main Street, while bids went out for a building to cost $20,000. That building, located at 808 East College Street, was completed in early 1911. A three-story brick structure with 14 rooms, it was to accommodate 300 students. Sixty acres of the school land were farmed. The campus also included a barn, a lake, a creamery, and a football field. In 1913 the World reported that Broken Arrow businessmen planned to move a building from downtown to serve as a music room and gymnasium.
When Haskell closed, the campus passed to the local school district, for which it served as high school (to 1948), junior high school
An early postcard view of the Haskell classroom building and barn. Image is from Pinterest, credited to Familyoldphotos.com. This photo no longer appears on that website.
(until 1958), and finally as fine arts building. It was placed on the National Register in 1978. The deteriorating building was razed in 1989.
In 1911 President J. S. Esslinger had a large residence built across the street from the school. Since Haskell State School had no dormitory, the Esslinger House was also home to thirty female students.
Team name: In 1911 the Oklahoman referred to the team as “Aggies.” At a 1913 banquet, two toasts
were offered to “The Owls,” a possible sports reference.
Haskell State School began football at least as early as 1910. The Tulsa World reported in 1912 that Haskell “had never known defeat,” in football, but that 1910 team lost to Broken Arrow High School 15-0. The 1911 team averaged 155 pounds—large for the time. That team defeated Tulsa High School 17-6 and Northeast Normal School of Tahlequah 45-0. The 1912 Aggies rolled up 109 points on Bacone Junior College before losing to Tulsa High School 42-9. Haskell also played Henry Kendall College (now Tulsa University) in both football and baseball. Despite the absence of a gymnasium, Haskell also began both girls’ and boys’ basketball.
In 1913 newspapers reported an interclass track and field meet. Football star Burnham De Weese won nine events. Girls competed in a 50-yard dash and a relay race.