Oklahoma Christian College
1907-18 and 1921-31
M. Norvel Young’s History of Colleges Established and Controlled by Members of the Churches of Christ has a short history of the school, as does History of Oklahoma at the Golden Anniversary of Statehood by Gaston Litton. The Cordell Beacon carried news of the school through much of its history. The ad (right) is from the Beacon.
Cordell Christian College opened on September 1, 1907 for 70 students and seven faculty. Young notes that the 1911-12 catalogue devoted eight pages “to describing the religious purpose of the school and its reasons for teaching the Bible as a textbook.” Cordell Christian College offered four levels of instruction—primary, intermediate, academic, and collegiate. In 1909 it was chartered with a capital stock of $50,000.
By 1911 enrollment had reached 267, taught by a faculty of 11. The professors taught Hebrew, Greek, German, English, history, science and mathematics. In addition to intermediate and primary teachers, there were teachers of expression, music, art, penmanship, domestic economy, and manual training.
Among student activities were two literary societies and membership in the Oklahoma Junior College Forensics League. Apparently the music program was very strong because performances by the glee clubs and orchestra are mentioned in the Cordell Beacon. Drama performances were a part of commencement week.
The entry of the United States into World War I brought an end to Cordell Christian College. While the Cordell community supported the war effort and advocated military training at the school, President J. N. Armstrong, along with several members of the faculty and trustees, held pacifist views, believing “a Christian’s obligation to his government did not require him to kill.” Because of this conflict, the school did not open in fall 1918.
But in 1921 the town of Cordell purchased the campus and returned it to the Church of Christ to reopen the college, which now assumed the name Western Oklahoma Christian College. Then in 1925 it dropped the regional designation and became Oklahoma Christian College. The collegiate focus was now on the two-year program.
Enrollment reached 250 in 1925, but began to drop. With the onset of the Great Depression, Oklahoma Christian College was forced to declare bankruptcy and closed at the end of the 1930-31 school year.
J. N. Armstrong in 1916. Image from the Daily Ardmoreite.
Bricks and Mortar
The trustees purchased 160 acres of land one mile north of the business district in Cordell. 150 acres were subdivided into lots to be sold to support the school. The remaining ten acres became the campus. Completed in 1908, the Administration Building was a three-story brick structure. It contained twelve recitation rooms as well as a chapel with a seating capacity of three hundred. It featured steam heat.
A two-story frame dormitory for boys, containing thirty rooms, was also ready in 1908.
After the college closed, the buildings sat empty until 1938 when they were used by the National Youth Administration to house girls who were receiving vocational training. In 1939 the N.Y.A. again used the campus—this time to house boys in the agricultural and vocational training program.
Nothing remains of the campus today except a historical marker.
The Administration Building and dormitory. Image used by permission of "Oklahoma Christian University, University Archives, Cordell Collection."
Team name: Mustangs
Dr. Roger B. Saylor Football Records Collection shows that Cordell Christian College lost to Central Normal School of Edmund 27-4 in 1908 and lost to Northwestern Normal in 1909. Oklahoma Christian College instituted football in 1925, posting a 5-0-1 record against high school opponents. In 1926 O.C.C. became a member of the Oklahoma Junior College Conference. Between 1926 and 1930 the Mustangs competed against the likes of Cameron State Agricultural College, Murray State School of Agriculture, Northern Oklahoma Junior College, Panhandle A&M College, Southwestern State Teachers College, and the Miami School of Mines-- as well as Bacone Indian University and Chilocco Indian Agricultural School. O.C.C. posted a 7-19 conference record overall/
The Mustangs were much more successful in basketball, winning the conference in both 1928 and 1929. Newspapers show that they participated in the Tri-State Junior College basketball tournament in 1929 and 1930.