Good but brief summaries of Kingfisher College activities can be found in the 1911 Report of the Congregational Education Society and the 1916 Report of the Superintendent. The 1902 Biannual Report of Oklahoma Educational Institutions also has a good summary of the college at that time.
Charlie Mahaffie was Kingfisher’s first Rhodes scholar in 1905. Photo courtesy of his grandson, John Mahaffie (http://johnmahaffie.com/word-of-a-rhodes-scholarship-and-a-letter-home/) accessed 11-12-2017
Kingfisher College was one of five colleges created in what was then known as Indian Territory. It began as an academy founded by a Congregationalist minister Joseph Holmes Parker in 1890. In 1894 the Congregational Church determined to create a college in the town. The school was chartered in 1894 and opened in 1895. Kingfisher quickly gained a reputation as a strong academic school. Of the first eight Oklahoma students to pass the exam for Rhodes Scholars, five were Kingfisher students. Three—Roy Lange, Charlie Mahaffie and Claude Voigt—studied at Oxford.
Kingfisher College had three divisions—Preparatory, Liberal arts, and Music. The 1916 Report to the Superintendent notes a business division. Enrollment increased up to World War I. The 1916 Report lists 145 students and states a belief that enrollment would reach 200 by the following year. However, a large number of Kingfisher students entered service, and the school never recovered. The total number of graduates is listed as 117.
As a part of the state league—including the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Oklahoma State), and Central Normal School—Kingfisher participated in debate and forensics contests. The Conservatory of Music offered glee clubs for both male and female students; it presented a yearly opera as part of commencement week. Kingfisher also had chapters of the YMCA and YWCA and Student Volunteers. Students had chapters of the Literati and Hesperian literary societies. They published a newspaper, the Kingfisher. In 1902 the school president reported that the weekly prayer meeting was “very helpful.”
In 1922 the Congregational Church determined that Kingfisher’s territory overlapped that of Fairmont College in Wichita, KS and so closed the college. In 1927 the library and records were transferred to the University of Oklahoma.
Bricks and Mortar
Kingfisher College opened in the Central Hotel. Parker Hall, the first building, was completed in 1897. A stone structure, it served as both classrooms and dormitory. Parker Hall was located on a 120-acre prairie site to the east of the city, described as being a spot of “unsurpassed beauty.” Gilbert Hall, a plain brick dormitory, was constructed in 1900; the campus eventually included Osgood Hall, built in 1901 and Seay Hall, completed in 1908.
After the college closed, the campus was home to Kings College until 1932, The campus was placed on the National Register in 1973. None of the four campus buildings remain. The land has largely returned to its natural state.
Postcard view of the buildings of the Kingfisher campus (Penny Postcards from Oklahoma (<www.usgwarchives.net/ok/kingfisher/postcards/ppcs-kf.html>) accessed 11-12-2017
The Report of the Superintendent noted that a faculty member spent one-fourth of his time at “athletic supervision,” indicating the interest and commitment of the college to sports.
A member of the Oklahoma Athletic Association, Kingfisher competed against the major schools of the state. The signature sport was tennis. Led by Rhodes scholar Roy Lange, Kingfisher had state titles in 1901 and 1902, dropping the sport after his graduation.
The 1901 Kingfisher football team had a 4-1 record; otherwise teams enjoyed few winning years. Particularly, they were a punching bag for the University of Oklahoma. In twenty recorded games Kingfisher compiled a 0-17-3 record against the Sooners. In 1917 and 1919 they were pummeled 176-0 and 157-0.
Kingfisher was also strong in track and field, hosting the conference meet several times.
The 1899 Kingfisher College football team. Image courtesy of the Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, John Wesley Morris Collection #530.