"50 Years of Religion" in Lawton, published 1951
In 1901, the tented town of Lawton was part of St. Patrick's Mission at the Anadarko Indian Agency. After the Comanche county was opened, Lawton passed under the temporary jurisdiction of the pastor of Chickasha, Father Urban deHasque. On June 12, 1902, Bishop Meerschaert, having administered confirmation to 16 children and first Holy Communion to 121 more, announced the establishment of a parish at Lawton, with Father Steber as the first pastor.
While religious services were held in the "Red Store", forward-looking Catholics of the new parish within a few months bought the land on which the present church is situated.
Father Steber was succeeded in 1902 by Father Huffer under whose direction a frame church was built. Bishop Meerschaert dedicated this church to the Blessed Sacrament on August 19, 1903. In 1907, under the pastorate of Father Lamb, an elementary school was established, taught by three sisters.
Pioneer Catholic Lawton celebrated this year of entry of Oklahoma into the Union as a state by sending 75 children to this new grammar school. By 1918, this little four-room school had been outgrown, and the brick building presently housing the grammar school was erected. In February 1924, the frame church burned down. Inspired by Father Lamb, the parishioners built the present brick church.
From 1925 until 1935, pastor of Blessed Sacrament was Father Charles Van Hulse. Under his guidance, the school became fully accredited, in 1929, as St. Mary's school. In 1935, after many years of work as a pioneer priest, Father Charles was succeeded by the present pastor, Father Ben Hulshof, and Father Van Hulse became pastor emeritus.
Under the leadership of Father Ben, the property of the church was expanded to include about half the block, on the west end, between A Ave. and Gore, to 7th St. In 1950, to keep pace with the growing city of Lawton, a new highschool building was constructed and dedicated in October.
A new rectory, at 615 A, has been chosen among the buildings recently purchased, and is presently being remodeled to meet requirements of the seat of the Deanery of Lawton, and administrative unit established in June of 1950.
From just a scattered few residents, this Catholic parish of Lawton now fills the 500-seat church each Sunday at three Masses; and during the winter and spring months, The Artillery School's classes frequently require two additional Masses to be said in the basement of the church, to take care of the overflow of perhaps an additional five hundred persons. From 75 grade school students, St. Mary's now handles 357, 68 of which are highschool.
Ladies of the parish banded together early in the Altar Society of the parish. This organization was founded in 1905 under the presidency of Mrs. Joseph Mast. Since then, this society has been active. The 1951 president is Mrs. Joseph Richard.
This Catholic parish boasts of a growing men's organization. The Knights of Columbus Council 1287 was founded in 1907 with 66 members, under leadership of Grand Knight Vic Spalding. It now numbers 234 members, and this year under the Grand Knight Lt. Col. William F. Kuhn, won third place trophy in the national new membership drive for its class. The Lawton Council now boasts one of its members, Charley Wade, as the state deputy, head of all the Knights in Oklahoma. It showed its influence in the state organization by bringing to Lawton in 1950 the state convention of the Knights.