The entire Christian life springs forth as a new life in Christ through Baptism. CCC 1254
The entire Christian life springs forth as a new life in Christ through Baptism. CCC 1254
The entire Christian life springs forth as a new life in Christ through Baptism. CCC 1254
The entire Christian life springs forth as a new life in Christ through Baptism. CCC 1254
80 For Those Who Are Strong
A History of St. Mary's Catholic School in Lawton
By Sister Angelina Murphy, CDP
St. Mary's School
Of the 152 Sisters who have taught at St. Mary's from 1907-1987 for a total of 583 working years, 64 are still living. Of these, 28 are in the Congregational Retirement Center in San Antonio, and the others are still on the missions. Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the CDP Retirement Center.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1... THE FIRST DECADE 1901 - 1910
CHAPTER 2... THE SECOND DECADE 1910 - 1920
CHAPTER 3... THE THIRD DECADE 1920 - 1930
CHAPTER 4... THE FOURTH DECADE 1930 - 1940
CHAPTER 5... THE FIFTH DECADE 1940 - 1950
CHAPTER 6... THE SIXTH DECADE 1950 -1960
CHAPTER 7... THE SEVENTH DECADE 1960 - 1970
CHAPTER 8... THE EIGHTH DECADE 1970 - 1980
CHAPTER 9... THE NINTH DECADE 1980 - 1987
Dear Present and Former Students, Teachers, Staff and Friends of St. Mary's School:
It is indeed a privilege for me to address these few words to you. I had the pleasure of teaching at St. Mary's High School for one year, 1964-1965, and it was one of my happiest years as a teacher. The school was deeply committed to quality education and the ideals that Jesus came to teach us. And, what I know about St. Mary's both prior to and since my year there confirms that it has always held and continues to hold and to promote those same Christian ideals.
In the name of the Sisters of Divine Providence, I thank Sister Angelina Murphy for this book, a work of love, scholarship and dedication. And I thank all of those who have collaborated in the ministry of education so beautifully lived out at St. Mary's.
Gratefully in Divine Providence,
Sister Jane Ann Slater
Congregation of Divine Providence
Seventy is the sum of our years or eighty for those who are strong. Ps. 90
I believe Psalm 90 applies here. 1987 marks the eightieth anniversary of the establishment of St. Mary's School by Father W.P. Lamb and the Sisters of Divine Providence. Father Lamb is long gone, but his successors, along with the Sisters of Divine Providence, have continued to maintain the school.
Although the Congregation of Sisters had a number of schools in Oklahoma even before the one in Lawton, these have all been given up during the last 25 years or so except St. Mary's, whose parish council has debated the last few years whether to keep the school or not. Neither St. Mary's School nor Blessed Sacrament Parish has a printed history nor even a file of historical documents from which one can obtain historical information. If St. Mary's were to close tomorrow, the only memory of its existence would be in the minds of its former students and teachers (as long as they live) and some grade files. Few records or history would be there to commemorate it. This is my parish and school. I was born here, received the sacraments and my education here. I don't want it to be forgotten as though it had never been. There are many others who feel the same way.
Therefore I undertook the task of recording its history. With practically no records available I had to start at scratch, talking to the old parishioners, visiting the courthouse, city hall, and the Lawton Public Library. I talked to the retired and the still active Sisters who taught here, and examined the Congregational Archives.
I do not pretend that I have given the entire history. Even some of the oral history I have received may not be accurate. Though I have the school rosters from 1907-1960 (a great help), they did not all give me each year's graduates. While the student records were the greatest help in this effort to find the graduates, some of them are incomplete and some are missing. I have made heroic efforts to complete the list, but the first years are missing and some of the last are lacking information.
In recounting the early local, state, and Church history, I consulted several books, which I have documented loosely. I have interviewed at least 100 persons for information and pictures (there are very few available). This has been an arduous task with a few rewards. I thank all those persons who have made my job easier in any way.
I am sure that the readers will find much that they never knew as well as much that they remember. They will also find many names of classmates and family members. They will see a few memorable pictures. The book is filled with names.
I want to thank J.C. Kennedy for lending me an electronic typewriter and Charles Benke for lending me the initial payment when I was penniless. For taking the responsibility of financing the book, I thank St. Mary's Alumni under the leadership of Neal Goode, who is always ready to help. I also thank Suchart Poovarat for his photography. And I want especially to thank my friend, Gwen Fisher, for helping my book when it floundered on the brink.
Since the history in this book ended May 3, 1987, I now need to add a short Epilogue because some things have changed since. The Epilogue will be found at the end of Chapter 9.
The Haggar Foundation
Although not alumni of St. Mary's School, the J.M. Haggar family graduated from St. Joseph's High School in Dallas, where I formerly taught. Their Lawton Mfg. Co. here plus their interest in the Sisters' work with the refugee community prompted the Haggar Foundation trustees to help financially with the publication of this history.
Geraldine and Gene Benke
Charley Wade Family
Mary Louise Evans
Bill and Ann Sullivan
Neal and Dorothy Goode
Deasy Public Accountant
Jo Ann Stuever Dezelle
Bill and Louise Larson
Genevieve and Harold Hickman
THE FIRST DECADE: 1901-1910
Lawton is Opened to Settlers
The great day was approaching. It would happen sometime this fall. Oklahoma would be accepted as the 46th state in the Union. But for the majority of people in and around Lawton, this would not make much difference. The biggest time for them had already passed when lots had been drawn for the newly opened Comanche Indian Territory, whose county seat was Lawton, and August 6, 1901, was the opening day. Lawton was to be a "boom town, one of the greatest oil regions in the world." (Edwards)
Considered as surplus land that the government had given to the Indians, 2,033,483 acres had been purchased recently from the Indians for $2,000,000 (less than $1.00 per acre) to be used for white settlement. Each Indian had been given 160 acres of land, which he could choose, and the Big Pasture for their common use extended to the Red River. President William McKinley opened the white settlement August 1, 1901. (Powell)
Lots had been drawn previous to the opening. The lucky winners would be the first to select their property in the spots which they considered choicest. But all the area around the county, especially that bordering Lawton, was crowded with future settlers from far and near. Each came to make a fortune in this new rich land.
August 6, Lawton's birthday, was the greatest, most exciting, tensest day Lawton would ever know and its inhabitants would remember. Tent city sprang up that day, spread out, and never stopped.
September 5, 1901, the Rock Island train was loaded in every inch of its space with building material, furniture, machinery, and everything needed to build a city and a farming community. Gamblers' tents on GooGoo Avenue grew into houses, and boundaries were set for the city.
The west was 11st Street. The north was Grandview (so named because a perfect view of the Wichita Mountains could be obtained from there). It was later named Gore Blvd. And the south was what is now known as Lee Blvd. After five months, Lawton had a population of 10,000 with an extensive building program going on. The one railroad was not able to handle all the building equipment and material coming in, so the people raised $20,000 to lure a new railroad branch into Lawton. A mayor, Leslie Ross, was elected. (Edwards)
Rates at the Ragstand Hotel were $1.00-$1.25 a day, and the Galina Bar boldly advertised its "22-year-old whiskey" and its Anhauser beer. Within a year a system of waterworks, and electric streetcar, and a sewerage system would surely be built and in operation. City National Bank, Lawton's second, was established. Exall English's father was a pioneer banker, forerunner of Exall, who would later be president of Security National Bank and Trust (Exall enrolled in St. Mary's in 1907). There had been an Indian school near Lawton since 1871. Elementary schools were now being established in Lawton.
The Church Comes to Lawton
Rev. Isidore Recklin was the one resident priest in Comanche County in 1901. He offered Mass once a month at Ft. Sill in the Old Post Chapel. He was replaced in 1902 by Father Bader, who sometimes visited the tent dwellers in Lawton. Father Urban De Hasque, one of the early immigrant Belgian priests in Oklahoma Territory, also came to Lawton in 1902. He spent the night in a barn belonging to the Mullin family, for their house was under construction. As a representative of Bishop Theophile Meerschaert, he, a notary public, finalized the purchase from A.A. Mahaffey of lots 7 and 8 on Block 7 for the Catholic Church. This was on the corner of 7th and what is now Gore Blvd., but was still known as North Boundary or Grandview.
That year Father Zinon Stebler was assigned as first pastor of Lawton, but he remained only a short time and was replaced by Father William Hoffer in June 1902. Father Hoffer soon oversaw the building of a wooden church and a two-room rectory with an attic.
In 1905, Lawton had substituted houses for tents and begun to settle down. But the boom town gambling houses and saloons still had a prominent place among the newer business establishments, and a number of architectural wonders stood out among the more modest residences in the city.
Father Lamb Becomes Permanent Pastor
It was into this milieu that Bishop Meerschaert sent the young Father Lamb as pastor in 1905. To be a Catholic in Oklahoma in the early years was no small matter. Though there were many evangelists in the vicinity and religious revivals were frequent, the Catholics were few in number and kept a low profile, for the Church of Rome was highly suspect. But Father Lamb was an extrovert, and a courageous one at that. He had been around. He came to the seminary from the prizefighting ring. Boxing in those days was not quite what it is today. While the Queensberry method of using gloves was the legal form of boxing, in many places the "bareknuckle" method was still employed among gamblers and was considered low-class because it was more violent and risky.
This is what Lamb came from. Although Father told his friends, the Wiests, he did not publicize the fact that this had been his favorite sport as it might have scandalized his critics. But he did not make any effort to conceal the fact that he was a motorcyclist, and his motorcycle excursions raised some eyebrows even among his parishioners. Another aberration that came to their attention as time went on was his love of the movies. But, as he explained to his friends, he had no wife to go home to. If he read either of the two newspapers, THE DAILY DEMOCRAT or THE LAWTON CONSTITUTION (and he probably read both), he learned a great deal about his locality. Moving pictures and illustrated songs could be enjoyed at the Nickle-Odeon for $0.5. The Opera House was offering "Home, Sweet Home," and a vaudeville act. And page one of the newspapers recounted almost daily conversions at one or another revival.
Lamb Proposes a Parish School
After Ignatius Jean, OSB, came as Prefect Apostolic of the Indian Territory in 1886, he said in his sermon prior to "the Run":
"Always remember ... God has in special abomination in this country three sins ... The first is trampling underfoot the sacred laws of matrimony. The second is the Godless education of children, preparing a generation of men without religion, without faith, without conscience; a generation of men entirely deprived of the first ideas of right, of justice, of virtue, and of honesty. THen the barbarous removal of the first inhabitants of this country."
Blessed Sacrament Parish, like most Oklahoma parishes, was new, small, and struggling. A school meant qualified, teaching Sisters, who would teach for $25.00 a month, if that amount could be found. Father Lamb, however, did not intend that his parishioners would fall under the second sin the Prefect had mentioned: "the Godless education of children."
His parishioners supported his extraordinary project of opening a parish school. Seven Oklahoma pastors had discovered a rapidly growing and well-educated group of teaching Sisters in San Antonio, Texas. Since the network among the pastors and bishops in Oklahoma and Texas was active (Oklahoma was under the archdiocesan jurisdiction of San Antonio), word spread fast about how to obtain teachers. They were the Sisters of Divine Providence, whose superior, Mother Florence Walter, was not only mission-minded but was also extremely generous in helping finance the schools she staffed.
Just as is in Louisiana, where she had sent Sisters to teach the blacks, she thought of Oklahoma in terms of Indian children. Most of the schools she had already opened in Oklahoma had a heavy concentration of Indians. But Bishop Meerschaert, an indefatigable Belgian missionary, persuaded her that the white population was in as great need as the Indians. His Oklahoma diocese, as he found it, was six times as large as his native Belgium, with three diocesan priests and 23 Benedictine monks who had tried to minister to the entire population.
There were already eight schools staffed by the Sisters of Divine Providence in Oklahoma: Perry, 1900; Ponca City, 1901, Antlers, 1902; Tulsa, 1903; Vinita, 1903; Enid, 1904; Quapaw, 1904; El Reno, 1906. The pastors in these places were very proud of their schools, where, it seemed, there was nothing the Sisters could not do. In Antlers and Quapaw, they could even take the Indian students and teach them to plant crops and tend livestock. Father Lamb, with the approval of the Bishop, rushed off a letter to Mother Florence in San Antonio in March, 1907, asking for Sisters for the coming year. By March 28, he had his reply:
Rev. and dear Father:
Your kind letter of the 23rd instant was duly received. We are ready to believe that the work of conducting a purely parochial school would be more that you could conveniently do; and we are willing to take up the school on the same plan as that of the other schools in Oklahoma and Texas, namely: that the pupils be charged according to grade, and the collecting left entirely to the Sisters. It is my opinion that it will be several years before regular parochial schools can successfully be conducted in the South, for the reason that Catholic schools are attended as well by non-Catholics, who contribute widely to their support.
The only expense for you, Rev. Father, will be the putting up of a building and the furnishing of classrooms. The Congregation will furnish the private apartments of the Sisters, and also the piano. Five Sisters will be sent, three teachers, one music teacher, and one for the household.
Wishing you the joys and graces of this glorious Easter,
Mother Mary Florence
Meanwhile Bishop Meerschaert had purchased Lot 6 for the parish January 11, 1906, from Mr. and Mrs. James Johnson for $1,200 and Lot 5 January 9, 1907, for $900 from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Morrison. This gave the school plenty of playground space and possibilities for future expansion. Early students remember the large spacious playground. The entire block would one day be for the Church and school, some lots as a result of Urban Renewal and as late as 1973.
Mother Florence had definitely stated that three teaching sisters would come. There was no mention of high school or commercial classes. But Father Lamb visited the schools in Perry, El Reno, and Enid and saw high schools which included commercial classes and choral in progress. So, with this in mind for his school, he began his article for THE LAWTON CONSTITUTION and THE DAILY DEMOCRAT, and he looked about for a schoolhouse. He found a long wooden structure consisting of three rooms, and a smaller one-room building, which he had moved to 7th and Grandview behind the Church. The single-room building faced Grandview. The long building was south of the first one, joining it by means of some carpenter work and a door, making it all one building. Both buildings were set on cement blocks. Because the north part of the ground was lower that the south, the front part sat on higher blocks while the south side was nearly ground-level. There was a wood or coal stove in each room. These failed to heat it adequately in the winter. This building has been sketched out by Harry, Callie, and Juanita Wiest, who were there from the beginning.
Mother Florence had said that she would provide the residence for the Sisters, so Father did not bother about that. There had been a two-room house on the grounds, but he sold that to Joe and Minnie Gilsinger, who moved it a block and a half north on 7th Street. The Gilsingers, like many pioneers, came from unusual situations. Minnie's father was of royal blood. He was the son of Queen Victoria but was disinherited for marrying a commoner. He sought his livelihood and lifestyle in America, but he died young as a result of a tooth extraction because he was a hemophiliac. Father asked the Gilsingers whether the Sisters cold stay with them until their residence was ready. Although they assented, they were to question the wisdom of their decision later, as the house building went on for weeks.
Father Lamb's carefully worded article appeared in the daily papers in August:
Among the good things that are coming to Lawton is another institution of learning. On the 22nd of this month five Sisters of the Order of the Divine Providence will leave San Antonio on their way to this city. These Sisters are coming to make Lawton their future field of labor and will be an addition to which all who are interested in education will be justly proud. The teaching corps is affiliated with the State University of Texas, which bespeaks their fitness for the great work they are about to begin in Lawton.
Sept. 2 will mark the opening of the parochial school, which will be the first of its kind conducted in this part of the country.
To Father Lamb, the pastor of the fast-growing congregation, is due the credit of this institution and its zealous and untiring efforts to have made it possible for Lawton to enjoy, at this time, a school of so thorough a course of study.
Everything conducive to the welfare of the people has been looked after, and when the school throws open its doors to the public, it will be one of the most modern institutions in the country.
The grounds are large and well-adapted for the amusement and recreation of the children.
Near the school building is a large new storm cave with concrete floor and solid brick walls ready to receive the pupils in time of danger.
The Sisters were wisely selected by the superior, and those who come here will be especially qualified for the work assigned them.
A further mark of the qualification of the Sisters who are to have charge of the teaching is that each has a diploma from the State Normal of Texas, which they received by passing the examination. The school will be open to non-Catholics as well as Catholics, and nothing will be absent.
Who could resist such a temptation for their children!
Sisters Are Chosen To Come
Back in San Antonio at Our Lady of the Lake Convent, Mother Florence examined her roster of Sisters for the Lawton school. Sister Gertrude Ehrismann, who had come to America from Alsace in 1883, had, like the other young Sisters, already been stationed briefly in nine missions, the most traumatic of which had been Galveston, Texas, where she survived in 1900 the great flood where 6,000 people were drowned. She had not been in Oklahoma, but Mother Florence felt that she would be a good pioneer for the new school in a location somewhat prejudiced against Catholics. So the superior would be Sister Gertrude. She was 46 years old.
Sister Mary Paul, a native Texan, was 27 years old with three mission experiences, none in Oklahoma, to her credit. Sister was small, jolly of disposition, and energetic. She would complement Sister Gertrude very well.
The youngest of the group was Sister Armella Sutton, from County Carlow, Ireland. Although she had been briefly in five missions, four in Texas and one in Louisiana, she was only 25 years old and annually professed.
Although there was no residence yet for the Sisters and no music room, Mother sent the music teacher and the housekeeper anyway, knowing that they would be busy with the new building and the preparation and care of the school. Sister Henrietta could also help with the new building and the preparation and care of the school. Sister Henrietta could also help with the classes. Sister Stephen Wicke from Viegsdorf, Schlesien, Germany, like the others, and some missionary experience in small Texas towns. She was 30 years old and a housekeeper. She was to stay in Lawton longer than any of the other four. Sister Henrietta Ostermann was from Windthorst, Texas. She had been on four missions, including Vinita, Oklahoma, and was 26 years old.
The five sisters boarded the Rock Island train in San Antonio August 22, and arrived in Oklahoma City the next morning. There they switched to the Santa Fe and arrived in Lawton the same day. They had been fortified with house plans and an abundance of information on how to open the school and furnish their apartment. But they dreaded the coming weeks, for the operation of the entire school would be in their hands, and they had not experienced anything quite like this before. Mother Florence, they felt, had great trust in them and they must not fail. Father Lamb, with one of the parishioners, met them at the depot in Lawton and took them to the school before depositing them at the Gilsingers' house, where their hosts were awed by the hooded figures, who were to live and eat there for several weeks, crowded into close quarters.
Father Lamb kept the ad in the paper all through September, for some pupils would still be coming to register after the cotton was picked in October or November. The ad ran thus:
Catholic parochial school conducted by the Sisters of Divine Providence of San Antonio, Texas, under the supervision of Rev. W.P. Lamb, will open Sept. 2, 1907. Kindergarten, primary, elementary, and high school courses will be taught, and in connection with them stenography, typewriting, and instrumental music. Terms: For tuition per month in advance, from $1.00 in the primary grades to $3.00 in the high school department. Applicants will be examined and graded thereby. Monthly and semi-annual examinations will determine advancement to higher grades.
Lawton Has Grown by 1907
In the few days the Sisters had been able to get their bearings before school started, they took stock of their surroundings. Father brought them the newspapers. They learned that Thomas P. Gore was running for the U.S. Senate and would probably be ready to move in as soon as Oklahoma was declared a state. How a blind man could be a senator was a mystery to them, but they heard that his oratory was powerful and that he had already accomplished outstanding projects. Also headlines appearing in the pages stirred up patriotism in the people and pride in the Territory which was to be admitted to statehood very soon. But in many ways Lawton was still struggling with boom town tendencies as indicated by glaring headlines: "Cocaine Victim Dies in Cell, a Ready Student of Dope Habits." Already people did not know how to say "No" to drugs. Also "Lynching Party Overpowers Officers and Hangs Assassin" (black). But there were many conversion stories, too. Jobs were advertised for $100 per month. This seemed to the Sisters to be a fabulous salary. Their income, squeezed out in minute particles, would come from tuition from their pupils, music lessons when the place was available to give them, and boarders who would soon come. From all this income they would run the school. This was an established pattern in the schools that the Sisters operated. Thomas Gore, in his attempt to win friends and influence people, was rumored to "have gotten giddy on too much spring water," and the famous Geronimo was said to be attending a "stomp dance" in the locality. Schools were in progress of being constructed and staffed for the 3,000 schoolchildren in Comanche County.
The Baptists, very strong in Lawton as in all Oklahoma, were planning a Baptist University, which they would support. This proved to be an over-ambitious project which hardly got off the ground before it came to a close.
President Theodore Roosevelt from 1901-1909 taking a critical look at the obstreperous potential new state, apparently read the spicy articles in Lawton publications, and it was reported that "what he things of THE CONSTITUTION is not fit to print." In the meantime, "The Lawtonians" played their first ball game, and the cannons boomed away on the Old Post Range.
School Finally Opens
School opened September 2 with some 60 pupils in attendance. Fortunately for the Sisters, there were no high school students the first year. If the small enrollment was a disappointment, at least it gave the Sisters the opportunity to offer individual attention and build up confidence in their system. Besides, the Sisters' residence was being put together just south of the school. The hauling, shouting, and hammering were constant disturbances to both students and teachers. But the Sisters were eager to have their own residence. Outdoor toilets had been constructed near the alley, as was done throughout Lawton, and water was hauled to the school in barrels. The early prediction of running water, sewerage disposal, and electric streetcars within a year, had not materialized and did not until Mayor Jones achieved this feat (minus the streetcar) in early 1908.
Lawton was an agricultural community, and cotton was king from the beginning. Since roads and transportation were slow and laborious, the pioneer farmers raised their own food, and the "factory was the home on the grass-covered prairie." In other words, they came to town only on rare occasions and were self-supporting. This affected both school and Church attendance.
School proceeded normally under the circumstances. Some parents came to inquire whether their daughters could board there as the distance was too great to attend school otherwise. The Sisters promised that when the house was ready, they could take boarders. In the city there was not much problem getting to school.
At first the Sisters were alarmed at frequent gunshots. But they soon learned that this was a false alarm. If a fire broke out, on shot was fired in the air. The first driver to reach the fire was given $5.00. Barrels of water were left near the houses for just such emergencies. This was also true at the school.
Finally the Sisters' house was finished, at least, finished enough to move into. The first school and convent were variously described by different students who were in the school the first years, so it is difficult to obtain an accurate picture. However, all agree that the front classroom - on cement blocks, with two steps leading into it - was the primary room. Behind it were two or three classrooms where the rest of the pupils were taught. Behind these rooms were the Sisters' quarters, which consisted of two or three rooms with one or two doors giving access to the classrooms. Here the five Sisters slept, did their cooking and class preparation - and kept a few boarders. The piano was either in one of these rooms or in one of the classrooms, probably in the former. Here Sister Henrietta gave her music lessons during the school hours when she was not actually teaching in the classrooms. Usually each Sister taught the singing in her own classroom, unless Sister Henrietta was free. If there was a special occasion, the music teacher took all the pupils for singing.
The Wiests Remember
Callie and Juanita Wiest, who entered the school in its very first year and remember, have given some details and described the school and Sisters as they remember them. Juanita remembers Sister Mary Paul as the teacher of the middle grades. She dearly loved the kind, cheerful young Sister, who was an inspiration to her at the time and whom she has continued to idolize. When she recalls the Sisters, it is always Sister Mary Paul she thinks of and holds in her minds as the perfect nun. But alas, Sister Mary Paul stayed in Lawton only two years, and her successor could never come up to her image. Juanita, Callie, and Harry all remember Sister Gertrude, who would tolerate no nonsense. Frank Wiest was in her room, but the room was not large enough for them both, so Frank went back to the public school where he had started. Sister Gertrude has a long strap which she held behind her back when it was time for discipline. She operated the instrument from the front somehow so that it rose behind her like a tail, came over her head, and descended in the exact spot she had mapped out. This process was so fascinating to the boys that they provoked her purposely in order to re-witness the phenomenon.
The Landoll family moved to Lawton in time to enter the new St. Mary's School. Of this large family, Rupert and Leo had already entered the seminary to become priests of the Order of the Precious Blood and two girls, Eloise and Celestine, had entered the Congregation of the Precious Blood as Sisters. Urban would also enter the Precious Blood Order and become a priest after his graduation in 1917. Other members of the Landoll family kept attending school and graduating from it, and they have continued in St. Mary's to this very day.
By this time the school enrollment had inched up to 75 for the cotton was all picked. A few girls were brought by their parents to board with the Sisters. If the Sisters often wondered where they would get the money for coal for the stoves and kerosene for the lamps, they were not alone. The public schools had much the same problem. So it was a common practice for the schools to sell tickets for programs and speeches. The Sisters also had "special lunch days," candy sales, and anything which would bring in a few nickles.
Oklahoma Becomes a 'Dry' State
September 17, 1907, was the day that Oklahoma and Indian Territory would be admitted as a state, if the people approved. While the admission to statehood would be an accomplishment, especially since President Theodore Roosevelt was not in favor of it, what would be far more important would be the decision of the people whether it would be admitted "Wet" or "Dry." There were very strong feelings on both sides. The Enabling Act had specified that liquor was not to be sold on Indian Territory. Now some wanted a divided law - dry for the Indian Territory and wet for the rest. But it was evident that that would not work, for the Territories would be admitted as one state.
The Women's Christian Temperance Movement and the Anti-Saloon League had been at work for years and had a tremendous following. William H. Murray had bargained with the League that if they would storm the White House with petitions for statehood, he would support prohibition. The petition for statehood was granted, and Murray did support prohibition. (Franklin) In his campaign for governor, Charles N. Haskell also pledged to support prohibition, and in his Inaugural Address November 16, he made dry heats glad by concluding:
And I hope that tomorrow's sun rises and forever thereafter, as long as this law shall be the will of the people, that there will be no one within our borders disposed to violate (it), because that violation is bound to meet with punishment presented in our law.
By midnight, November 16, because the "wets" knew it was their last day of freedom, there were drunken mobs all over the state. However, as morning came, "pandemonium finally staggered to an end and it appeared there would be peace in the new state." (Franklin 20) Oklahoma was the only state in the Union that was accepted along with prohibition. But from the first day, prohibition was a problem, in fact, many problems. Whiskey stills were soon built out in the country, and probably in town, where bootleggers grew rich on tax-free booze. Periodically raids were made, equipment was destroyed, and vats emptied, but within a few days or weeks new stills were set up in new places. Whiskey was never so delicious and satisfying as that drunk during prohibition. And perhaps more men who grew up on bootleg whiskey grew up alcohol-addicted than in any other period in Oklahoma. Between 1908-1910, more than 9,000 cases of illicit sales of liquor in 15 counties, including Comanche, cost the counties $231,000, and still the efforts were not effective. (Franklin)
At first there was no problem to obtain Mass wine. There was some on hand, but when the state made it illegal to import wine, it became very difficult. The government did have liquor dispensaries where wine could be purchased for certain purposes, but the Church was not willing to buy altar wine in this way, nor the government to sell it. Father Urban De Hasque and other priests fought for the right to purchase altar wine from established altar wineries. After a "Bone Dry" period they finally won their appeal.