Cherokee Orphan Asylum

In 1873, after the Cherokee orphans had been cared for at Tahlequah for several years, the Cherokee Nation purchased the home and farm of Louis Ross, a Cherokee citizen located in the eastern part of Mayes County, adjoining the present town of Salina, and converted it into a home for Cherokee orphans.  In 1875, the large Ross mansion was enlarged and the school was prepared to care for one hundred or more orphans. This home was admirably adapted for the purpose to which it was dedicated. The farm consisted of about three hundred acres of land, approximately one-half of which was fertile bottom land, the other half consists of timber and pasture land. Horses, cattle and hogs were raised, and the bottom land produced abundant crops of corn, oats and wheat. The timber land furnished fuel for the home, and fencing and lumber for the improvement of the farm. Everlasting springs of pure water bubbled out of the nearby hillside, furnishing an abundant supply of pure water for the home and livestock.

For nearly a third of a century the Cherokees cheerfully supported this institution entirely from their own tribal funds, expending annually about twelve thousand five hundred dollars for the support of about one hundred and fifty of their orphan boys and girls, but on the 17th day of November, 1903, the entire home, including the original building and the three wings which had been added was destroyed by fire. The fire occurred at noon, causing no loss of life but consuming almost the entire contents of the building. About fifty of the orphans were transferred to the Whitaker Home at Pryor Creek and the others were cared for at Tahlequah. The orphan home, or asylum, as it was called, was never rebuilt, and a mound of old brick is all that is left to remind the Cherokees of their historic home which for thirty years was one of the institutions in which they manifested special pride.

Source: Benedict, John D. Muskogee and northeastern Oklahoma, including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. 3 v. illus., ports., facsims. 28 cm. Chicago, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

5 thoughts on “Cherokee Orphan Asylum”

  1. I only have one written account of the circumstances leading up to him being adopted. Are there any options I can check for this adoption in Muskogee, Oklahoma in approximately 1893-1896?

  2. Actually there is still a building that there has survived and used as an “old gym” by the students of salina schools. Their is also crumbling headstones of some cherokees that has passed. Unsure if they are children of the asylum or townspeople.

    1. Lauren, I was in Salina a couple of weeks ago looking for any headstones that may be left but I didn’t see any. I had read that the cemetery was just north of the original school site which has a church and a number of houses now.
      My great grandmother’s nephew was an orphan at the school in 1881 and was said to have died there. We assume he was buried in the cemetery.
      Oddly enough there are a few pages left of the Cherokee Orphan Asylum student newspaper which exist and his name is listed as one of the students.
      Do you know where the headstones are that you mentioned? I am going to see if an interpretive sign can be installed at the gym to commemorate the school and cemetery. I can’t believe there isn’t something there already.

  3. Hello, My name is Cheryl Thank you very much for the article.Im looking for where my mother came from she wasn’t adopted just taken I think.She also didn’t know .She did not know that her supposed family was not really her family. She passed years ago.I found this out not long ago. A long story that I don’t have answers too.

  4. My family story is that my great-great grandfather was an orphan at the Louis Ross farm (I think). Is there any documentation of the residents of the orphanage?

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