The Oklahoma State Home for the orphan children of the state is located on a 550 acre tract of land adjoining the town of Pryor Creek. This is one of the state’s best institutions and represents an investment of $350,000. The institution is complete in every respect. Besides the administration building, there are eight brick cottages which house from 25 to 35 children each, a well equipped hospital, being a two-story brick building, a commissary, garage, laundry, power plant and a nice new two-story brick school building which is so situated that it is completely surrounded by the other buildings heretofore mentioned. The home has a large farm in connection with the institution and it is a great help to the state in feeding the 250 to 300 children that are cared for the year around. There is a fine Holstein herd of about one hundred cows on the farm and one of the most complete dairy barns in the state. The barn is a two-story brick building 36 by 120 feet, with all the modern conveniences for sanitation. There were more than sixteen thousand pounds of hog meat cured for the use of the home last year, besides which, there was a sale of thousands of pounds on foot.
About one hundred and fifty children are placed in private homes annually through this institution.
Neal B. Gardner is the present superintendent and has held this position since August 1, 1915. Mr. Gardner and his good wife take great interest in the institution and the home shows the effects of their tireless effort.
Until the state took this institution over in 1908, it was run as a private institution and known as the W. T. Whitaker Orphan Home. The home was founded by W. T. Whitaker, a Cherokee Indian, in 1897, it being Mr. Whitaker’s desire to build a home for the white orphan children of the Indian Territory. It will be remembered that at that time and up until 1904 the Cherokees had a fine orphan home for Cherokee orphans only, just east of Pryor, on Grand River. The first building or what is now the administration building (a three-story stone, built in 1907), handled most of the needs until statehood. It was located on forty acres of land, being a part of the Whitaker allotment. When the Cherokee Orphan Home burned, Mr. Whitaker then opened the doors of his home for the white orphan children, to the homeless Cherokees of the territory. Although crowded conditions prevailed, the children, with Federal aid, were cared for until statehood came.
Mr. Whitaker is still a resident of Pryor and is appreciated for his services rendered to the orphans of Eastern Oklahoma.
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.