By T. R. Corr
Baptists, as did others, had Indian mission schools but among the white Baptists of both territories there was a growing sense of need and a desire to own and operate their own college. Such a college was the Oklahoma State Baptist College which was finally located at Blackwell, Oklahoma, after bids had been received from several other towns. Blackwell was chosen because its progressive citizens recognized the value of such an institution to such an extent as to back up their belief with a substantial bonus.1 Another reason advanced was that it was a "beautiful little city of 4,500, with water works, electricity, sewers and natural gas". . . the leading denominations were represented and had good houses of worship and it "is in the center of one of the richest agricultural regions in the world and is reached by rail from six directions."2
The first board of Trustees consisted of W. A. Rowe, J. M. Via, W. N. Sandusky, A. B. Kirk, T. E. Donaldson, N. J. Davis, R. J. Nesbitt, Walter Pruett, J. M. Sester, J. C. Day, George T. Jones and A. Catlett.
On December 4, 1899, the Board chose W. N. Sandusky, J. M. Via, A. B. Kirk, W. A. Rowe and R. J. Nesbitt as a building com- mittee "to adopt plans and specifications and erect a building."3 After many meetings and much planning, the cornerstone for the new building was laid October 13, 1900.
James A. Beauchamp was elected President, February 21, 1901, and on September 4 of that same year the college opened its doors.4 The Baptist Convention met at Enid in October, 1902, and during its sessions went en masse, to Blackwell and formally dedicated the college building there.
On the opening day there were fifty students enrolled. The college began its career under a heavy mortgage for building and equipment. Moreover it was soon to have very keen competition. The month preceding, the contract was let for the first building of the University Preparatory School at Tonkawa ten miles away.
With high hopes the program of the Baptist College was launched but President Beauchamp resigned in 1903. He was succeeded by L. L. Smith as Interim President. M. P. Hunt served as chairman of the faculty until August 4, 1904, when the Trustees
1See Fred G. Watts, "Early Higher Education Among the Baptists of Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), XVII, 28-30.
4The members of the first faculty were as follows: the Reverend W. H. Burnham, D. D., Theology; Henry A. Foster, Pedagogy; William T. Semple, A. M., Natural Science; Charles J. Wallace, Musical Director; Alma Terrill Thach, Voice Teacher; Ella Grace Bailey, Elocution.
elected Dr. A. P. Stone, President. Other Presidents or acting Presidents were J. W. McAtee; E. D. Cameron; T. R. Corr; J. R. Jester; J. H. Moore; B. R. Womack; F. E. Smith and Anderson E. Baten.5
Doctor Anderson E. Baten officiated until the close of the Blackwell school, which marks the end of another chapter in the struggle of Oklahoma Baptists for religious education.
Of those who fought so heroically for Christian education in those pioneer days, only a few can be mentioned. Some have passed on, others are still helping to carry on: A. G. West, Dr. W. A. Wood, Dr. J. T. Lee, father of Senator Josh Lee (a former student at Oklahoma Baptist College), Rev. J. W. Hodges, Dr. J. A. Sutton, Rev. John F. Elder, Rev. J. W. Solomon, father of Dean L. E. Solomon of Oklahoma Baptist University, O. M. Swain, Rev. C. M. and Rev. D. N. Curb, Rev. and Mrs. J. E. Kirk, W. T. Short, Fred Watts, and many others.
5Adapted from the manuscript entitled, "A History of the State Baptist College," by T. R. Corr (Archives, Oklahoma Historical Society).