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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 14, No. 4
December, 1936

Page 524


Haskell Institute, an industrial training school for Indian youth maintained by the Government at Lawrence, Kansas, was established in 1882 and formally opened in the fall of 1884. It has become the alma mater of many Oklahoma Indians who hold fondly cherished memories of the patient, kindly superintendent of that institution, of some forty-five years ago and the recent passing of Dr. Charles Francis Meserve has closed another chapter for them.

Charles Francis Meserve, a son of Charles and Susanna (Blanchard) Meserve, was born at North Abington, Massachusetts on July 15, 1850. His ancestry is easily traced back to one Clement Meserve, a French emigrant lad who came from the Isle of Jersey to Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1673. He attended Colby University where he received his A. B. degree in 1877, his A. M. degree in 1880 and his L. L. D. degree in 1899. Dr. Meserve entered the domain of educational instruction as principal of the High School at Rockland, Mass., where he served from 1877 to 1885 and thereafter occupied the same position in the Oak Street School at Springfield, Massachusetts, from 1885 to 1889. He became superintendent of Haskell Institute in 1889 and served until 1894. His labors at Haskell became the inspiration for his more intensive study of our Indian problems toward the solution of which he was to become a contributing factor. In his annual report of 1892, Superintendent Meserve reports an attendance at Haskell of 531 pupils, mostly from the Indian Territory and of his own defined purposes, says, "My aim has been to teach these children of nature, reverence for God, cleanliness of body and mind, truthfulness, respect for the rights of others, habits of industry and frugality and a recognition of obligations that arise from being members of society." His creed of service was complete.

During the summer of 1894, Dr. Meserve, at the instance of the Indian Rights Association of Philadelphia, made a tour of observation among the Indians and the Indian schools of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas. His report of this trip was published and contained many highly illuminative suggestions. Early in 1896 the Indian Rights Association sent him to the Indian Territory to make a survey of conditions among the Five Civilized Tribes and report his observations and recommendations. This report published in 1896 under the title of "The Dawes Commission and the Five Civilized Tribes of the Indian Territory," is of great value to the student of Indian history in Oklahoma because of its accurate portrayal of conditions in the old Territory at that time. His survey, being contemporaneous with the period of which he wrote, preserves a true and lasting picture of a period which is now rapidly fading. It was written during the years when the Dawes Commission was putting forth its initial efforts. Dr. Meserve boldly vindicated the Commission in its labor against adverse conditions. He rendered valuable assistance to the Commission through the first hand information he had obtained and the counsel which he gave. Senator Dawes, in an address before the Lake Mohonk Indian Conference on October 14, 1896 gave outspoken credit to Dr. Meserve for his service to the Dawes Commission.

The interest of Dr. Meserve in the Indian inspired his faithful efforts toward the education of the negro youth to which sacrifice his life thereafter became dedicated. His New England environs may have influenced his interest in the negro. He became a confidant and inspiration of the late Booker T. Washington. He became president of Shaw University at Raleigh, North Carolina in 1894 in which capacity he served until 1920


Page 525

and thereafter until his death, as its president emeritus. For forty-two years he spent the scholastic months at Raleigh, retiring each summer to his comfortable home at Squirrel Island, Maine. The education of the Indian and the negro youth were the engaging efforts of his life. He was a most entertaining lecturer and public speaker as he strove to lift the educational, moral, and spiritual standards of the red and colored races. These people will ever pause in recognition of his unselfish service to them.

Dr. Meserve married Abbie Mary Whittier of Bangor, Maine on November 19, 1878 and after her death married Julia Frances Philbrick of Waterville, Maine, on May 16, 1900. He was an earnest member of the Baptist church and a Phi Beta Kappa. He had been, since 1920, the life president of the Maine Meserve Family Association. Dr. Charles Francis Meserve passed away at his home at Raleigh, North Carolina, on April 20, 1936, in the 86th year of his age, a loved and respected character. He is buried at Waterville, Maine.

He had ever walked in the shadow of the Cross.

—J. B. M.

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