Cherokee Female Seminary

Coordinates: 35°55′13″N 94°58′12″W / 35.92028°N 94.97000°W / 35.92028; -94.97000
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Cherokee Female Seminary
Seminary Hall.jpg
Front of the building
Cherokee Female Seminary is located in Oklahoma
Cherokee Female Seminary
Cherokee Female Seminary is located in the United States
Cherokee Female Seminary
LocationNortheastern State University campus, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, United States
Coordinates35°55′13″N 94°58′12″W / 35.92028°N 94.97000°W / 35.92028; -94.97000
ArchitectC.E. Illsley
NRHP reference No.73001558[1][2]
Added to NRHPApril 5, 1973
Cherokee Female Seminary graduating class of 1902, photographed by Jennie Ross Cobb (Cherokee)

The Cherokee Female Seminary, (not to be confused with the first Cherokee Female Seminary), was built by the Cherokee Nation in 1889 near Tahlequah, Indian Territory. It replaced their original girls' seminary that had burned down on Easter Sunday two years before. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

The Cherokee Council chose to rebuild the school on a 40-acre (160,000 m2) site north of Tahlequah, near Hendricks Spring.[4] Two years later, on May 7, 1889, the dedication ceremonies were held in honor of the new building. The Female Seminary was owned and operated by the Cherokee Nation until March 6, 1909, after Oklahoma had been admitted as a state as a state in 1907, and tribal land claims were extinguished.

At that time the new State Legislature of Oklahoma passed an act providing for the creation of Northeastern State Normal School at Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The act also authorized purchase from the Cherokee Tribal Government of the building, land, and equipment of the Cherokee Female Seminary. At the start of the next academic year, on September 14, the state held its first classes at the newly founded Northeastern State Normal School, primarily intended to train teachers of elementary grades. The institution has been developed over the decades and is now Northeastern State University, offering a range of curriculum and graduate programs.[3]

The Cherokee were the first Native American Female seminaries were a larger cultural movement across the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, by which time they had taken over the role played traditionally by the boarding school, which had offered a more family-like atmosphere.[5]

Seminary Hall[edit]

What is now called Seminary Hall, in honor of the Cherokee Seminary, is the oldest building on NSU's campus. It was built in 1889 by St. Louis architect C.E. Illsley, who designed it in the Romanesque Revival style, complete with fortress-like turrets flanking the main entrance and a clock tower that resembles a church steeple and rises two stories above the rest of the building.[6] In 1994 the building was completely restored.

The building was renovated and upgraded in 2020, with the work aided by a $4 million grant from the Cherokee Nation.[6] That work included using salvaged wood and brick from the 1800s to match the original building materials where needed, and replacing aluminum window frames from a prior renovation with custom wood frames typical of the period. In addition, half-octagon-shaped roof dormers were added, as they were drawn in the original architect's plans.[6]

The building now houses classrooms along with academic and faculty offices. It was the first campus classroom building wired for multimedia instruction. At the main entrance of the building are three murals painted in the 1930s as a WPA project by Stephen Mopope and Jack Hokeah (both Kiowa) and Albin Jake (Pawnee).[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Oklahoma Historical Society State Historic Preservation Office".
  3. ^ a b "What We're Celebrating". Northeastern State University. 2008-02-14.
  4. ^ Chavez, Will (2015-05-05). "Little-known Cherokee Female Seminary facts shared". Cherokee Phoenix (in English and Cherokee). Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  5. ^ "Academies & Seminaries Women's Education Home Page". William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Overall, Michael (October 18, 2020). "It takes 'extreme attention to detail' to restore one of Oklahoma's oldest buildings". Tulsa World. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  7. ^ "Northeastern State University's historic Seminary Hall". Communicators Council. 2008-02-14.

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