3/14/11

1912 Blessing of St. Joseph Orphanage, Bethany, Oklahoma

The St. Joseph's Children's Home, or the St. Josephs Orphanage and Industrial School as it was also called, was dedicated Oct. 6, 1912 by Bishop Theophile Meerschaert.  It has been home to at least seven religious orders who supervised its ministry and work with children and the elderly. These orders included: the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sisters of the Most Blessed Trinity, Carmelites, Benedictines, Missionary Sisters of the Most Blessed Trinity, and four 'strong and colorful priests' - Fathers John M. Kekesisen, P.P. Schaeffer, James Garvey, and A.A. Isenbart (The Sooner Catholic, Sept.   5,1976, pg. 6).  The original property included 32 1/2 acres purchased partly by the Disocese and partly through a gift from James Maney. In 1913, additional acquisitions expanded the land to 60 acres, and then in 1919, 45 more acres were added a few miles north. This last would later be known as the "north farm",  and would be sold to form the St. Francis Center for Christian Renewal on NW Expressway.  The facility removed from the Bethany location in the 1960's and it was sold in the early 1970's to the International Pentecostal Holiness Church for their denominational headquarters.

29 comments:

Robert said...

I was an inmate of this instution between 1945 and 1953, they are responsible for my complete distrust of the Catholic Church , its priests and nuns. I still carry the scars both physical and mental that to this day causes night sweats and nightmares thanks to Sister Margaret Ester

MARILYN A. HUDSON, MLIS said...

I am so sorry you had an negative experience. A society is measured by its mercy to the orphaned,ill,old,and homeless. Sometimes we -as a total group and as individuals - can fall short of all we should be as human beings. These are some of the lessons history can teach and why history should be something we all learn. To not learn them means we too often repeat them.

Anonymous said...

As with most charges (inmates, as Robert refers), most of us had bad experiences. But, you will find that at any institutional upbringing. I remember the ride from our grandfathers home to the HOME. The long drive up to the dormatory building, the kids, playing on the playground.I was considered a little boy, you could enjoy being a kid up to the grand age of 10. Yes for those who might be interested, that's when life became- well at best complicated. But life was not all that bad. Being of the same status, we formed friendships(more like brotherhoods) that in our memories, we will carry forever. There are stories to tell. I like all others, probably threatened at one time or the other to 'write a book',cause no kid lived like we did. At least not beyond the fence. I wonder if anyone (inmate) remembers the old song that the kids sang, peering out to the front as each kid was set to leave the HOME. "We're glad to see you go, We're glad to see you go. We home the heck you never come back, We're glad to see you go. Saying goodbye to your brothers and sisters(the other "inmates"), Now that was surely sad.

MARILYN A. HUDSON, MLIS said...

Thank you for sharing so intimate a memory so that others may understand. You should, at the least, write your memories down for others to appreciate the challenges, the accomplishments, and the strengths of those precious 'inmates', charges, and souls.

Anonymous said...

As you can see from my last post, I used the word home(instead of hope) in that good-by song. Such is the great influence of the Home. When my children were young, and acting up, I would tell them to pack their bags, cause they were going to the Home. I never talked to them about the home,it's existence, but they sensed something not so good, and it always worked.

Anonymous said...

I was a young boy here from 1962 - 1965. I have some good and some bad Memories from the Home. The worst was the first night there, as it was Halloween and I cried all night long with no one to comfort me. They were very irritated that I was crying. The best memory was a Saturday when we got to ride a pony.

Anonymous said...

Where can I find out more info. My mother and uncle both were brought here in the early years of the home by their father from Alabama. Neither of them had good things to say about their stay there. But my uncle did change his middle name to Joseph from that of his father's. He did not have good thoughts of the man that left him and his sister there so he did not want his name any longer. What I wonder, are there any records?

MARILYN A. HUDSON, MLIS said...

It depends on what information you seek. If you have the last name they should be listed on the U.S. Census which would give birth, place information (if known) and who was with them. If records were kept and not destroyed (as was often the case once people reached maturity or left an institution) the Oklahoma Catholic Diocease might have some information in their archive. Numerous general articles in the local paper, The Oklahoman, cver the school, its development, and some deaths of priests associated with the institution.

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious if there is any information regarding the cemetary. I know it was in a fenced area now Eldon Lyons Park.

MARILYN A. HUDSON, MLIS said...

The cemetery has been emptied, the fence removed, and a stone marker is in place (photo to come).

From previous research, (see other articles on Mystorical) they cemetery had been largely occupied by the religious who had lived there, I found a few records indicating the burial of some orphans, and some of the senior citizens who lived there during its dual life as aged and children's home. After it closed the bodies of the religious were transferred to another location. Disposition of the other graves is unknown.

Anonymous said...

my mother converted to the Catholic religion and my older and younger brothers and I made our 1st Holy Communion there. i still have photo of us on front lawn. We attended the "Day School" in 1954. Maybe we were the lucky ones. We'd already been "inmates" in another orphanage. I will never forget the cruelty of Sister Peter who would pick misbehaving kids up by the ears nor the fact that my little bro was changed from left handed to right in 2nd grade there, resulting in his having completely illegible handwriting for the rest of his life. some of the nuns, although misguided, were ok though and I was happy to meet my teacher again years later when i was a student at St. Anthony School of Nursing.

MARILYN A. HUDSON, MLIS said...

Yes, different times and different ways. My own father, in school in the Ozarks, also suffered for being left handed at school.

sfl said...

I was "interred" at this institution from 60-65, as were siblings. initially we attended classes on site, later we were bused to st johns in yukon. during that era, eventually the order of nuns were phased out and replaced with lay personnel. subsequent to my departure, i can say that i was blessed with a normal life, highschool, military and fulfilling career. although i drive by periodically i have not driven up the long drive, to the circle, but i do always wonder what happend to friends and former playe mates. not much else...

Anonymous said...

should any person having been interred there during the time frame 60-65, feel free to post,and request contact info. would like to share the outcome of lives, etc

Apollonia Murillo said...

Does any one remember a little a girl named susanna leal she was ther in the 50's till the 60's if so email my please apolloniamurillo@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I remember, as a child living in Bethany, often wondering about the tiny cemetery in the park. We frequently walked our dog there, and I was always so curious about the history behind the cemetery. At one point in time, you could actually walk through, and then it was fenced off, and then disappeared completely! This deepened the mystery further. I appreciate everyone who has posted about it!

Anonymous said...

I currently live next to the park and walk my dog over there I want to learn more about the facility if anyone could answer some of my questions please email me my email is cat_87_2005@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Lee St. Clair....Am I the only one with happy memories of St. Joseph's? My sister and two brothers were there in 1941-1942. I remember being baptised in the Chapel. I well remember Father Garvey and Sister Bonaventure both of whom I loved dearly. The sister gave me a doll on roller skates the day we left. My best friend was Fr Garvey's adopted daughter Skipper. At four I was one of the youngest there I cried for hours when my father took us out.

MARILYN A. HUDSON, MLIS said...

How marvelous are your memories! I know they are truly precious to you. I have heard many good things about Fr Garvey.

Many others have shared (in different context) how they learned to handle life on their own, learned skills they used later in life, and learned to care more for those who suffer in life through no fault of their own. They said had become more charitable and caring because of the experience of being permamently or temporarily orphaned.

Unfortunately, these memories were all shared without names.

As Alexander pope said : "To err is human - to forgive divine." It is hoped that with each passing day - the good remains to take deep root and leave happy memories.

Anonymous said...

Hello, fellow "Homies". I have a blog here already, but does anyone remember the Martinez family, intered 1954 thru summer 1959. Pete(everone called me Marty), Danny, Linda, Alice, and Nancy?There were lots of good memories along with more oppressing one's. I for one loved Sister Mary Peter, who upon meeting me commented "how small your are". Also it helped that our names were the same Pete!

Anonymous said...

Was there early 60's.. what do you want to know

Unknown said...

Be sure and check out this blog devoted to St. Joseph's history and if one FB look for the page there as well.
http://stjosephhome.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

My father and his brother were at St.Joseph's in the latter 1920s. Is there any information or photos from that time? I visited the former orphanage many years ago, saw the dining room area. I believe the cabins in back were pointed out to me. My sisters and I want to know more about these years from our father's life and what the days were like for the children who lived there. Our grandfather signed the boys in to the orphanage. They returned home three years later.

Anonymous said...

My parents are Joe and Diane Louvar. They volunteered at the orphanage in the mid-1960's. I have heard stories over the years of how they did the best they could, and to this day, pray the kids they cared for did well in life. They have cared so much over the years that we still have a particular picture of the kids in the orphanage with my parents, along side pictures of our families..it meant a lot to them to be at St. Joseph's. If anyone recalls being there during my parents time, I am sure my parents would enjoy hearing from you.

pete martinez(marty) said...

Hi, this is Marty. I remember a fellow that was an all around-Jack of all trades. He had red hair, and a glass eye, that at the time, for a young boy, was really cool, to take out and show us. I am wondering if he is the same as the caretaker mentioned in another blog. A Gerard Oneil, a caretaker in the 60's( by then we were gone). (the Martinez family).If he is the same, he used to make us(boys)skate-racers,fashioned like a "T" with those old metal skates made for concrete. We would propel ourselves, from two sides of the flagpole circle, and converge in a terrivic crash. 8 o'clock medical patchup, by Sister Mary Peter,was something to behold. Today, whenever I see a pair of old metal skates at the swapmeet, or in an antique shop, just can't help but chuckle and remember.

Anonymous said...

Not all experiences were bad. My father was at Bethany for several years, 1937-1940. He is deceased now but I remember being told that he actually had a good experience. He implied he was well care for and he liked helping out the nuns in the dining room and he played a lot of baseball with the other kids.

Anonymous said...

I was living there in the earley 40 and stayed tell 53 and do remember some things and most were good. I was we'll treated and taken good care of, I guess if you think hard enought you can fine bad. I chose to think of all the good times I had . All the holidays. Going to the movies on saterday. My name is Paul Henderson

Eric Stell said...

My name is Eric, my father and uncle were in the st. Joseph's orphanage from 1949 to 1953 so its a good possibility you have met them they also have some stories that truly haunt them to this very day. so, I can only imagine what you must have been through yourself even though its a touchy subject, things of this magnitude need to be brought to light regardless of certain allegations and I do realize it has been 66 years now but we would like to have the opportunity to confidentiality discuss this further with you... the actions displayed by some of the staff in this institution were atrocious and completely criminal and I personally feel its time to literally dig up the past and force them to finally face the fact's!
my email address is stellar995@gmail
hope to hear from you

Anonymous said...

Last summer,(2015) i was cleaning out my grandmothers house on the corner of 39th street and Divis and i found/encountered some things relating to sister margaret ester. I would be very appreciative if you would find the time to talk with me. My email is chad.downs@yahoo.com

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