Barnsdall schools to remember Class of 1921

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Barnsdall Public Schools is planning – weather and COVID-19 permitting – to celebrate on Feb. 24 the centennial of its first graduating class.

Feb. 24 was chosen as the day of observance because it was the 100th scheduled day of school in the 100th school year since the initial graduating class, Superintendent Jeff Lay confirmed.

The town of Barnsdall, currently a little more than 1,100 people, goes back to 1905, when the Midland Valley Railway opened what it called the Bigheart station at a 160-acre townsite. The name Bigheart was drawn from the name of Osage Chief James Bigheart.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, the town was renamed “Barnsdall” on Jan. 1, 1922, in honor of Theodore N. Barnsdall and his Barnsdall Oil Co. The company discovered the Bigheart or Barnsdall oil field in 1916, and bought the Bigheart Producing and Refining Co. in 1921, the Oklahoma Historical Society said in a profile of the town.

Naomi Downing Schmidt, in her 1963 volume “Our Home in the Osage Hills,” says an early school building on Main Street was complete in late November 1910. The school survived an April 1911 tornado that struck the community and was repaired and ready for occupancy by September 1911, Schmidt wrote.

The Barnsdall school system did not have a full, four-year high school curriculum until 1919 or 1920, according to Schmidt, and the first graduating class completed its studies in 1921.

According to Barnsdall Public Schools, the planned celebration is to include T-shirt decorating competition and scavenger hunt activities. Sayra Bryant, principal of the junior and senior high schools, said in an email that it is hoped the weather will be good enough for outdoor activities.

Barnsdall teachers were also reportedly planning student activities for the day of celebration that would include decorating socks, baseball caps and flags.

Persons interested in the history of Barnsdall may wish to visit the “Barnsdall Oklahoma History” page on Facebook. The page offers lots of old photos from Barnsdall, and commentary about them.