My mother attended the Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw and Choctaw girls in the 20's, and even though the history of Bloomfield is not all good, it is a bright spot in our nation's history, and something for us to be proud of.
Bloomfield was founded by a Methodist Missionary named John Harpole Carr, who together with his wife founded the school in 1852. The original location of Bloomfield was near Achille, Indian Territory, right across the Red River from Denison, Texas. The Chickasaws had not yet won their independence from the Choctaws in 1852, but they had control of their own funds, so they appropriated money to match the support given by the Missionary board for the school.
Reverend Carr was a carpenter, and he built the original buildings for Bloomfield himself, and he also operated a farm to supply food for the students and teachers. The name Bloomfield came from Jackson Kemp, a former Chickasaw Chief, from a letter he wrote to Carr in 1852. Carr was camped in a field of wild flowers at the time, working to construct the school's buildings. His letter was addressed simply to Rev. John Carr, "Bloomfield."
Bloomfield was confiscated by Confederate troops during the Civil War, and the school was shut down, but after the War it was reopened and its operation was taken over by the tribe. From then until the tribal governments were abolished by the Curtis Act in 1898, the school flourished.
The goals set by the tribal legislature were that the education at Bloomfield should "be carried on in a manner that would reflect honor on the Nation, besides conferring a lasting good upon the rising generation … and in their belief we ask the help and support of every sober thinking mind of our country. Let us inaugurate schools that will elevate our children to an equal footing with our white brethren."
Footnote: Listening to Our Grandmothers' Stories, by Amanda Cobb Greetham
The tribe established high standards for Bloomfield from the start. Enrollment was capped at 45 and only one child per family was allowed to attend. Students had to be able to read and write before they were admitted. Full bloods were recruited for Bloomfield, and students were given a subsidy of $10 per month so that even poor students could attend.
Future Chickasaw Governor Douglas Johnston was superintendant from 1882 until 1896. The students at Bloomfield were known as the Bloomfield Blossoms, and they received an education equal to that of any women in white society. The Chickasaw Nation provided the school with an excellent library. The curriculum included logic, chemistry, astronomy, botany in addition to more traditional reading, writing, arithmetic, geog, grammar, history, physiology, rhetoric, government, philosophy, American literature, composition, mythology, and latin. They also received instruction in art, painting, piano, guitar, mandolin, violin, banjo, and singing. The school had an orchestra, a glee club, a literary society and a basketball team. The girls received a diploma on graduation and were authorized to teach in any tribal school. Bloomfield became known as Bryn Mawr of the West.
After the Chickasaw government was abolished in 1898, Bloomfield came under the control of the federal government even though it was still supported by Chickasaw funds. Bloomfield was transformed from a finishing school into a trade school. The government's goals for Indian schools were to prepare children for trades, and to erase their Indian identity. Speaking the Chickasaw language was forbidden. The passage of the Dawes Act was celebrated as a holiday, and the girls put on patriotic plays, and sang patriotic songs. The number of grades was cut to 8, and the curriculum was altered to include domestic arts, cleaning, gardening, animal care, and nutrition. Students were required to maintain the school grounds.
Federal administration of the Chickasaw estate was corrupt. The first federal Superintendent of Indian Schools, John Benedict, was so clever in managing tribal funds that by the time he was fired for incompetency he had amassed enough of a fortune to start his own bank.
Footnote: And Still the Waters Run, Angie Debo. P 66.
For a while, Indian families refused to send their children to the new schools and Bloomfield was closed for a while. In 1917 it was reopened with a new administrator, Eleanor Allen, who followed the federal mandates but reestablished high standards for the school. She remained superintendant until 1936, and it was during her tenure, in 1926 - 7, that my mother was a student there.