Bakery house built in late 1800′s.
“May 12, 1877, three strangers descended a bald hill in the then Pottawatomie Nation, Indian Territory, and took possession of what was to be the future Sacred Heart Mission.” (The Indian Advocate, June 01, 1902.) This Mission would become a monastery which would be the center for Catholicism in the Indian territory.
The Mission consisted of a church, a boarding school for Indian boys, a convent for the Sisters, a school for girls, and a college which trained students for seminary. A beautiful self-sustaining community, it had a farm with orchards, gardens, vineyards, herds of animals, and agriculture to supply food for the institution. It had its own bakery (pictured above) wherein the Sisters baked 500 French loaves of breach each day. The Mission had its own publication (The Indian Advocate) which was a quarterly review printed in the bakery house. In addition, it had stables, a tool house, a carpenter shop, and a blacksmith shop.
Two-story log cabin.
But on the night of January 15, 1901, fire broke out and destroyed Sacred Heart Mission. The Indian Advocate reported that the fire began in the dinning room of the boy’s school and then spread first to the chapel, then to the monastery, and finally the college. No lives were lost. The light from the blaze could be seen 60 miles away. The community that took nearly 25 years to build was destroyed in just three hours.
This weekend I went on a guided tour of the remains of Sacred Heart Mission. Leading the tour was a member of Oklahoma Outlaws Lawmen History Association who had a wealth of knowledge to share. While a church was rebuilt atop the hill, only two of the original buildings remain standing today — the bakery and a two-story log cabin — which are in excellent condition. Also still in existence next to the Mission is a cemetery for the Priests and Brothers and a cemetery for the Sisters of Mercy which contains an old crucifix of Jesus. While I found Sacred Heart Mission to be a beautiful place, I also found it to be quite grim.
The priests cemetery.
”Dear old Sacred Heart! Where art thou? What has become of thee? If these crumbling walls could speak, they would tell us what they have witnessed of holy prayers, self denial and hard labor, during the lapse of twenty-five years. . . . If the courageous and noble hearted pioneer, Rt. Rev. I. Robot, whose remains rest in peace near the sad ruins, would stand up and speak, he would tell us many a thrilling story of the early days of what fatigues and hardships ‘Sacred Heart Mission’ cost him.”
(The Indian Advocate, March 01, 1901.)
Crucifix in Sisters of Mercy cemetery.