Just ten years after the Cherokee Nation was relocated to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee had made great strides in rebuilding the tribal infrastructure. In 1849, the Cherokee National Council turned their attention to education. The Council allocated the funding needed to build two non-denominational, secondary boarding schools – the Male and Female Seminaries.
On May 7, 1851, the Cherokee Female Seminary was opened to students. This was one of the first schools for women west of the Mississippi River and was funded entirely by the Cherokee Nation. Students at the Female Seminary took courses in Latin, trigonometry, economics, and literary criticism, as well as the more domestic sciences of cooking and tending house.
The school fell on hard times in the 1850s when funds ran low and the school had to close its doors for a few years. Then in the 1860s, the school was repurposed during the Civil War as a hospital and storage facility.
In the 1870s the school was once again opened to students and thrived until April 1887 when the Female Seminary was destroyed by fire. The remaining columns of the original building still stand at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill.
The Female Seminary was rebuilt in a new location and opened on August 26, 1889. Twenty years later, with Oklahoma statehood, the Female Seminary building transferred to the control of the state and the site was transformed into a state school. Today this building remains as Seminary Hall, the centerpiece of the Northeastern State University campus in Tahlequah.
Photos Copyright Christina Berry, All Things Cherokee
Cherokee Female Seminary Travel Details
The building is currently used as Seminary Hall on the campus of Northeastern State University, so it’s not a tour spot, but the campus grounds welcome year-round visitors.
Directions: The Cherokee Female Seminary is part of the Northeastern State University campus. Driving through Tahlequah, head north on South Muskogee Avenue (aka Highway 62) until it turns to the right and becomes North Grand Avenue, the campus is on the left and Seminary Hall is at the top of a hill. For specific directions, click the “Directions” link in the location bubble of the map above and enter your starting location on the left.
GPS & Map: 35.9190839537629,-94.96869564056396