Corn’s Crusade for Knowledge
The lengthy legacy of Corn Bible Academy
Photos by M.J. Alexander
During the 1892 Cheyenne-Arapaho Land Run, 18 homesteaders established what would become Oklahoma’s largest Mennonite town, named after the German word for grain: Korn.
With their hopes and belongings, they brought seeds for a hardy strain of winter wheat called Turkey Red, and the seed and the colony flourished in the Washita County soil.
More than 90 families, many of them arriving from Kansas, settled in the area by winter of the following year. The Korn post office was established two years later, and eight Mennonite churches were established within 10 miles of the town center. The school – originally known as the Washita Gemeinde Schule – was established in 1902.
The name of the town was anglicized to Corn in 1918 to avoid anti-German suspicions during World War I, and the school became known as the Corn Bible Academy.
CLAIM 1: The Corn Bible Academy is the oldest Christian school west of the Mississippi River.
SOURCE: Travel Oklahoma, travelok.com/article_page/ oklahomas-amish-and-mennonite-communities
FACT CHECK: False. The Corn Bible Academy was established in 1902, and although its founding predates statehood, it is not even the oldest Christian school in Oklahoma. That honor goes to Holy Trinity Catholic School of Okarche, in continuous operation since it was established in Oklahoma Territory in 1897.
Several other schools operating west of the Mississippi River were founded in the 19th century. Among them:
• Saint Louis University High School, Saint Louis, Mo., 1818
• Academy of the Sacred Heart, Grand Coteau, La., 1821
• Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, Calif., 1851
• Notre Dame High School, San Jose, Calif., 1851
• Mount St. Mary Academy, Little Rock, Ark., 1851
• St. Michael’s High School, Santa Fe, N.M., 1859
• Loyola High School of Los Angeles, 1865
• Incarnate Word Academy, Houston, 1873
• Christian Brothers High School, Sacramento, Calif., 1876
• Saint Mary’s High School, Stockton, Calif., 1876
• The Academy of Our Lady of Peace, San Diego, 1882
• Gonzaga High School, Spokane, Wash., 1887
• TMI: The Episcopal School of Texas, San Antonio, 1893
CLAIM 2: The academy is the fifth-oldest Christian high school in the United States.
SOURCE: The Oklahoman, January 31, 1993
FACT CHECK: This is also incorrect, by more than a century. The oldest religiously based school in the United States was established nearly 400 years ago on the island of Manhattan by leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Dutch West India Company.
The Collegiate School suspended operations only once since 1628, when the British occupied New York City during the American Revolution.
Collegiate settled in its current home in 1892, next to New York’s West End Collegiate Church. Although now non-denominational, the K-12 school is ruled by a 25-member board of trustees including representatives of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the City of New York. Yearly tuition is $47,500.
Perennially listed in the national rankings of top Christian schools are Quaker-founded institutions that have been in operation for more than three centuries: The Friends School in Philadelphia, founded in 1689; the William Penn Charter School of Philadelphia, founded in 1689; and the Abington Friends School, founded in 1697. The Friends’ mission: “respect for all, simplicity, the peaceful resolution of conflict and a constant search for truth.”
Established in 1727, the Ursuline Academy of New Orleans is the oldest continuously operating school for girls and the oldest Catholic school in the United States.
In Pennsylvania, the Moravian Academy of Bethlehem sprung from a school for girls founded in 1742 by the Moravian Church, a Protestant denomination established in Bohemia whose adherents would go on to do missionary work in Indian Territory. The Moravians also founded Linden Hall in Lititz, Penn., in 1746. Both schools remain in operation today.
British-inspired Episcopal boarding schools loom large in the history of New England. Favorites include St. George’s of Rhode Island (established in 1896), St. Mark’s of Massachusetts (established 1865) and St. Paul’s of New Hampshire (1856), home to the United States’ first squash courts.
Several Catholic schools in and around Washington, D.C., have been in session since before the Civil War. Among them: Georgetown Preparatory School, the nation’s oldest Jesuit high school, founded in 1789; Gonzaga College High School, founded in 1821; and St. John’s College High School, established in 1851.
Other institutions recognized on a recent The Best Schools ranking of the 30 Top Christian Boarding Schools in America include the Baptist-funded King’s Academy of Seymour, Tenn., founded in 1881; the Methodist Pennington School of New Jersey, founded in 1838; St. Timothy’s Episcopal Diocesan School for Girls in Maryland, chartered in 1832; and the Scattergood Friends School of West Branch, Iowa, founded by Quakers in 1890.
ROOM FOR GROWTH: Today, Corn’s population hovers around 500. The school is home to around 90 students, enrolled in seventh through 12th grade. They travel the 13 miles up OK-54 to Weatherford and onto I-40 to traverse the state, representing Corn in the annual Oklahoma State Fair Marching Band Competition and singing the national anthem before a Thunder home game.
The school has big plans, and last year broke ground for a new site: a $10 million project that includes a new 43,000-square foot main building on a 40-acre campus just south of Clinton.
At its annual fundraiser – the 53rd annual German Feast & Auction, held in February – friends and family raised $109,807 with a lunch, bake sale, silent and live auctions and supper. The sale of the traditional schnetka pastries alone grossed $7,245, at $15 a dozen.
After moving into its new home, the Corn Bible Academy – the second-oldest Christian school in Oklahoma – hopes to nearly double its enrollment, to 200 students.
Editor’s note: Oklahoma is rich with history, lore and fun facts, but some of them aren’t quite factual. In this series, M.J. Alexander hunts for the accuracy – or lack thereof – behind some of our state’s stories.