THE STRATFORD (OK) PENTECOSTAL HOLINESS CHURCH

The Stratford Pentecostal Holiness School
(1913-1915)
Today, Stratford in south central Oklahoma is famous for vast peach orchards that make it the Peach Capital of Oklahoma. In the early years of the 1900’s another type of seed was planted in the fertile minds and hearts of the people living there.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the history of the IPHC is that, like the Methodists and the Holiness groups before, there was an appreciation for education from early days. Although depicted in popular novels and films as being uneducated or little more than simpletons many early Pentecostals knew the value of education. These people, in various parts of the country, were some of the earliest and most vigorous promoters of schools and training.
In 1913, the annual conference of the Pentecostal Holiness church met in the picturesque Delmar Gardens in Oklahoma City. There, in one of the lovely Victorian pavilions, W.D. York, who had continued to promote education,[1]spoke on behalf of the idea of a Pentecostal Holiness School in Stratford, Oklahoma. The address motivated the 251 members present that day to raise over seven hundred dollars for the school.

The Stratford school opened for its first term on February 24, 1914. It was a first through eighth grade grammar school with plans for a high school. Its faculty consisted of Dan W. Evans and Rexie Evans. The Board of Trustees included James Patterson, W.D. York, Dollie York, M.L. Dryden, and L.F. Menser. The York and Evans would figure prominently in the development of the IPHC in the heartland regions.
The dream was not to last long, however, by 1915 the school was closed down by an invasion of what early Bishop Dan T. Muse termed “unscriptural teaching” that had arrived in the area. The teachings were declared to be both “unscriptural” and “erroneous” in both the 1913 and 1914 annual conference meetings.[2] In this time period it is known that many Pentecostal groups were fleshing out what they believed about sanctification and this may have been the nature of the problem at Stratford.
Whatever the nature of this theological conflict, it was serious enough that the school soon closed. A short time later it was so destroyed in a severe storm that no thought of rebuilding was possible. Once, however, on a cold February day, a dream of solid and Christian education bloomed in the heart of the heartland and in the IPHC leaders who lived there.
----Source, adapted from the book One Night Club and a Mule Barn: The 60 Years of Southwestern Christian University History. (Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing, 2006).
[1] York, Advocate, pg. 5. In this article, York indicates that he sent for Dan Evans to come and teach at a school in Ong, Oklahoma and that then Evans was in Stratford in 1910-1912. The IPHC Archives has an early flyer and postcard for the school.
[2] Oklahoma Conference Minutes, 1913-1914; Historical Sketches by Dan W. Evans; referenced in papers of Dan T. Muse in the SCU Archives. An excellent volume covering the probable nature of the theological dispute is “The Rejected Blessing” by Jim Kerwin (Minneapolis: OTC, 2003.) The issue may have been an understanding of the nature of sanctification in the life of the believer.
by Marilyn Hudson, Author & Historian
Director of Library Services, Southwestern Christian University

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