Sacred Heart Mission
Giving into a longstanding desire, my wife and I went up to Sacred Heart, OK, in order to start our Ghost Towning hobby. Sacred Heart Mission was established in the late 1800’s by Jesuit Priests with a desire to educate and convert local Native Americans. Eventually, the Sisters of Mercy–a society of nuns who would later establish the Mercy Medical Network–would come to reside at the Mission, working as teachers and, it seems, in medicine (the founder of this order is buried in the graveyard pictured below).
After a large fire, the Mission began to decline. I would not presume to be able to recount this process, but more information can be found at the links at the end of the post. Today, a new Church stands within the tiny, unincorporated town, a direct descendant of the original mission. Following friendly signs welcoming curious visitors, the small Catholic Church disappears as you move down a small hill and through the original gates to the Mission. Within the grounds once sprawling are several structures: a bakery, a two-story cabin, a partially collapsed dwelling, stables, foundations to the main Mission, and a beautiful graveyard. The small Church evidently has great love for the original site, and, though preservation has largely failed for the buildings, the graveyard is in beautiful condition.
Between fairly racist views, a French immigrant living in Sacred Heart revealed a wonderful sentiment (similar to those which I found myself with after moving from California to Oklahoma) in his 1887 diary entry:
“The best thing about life at Sacred Heart is that one has no intimation whatever of the existence of any administration, There is no prefect, sub-prefect, nor mayor; there is no tax collector, field keeper, game keeper, river keeper, forest guard, road engineer, policeman or gendarmes. For a Frenchman who could not take ten steps in France without bumping his nose against a uniformed functionary of some kind or other, this is a pleasant and very welcome relief. One feels as free as an eagle that soars up in the air and it seems that one can breathe easier.”
(Contemporary Accounts of Sacred Heart, Including Firsthand Accounts) http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Chronicles/v005/v005p234.html
The second town we went to was Fallis, OK. There was nothing much to see: notably, a wrecked school-bus, a vacant community center, and a few abandoned houses, only one of which was able to be entered. It’s strange seeing so many very old houses abandoned only after TV’s became popular–one house in particular was so old it had no indoor plumbing, only outhouses, yet it had been “modernized” with electrical wiring, and was home to several 1970’s television sets.
I offer here only a reflection: coming from Southern California, I’m shocked to find a large amount of Oklahoma history thrown away to decay–very little back home is left behind unless intentionally preserved, and preservation is taken very seriously. On the one hand, being able to explore abandoned buildings and areas as they really were, instead of how a preservationist restores them, is an amazing gift. But, still, my heart breaks for the narrative being lost with each collapsing roof: the story of Oklahoma’s development is decaying.