Posted Date: 10/05/2020
Ryal School, located in the Northwest corner of McIntosh County, is approximately seven miles Southeast of Henryetta, Oklahoma. This rural community, named after Bunn Ryal, lies nestled in a small valley with the North Canadian River flowing a few miles to the South and Tiger Mountain rising several miles to the East. The community's namesake, Bunn Ryal, a farmer and carpenter, came to this community in 1888. Employed by the Dawes Commission in the late 1800’s, he held a position as Justice of the Peace. He married Annie Gray, a full blood Creek, who assisted as an interpreter for the Creek students in the community and school. Both were active in community affairs. Because of his overwhelming interest in community service, the people named their community and school, "Ryal."
Ryal School began in 1911, with a small shed type building constructed for the education of white students of the community. The school burned the following year, and in 1913 a small two-room building replaced the original school. The district constructed a teacherage in the autumn of 1919. Later that winter there was the addition of the stage and entry hall to the school. The year 1956 brought about the addition of the one room Yardeka Day School and its thirty Indian students. The new gymnasium, constructed in 1972, preceded the construction of the brick building in 1978. Two years later, in 1980, the district constructed three additional classrooms adjacent to the gymnasium. A concession area, four rest rooms, a shop class and a computer lab added to the growth of the existing gymnasium in 1983. The construction of the bus barn, home economics classroom and library reached completion in 1986. Continued improvements over the years included a better water system that replaced the cistern at the east end of the building.
In 1930, W.P.A. workers dug a well that provided the school’s drinking water. This sufficed until 1966. At that time there were four working water wells on the grounds and yet, not enough water to meet the school’s sanitary needs. A story told by a graduate, Lon Popejoy, involves the school’s sanitary faculties…the proverbial outhouse. The outhouses, built over a creek, flushed only when it rained. This called for the installation of a filtering system from a nearby pond. The school’s water system continued in this manner until 1974 when the school connected to the Salem Rural Water System.
Another improvement was the school lunch program. Children had to bring their lunches until 1940, when the school initiated a hot lunch program. These hot lunches, prepared by the teachers on oil stoves in the entry hall, consisted primarily of soups. The school's lunch program later included the addition of a kitchen and dining room.
The purchase of the first school bus, in 1960, continued the school’s progress. Up until that time students walked to school, rode a horse or caught a ride on a neighboring school bus. Some of the students had to walk three miles to school, which caused an absentee problem in the winter months.
The small shed type building, constructed for the education of white students of the community one-hundred and three years ago, now educates primarily Native Americans. Today seventy-five percent of the student body are Creek Indians. Although many changes have been made over the years, the most significant things have remained the same. Ryal School still serves its small, rural community. Citizens of the community are still concerned and active with the education of their youth. School and community still work together as one to ensure a solid foundation for their youth’s education.
Information Contributed by Emma Rose, Mr. Bill Haynes and Mr. Louis Hicks
Written by Linda Berno