The Path to Seminary Hall:
An Interactive History

Seminary Hall, on the Tahlequah campus of Northeastern State University, is more than bricks, mortar, timbers and tile. It is the symbol of a university and of a great nation, it is the location of memories and the spring board for new ideas, and it is a reflection of at least six generations of students, teachers, and staff member who have gathered under the turrets and towers to teach, to study, to grow.

This website is an active hub for sharing a variety of historical perspectives. The thoughts and opinions shared on this site do not necessarily reflect the official views of the university. You are invited to share your thoughts and ideas on additional material or topics that you would like to see included.

1846 / Principal Chief John Ross

Seven years after the last detachment of Cherokees arrived in Indian Territory following their forced removal from their homelands, Principal Chief John Ross oversaw the passage of an act by the Cherokee Nation that created institutions for secondary education for young women and young men. Learn more.


Financial difficulties and the disruption of the American Civil War forced the closing of both seminaries. Indian Territory experienced divisions and armed conflict as the opposing forces sometimes used the vacant Female Seminary for military purposes including a hospital for soldiers. By 1875, both seminaries had re-opened. Learn more.

1887 / Fire!

FIRE! On Easter Sunday, 1887, the Female Seminary burned to the ground. Determined students climbed into the cupola to strike the clapper to the bell by hand when no rope could be found, but to no avail. Only three original columns remain that can be seen at the Cherokee Heritage Center. Learn more.


The Female Seminary was rebuilt in its new location and re-opened to much fanfare on May 7, 1889. The Cherokee Advocate newspaper reported: “ . . . Between 2,000-3,000 people were present and were counted, among whom were representatives of every district in the nation, and of every class of citizens. The precession was over a mile long. Learn more.

More Than Just a Building

From the day it opened in 1889, the true character of Seminary Hall has been defined by the people who study, teach, and work there. While tastes and social mores have changed, youthful spirit and a yearning for life’s experiences continue to echo in the hallways. Learn more.

Celebrating 125 Years: May 7, 2014

Northeastern State University’s historic Seminary Hall will celebrate its 125th anniversary on Wednesday, May 7. A special commemorative display area in NSU’s Centennial Plaza will also emphasize the events that led to opening of the building in 1889. The theme for the event is “Lighting the Way for 125 Years” and will begin at 10 a.m. outside, on the south side of Seminary Hall. In the case of inclement weather, the celebration will be held in the University Center Ballroom.

The celebration will explore a number of themes including the Cherokee Nation’s long-held commitment to higher education and a celebration of the faculty and staff who helped transform the tens of thousands of students and alumni who have gone on to impact this region and the state.

Another historic event to take place during the celebration will be President Steve Turner’s official announcement of NSU’s upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign. The campaign will include an emergency scholarship fund for NSU students to help relieve them of financial burdens that can potentially keep them from reaching graduation.

“A single financial crisis can be the cause for some students to withdraw from classes, possibly never to return to school again,” said Turner. “Having a fund for such situations, NSU anticipates being able to intervene and help a student with a small scholarship that will keep them in school.”

Referrals from faculty, staff, housing managers and other students who might be aware of such a situation will be encouraged.

NSU would like to invite all alumni, current students and community members to join us at this significantly historic celebration.

For more information about the anniversary celebration or to support the Light the Way Scholarship, contact the NSU Foundation at 918-458-2143 or


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