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Is OU campus protected by Indian legend?

Mary Phillips Published: August 27, 2013

The University of Oklahoma campus is protected from tornadoes by an old Indian legend, according to an article from The Oklahoman on June 15, 1913.

The headline boasts: “UNIVERSITY BUILT ON HOLY GROUND Indians Believed Present Site of School Protected from Storms.”

“From the favorite hunting grounds of blanketed Indians to a squatter’s claim, thence to the site of one of the first universities in the entire southwest, and all in twenty-four years, sounds more like fable than history, but nevertheless it is true of the present site of the University of Oklahoma.”

“Thirty years ago there were not a dozen families with the radius of twenty-five miles of this particular ground. It was merely a part of the great prairies grazed over by thousands of head of cattle, and hunted over by Indians of a dozen tribes.”

Indians would often travel during the summers from the northeast to the Wichitas to gather with southwestern tribes. They would make the trip back north for the winter.

“As they returned, the country around Norman was sure to hold them several days. It was ‘Holy Ground’ in their language, for they said a bad storm would never strike it. Twisters, the old Indian sages declared, would pass all around the country, but would leave the Holy Ground unravished. True to their prophecy, the great cyclone a few years later, that killed and wounded eighty-four persons came straight towards Norman to within five miles of the town when it split and went part north and part south of the old camping ground.”

The land that we speak of is not the entire city of Norman, just the original quarter section that Charles T. Gorton claimed on April 22, 1889. Shortly after filing his claim, he turned it over to his father-in-law, Seth Moore.

On July 8, 1891, the day after receiving the title, Seth Moore sold the land, bounded by Asp, Elm, Boyd and Brooks streets, to the Territorial government for the university for $1,000.

“So, on the very ground where great herds of cattle were kept each winter, David K. Boyd, a young schoolmaster, took charge of the ‘University of Oklahoma,’ with three assistants and a few dozen aspiring pupils.”

The National Weather Service Forecast Office at Norman has documented 147 tornadoes that have struck the Oklahoma City area from 1890 to 2012.

The historical data in the “Table of Tornadoes Which Have Occurred in the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Area Since 1890″ bears witness to the fact that while tornadoes have hit parts of Norman, no twisters have landed in the “Holy Ground.”

The University of Oklahoma’s Cherokee Gothic buildings still stand, protected by Indian legend or luck.

The table is available at http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/?n=tornadodata-okc-table.