April 1, 1917, was a pivotal day in the history of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

It was the first day of work for the last superintendent of an institution that served as the model of education for generations of Native American children.

This week’s Tour through Time focuses on John Francis Jr., a Kansas native who held the job as chief administrator until his resignation on July 2, 1918 – just two months prior to school’s official closing.

Much of the background on Francis can be found at carlisleindian.dickinson.edu – a digital resource center on the Carlisle Indian School maintained by Dickinson College.

Born in Iola, Kansas, on May 6, 1875, Francis attended public schools in Topeka before graduating from the St. John’s Military School in Manlius, New York. He then attended the University of Kansas for two years prior to graduating from the Columbian University Law School which became George Washington University in Washington D.C.

The service record of Francis states he entered government service as a clerk in the Census Office on June 18, 1900, before transferring to the U.S. Department of the Interior in February 1903.

The March 2, 1917 edition of The Carlisle Arrow, a student publication, mentioned that Francis had three years of experience as chief of the land division of the Indian Office of the Interior Department. Prior to his job in Carlisle, Francis was chief of the education division of the bureau.

“By education, training and experience, he is well qualified to direct the destinies of a large Indian training school such as Carlisle,” The Arrow reported. Francis took over as superintendent from Oscar Hiram Lipps, who served in the capacity from July 1, 1915, to March 31, 1917.

Attorney Dennison Wheelock of Wisconsin was a graduate of the Carlisle Indian School who wrote a letter in support of Francis but against Lipps on March 17, 1917. The letter was addressed to Cato Sells, commissioner of Indian Affairs.

Wheelock regarded the prior administration as a failure because Lipps lacked the training to maintain discipline at the school. He felt Francis was better suited for the job because of his military background.

Lipps was promoted to the position of chief supervisor of Indian Schools, The Arrow reported.

Tour through Time runs every Saturday in The Sentinel print edition. Reporter Joseph Cress will work with the Cumberland County Historical Society each week to look at the county through the years. Send any questions, future ideas or tips to jcress@cumberlink.com.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.


Education/History Reporter

History and education reporter for The Sentinel.