A virtual glimpse of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

The Carlisle Indian School grounds are located at the Carlisle Barracks, the home of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  This tour was originally written for the Native American section of the Living History forum on Compuserve, as the first stop of a series of weekly virtual visits to the school beginning in November of 1995.  This was written by Barbara Landis, who frequently gives tours of the old school grounds.    These tours benefit the Viola White Water Foundation, which supports these web pages.

Next Tour: October 3, 2012 at noon. To register, call (717) 249-7610

Carlisle Indian School Grounds

Panoramic view of the main school grounds.

Maps of the Carlisle Indian School, including self-guided walking tour.
Note: there is no Indian School museum on the campus of the old school grounds.



Since last winter, I've found new places that were not included in our previous visits. The laundry, the print shop, staff housing, teachers' cottages, the hospital with doctor's quarters, one of the classrooms, and the old entrance gate by the railroad tracks where students snuck off the school grounds for mischief-making in town.  I think we ought to revisit the school and once again, explore what happened at the first off-reservation boarding school for Indian children.

We begin our tour of the grounds of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (1879-1918) on foot, heading toward the original entrance to the campus taking the same route as the Indian children travelled a hundred years ago.

Leaving the main street in Carlisle, we will walk along this narrow lane toward the old school. The trolley tracks under our feet have since been paved over, but in 1896 we would have been walking the route that shuttled the children back and forth to their Outing homes and day trips out of town.  Before 1896, the only entrance into the grounds passed the old guardhouse at the southern end of the campus.  The January issue of THE RED MAN describes the new entrance:

    A street and drive way forty feet wide is being made from the west end of the girls' quarters to the pike a few feet north of Judge Henderson's home.  It runs by the side of the trolley.
    One of the most important events of the month was the completion of the trolley from the town of Carlisle to the school, which is a very great convenience both to the school population and to the citizens of the town.  The first car was run on January 16th, when to celebrate the occasion the Faculty, alumni, seniors and officers were treated to a free ride to the Conodoguinet and return.  A happy hour was spent on the ice at the creek.
There was also a grove of trees here that has since disappeared. This is the spot where James Garvie (Santee Sioux) once stole a kiss from one of the local girls....his reward for walking her home from her high school dance. (But that's another story for another time.)

We are now standing on the footbridge that passes over the tiny creek that runs off the LeTort Stream. Let's stop here for a minute because I want to tell you about the one recreational activity in which almost every child here at Carlisle participated ....ice skating.

If you look down below you to the meadows on either side of this bridge, you will see the skating ponds. This is the spot where the Indian boys used to dam the creek after a good winter's freeze, flooding the banks on either side for ice skating. Several of the oral histories in the archives of the Cumberland County Historical Society include anecdotes about the children skating. People from the town still remember coming here as children to skate or to watch the Indians skate. The town folk skated on the "rubber" ice to the north, as the smoother ice on the south side of this bridge was reserved for the Indian children.  During the later years, pick-up games of hockey were organized here.

A couple of boys from town remember being chased off the "good" ice by Indian boys. When the children from the school arrived to skate, the town folk either stepped aside to watch -- or moved to the other side of the bridge to skate. On weekends, at 7:00 PM when all the Carlisle Indian students were confined to their quarters, the town folk would again take to the "good" ice.

By 1917, the creek no longer flooded easily and the fire companies had to come in and pump the water to fill the skating area. After the Indian school closed in 1918, the town wasn't willing to dam the meadows, so the local folk had to find a new ice skating pond.

Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, Pa. 
VOL. XIV FRIDAY, January 13, 1899  NUMBER 12 
---- AT THE -----
Indian Industrial School
Carlisle, Pa.
         BY INDIAN BOYS.
boys, but EDITED by the Man-on-the-bandstand 
who is NOT an Indian

PRICE - 10 cents per year

Entered in the P.O. at Carlisle as 
second class mail matter.

   One of the most delightful sights that we have
to gaze upon these days is the skating pond, out 
of the work and school periods. Even at the noon 
hour, when there is but a half hour for play the 
pond is full of happy boys and girls who make the 
most of a little time.  Only a minute's walk from 
any of the quarters and less than a quarter of a
minute to a boy on the run, the pond is convenient 
to those wishing to employ their odd moments at this 
exhilarating sport.  Unlike many boys and girls that 
the Man-on-the-band-stand has seen, ours do not skate 
to the last minute, to report at school or work  late, 
but scores and scores may be seen taking off skates 
fully five or ten minutes before the work and school 
bell rings, in time to make themselves present- able.  
All in the school rooms must be tidily dressed and 
in the work-shops they must have on work clothing.  
Rosy cheeked girls, and skating-boys with tousled heads 
and red noses, clear-eyed and quick brained, returning 
to school and work are greatly admired by the 
Man-on-the-band-stand who loves to see his boys and 
girls enjoy play when they have earned the right.

Next stop: Glen "Pop" Warner's house.

© 1997 Barbara Landis, All rights reserved.

Lodging in Carlisle

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