“My part in Goodland has ever been a blessed privilege, never a task. And still, as always, I would say, with the Apostle Paul, ‘This one thing I do.’”
Bella Gibbons was born in Arkansas and raised in North Carolina. She came to Indian Territory to devote her life to the education of Indian children. Thus began nearly 40 years of continuous service for Mrs. Gibbons, missionary-teacher at Goodland Indian orphanage in Choctaw County. In that span she helped build the school from a one-room frame building into a plant comprising three dormitories, two school buildings, laundry building, and several cottages.
In 1901, she married Rev. J. P. Gibbons, home missionary to Native Americans and minister of the Goodland Presbyterian Church until the time of his death in 1918. To the children she taught, Mrs. Gibbons was more of a mother than a teacher. Upon statehood, she was named chairman of the county board of examiners for teachers. In 1930, when Gov. W. J. Holloway established the state capitol at Goodland for a day, she was named a colonel on the governor’s staff – making her the first woman to receive this distinction.
Bella Gibbons was the first white woman to teach Native American children in Choctaw County.
Gibbons came to Oklahoma in 1898 as a missionary teacher with the Goodland Indian Orphanage.