Personalizing Miami’s History: Henry L. Haynes

By Adam Wright

The intersection of race and slavery in the United States is intrinsically linked to the development of higher education. In the years leading up to the American Civil War, male students at universities across the nation underwent the preparation and skills required to be leaders of this burgeoning country. Students frequently arrived from the upper echelon of society, where they often stayed and created a lineage of men educated in gentility, masculinity, and racism, all based on class structure. Miami University students exemplified this privilege, specifically those from the antebellum South.

Henry L. Haynes, a graduate of the class of 1866, embodies this experience. Born in Missouri, Haynes was an active and involved student who later earned a law degree. Haynes eventually settled in Oklahoma where he became a staple of his community, with ancestors continuing to reside there in present times. Haynes was born in Missouri to William Haynes, a carpenter from Tennessee, and a mother from Alabama (United States Census, 1910). Henry L. eventually married a woman named Fanny, also from Missouri (United States Census, 1910). As a Miami University student with all his immediate family originating the South, Haynes benefited immensely from an education enabling him to push the doctrine of white and Christian excellence; he also benefited from the subjugation of native peoples in his adopted home of McAlester, Oklahoma.

The suppression of Native American peoples is woven into the development and historical progression of McAlester, Oklahoma. McAlester is the largest city in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a federally recognized Indian tribe and territory (LeFlore n.p.). This Nation was established after the forced relocation of Native tribes, otherwise referred to as the “Trail of Tears”. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, the “…needs and wishes of Native peoples were ignored. In fact, the settlement of Oklahoma amounted to an invasion of Indian lands” (Green n.p.). McAlester’s history begins as a town named Perryville, a major supply depot for Confederate Army during the Civil War. During this war the “Choctaw allied with the Confederate States of America (CSA) as the war reached Indian Territory [and] a depot providing supplies to Confederate Forces in Indian Territory was set up at Perryville” (LeFlore n.p.).

Post-Civil War the development of railroads further oppressed native peoples and barred them from their traditional lands. The ideas at the heart of Indian removal presented themselves during the development of McAlester. According to Wilder, white people were “… convinced of not only the possibility of racially homogenizing their regions but also the value of that project. They were building a social geography consistent with their political and economic desires” (Wilder 254). Wilder also wrote “The fate of the American college had been intertwined from its beginning with the social project of dispossessing Indian people” (Wilder 150). Universities, including Miami University, funded themselves with money earned in the ideals of white supremacy, and soon these universities and students came to eternalize the ideals. Henry L. Haynes utilized these ideals to benefit himself in the town of McAlester, Oklahoma.

According to the Miami University Alumni Catalog, 1809-1909, Haynes moved to McAlester in 1889 and resided there until his death in 1924 (Bartlow 115). Haynes is credited in his daughter’s obituary as a “McAlester pioneer resident… [and] an early day lawyer” (MillieBelle n.p.)- a statement which fails to consider the Native populations residing in McAlester. This allows the conjecture that the Native Americans from this region held little to no rights over their land; in other words, savages waiting to be civilized. Wilder writes “The presuppositions of removal campaigns- particularly the biological basis of civilization and citizenship- were informed by racial ideas that had ascended in every region of the … nation” (Wilder 254). Daniel Drake reaffirms this sentiment when he spoke at Miami University of the Indian that naturally “prefers the freedom of the woods, to the imprisonment of fields and cities” (Daniel Drake). There is undoubtedly a link between the dispossession of Native lands and the development of American colleges and a collective national identity, exemplified by Henry L. Haynes’s education and residence.

It is through Haynes’s activity at Miami University that a foundation for the belief in white and Christian supremacy was finalized. Haynes subsequently took these ideals and benefited from them in his future endeavors as a lawyer and community leader in nineteenth-century McAlester, Oklahoma. Haynes was a diligent and dutiful student while attending Miami. He was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE), a fraternity founded in 1852 (Bartlow 115). Haynes was involved in the Miami Union Literary Society. At a Miami Union Literary Society assembly dated December 19, 1865, Haynes delivered the final speech of the night titled “Some Thoughts” (Fortieth Annual Exhibition). The popularity of the literary societies is evidenced by attracting influential Cincinnatian Daniel Drake to discourse at the Union Literary Society of Miami University on September 23, 1834 (Daniel Drake). Additionally, at the forty-first Annual Commencement of Miami University dated Wednesday-Thursday June 27th-28th 1866, Haynes gave a commencement exercise titled “Transcendentalism” (Forty-First Annual Commencement).

As evidenced from these honors, it can be surmised that Haynes excelled in the debates conducted by DKE and the Miami Union Literary Society. According to Miami University Bicentennial Perspectives, “The spring of 1860 shifted… debates to issues of liberty, power, and loyalty” (Ellison 64), with discussions coinciding with Haynes’s “Some Thoughts” speech. Prior to Hayne’s arrival to campus, a professor named Francis Lieber delivered an address to the students of Miami titled “The Character of a Gentleman”. In it he espouses that the author from a passage from which he had been reading was “… right in calling the character designated the gentleman a type peculiarly Anglican. It belongs to the English race; nor is it long since it has been developed in its present and important form (Lieber). Miami University incorporated this philosophy of white excellence into their intellectual atmosphere on campus, of which Haynes was a part of.

It was typical that following graduation from higher education, men from the upper echelon of society attained authority and influence in society, which continued through their lineage. This is no different for Henry L. Haynes, as his children and further generations remained in positions of power within McAlester. His daughter, Ethel Haynes Pemberton, attended the Texas Presbyterian College for Girls in Milford, Tex., graduating in 1909 (MillieBelle n.p.). Ethel returned to McAlester and became a successful community leader. Helping to run the Hitchcock Oil Company, Ethel was a member of the McAlester Fortnightly Club, the McAlester Garden Club, the Fin and Feather Club and the McAlester Country Club (MillieBelle n.p.). Additionally, Ethel was a lifelong member of the First Presbyterian Church in McAlester. Her parents contributed to the founding the church, as evidenced by their roles as charter members. Ethel’s mother Fanny went as far as to organize the Sunday School and serve as its first teacher. (MillieBelle n.p.). All of this evidence further points to a cycle of elitism and civic success enjoyed by graduates of American higher education. There is a First Presbyterian Church of McAlester Oklahoma under the National Register of Historical Places (National Register of Historic Places Inventory- Nomination Form). As influential members of this church, the Haynes family undoubtedly commands respect and power within McAlester.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, American students in higher education received the preparation and skills required to be leaders. Students experienced training to be lawyers, doctors, and politicians, among other things. These highly educated Americans often came from privileged backgrounds and those who didn’t often joined their colleagues upper class rank following graduation. A student from Miami University named Henry L. Haynes excellently represented the link between higher education and the doctrine of white and Christian excellence pushed by universities onto students. As a settler of McAlester, Oklahoma, Haynes and his ancestors achieved success while benefiting from the subjugation of native peoples in his adopted home through preparation received at Miami University.

Adam Wright is a senior majoring in Political Science.


Works Cited

Bartlow, Bert Surene. Miami University Alumni Catalog, 1809-1909, University Documents, Walter Havighurst Special Collections Library at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, Miami University Libraries-Digital Library Program.

Drake, Daniel. Discourse on the history, character, and prospects of the West: delivered to the Union literary society of Miami University, Oxford, Ohio … September 23, 1834. By Daniel Drake. Truman & Smith. Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Ellison, Curtis W. Miami University 1809-2009 Bicentennial Perspectives. Ohio University Press.

Fortieth Annual Exhibition of the Miami Union Literary Society Miami University, Tuesday Evening, December 19, 1865. Oxford, Ohio.

Forty-First Annual Commencement Miami University, Wednesday and Thursday, June 27th and 28th, 1866. Oxford Ohio.

Green, Donald E. “Settlement Patterns”. Oklahoma Historical Society, The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Accessed on 22 November 2018.

LeFlore, Jeanne. “McAlester History.” McAlester News, McAlester News-Capital, 23 July 2013, Accessed on 22 November 2018.

Lieber, Francis. The Character of the Gentleman: An Address to the Students of Miami University, on the Evening Before Commencement Day, in the Month of August, 1846. J. A. James. Columbia University.


MillieBelle. “Ethel Haynes Pemberton”. Find A Grave. 24 April 2006.

National Register of Historic Places Inventory- Nomination Form. National Park Service. United States Department of the Interior. 3 October 1979. Accessed on 8 December 2018.

United States Census, 1910. FamilySearch. Accessed on 25 November 2018.

Wilder, Craig Steven. Ebony and Ivy. Bloomsbury Press. 2014.


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