Pages 59-61, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.



Churches and Schools

Among the pioneers of Allen County perhaps an unusual percentage were educated, Christian people, and among the very first of the things to which they turned their attention after providing for the immediate necessities of life was the organization of churches and schools. In nearly every neighborhood there was a minister of the gospel who had followed his parishoners from their old home, and "colporteurs" or missionaries of the various churches were frequent visitors. And so it happened that almost from the beginning religious services of some kind were held at some point in the county, at the home of one of the settlers or in the open air.

The first church regularly organized in the county was the Congregational church at Geneva, which dates its existence from the summer of 1858. It has been in continuous and prosperous existence ever since that date.

Probably the second organization was that of the Presbyterian church, June 25, 1859. It also has had a long, useful and prosperous life, and is now, as it has been for more than forty years, the center of the social as well as the spiritual life of the community.

Other churches were organized as rapidly as the increase of the population warranted. The Methodist Episcopal church has probably the largest membership, followed closely by the Presbyterian and Baptist, although most of the other prominent Protestant denominations are well represented. The Roman Catholic church has but two organizations in the county, one at Humboldt and one at Iola, although a considerable number of the communicants of the Piqua (Woodson county) church live in this county.

As in all new countries, the "Camp Meeting" was one of the most important features of church work for the first twenty years of the County's history. These meetings were usually held in the summer or early autumn. A large and well shaded grove on the banks of some stream, where wood and water and the other necessities for comfortable camping could be found, was selected, and there the people would come in covered wagons or with tents, and spend two or three and sometimes four weeks. Three religious services were held each day and the degree of religious fervor excited was often very great. These annual meetings were but the earlier and cruder forerunner of the Chautauqua Assemblys which are now held annually in many parts of the country, combining religious worship and spiritual culture with rest, recreation and social enjoyment. Occasional meetings are still held in the various groves of the County, but the old-fashioned camp meeting, where a whole neighborhood, abandoning


everything else except work of the most necessary character, came together and remained for weeks at a time, is a thing of the past.

Wherever the Christian religion has gained a foothold there it may be counted as certain that the cause of education is firmly entrenched. The pioneers of Allen County lost no time in organizing school districts, building school houses and employing teachers for the instruction of their children. In the beginning, as must necessarily be the case where the people are few in number and poor in purse, the school house was poor, (although it was usually the best house in the neighborhood), and rudely furnished, and the school term lasted but three or four months in the year. But as fast as the ability of the people increased they improved their school facilities and extended the length of the term. It may not be amiss here to record that without doubt the best of the district schools maintained in the County from the years 1867 to 1872 was that at Carlyle, taught by David Smith. Professor Smith was an ex-college professor who had been driven out of Tennessee during the war on account of his strong Union sentiments, and after a few years in Illinois had come to Kansas. He taught first at the Academy at Geneva, and was then employed by the people of Carlyle on a contract requiring him to teach ten months each year for a term of ten years at a salary of fifty dollars a month. It required a heavy tax to meet this expense, for so high a salary and so long a school term were unheard of in the County at that time. But the result was a remarkable school, a school the curriculum of which ranged from the primer to the higher mathematics, Latin and Greek, and in which a morality as stern as that ever taught by the most rigid of the Puritans was daily inculcated. Having no patience with stupidity, stern to the verge of cruelty sometimes in discipline, David Smith reverenced learning almost as he reverenced his God, and there was nothing too much for him to do when the result was to push a bright boy forward. Declining health and unfortunate dissensions in the neighborhood compelled the cancellation of the contract before the ten years for which it provided had expired. But those who were pupils in that school during the few years while David Smith ruled it with the authority of an absolute monarch, count the experience now as a rare privilege.

While the common schools of the County gradually improved, there was no attempt at grading them or bringing them up to a uniform standard until the administration of Mr. Ed. T. Barber as County Superintendent of Public Instruction. Mr. Barber had received at the State Normal a thorough training in the most modern methods of teaching and school organization. He was a young man of fine executive ability, of untiring energy, of attractive personality, and with an allconquering enthusiasm, and upon his election in 1888 he entered at once upon the work of organizing the common schools, and grading them to a uniform course of study. He introduced also the "grade privilege" which means so much to the teachers. During the four years that he held the office of superintendent Mr. Barber labored incessantly and with rare intelligence, and the result


was a stimulus to the common schools of the County that is felt to this day.

Prior to Mr. Barber's administration, as the schools had not been graded there had been no classes graduated. The pupils simply went until they thought they had learned all the teacher could teach them or until they got tired, and then quit. The first graduation from the common schools of the County therefore took place in 1889. Since that time nine hundred and fifty boys and girls have been graduated from these schools. The course of study now includes a thorough training in orthography, reading, writing, grammar, history, arithmetic, geography, physiology and composition, so that the student who has successfully passed through the common school is prepared to enter the high school, which in its turn leads up to the freshman class of the University. Allen County as yet has no county high school, but the place is to a large degree filled by the excellent schools of Iola and Humboldt, the students from which are fully prepared for the University.

The impetus given to the schools of the County by Superintendent Barber has been re-inforced by the excellent administration of the present incumbent, Mr. Grant Billbe. Mr. Billbe will be chiefly remembered as the originator of the Annual School Exhibit and Contest, which he inaugurated in 1900 and which was repeated in 1901 and will doubtless become a permanent feature of the school work.

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