Pages 594-598, 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.



The Public Schools


The early history of the schools of Woodson County is very similar to that of scores of counties in the Eastern half of Kansas. The pioneers were men and women who came to make homes. The great majority were men and women of good education and, next to the making of homes they were interested in the education of their children.

In 1857 the commas school system was in the first stage of its evolution even in the states east of the Mississippi. The Kansas pioneer tried to begin the education of his children at the point where it was broken off when he moved from the East.

Under the territorial law there was an attempt at the organization of a public school system. The free state legislature of 1858 took some steps in this direction and created the office of Territorial Superintendent of Schools, though the first incumbent of that office, James N. Noteware, has left on record no report of the condition of the schools during his administration. His successor, S. W. Greer, did much towards organizing the schools into a system, as did his successor, J. C. Douglas, the last of the territorial superintendents.

W. R. Griffith was the first state superintendent and died soon after his election. His succesor, S. M. Thorp, was killed in the sacking of Lawrence. Then came Isaac T. Goodnow, a man of great force of character and fine executive ability. To his recommendation the passage of many wise school laws of the earlier days is due. He organized the state school system as it stood until the year 1876. The school laws were revised in that year, and the Hon. D. W. Finney, of this county, then a state senator, was chairman of the committee on revision.

The first school taught in the county was taught at Neosho Falls. It was taught in the summer of 1858 by Miss Emma Coulter. Early settlers say she was a very pretty, stylish young lady and was well liked. (A standard, by the way, that seems to have been maintained throughout the district's history.) Following the close of this term, Ebenezer H. Curtis opened a private school in the building which now stands south of Mrs. Tydeman's and back from the street in Neosho Falls. Mr. Curtis was a man of good education and was a popular teacher. When the war broke out he entered the Union army and subsequently became the colonel of a colored regiment. When last heard from, some eight years ago, he was living near Baxter Springs, Kan.


In the winter of 1860-61 George Waite taught a private school in the Viteto building just east of Highbargin's hotel. During the next winter Mrs. Brengle taught a school in her home, the house how known as the John Bryant house, and had an enrollment of twenty-five pupils.

In January, 1863, the new County Superintendent, E. J. Brown began the organization of the county into school districts. They were numbered consecutively in each township. Number One, Owl Creek township, was organized January 17th of that year. Number One, Neosho Falls township, was organized January 15th, as was Number One, Belmont township. Number One, Liberty township, was created January 24th, and Number One, Toronto township, was organized April 25th of the same year.

Thomas Holland taught the first public school in Neosho Falls. About this time lumber was obtained for a new school house, but I am told the greater portion of it was "jayhawked" by a wagon maker who had a shop near by. The law of recompense was vindicated, however, in a peculiar way. At that time there was a small building two lots north of Dulinsky's store that was used as a cooper shop. Early in the war the proprietor stole away and later the news came back that he had joined the Rebel army and was killed in battle. No relatives appeared to claim his property, and the cooper shop was appropriated and made use of as a school house.

The first "new" school house was built in Neosho Falls in 1869. A second room was added in 1871, and in 1872 the district purchased the old land office building just south at a cost of $1,000. This served as the high school building until January, 1900, when it was abandoned for school purposes, sold, and the new school building, just then completed, was occupied. The new building has six rooms, is built of brick and is of modern architecture. Among those who once taught in the Neosho Falls schools I find the names of A. F. Palmer, later a county superintendent; J. N. Shannon, now a prosperous merchant of Vernon; J. J. McBride, a brilliant scholarly man who came to his death in a tragic manner at Toronto in 1886; J. N. Stout, ex-editor of the Post; A. J. Jones, later probate judge and county attorney; A. H. Newton, of the Humboldt schools, and J. W. D. Anderson, a man of brilliant attainments and literary aspirations, who died at Omaha, Nebraska.

Operating under a new law, in 1865, Mr. W. B. Stines, then county superintendent, proceeded to number the school districts of the county in consecutive order. There was a rivalry among the various districts in the position of "Number One." Neosho Falls especially pushed her claims for that place. The coveted number was conferred on a Liberty township district near Mr. Stines' home. Neosho Falls was Numbered Eight which number she still bears, but the district squared matters with Mr. Stines at the next election by casting a heavy vote against him and securing his defeat.

The official records show that a school was taught in Toronto in the summer of 1864 by R. W. Richardson, that forty-nine pupils were enrolled,


of which only twenty-three were residents of the district. The school cost $90 for the term of three months. E. Kellogg was the district clerk. The next year Mr. Richardson again taught the school, receiving $20 per month. The clerk reports that the school house was built with money raised by levying a district tax. The house so built served its purpose until 1882 when a house of four rooms was erected and A. J. Jones was the first principal. In 1899 it was found necessary to build two more rooms to meet the growing needs of the school. G. H. Lamb was principal for a number of years, as was E. E. Kelley. Mrs. Ella Crockett served twelve years in the primary room.

The first school house was built in the Yates Center district in 1876. It was a one room stone building. Two rooms were subsequently added to it, and in 1882 bonds were issued to build the stone house on the hill in the north part of the city. It was known as the high school building, and its graduates number about 150. In April, 1901, the district voted bonds in the amount of $12,500 for a new, modern, ten room structure on the site of the north building.

The first building at Vernon was erected about 1873. In 1895 it gave place to a new school house, and in 1900 an additional room was built and a graded school established with Miss Flora Sherman and Miss Maude Lamb as teachers.

Among the old time teachers I find the names of many now dead, and all survivors are in other vocations: Edwin B. Dennison, Mary Brengle, Helen S. Miller, who later became Mrs. Fred Arnold, Sarah H. Hawkins, who became Mrs. Judge Graves. Cornelia A. Woodruff, Wm. B. Stines, Julia B. Thayer. Laura A. Dumond, Phedora Jones, M. E. Patterson, David Phillips, L. A. Wolfe, R. F. Eades, J. M. Jewett, Mollie Brady, A. J. Moody, E. V. Wharton and H. S. Johnson.

In 1867 the school population of the county was 571 white children and one colored. The average daily attendance in the county was 186, and the average length of the school term was three and one-fourth months. There were six male and nine female teachers employed, and the average wages of the males was $31.14, and of the female teachers $19. Now the total number of school age in the county is 3,521, with an average daily attendance of 2,300. The average length of school term is seven and one-half months, and the average wages per month for male teachers is $37.50, and for females $31.50.

It seems a little strange to hear of log school houses in Kansas. Yet, in the report of the county superintendent for 1867, it appears that there were thirteen school houses in the county, and that ten of them were log houses and three were frame buildings. At that time the following text books were in use: McGuffey's reader and speller, Spencerian penmanship, Ray's arithmetics, Cornell's geographies, the Goodrich history and Pinneo's grammars; in many respects distinctly superior to the state texts of the present day.


It might be well to speak here of at least two ventures toward establishing private schools. Especially I wish to speak of the work of Miss Hattie Clark, now Mrs. W. W. P. McConnell. Miss Clark came to Neosho Falls during the war period with the purpose in view of founding a seminary for young ladies. She came in January, 1864. The hall over the hotel was fitted with blackboards and seats, and the use of Mrs. Crane's organ was obtained. Miss Clark taught four terms of three months each. The tuition was $2.50 per term. The first term she had sixteen pupils. Then to make the school more lucrative she admitted younger children and also some male pupils. During the last term the enrollment reached forty.

In Perry township, almost due west of Humboldt, and on a high, bleak limestone hill, stands an old unpainted house, gloomy in appearance and showing the ravages of time. Here, soon after the war a man named Cuackenbos, a brother of the old time text book author of that name, essayed to start a boarding school for boys. An old settler tells me that the plan was to take for students the sons of Eastern men who desired their sons to see a bit of Western life and at the same time be far removed from the contaminating influences too often found in the East. The project began bravely enough, but the students had a predilection for running away to Humboldt for a good time and after a year's trial the school was abandoned. The old building is a landmark and can be seen for many miles.

The following is a complete list of the county superintendents of the county: Peter Stevens, 1859-61; J. B. Pickering, 1861-62; E. J. Brown, 1863-64; Dr. McCartney, 1864; W. B. Stines, 1865-67; S. J. Williams, 1867-70; W. M. Friendly, 1870-71; J. L. Gilbert, 1871-75; A. F. Palmer, 1875-81; J. W. Richardson, 1881; Lizzie J. Stephenson, 1882-87; Kate Rhea, 1887-89; J. C. Culver, 1889-91; Kate Rhea, 1891-93: A. M. Kannard, 1893-97; Lucy Ellis, 1897-99; E. F., Kelley, 1899.

The twenty-fifth annual session of the normal institute was held in the month of July, 1901. It is, in Kansas, the educational Chautauqua of the school teacher, and there is scarcely a county in the state but where the attendance runs above the hundred mark. The early history of the normal institute is interesting. In the legislature of 1864 some humorously inclined Solon introduced and secured the passage of a bill designed to encourage the normal institute. It provided for the holding of an institute in each senatorial district, "Provided, board shall he furnished free of charge to all teachers and members of the institute during its session, by the place where the institute is held."

It would be rather a wonder if any town would want the institute under those circumstances, but a search of the records shows that Neosho Falls opened her homes and spread her tables for the members of the institute on at least two occasions. One transcription is: "The institute held at Neosho Falls on September, 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd was a decided success." Another entry, a little later says: "The institute at Neosho Falls


was a decided success. Teachers are becoming more efficient in the school room and more active out of it. Forty-six new school houses have been built during the year. But one instance has occurred in which a patron has attempted to interfere with the lawful authority of the teacher. That patron suffered the expense of a lawsuit, a fine of eighty dollars and the righteous indignation of an outraged community."

In 1867 the county received $357.57 from the state school fund. Last year it received the sum of $3,040. In 1867 the total amount paid for teachers' wages was $1,315.50, and last year $21,080 was so paid. There are now eighty-eight teachers employed and sixty-nine organized districts in the county. The alumni of the various high schools number 220, and there have been 238 graduates from the district schools.

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