Kansas One Room
The following information is taken directly from Swan River Museum, Family Histories and Stories of Miami County, Kansas, Miami County Historical Society, Publisher, 1987. The information was prepared by Nancy Kaiser for presentation here.
The settlers were eager to establish schools in Lykins (now Miami) County, Kansas Territory as early as 1858. The first petition was dated December 11, l858, and the school district was to be located in the vicinity of New Lancaster in Miami Township. The school district was organized in the spring of 1859. After Kansas became a state on January 29, 1861, the school districts were numbered and in some cases the boundaries were changed. The first school district in the county which was established at New Lancaster became District No. 1. The last one teacher school district to organize was Emerson, District No. 104, on October 13, 1906.
Teachers of the one teacher schools in the early days were issued a certificate if they could pass some kind of an examination. The first record of a certificate being issued was to B. J. Sheridan, October 31, 1873.
The teacher often taught grades 1 through 9 or 10. There was usually a large enrollment. It was quite common for the enrollment to be 60 students and sometimes even more. Ages of the students ranged from five years to 20 years.
There were usually two terms of school, call the fall terms and the spring term. Later a school term was either six, seven, eight, or nine months. Then for accreditation of the schools, the length of term went from eight to nine months.
Salaries of teachers were quite varied. A male teacher always received a higher salary than a female teacher. If a teacher could not stay at home, he or she would board with a family in the district.
Prior to 1861 there were a few subscription schools. On that was famous historically, was the Judge Roberts School. It was located in the southeast part of Stanton Township. The charges were $3.00 per child for the school term. The teacher, usually a male, received a small salary, He would board with the various patrons for a period of two or three weeks, then move to the home of another family.
As time went by, some of the school districts started either consolidating or annexing. By 1948, the State Department of Public Instruction was urging the districts to consolidate, a step they deemed important in order to give the students a better education. Some schools were forced to closed because the enrollment dropped below ten pupils and the school would not be accredited. A bill, based on the recommendations of an educational survey, was passed by the 1963 session of the Kansas Legislature. This new state law required each county in the state to begin action on reorganization and unification of its existing school districts. This was the beginning of the end of the rural school, the learning center for many rural children for over 100 years in Miami County.
District No. 1 (New Lancaster) Miami Township The district was organized about the time the plat of New Lancaster was filed in the Register of Deeds office just prior to 1858. On December 11, 1858, the first petition was filed for a school. A deed from J. M. Carpenter, M. A. Carpenter, C. C. Carpenter and Joseph H. Carpenter was recorded and it included Lot 1 in Block 0. The first school year was taught by Mrs. Cyrus Shaw in 1858.
The first schoolhouse in Miami County was built in New Lancaster in 1859-1860. The men went to the woods, felled the trees, sawed the logs and hewed them off with four square sides. Then they put them together with wooden pins. All the work was donated. Members of the elected school board were Rev. William H. Huffman, director; William Karr, treasurer, G. H. Hume, clerk.
Some of the teachers who taught at New Lancaster prior to 1870 were Maggie Haney, A. J. Cotting, J.J. Bannister, Clara Ellis, John Reed and Russell Elliott.
The first log schoolhouse had no inside walls or ceilings. Seats for the pupils were puncheons, which were made from big logs sawed lengthwise, with holes bored in the bottom for legs. A common table served as a desk for the teacher. One blackboard, about 2 1/2 x 4 feet, served the entire school. Chalk was not very plentiful and it came in large lumps.
Church services were held there on Sundays.
In the late 1860's, there was a flourishing literary society at New Lancaster. Among the debaters at that time were Samuel Jackson, Ezekiel Downing, John Heraty, John M. Carpenter, R. J. Hiner, "Squire" Karr and David Smith. Also enjoyed were the occasional spelling school and the evening singing school.
The first log schoolhouse was replaced with a new building in 1879. D. M. Martin had the contract and was paid $1,047> An article in the county newspaper stated-"The new schoolhouse at New Lancaster, consisting of two school rooms and an anteroom was built at a cost of $1,300. The district has no bonds which speaks well for New Lancaster and surroundings." One of the two rooms was upstairs and high school classes were taught there in 1913 and 1914. Teachers were Henry Fessenden and Mary Hickman.
With improving conditions for the settlers came better things in the country school - ceilings on the inside and weather-boarding on the outside, patent seats with desks and ore books such as McGuffey's readers, Ray's arithmetic, Monteid's geography and Murray's grammar.
Through the years many improvements were made on the building. An addition provided bathrooms and a hall with a storage closet.
The school continued to be the center for community interest and activity. Some of the events enjoyed by the children and adults were school programs and box suppers, ball games, Christmas programs where Santa Claus always made an appearance and last-day of school picnics.
To the sorrow of everyone in the community, the school was forced to close in 1966 a result of the unification law passed by the state Legislature. Part of the district was placed in Louisburg USD, No 416, part of it in Paola USD, No. 368 and part of it in LaCygne USD No. 362.
School District No. 1 at New Lancaster became just a memory for those who had loved being a part of it for so many years. The building is no longer standing, but a plaque set in rock from the old schoolhouse foundation bearing the inscription, "Site of School District No. 1 First public school in Miami County 1859-1966 now stands in its place.
Friday, February 6, 2004 10:17 PM
Spring Valley -- Geary County
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