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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas




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Kerr School

One-room schoolhouse originally
First one-room stone schoolhouse in area


Built:  1868

Other Names:  Roosevelt (replaced Kerr)

Architectural Blue Prints and/or Plot Plan of School Building

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Kerr SchoolThe second school erected in Wyandotte County, Kansas, Kerr School (originally called District #2) was a stone, one-room structure built in 1868, located at what is now 37th and State, Kansas City, Kansas.  The ground formerly belonged to an Native American named Johnson who sold it to Hanford Newell Kerr who gave one acre for the location of the school.

Miss Sally Overton, a teacher in 1877, came to the school two months in the spring to teach catechism to the Catholic children.  As there were not enough Catholics to make up the required percent, the Protestant children also attended.

The next autumn, an eight-month term was begun with an enrollment of 74.  Many of the school terms were of but eight months duration; occasionally there was only a seven-month school.  The first nine months school began in 1882.  Whenever a good teacher was found, he was paid an extra month's salary.

In the early 1880s, the County Superintendent made trips to the school to help.  Older pupils often taught the younger pupils.  At that time the schools were ungraded.  The classes were often known as the "primary" class, the "history" class, and so on.  "McGruffy Readers" were used and, also, "Green's Grammar Books."

Mr. Knackstadt was the school treasurer for sixteen years.  The school treasurer took the records home each year and turned them over to the new treasurer the next year.

The average salary for teachers was $40 a month.  As there was usually a new teacher each year, the teacher for the next year was selected by a committee appointed to investigate his credentials.  Community singing was carried on in the school building.  Among the favorite songs was "Little Scotch Laddy."

In 1908 when Mr. and Mrs. Alton Skinner were teachers at old Kerr, there was a "gypsy king" buried in St. John's Cemetery.  As the procession moved up Reidy Road, the men were riding in hacks, and the women were walking, picking dirt from the ground and throwing it into their hair.  Mr. Skinner dismissed the children in order that they could see the unusual burial.

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1868 - District #2. Second school to be built in the county. Located on south side of old Reidy Road [now State Avenue], west of St. John's Cemetery. 3650 State was address when taken into the city. 

Walls constructed of limestone. One room at first. Named for Hanford Newell Kerr who gave one acre of farm for the school. Kerr soon became a prominent citizen of the county and was active in Democratic politics. Despite the overwhelmingly Republican nature of the county and state, he was eventually elected to one term in the Kansas State Legislature. Together with three other men he organized the First National Bank, one of the first banks in the county. When the bank failed in the Panic of 1873, Kerr personally made sure that all of its financial obligations were met. And in a major act of philanthropy, he gave $60,000 for the eventual establishment of a college in the area, presumably Kansas City University.

(Officers, Wyandott Gazette, 17 July 1873 - C. H. Spencer, director; Mark Cassidy, Clerk and Theodore Braunn, Treasurer)

1896 - The directors of District 2, to the west of the city, sent Mr. Tenny to ask that children attend city schools.  A fee of $50 was paid by the district.

1898 - District 2 to the west of the city limits sent fourteen pupils to Reynolds for tuition of $100 a year.

1906 - Three-room, brick annex erected on east side of building.

1910:  Became part of the KCKs school district. - Part of old District 2 bounded roughly by Reidy Road, Mount Calvary Cemetery, and Quindaro and Mount Hope Cemeteries was made part of the Third Ward.  Kerr School, just west of St. John's cemetery was in this district.  The north part needed school facilities. 

1912 - PTA organized. Mrs. Hillis, first president.

1916 - Applications from patron of Dist #2 to KCKs BOE.  Letter #1  Letter #2  (.pdf)

1920 - Street commissioner James Beggs did a good turn in September for small children attending Kerr School, who were victims of a neighborhood feud near 36th and Freeman.  A bridge had been erected over a stream on private property to save a mile of walking.  A women involved in the quarreling fenced her property and barred the path to the bridge.  As soon as he heard of the matter, Mr. Beggs ordered the bridge immediately removed to another location.

1921 - A site at 36th and Washington was selected for the new Kerr building.  Patrons asked the board for an auditorium and gymnasium and space to provide hot lunches for children.  In June, Rose and Peterson drew plans for a seven-room school with bath and shower in the nurse's room.

1923 - Kerr closed. Moved to new building at 36th and Washington. New school was named Roosevelt.

1937 - Building had been used as a casket factory and burned.


1910-12 - Hallie Irving / 1912-18 - F L Schlagle / 1918-23 - Maude Gray

Averts School Fire Loss

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 23-Apr-2014

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