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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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Mark Twain Elementary School

Mark Twain Elementary School Homepage

Mark Twain Elementary - 2003Location:  2300 Minnesota Avenue

Named for Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) (American author and poet - authoMark Twain (aks Samuel Clemens)r of Huckleberry Finn) (Throughout his career, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) published more than 30 books, hundreds of short stories and essays and gave lecture tours around the world. By the end of his life in 1910, Clemens had become known as the quintessential American author having captured in his works the spirit, character and even dialect of a diverse nation. His writing also served to voice his running commentary on American society. Thinly veiled behind the mask of humor and satire, Clemens' writing often critiqued social morals, politics and human nature, making his literature a unique reflection of the American experience in the latter part of the nineteenth century.)

In 1867, the first school of District Number One, Wyandotte County, was built in Huron Park, where the library now stands.  Called Central Public School.  The town moved west, and other schools were established in the city and county.  Children in the present Mark Twain district went to Chelsea (1887), Lowell (1898), or McKinley (1916).

World War I began in April, 1917.  Companies B and C of the 110th Engineers, Kansas National Guard, reported for duty in July at that year at Engineer Battalion Headquarters at 22nd and Washington Boulevard.  Now a part of Westheight Manor, the site was then a pasture.  Tents were erected on Hoel Parkway near the spot where the residence of Mr. Harry Darby stands in 1966, and the section became known as Camp Hoel. 

Recruits were directed to take the Minnesota Avenue streetcar to 18th Street and to walk to the camp.  As there were no facilities for cooking, the boys marched down Minnesota to a restaurant on 10th street for their meals.  Mr. L. W. Crary, father of Miss Ruby Crary (principal of McKinley and Prescott Schools), lived at that time at 21st Place and Minnesota Avenue.  He recalls that the soldiers, having little to do except play ball and amuse themselves, used to come to his back fence and with with him as he worked in his yard.

The late Herbert Barclay, brother of Miss Margaret Barclay (principal), was a lieutenant in the 110th Engineers when the group was shipped overseas.

(The first mention of the area that is now Westheight was in the Spring of 1844.  The Wyandot Indians were newly arrived from Ohio, and in January at the urging of the Rev. Esquire Grey Eyes they began building a small log Methodist church near what is now 22nd and Washington Blvd.   Because of its distance from the Wyandot settlement, this church became known as the "Church in the Wilderness."  In the Wyandot allotments, the Westheight area was owned by three individuals:  John Sarahess east of 22nd, Jacob Whitecrow west of 22nd, and John Bearskin north of Oakland and Freeman.  The Westheight area remained in the hands of its Wyandot owners until Hanford N. Kerr began assembling property for a farm toward the end of the Civil War.  Resource material:  Westheight Manor, Certified Local Government Program, Historic Inventory - Phase 3 Survey, KCKs, Kansas City, KS City Planning Division, 1990)

Old residents remember this section as Kerr Park (where the Kansas City, Kansas Baseball team practiced) when it served as a circus grounds.  They also recall the 101 Ranch Show from Oklahoma which drew crowds at 18th and Armstrong.  (On April 4, 1864, Kerr purchased 105 1/2 acres in Wyandotte County from Jacob Whitecrow, a Wyandot, for just 33 and 1/3 dollars in gold.  Resource material:  Westheight Manor, Certified Local Government Program, Historic Inventory - Phase 3 Survey, KCKs, Kansas City, KS City Planning Division, 1990)

By 1920 the district around 25th and Minnesota needed a school.  Ground had been purchased, but rising costs after the war delayed the building.  A special session of the legislature authorized the school board to issue bonds to provide for a five-year program of building.

In 1921, the Westheight Activities Association held a meeting in the Methodist Church in Westheight.  A committee of three:  Mr. Crary, Mr. Hoel, and possibly Dr. Louis Gloyne, appeared before the BOE to ask for a school.  Mr. Crary recalls how his young son in those years attended Lowell School at 11th and Orville.  During the week he stayed at a grandmother's home on 16th Street.  At one time he was able to ride with two boys whose father furnished them with a horse and buggy to get to St. Peter's School at 14th and Orville.  He walked the remaining blocks to Lowell.

First plans discussed by the Board in June, 1922, were for two rooms at 25th and State and a remodeled dwelling as a classroom.  This Westheight Manor school, they said, would be called Mark Twain.  Residents at another mass meeting asked that the building be located at 22nd and Minnesota.  The BOE consented.  Grading began in the summer of 1922 for a three-room school for children in the lower grades.

Mark TwainMark Twain belongs to the post-war construction era of 1920-25, when other similar schools were built.  They were of red brick, fireproof, and ultra-modern.  Three (Mark Twain, Chelsea, and Roosevelt) presented architectural problems to Rose and Peterson who designed them because of sloping grounds.  Different levels had to be used.  Others built at the same time were Central, McKinley, Whittier, and Louisa M. Alcott.  The original Mark Twain building cost $47,828.00.

Miss Vada Bosley, principal, and Miss Jeannette Barshfield made up the first faculty in September, 1923, for grades one to four.  There were three classrooms - one that year was used for a playroom - a hall and basement rooms occupying what is now the south section of today's building.  On January 24, 1924, patrons organized the first PTA with Mrs. Walter Timmerman as president.

In September, 1924, a third teacher, Miss Mary Creekbaum, was added.  Grades five and six also were added.  Teachers and pupils of those early Mark Twain days recall the contrasts in surroundings.  Mr. Hoel had laid out a golf course on land he owned at the present site of Wyandotte High School.  No heavy traffic passed the school with brakes or tires screeching.  To the south, the meadowlarks sang, and only an occasional "fore!" shouted by a golfer broke the silence.

Miss Bosley left in 1925 and was replaced by Miss Carrie Drisko, principal at Eugene Field for twenty years.  Two frame portables on the east playground in 1927 and 1928 permitted the addition of the seventh and eighth grades to a rapidly growing school.  The gold course had been sold for a new high school site and people moved their families westward.  By 1929, Mark Twain needed a new addition.

One of the classrooms was remodeled into a front hall, office and lounge.  On the north, five new classrooms and a Kindergarten were built at a cost of $47,606.  The new rooms were occupied in 1930.  After the old Wyandotte High School burned, students attended Central and Northwest junior High Schools until the new building was ready across the street from Mark Twain.  Wyandotte was occupied in 1937.

Miss Drisko, after fifteen years of service, retired from Mark Twain in 1940 and was succeeded by Miss Elizabeth Helper.  In 1953 the school's seventh and eighth grades left to attend Northwest Junior High.  (Note:  At this time, Northwest was an all white school and African American students attended Northeast Junior High.)  In the same year, Miss Drisko died, after thirteen years of retirement.

Again the school needed more room and a second addition was under construction in 1956.  Miss Helper went to Central School as principal and Miss Barclay returned.  She had taught many years previously at Mark Twain and then left for twelve years to serve as principal at Frances Willard and Central. 

Seven hundred patrons, friends, and former pupils attended an Open House to view the new addition on October 30, 1957, in use for the first time.  At a cost of $200,175, after thirteen months of construction, a new auditorium and Kindergarten room were added.  Acoustical tile in the halls and classrooms and a new heating plant updated the building.  Architects Horner, Fennel, and Horner with Fred Wyatt, contractor, had made improvements in the whole building to bring it into harmony with the new part on the west.

Gretchen Williams, a student, made the cover design for the program which listed the names of Board of Education members, architects, builder and faculty.  Miss Creekbaum prepared the history of the school printed on the back cover.

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1923 - September: New building occupied. Three classrooms, hall and basement rooms. South section of building (1962).

1909-1925 - Rose/Peterson, Architects - Much sparer in overall design are ten primary and secondary school constructed to meet the demands of a growing population. The use of materials (brick and terra-cotta), frequent application of Classical detailing, and overall plan (which features a two-story rectangular block, three bays wide), are treated similarly in all of these schools. Differing from late nineteenth and early twentieth century design, these schools were planned to provide more light and circulation for the students and staff: Stanley (1913), Whittier II (1919-20), Chelsea II (1921-23), Roosevelt (1922), McKinley, Louisa M. Alcott, and Mark Twain (1922-1924), Major Hudson (1923-24), and Central III (1924) elementary schools and Turner High School, built in 1916-17. The elementary schools were also designed in such a way that they could, if need be, be built in stages, responding to population increases within their service areas.

Grades one to four in two rooms. Vacant room used for playroom.

Vada Bosley was first principal. Jeannette Barshfield, teacher. Named for writer, Mark Twain.

1924 - Grades five and six added; building filled. PTA organized. Mrs. Walter Timmerman, president.

1927 - Seventh grade added. Two frame portables placed on east playground.

1928 - Eighth grade added.

1930 - Kindergarten and five classrooms added on north. One previous classroom remodeled into front hall, office and restroom.

1957 - February: To build extension on west. Includes Kindergarten and activity room. Rest of building remodeled.

October 30: Dedication of new section. Took thirteen months to build. Horner, Fennell and Horner were architects Fred T. Wyatt, contractor.

1966:  Also completed in 1966 was an early, but major step, in provision of facilities for handicapped children. Two classrooms at Mark Twain were sound treated and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for instruction of hearing impaired children. Individual radio receivers worn by each child made communication, even on the playground, possible for children brought to that school from various parts of the district.   Schools in KCKs in Years of Change 1962-1986, Dr. Oren L. Plucker, 1986

2001 - Voters approved a proposed $120 million bond issue at the Municipal Election Tuesday (April 3, 2001) to air-condition schools, improve technology, and make other upgrades to schools and public libraries. Mark Twain was part of Phase I, which was completed in the summer of 2001.

2004 - Received a "Great IDEAS" grant (funded/sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Fund) for the 2004-05 school year, which encourages teachers in SLC's (Small Learning Communities) to work together to develop innovative programs and projects to improve student learning.  Received $3,996.

2012 - Mark Twain students will be attending school in the Central Elementary while Mark Twain is being torn down and rebuilt. Congratulations to KCKPS for being sensitive to the history of our school district, and planing the architecture accordingly.


1923-25 - Vada Bosley / 1925-41 - Carrie Drisko / 1941-56 - Elizabeth Hepler / 1956-69 - Margaret Barclay / 1969-81 - Kathrine Selma / 1981-87 - Fred W Vaughan / 1987-88 - Beverly Hodges / 1988-89 - Rosemary Harrington / 1989-95 - Faye Young / 1995-2001 - Lisa Perszyk / 2002-2005 - Jewell Ragsdale / 2005-2006 - Stephanie Trugly / 2006 - Marguerite Martinez / 2009- Sandra Egidy

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1945 Mark Twain Graduates

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 29-Jun-2012

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