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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas




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The Story of Kansas City, Kansas

"First School"

The First "Free" "Public" School in Kansas

Boys and girls who must get up early every morning and go to school nine months of the year probably envy those Wyandot children.  For one whole year they did not have to go to school!  They helped to build the new cabins or hunted and fished with their fathers.

The older Wyandots had gone to the mission school in Ohio, and had no intention of letting their children grow up untaught in the wilderness.  There had been money set aside for a school before they left Upper Sandusky.  As soon as he found time, John M. Armstrong contracted to build a school and to teach it.

A wood piece of land near the northwest corner of what is now Fourth and State was cleared for the schoolhouse.  On July 1, 1844, the school was opened for both white and Indian children.  This was the first free school in Kansas.  It was managed by directors appointed by the council.  Mr. Armstrong was the first teacher.  The next year when he had to go to Washington, Mrs. Armstrong took over his duties. [Annotation:  In 1844, 4th and State would have been 4th and Kansas.  State Avenue was formerly named Kansas.]

When Mrs. Sarah Dagnall was an old lady, she wrote a description of this first school that she had attended as a little girl.  You may have noticed on the busy corner of Fourth and State a high embankment covered with shrubs and weeds.  It was on this spot that the wooden building stood.  Two doors faced the west and windows were on all four sides.  The furniture was very common, just benches and chairs, with one large square table.  A big wood-burning stove supplied the heat.

The school was used for council meetings at night and during vacations.  At times the table would be stacked with gold and silver money.  This was for the annuity payments which the government agent bought to the Indians.  Once $1000 was stolen.  The thief was not found, and the tribe had to suffer the loss. 

Other teachers followed Mrs. Armstrong until the school was closed in 1852.  Then classes were held in the church and in private homes.  The school building became the Council House for the Wyandots.  In 1855 the Indians became citizens and did not need the building any more.  It was sold for $75 and used as a carpenter shop.  For several years the site of the school was marked by a sign.  No trace of the school or the sign remains today.

A Church Divided

Return to Index for "The Story of Kansas City, Kansas" by Nellie McGuinn

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

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

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