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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas




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KCKS Public School System, 1819-1961
by Nellie McGuinn
Copyright USD 500, Feb 1966

Return to Previous Section 1881

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Wyandotte in 1882, after the annexation of Riverview and Armstrong, had five wards instead of four.  Its boundary extended south to the Kansas (Union) Pacific tracks.  In January, smallpox raging in Ohio brought fears of an epidemic carried westward by travelers.  Huron Place, with the lumberyard on the northeast corner and the school in the center on the hill, seemed to resemble a public grazing ground for the stock that roamed the city at will.  Armstrong and Moyer of the Gazette and Lane of the Herald had fought for three years to get the hogs off the streets before getting action.  Discouraged, they decided in 1882 that possibly it was all right for the cows to graze around the schoolhouse - at least it kept them from roaming into private yards and eating the shrubbery.

The town well and trough at Sixth and Minnesota, near Mr. Griest's lumber yard on the northeast corner, served the people and the animals of the city.  A water system had been installed in Wyandotte, but many families found the water unpalatable and preferred the taste and never-failing supply of the water in the public well.  The schoolhouse was the only building of importance beyond Fifth Street, even though the council was having Minnesota paved to Sixth.  William Boylan, later a well-known abstractor of the city, came in 1882 to teach in the Wyandotte Schools.

The new schools stood unfinished.  In January, 1882, the legislature empowered second-class cities to tax themselves up to eight mills on all property and to share in a twelve-million dollar state fund.  In the spring of 1882 $15,000 became available to complete Lincoln and Everett, repair Central in Huron Place, and to erect a school or an addition in the Riverview district.

Lincoln School (Sixth Street School)J. F. Meyer received the contract to complete Lincoln and Everett Schools.  P. Knoblock in July, 1882, tested the steam heating apparatus at the Sixth Street School (Lincoln) and found it working to his satisfaction.  One janitor was named to care for Central, Lincoln, and Everett Schools.  Everett in the 1890s was often mentioned as the "Downtown School" for white children.

The school at Riverview had originally been a county school, probably a part of old District Number 9, which included what was later Armstrong, Riverview, and Armourdale.  It is said to have been a two-room frame school standing in the middle of a grove of hickory trees on a hill jut north of the city of Armstrong, with eight grades and two teachers.  The original building may have been destroyed by fire.  When Wyandotte annexed Riverview, a four-room brick building was already in use.  In May, 1882, Pratt Roberts deeded to the Wyandotte Board of Education a lot 130 by 175 feet or about a half acre on the east side of South Seventh Street and Pacific Avenue.

The board erected a four-room red-brick or more likely added four rooms to the schoolhouse already on the site.  Steam heat was installed.  With accommodations for 411 children, Riverview served the Fifth Ward as a grade school until the cities consolidated in 1886, when the high school occupied a part of it.  Five good brick buildings now were in Wyandotte.  They were Central, Lincoln, Everett, Armstrong, and Riverview.

City pride prompted some citizens to boast of the efforts being made to improve the schools.  "A grand public school system!," exclaimed one writer, as he marveled at the work of the city in the past twenty-five years.  William H. Seward of Lawrence boasted, "Kansas people are the most intelligent on the face of the globe."

But the Herald editor scolded the people for indifference.  On May 4, 1882, he wrote the following editorial:

School examinations will be held next Monday through Friday.  The public is invited.  We doubt if there is another city in the country with as little interest in education as Wyandotte has.  They leave the schools to the superintendent and the teachers to run, and rear ely go near them.  If people had horses or cattle nine to ten months in the year entrusted to someone else, they would go to see how they were getting along.

If parents gave little thought to school, the superintendent in his report showed that teachers and administrators were aware of a need to set down information, aims, and accomplishments.  On January 26, 1882, he made a complete report:

Of a school population of 3,000, only 1,200 are registered for school.  Sixteen teachers receive slurries ranging from $45 to $65.  The superintendent is paid $1000 a year.  Each pupil costs $11.71 a year and classrooms hold an average of 54 children apiece.

Most children leave school at about age fourteen.  The upper third of the school population never gets on the books.  Only about 70 per cent is in school.  For those who do come, the course of study comprises an eight-year course.  In addition a four-year high school course offers scientific, modern instruction.  It is a recognized fact that the mind grows slowly.  Laws were impressed on it before the invention of the steam engine, telegraph, or telephone.  No effort is made to have children "cram."

Subjects are presented in natural order as the mind of the pupil grows able to comprehend them.  No technical grammar is taught in the lower grades.  Only practical language lessons are included there.  Pupils are taught to express themselves orally and in writing.  Examinations are oral and written.  The school teaches the child not only to read, but to use his reasoning faculties.  Why? Wherefore? are insisted upon. 

Grand Aim:  Increase in mental powers, development of high principles and finer feelings, and establishment of solid character.

Prime object:  To fit graduates to become good citizens of the republic.  To give attention to United States history and the Constitution.

Mr. Porter Sherman was an outstanding educator here in the eighties.  It seems worthwhile today to study the educational aims of that time as presented by such a person.

Two years before, in 1880, the schools had introduced free hand drawing.  At the Western National Fair Association at Bismark Grove near Lawrence in 1879, Wyandotte students had ranked above others in state in drawing and history.  [Annotation:  On the 15th and 16th of September 1879, over 3,000 settlers of early Kansas gathered at Bismark Grove to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of statehood.  Gleed, Charles S., ed. Kansas Memorial, A Report of the Old Settlers' Meeting Held at Bismark Grove, Kansas, September 15th and 16th, 1879. Kansas City: - , 1879.]  Mrs. Porter Sherman, writing teacher at Central, prepared an exhibit for the Wyandotte County Fair.  The penmanship was so delicate and beautiful that observers declared it resembled "cobweb lace."

Little mention of high school work was made in the news, although some young persons who left the eighth grade went back for more advanced study.  Professor Whitlock accepted such students in his private school.  O. C. Palmer [Annotation:  Palmer Academy] and St. Alois Academy [Annotation:  Later known as St. Mary's, located at 5th and Ann] had a large enrollment of paying students.  Professor Robinson administered entrance examinations to students wishing to enroll at the university.  Girls from St. Alois took the examination for teachers and taught successfully in the city schools. 

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

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