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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 1886

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The part of the city that was formerly old Wyandotte grew westward from Fifth to Seventh Street.  The little frame building of the South Methodist Church, perched high on the hill on the southeast corner of Seventh and Minnesota, shook in the wind. Instead of rebuilding on the church lot, the congregation sold the site for twenty-five thousand dollars.  Thirty years before, the church had paid Hiram Northrup a thousand dollars for it.  (Accounts differ - some say he gave it to them.)

The church kept the building.  The purchasers, Judge R. E. Cable and C. W. McClure, announced that they would erect apartments on the corner.  If they ever did, the apartments early gave way to business establishments.  The church bought the old Gorman place at Seventh and Kansas (State) and planned a new building, "one of the finest in the West."  It stands today across from the Town House Hotel on the northeast corner of the intersection, in good condition after seventy years of use.

In the spring of 1887, teachers attended a meeting at White Church.  On March 10, for a round-trip fare of thirty cents each, they reserved two coaches on the Kansas City, Wyandotte, and Northwestern Railway and made the sixteen-mile trip.  As the close of school neared, eight or ten teachers requested the use of rooms in Central, Wood and McAlpine Schools for conducting "private schools" in vacation time.

J. J. Maxwell, principal of the two-room building known as Chance School, resigned in the spring of 1887.  The rented building was in need of repairs, which had not been made when possession was given up early in the summer.  Jess D. Jaquith, clerk of the board, resigned.  To the minutes of march 14, 1887, he left this postscript:

My best wishes to each and every member of the Board.  May
your horizon never be dimmed by a single cloud.

A Citizens' Convention met in March, 1887, to try to work out a way to take, as far as possible, the election of the school board out of politics.  The convention nominated twelve men, considered to have at heart the best interests of the schools.  In April, a twelve-member board was elected, half for one year and the other for two years.  Whether the men chosen by by the Citizens' Convention were elected, we are not told.  J. W. Ferguson was elected superintendent for a second year at a salary of $1800.  J. P. Root became the new clerk, and Arbor Day was declared a holiday.

The Committee on Buildings and Grounds was empowered by the board to name the schools.  In May a letter writer requested that the board "limit the number of male teachers in the schools."  The colored people begged for additional facilities for their children.  Another bond election was coming up and papers warned citizens that Kansas City must have schools.

The board had to go ahead with a building program.  It elected George Colby, architect, and instructed him to visit all schools and list necessary repairs as recommended by the superintendent.  Central needed repairs and Armstrong and Armourdale wanted additions.  The janitor at Wood Street in old Kansas City, Kansas, removed the seats from the colored Baptist Church, a rented building, and stored them.

John Wherrell took the school census, at a cost not to exceed one hundred dollars, and found many new houses.  Before August 1, 1887, the city expected two hundred new homes to be occupied.  Some families living over store buildings were missed in the census.  School-aged children numbering 8569 were listed.

One year from the time it was made, the rule against the employment of married women teachers was rescinded.  Beginning on June 6, 1887, the board hired married women, and declared in July that the rule to employ them was permanent.  Principals of seven to ten-room schools received an increase of $10 a month.  Wood Street School needed a coal shed.  Board Member Day procured the lumber, and the janitor, Louis Cooper, worked fourteen hours to build it.  He received $2.45 extra on his salary for the work.

When they first organized in 1886, members of the board wanted to meet in the City Hall of old Kansas City, Kansas.  No further mention of a meeting place is made in the records until June, 1887, when the board received a notice asking it to vacate the room used as a meeting place.  The City Council's Building and Grounds chairman said the city engineer needed the room.  A council committee met with the board on June 20 in "Old City Hall" to consider other rooms and promised to furnish a basement room there for the meetings.

Opposition of some board members to two well-known teachers of the city prevented their re-election.  A petition signed by fifty-one indignant citizens changed the voting.  Afterward, these teachers gave long years of faithful service and were honored with letters of warm appreciation from the Board of Education when they retired.

In spite of a teacher shortage, examinations for certificates weeded out applicants.  Only seven out of fifteen passed in July, 1887.  In that month the proposed addition to the Armstrong School waited on information as to the price of lots in Armourdale.  A thousand copies were ordered of printed booklets containing reports of the superintendent, board president, clerk and the course of study.

Thomas Curran, a board member elected in April, left the city without explanation.  On August 29, his place was declared vacant because of absence.  The board appointed James Smith in his place.  The clerk asked the state superintendent for a ruling about filling vacancies, after writing Mr. Curran to resign if he intended to remain away.  The superintendent replied that the city attorney would have to rule on the matter.

The city attorney was called upon to decide on another matter.  Money for building and maintaining schools was running short.  The attorney said the only remedy was cutting down the number of school months, a move disapproved by parents.

Sumner Academy w/Douglass in the backgroundExpenditures increased.  New schools for the colored were needed.  Bids for $350 for a colored school in Armstrong were received after a board committee was given the power to lease and build there.  J. D. Lewis, after two years at Lincoln (Sixth Street) School, became principal in temporary classrooms in a two-story brick at Ninth and Freeman. For twenty-five years, Mr. Lewis served as principal of Douglass School in the temporary and permanent buildings.

A room for colored in the old Second Ward (south of Nebraska and east of Fifth) was needed. The board instructed a committee to lease land for the building of a schoolhouse, 16x24 feet, in Splitlog Bottoms. As a suitable location was hard to find, Dr. Brown offered to procure a colored church for $8 a month, the board to repair and take the money out of the rent.  It is not clear from the records if Splitlog Bottoms was in the Second Ward, but judging from the name, it probably was. The Baptist Church for colored in the Wood district having been abandoned and the furniture moved to storage, a new colored school was needed there.

The crowded schools in the fall of 1887 forced the board into providing additional funds. Funds dwindled. To procure teachers, the board gave an increase in salary of $5 a month to holders of third grade certificates. By October 3, board members were wondering about issuing warrants when there was no money and then borrowing from other funds.

An opinion from State Superintendent Lawhead said the board had no right to transfer funds raised by tax levy for a specific purpose to any other fund or purpose.to any other fund or purpose.  The law for cities of the first class was silent as to the payment of interest on warrants presented to the treasurer and stamped, "Presented, but not paid for want of funds.  Holders entitled to interest."  Again the city attorney's advise was sought as to procedure.

The Committee on Salaries obtained the board's approval in October of two recommendations:

  1. The salary schedule is fair.
  2. If increases cannot be given, shorten the school year.

Purchases early in September, 1887, included "Rough on Rats" for fifty cents, from the Gen Pharmacy, and dippers from Hall, Willis and Company for five dollars.  The board paid a chimney sweep $4.50 for his labor.  Dr. Brown recommended that janitors use in the schools a disinfectant made of a combination of green vitriol and cilices chloride.

The board declared Thursday, October 3, 1887, a holiday, so that teachers and school children could go to Kansas City, Missouri, to see President and Mrs. Cleveland.  The cars and trains carried thousands of Kansans to Missouri, and the papers were filled the next day with accounts of accidents on the crowded "Dummy" lines and cable cars.

Palmer Academy closed in May, 1887, after its last graduating exercises at the opera house.  In September, O. C. Palmer left for Washington Territory for a year's trial residence and remained there to have a second distinguished teaching career.  In August the board inquired about renting the Palmer building.  The price was set at $600 a year, and the furniture valued at $200.  The board members thought the rent unreasonable and decided to keep the high school at Riverview, although in September the board purchased the furniture.

Some changes in rules seemed due.  The janitors and the board must have an order from the clerk before buying supplies.  On November 14, the board decided to "elect at such a time as it thought proper a clerk and a superintendent, neither to be a board member, and to hold office during the pleasure of the board."  The superintendent would recommend to the Committee on Teachers a list of applicants, to be presented to the board at the regular June meeting.

The board set up rules governing schedules of officers and employees and for quorum requirements.  The clerk's hours were set at four to six at the office.  One ton of coal from each dealer selling to the board was to be weighed before it was delivered to the schools.

Purchases by the board included such articles as "bracket lamps" for the basement of the Sixth Street School and "call bells and paper snips" from Hall, Willis, and Company.  The superintendent reported that pens and holders were needed so as to have uniformity in writing.  He recommended a speller that conformed to the reader then in use.

Mr. Turner, board member, felt that a public library had become a necessity.  Another member, J. P. Northrup, said he also had thought of the matter.  Owing to lack of funds, they could think of no means of procuring library services.

Edwin (Edward) Taylor replaced Eugene Rust, Wherrell's assistant, in the fall of the second year at the high school.  So large was the enrollment that three other assistants were appointed.  They were Eva McNally, Bridget Cushing, and Mrs. Wherrell.  Mrs. Wherrell taught Virgil to advanced Latin students at her home a block away, across muddy streets.  The women assistants received $600 a year, and Mr. Taylor $800.  Mr. Wherrell's salary as principal was $1350, and his wife was paid $40 a month.

Few students planned to complete the four years of high school.  Many, especially the boys, left after one year to go to work.  Classification by years was as follows:

First Year - Sub-Junior
Second Year - Junior
Third Year - Middle Year
Fourth Year - Senior

Like the camel that entered the Arab's tent by degrees, the high school spread over half Riverview School.  Seniors sat two in a seat in the assembly room at study time.  Little science equipment was available, and teachers had only the text by which to teach chemistry and physics.

In spite of handicaps the high school started some activities.  A debating group was organized.  One copy or a school paper, written in long hand, was read once a week aloud in assembly.  When the ground was dry enough for games, the boys played a kind of football, somewhat like Rugby.

The Wherrels gave a party for the seniors.  As only two boys were in the class, the juniors served as escorts and furnished buggies for the girls.  The girls rolled pieces of cloth to make bustles to go under the skirts of graduation and party dresses.  The board rented a piano for the graduation exercises.  The alumni honored the senior class of 1888 at a banquet given at the old Chelsea Park pavilion.  S. L. White was the first alumni president.

Next Section   1888

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

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