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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 1888

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The year 1889 was also one of contrasts between the old and the new.  The standpipe on Seventh Street held water for the city system, but the fire department filled the cistern at the new Morse School.  The board signed a petition for a franchise for an electric road on Kansas (State) Avenue, while each business man on Minnesota Avenue provided his own sidewalk in front of his individual establishment.  Children were packed in, 60-65 to a room, sometimes in a basement.  The Dodge Venetian Blind Company and other firms were eager to add beauty to classrooms by furnishing them with Venetian blinds.

Accidents and disease were part of the time.  The cable cars brought additional dangers to those caused by the dummy cars.  The slits in which the cables ran trapped buggy wheels that ventured too near.  Horses ran away and killed or injured the riders in the buggies.  Thoughtless people feel beneath the wheels of cars.  Scarlet fever and "consumption" took the lives of young people.

On Eighth and State stood the Potter House, a fine hotel for years, until it burned and was replaced by the Gould Hotel.  At the Tabernacle a crowd gathered for an exhibition of a "phonograph and gramophone".  The Herald's editor, Vincent lane, attended, but gave the demonstration only a few lines in the next issue of the paper.  He thought very little he said of the machine's utility or importance.  Teachers spent vacations in Colorado to "recuperate."  One suffered "violent nervous prostration."

The consolidation of the three cities brought a rapid growth that left the schools struggling to provide room.  Action of the legislature would help, but rural legislators, ignorant of urban problems, prevented such aid.  Of a school population of 11,148, only 5866 were enrolled in a school system whose capacity was only 4434.  There were 2500 eligible children who should have been in school, but did not attend.  John Lethem, writing in 1890, wondered if such growth took place anywhere else after a city reached 10,000 population.

The high school which was established to make education beyond the grammar schools available to all children, was forced to close its door against prospective students.  In June, 1889, 109 eighth graders passed graduation tests.  The high school had room for only forty applicants and held an examination to select the best students.  The others enrolled in Kansas City, Missouri schools or went without further education.

High school enrollment, especially in the upper grades, had dropped a little.  Only two were in the senior class; a few returned for post graduate work.  A system that provided high school work for only one percent of its students and for 57 percent of the entire school age population caused thoughtful citizens to worry about the future.  They became fearful of the continuance of the current form of government.  The fault was not with the school system, they said, but in the "environment."  The state must enact laws to protect itself in the midst of poverty, greed, and selfishness.  Agitation began against the use of child labor during the school session.  Many advocated compulsory laws to prevent children dropping out of school.  The board offered free books to needy students.

Early in 1889 the board issued bonds for twenty years at 5 percent, paid at the Fiscal Agency of the State of Kansas in New York.  The board instructed the clerk to enter into negotiations with capitalists or others for favorable terms  The Fidelity Trust Company of Kansas City, Missouri, purchased the bonds.  The Wyandotte national Bank, after giving bond for $100,000, was approved as a repository for the building fund.  The board still was pressed for money.  The Missouri Pacific excess tax had to be returned.  Knoblock, contractor for Barnett and McAlpine Schools, won his case against the board for work done in 1886 and collected over a thousand dollars.

Most creditors of the board agreed to accept warrants at 8-10 percent interest and to wait for the legislature to act.  The land for new schools was purchased mainly by warrants.  A little money was paid in the summer from the fines collected from the saloon owners.  By the last of August, 1889, the board faced an indebtedness of $35,000 with no available funds to pay.  Another bond issue, bonds maturing by 1905, $5000 each year was necessary.  The bond issue failed to carry on October 31.

Demands failed to diminish.  Almost every district needed something in the way of improvement.  Some of the requests follow:

  • A lot and building for Greystone, $1200
  • A temporary school building for the London Heights district
  • A new building for London Heights
  • A two-year renewal of the least on Phillips School (colored) in Armourdale
  • A new Douglass School at Ninth and Washington
  • An addition to the four-room Long School
  • A four-room addition to the high school at Seventh and Ann
  • A new two-room frame for Bruce School in old Kansas City, Kansas
  • Space for children lodged in Central basement
  • A four-room addition at Barnett
  • A four-room addition in Armourdale
  • Larger space for the board offices
  • A room opened in Armstrong School if 40 pupils attend
  • New teachers appointed for additional rooms

Douglass, Bruce, and London Heights were the main building projects aside from additions to old buildings.  Julia A. Miller and her husband, George W. Miller, sold to the board Lots 41 to 48, inclusive, Block 86, Old Wyandotte, located on the north side of Washington Avenue between Ninth and Tenth Streets.  A six-room brick school for 360 colored children of the Third and Fourth Wards was planned.  Two architects, George Colby and W. F. Hackney, each submitted plans.  The board adopted Hackney's Plan Number 4.

The usual objections as to location disturbed board members.  A committee from the board met in May, 1889, with colored patrons and decided that a site on Ninth near Oakland or Jersey would be more suitable.  The following month at a mass meeting, patrons made demands that the board retain the Washington Avenue site, which it did.  After requesting that the school be called Harrison, the people then wanted the named changed to Douglass.

Rooms were rented in the Johnson Building at Ninth and New Jersey for three and a half months to accommodate the pupils until Douglass was ready.  The board awarded the contract to E. H. Farrell and appointed J. J. Lewis principal.

Residents of the London Heights Addition before the fall of 1889 had sent their children by steam cars to Riverview.  Then the board rented a two-story frame house at Fourteenth and Virginia (now Richmond) and opened a two-room school.  Frank Colvin was the principal and Mamie Shipley was his assistant.  Four grades met in each room.  Parents asked that the board consider an offer by the London Heights Home and Improvement Company to furnish lots at $23 to $25 a foot to provide money to build a school.  The company agreed to accept warrants on the building fund and to hold them until the legislature made provision for payment.

Another offer in July was made by C. B. Peirce of the London Heights Company.  If the board would purchase Lots 19 to 28, Block 16, in the addition at $30 a foot, the company would furnish money for a six-room school.  He then reduced the price to $25 a front foot.  A few days later Mr. Peirce suggested that the company deed the ground to an individual, the latter to give a note at eight percent interest.  The land would be mortgaged for the amount of the note and deeded to the board.  The board would assume the indebtedness and spend the money on the building.  To this the board agreed.  The lots were purchased at $30 a foot and deeded to Mr. Gadd.

T. (G.) C. Russell received the contract to build a six-room brick school, following the plans for Douglass.  The site was located on the northeast corner of what is known at Fifteenth and Troup, then Whiteside and Wiltz.  Plans called for a cost of $12,000 for construction, but an additional $500 was needed in August.  On August 12, 1889, the board expressed the wish that Mr. Gibson handle the London Heights property.

Contract for a two-room Bruce School for colored at Second and Armstrong was awarded to L. G. Ferguson at a cost of $1634.  Greystone "prayed" for a new building in the spring of 1889.  The Committee on New Schools discovered an available lot for $1200.  George Colby had drawn plans for a four room building, and a Mr. Moseley offered to handle $2500 in warrants at ten percent if the board would build.

Long School had scarcely been occupied when the expansion of the district brought additional children.  D. D. Hoag of the "North End appeared before the board in March, 1889, and asked for relief.  The London Heights Committee took over the problem.  Four rooms were added in the summer and opened for classes in October.  A hall in the building was used for a classroom also.  J. L. Davidson was the contractor. 

Armourdale citizens disagreed as to where an addition should be built.  Some appealed to the board for an addition to the 21st Street School (Morse).  The Eighth Street School (Armourdale) had additional space in the Pyle Building nearby.  The board decided an addition to the Armourdale School [Annotation:  Armstrong School, probably named after Silas Armstrong, Wyandot Indian leader] and send the 7th and 8th grades from Morse to Armourdale.  [Annotation:  A town was plotted by the Kansas Townsite and Bridge Company in June, 1880, and an addition in 1881.  All this section was part of District Number 9, Wyandotte County.  Children had attended Armstrong School to the north since 1873.  When the city was incorporated under the name Armourdale in 1882, the school district was divided.  Armstrong School became part of South Wyandotte, which left Armourdale without a building.   An actual "Armourdale" School was not built until 1890.]   L. G. Ferguson was awarded the contract to attach a four-room addition to the old nine-room building.  Repairs were needed also after the building was struck by lighting the summer of 1889.  The younger children would have to go on half-day sessions for a while.

Plans were made for four additional room at the high school.  Armstrong needed a new roof.  If it got one, the board ordered, the janitor would have to do the work.

Phillips School, built on rental ground, housed the colored children of the Fifth and Sixth Wards, except for 7th and 8th grades living east and north of the Missouri Pacific tracks.  These attended Lincoln at Sixth and State.  At the Stewart School at Ninth and Quindaro, pupils from District 7 were taught by a Miss Espenlaub of the city school system.

The Board of Education office in the City Hall (Wyandotte or old Kansas City, Kansas) had become too small in 1889.  The board voted to use larger space available in the house at Seventh and Ann recently purchased from Dr. Gray.  Central children would leave their basement classrooms for rooms in the Gray Building.  A board member, Benjamin Franklin, attended a council meeting with the intention of renting the old board office to the council.  For some reason he failed to mention the matter, saying he did not "deem it advisable."  Plans were made to install a telephone and to buy a mimeograph when the move to the new office was made.

The board wavered in its selection of architects.  Three applied on April 3, 1889:  George Colby W. F. Hackney, and J. W. Hart.  Hackney was elected and paid $10,000 of his $50,000 bond on April 22.  Then the board reconsidered the appointment and Colby submitted plans for a six-room school.  From subsequent records, it appears that Hackney finally won out. 

Superintendent Ferguson reported in September, 1889, that in case of fire at a school, there was no way of notifying the fire department.  He told of wire alarms that could be installed at $35 a mile.  The Electric Fire Construction Company proposed to connect Long, Everett, Lincoln, Central, Riverview, Wood, Armourdale and High with the Fire Department.  Each School would have an automatic box and thermostat connected with a register, relay, and gong at each engine house.  The cost would be $2000, reduced to $1600 if the board allowed the company the privilege of connecting other buildings on the circuit.  If the board accepted the offer, no mention is made in the records about it.

The board added or changed rules for the high school.  Parents of high school students disagreed as to a proper session length.  Some preferred a four-hour session with early dismissal.  To keep the children off the streets, the majority urged an afternoon and morning session with a noon recess.  The board ordered two sessions, 9 to 12 and 1:15 to 4:15.  Pupils of the city schools could enter high school on recommendation of their principals, but others would be required to pass an examination.  This rule was later changed to read that all eighth graders should pass an examination with no grade below 50 in any study and a general average of 75.  The superintendent, or a delegate appointed by him, must do the examining, and the superintendent also must sign the certificate of admission.

The superintendent had duties outlined for him.  He must visit and examine all schools personally.  Every fourth Saturday of the month he was to hold a general assembly of teachers.  Between these meetings he might call teachers in to discuss problems of a particular grade.  He must grant permission before any agent talked to teachers at a building.

Principals and teachers were given rules to go by.  "Applicants for the high school must furnish a diploma from some reputable institution fully covering branches to b taught in the several departments, and be required to furnish testimonials as to moral character, integrity, business habits and aptness to each.  Also to be required to take an examination in any branches to be taught in the high school, at the discretion of the Committee on High Schools."

The principals were instructed to furnish the superintendent a program of each class one week after the beginning of the term.  During cold weather at least one room was to be opened as early as 8:30 a.m. under supervision as directed by the superintendent.  The nativity of the children's parents or guardian should be put on the school records.

Assistants were to be in their rooms fifteen minutes before each session.  Their duty was "to endeavor to impress on the minds of children principles of morality, virtue, regard for truth, love of God and man, patience, industry, and frugality."  When a teacher was sick, two dollars a day would be deducted from her salary to pay a substitute.  An absence of over two days from other cause than sickness would be by the consent of the board or superintendent.  A teacher held her position during the please of the board.

The monthly institute lacked popularity with some teachers.  The rules formulated in 1889-1890 stated that Institute was to be the same as any other day.  "A full and faithful record of all the proceedings of the Institute, and all questions discussed, shall be made, and subject any time to the inspection of any member of the board."

The question of discipline was treated.  Teachers knew that parents complained to the board about physical punishment.  Few meetings were held that a principal was not called upon to defend his own or a teacher's method of discipline.  The board ruled that "teachers be required to preserve strict order."  At the same time it said that no punishment could take a pupil's time from his studies.  Teachers were to be notified also that "no more compositions were to be inflicted on pupils as punishment."  Superintendent Ferguson appealed to the board for a ruling relating to the punishment of pupils without interfering with studies.

The board spent several months settling a matter concerning a principal and probably wished to avoid more trouble.  J. F. Fertig, Armourdale principal, displeased a number of his patrons.  In June, 1889, the board received a petition asking that Fertig not be employed again.  W. A. Morriston of Reynolds School had complaints made about him.  The superintendent and the Committee on Teachers investigated.  They found no evidence against Morriston.

In a report to the board the committee recommended that both principals be employed.  If mistakes had been made, they added, reminders should be sufficient.  For some unaccountable reason the board voted to send the Committee on Teachers to Armourdale to hold "an inquisition as regards Mr. Fertig."  Citizens would be notified in the Gazette of the meeting at the Eighth Street School (Armourdale) on Saturday night, July 6.  The committee would hear complaints and report at the next meeting.  If the meeting was ever held, no record has been preserved.  In August the Teachers' Committee, J. P. Northrup and Gibson, recommended Fertig "not" be rehired.  Their recommendation was overruled and he was appointed principal of the Armourdale School [Annotation:  Actually Armstrong School in the Armourdale area.]  The appointment was protested in September by patrons, but no action was taken.

Teachers asked their pupils in December to bring an apple and a potato as a Christmas offering for needy children.  Donations of clothing were made in addition to the food, and barrels were filled by the schools.  The public, pleased at the response, observed that much could be accomplished if everyone did his share.

Many items came to the board for consideration and action.  A bill appeared in the legislature authorizing the appointment of a commission to "prepare a set of textbooks for use in public schools."  The board protested, saying that such action would work great injury financially to Kansas City schools.  Members planned to petition W. J. Buchan, senator, and G. L. Coates and W. H. Young, representatives, to insert a provision exempting cities of the first class from the law.  [Annotation:  See the Chapter on "The Division of Instructional Services:  Textbook Adoptions, The Curriculum Section, Special Education, Guidance and Counseling Services, Titles I and II of Public Law 89-10" in Kansas Educational Progress, 1858-1961 by Adel Throckmorton, State Department of Public Instruction, June, 1967.  The State Department of Public Instruction is KSDE, Kansas State Department of Education.]

Huron Place was a disgrace to the city.  A committee from the board met with the mayor and council to see if the park could be made more presentable.  Mayor Coy promised cooperation in having the place cleaned.  Some residents offered to make contributions to a fund for grading and planting the "supposed beauty spot" of the city.  Kansas City capitalists bought the Presbyterian Church property in the northeast corner and were planning the erection of a five-story building.  Thirteen other new buildings within the year had brought a new business to Minnesota Avenue between Fifth and Seventh Streets.

The superintendent reported that "in the new of numbers, a combination course had been introduced, and was being successfully taught in all schools.  Teachers had done away with the old-fashioned method of counting on fingers."

Dr. G. H. Brown, board member, resolved "that it was detrimental to the interest of free public schools to have more than one male teacher, who shall be styled principal, in any building, high school excepted."  Male teachers cost more also.  The average salary for men was $91 a month.  Women averaged $55.

The board set up standards for children entering school.  Seven-year olds had to be vaccinated for smallpox, be free from contagious disease or vermin, and be properly clean in person and dress.  Parent or guardian had to accompany the child for his first enrollment.

After the first week of school, pupils would be accepted for enrollment only on Monday.  First primary must enter during the first two weeks of each term.  Tuition students paid $2.00 a month in high school and $1.50 in the grades.

Examinations for teachers grew burdensome.  Superintendent Ferguson reported that a large number of young women took the examinations just to see what they could do.  They had no idea of obtaining a certificate, but were putting the board to considerable expense.  A rule was passed authorizing a charge of $1.00 to any person who had never taught in the city nor made application to do so.

Salaries based on the type of certificate awarded kept teachers in constant preparation for tests in addition to their regular work.  School leaders view for places on their examining board.  Twenty-five years passed before a suggestions made at this time was adopted. Many persons sympathized with the teachers, as nervous tension built up before examination time.  When the day came, teachers could scarcely take the tests.  One wise observer said that best instructors could not be judged by answers to catch questions.  The superintendent could visit the rooms and see for himself which persons should be dropped or retained.

Two innovations were introduced in 1889.  M. E. Pearson and L. L. L. Hanks asked and were given permission to conduct a night school in the high school building, providing the insurance company agreed.  The board dropped a small bombshell into the community when the Primary and Grammar School Committee, with the aid of the Committee on the High School, was instructed to investigate the question of music being taught in the schools.

High school teachers required equipment.  L. L. L. Hanks requested the purchase of typewriters and "philosophical apparatus."  He was allowed $180 for the apparatus, but two "caligraphs" were offered as a substitute for the typewriters.

Thirteen white and four colored schools, besides the high school provided education facilities for the city in 1889-1890.  The schools were: 

Everett Riverview
Long Reynolds
Stewart Armourdale [Armstrong]
London Heights Morse
Central Greystone
Barnett Wood
McAlpine Bruce
Lincoln Douglass

The fourth annual report of the Board of Education, for the year ending June 30, 1890, lists 12 persons as members of the Board of Education for 1890-91.  Two persons from each of six wards served with terms expiring in alternate years.

Term Expires
President, J. H. Gadd
Vice-President, F. H. Barker
Milton Underhill
William Smith
W. S. Beard
C. E. Husted
J. S. Gibson
J. P. Northrup
E. G. Wright
H. M. Bacon
J. S. Perkins
D. W. Austion

The superintendent was A. S. Olin and clerk of the Board was M. G. Jones.  Rules and regulations of the public schools, which included the organization of the Board, duties of the superintendent of schools, superintendent of buildings, organization of committees and duties, duties of principals, teachers, janitors, students, etc., are included in the annual report.  The courses of study for each grade level, including the high school, and textbooks used are listed.  In addition, boundaries of the various schools are defined and assignment of staff members to each building listed.

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Past Minutes of the KCKs Board of Education may be found at the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library, located at 625 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, KS, 66101.  913-551-3280.  When searching for older records, please make contact with Georgia Slaughter, Librarian of the Kansas Collection.

Next Section   1890

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

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