[School History Logo]

The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas




Site Navigation: History Homepage / Biographies Index / Building Index of Libraries and Schools / Ethnic History of Schools / FAQs - Did You Know? / First Things First / Historian's Roundtable of Wyandotte County / Maps and Land Records / One-Room Schoolhouses / Picture Gallery / Publications, Online Transcriptions, Links / Queries / Copyright/Disclaimer

Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

Page Divider Bar

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

Return to Previous Section 1889

Blue Flash Bar Page Divider


The pavement on Minnesota Avenue was completed in 1890 as far as Eighth Street.  The town got out of the mud, complained the citizens, but into the dirt, for the streets needed cleaning most of the time.  They matched the condition of the grounds around Central on Huron Place and provided a breeding place for germs.

People continued to sacrifice arms and legs instead of waiting for the "L" and cable cars to stop for them.  A little boy, venturing too near, was run over by a "dummy engine" train.  Diphtheria raged and the paper recorded their sympathy to bereaved parents.

Mrs. Wherrell accepted young ladies for students in her school in the Husted Building [on Sixth Street].  On Eighth Street between Armstrong and Minnesota, Mary Ramsey also had a private school.  Teachers in the public schools wanted classrooms in the summer for private instruction.

The new movement by labor, mentioned in Porter Sherman's letter from New Haven, had gathered momentum.  Writing again in September, 1890, Mr. Sherman said that the labor movement was a new phenomenon in the country.  In the East it had been recognized of late, he said, by a new holiday called "Labor Day" celebrated there.

At Dunning's Hall school affairs drew more people than could be comfortably seated.  People were turned away from the high school commencement exercises.  It was generally agreed that the city needed a new hall for such affairs.  A performance of the "Battle of Gettysburg" was given on April 30 and children had a half holiday to see it.

Central School furnished excitement early in 1890.  On January 23, a "head" blew off a safety valve of the heating system.  The noise and rattling frightened the children, and in two rooms teachers were unable to check a panic.  In a wild rush from the building some were trampled.  One child jumped through a window, but was not seriously hurt.  The incident drew attention to the narrow stairs and exits of school buildings.

The Herald's editor held a low opinion on other aspects of the school houses.  "The board paid two or three thousand dollars to an architect for school plans.  The structures are void of architectural beauty and have little comfort or convenience.  There is no provision for ventilation.  Not a building rises to the dignity of a first-class poultry shed."

Two leading men of the school system left in the spring of 1890.  John Wherrell, who had established the high school in 1886 and taught for four years there, began the practice of medicine.  He had been preparing for several years by night school and vacation time study.  Eugene A. Mead of Western University at Elk City, succeeded Wherrell.

John Ferguson had been superintendent of schools since the consolidation of the three cities.  His name appears in later records as a contractor for school buildings, but he applied for job of clerk of the board in 1890.  After a close vote, he lost out to M. G. Jones.  Board members who had promised to support him, voted for Jones.  Records fail to state if Ferguson resigned from his position as superintendent or failed of re-election by the board.

Arvin S. Olin succeeded Ferguson as superintendent.  He had been superintendent of the Ottawa, Kansas schools.  When he accepted the Kansas City offer, Ottawa people were surprised and sorry, for he was considered a fine person.

The city regretted the loss of Professor Wherrell.  Hattie M. Smart represented the high school class of sixteen graduates at commencement on May 8, 1890, and presented him with a gold-headed cane as a parting gift.  After Wherrell's fine address at the Teachers' Institute in May, the board took time from business matters to discuss it.  Listeners had made much favorable comment on it.

The London Heights School in April, 1890, became known as Abbott.  Difficulties in financing the building of the school arose.  The London Heights Company reported to the board that the company was not responsible for $12,000 for a new building.  The board voted to negotiate with the banks to pay off its indebtedness on new buildings at 10$ or less interest.  The company said it would take $1,000 to get matters straight.

Misunderstandings hampered the building's progress.  Certain persons had made a "savage attack" on the site when the ground was purchased.  Questions arose as to the title and price.  Mr. Gibson, board member, reported a perfect title on May 8, 1890, and by September Abbott School was ready.  A south wing was added later.  Four teachers taught eight grades under Frank Colvin, first principal.  Stoves heated the school.  There was no sewerage, and a long bench in front of the building held water buckets and dippers for thirsty students.

The bond issue for $35,000 was sold in February, 1890, to W. J. Hayes and Son.  Later in the year critics accused the board of selling to the lowest of four bidders at a price of $3,603 less than the highest offer.  The buyers discovered that the bonds had been incorrectly printed and were not legal.  They demanded refunding bonds.  Mr. N. Cree, a lawyer, was asked to consult with the board.

The certification of teachers consumed much of the board's time.  In February, 1890, teaches were informed that they could take examinations at the end of the County Normal Institute.  The City Examining Board would examine papers and issue city certificates then.  Beard, Gibson, and Short, examiners, were instructed to employ help if necessary.  The board ruled on kinds of certificates to be renewed without examination and requirements for others.  One member proposed that teachers with diplomas from the university and other state colleges be excused from examination, but the motion failed.

At a special meeting in April, three kinds of certificates were designated -- Primary, Grammar and High School.   For each of these kinds there were grades, one, two, and three, depending on scores made on the tests.  Music and drawing were dropped from the examinations, and philosophy and civil government from tests for assistants.  Grading papers was a formidable task for the examiners.  They made mistakes, and angry teachers objected when names failed to appear in the published lists under the right classification.

In the rush to certify 124 teachers in June, Superintendent Olin also erred in issuing certificates.  He re-examined and graded almost a thousand papers.  Only eight teachers received no certificate at all.  A Miss O'Brien discovered that through a clerical error in 1889 she had taught on a reduced salary for six months.  The board passed a special act to promote her from a second to a first grade certificate.  Special examinations were given to new applicants.

Louise E. Wuest received by mistake a first instead of a second grade certificate.  She was sharply reprimanded for taking advantage of the error.  Her increased salary was obtained "through false information and was a moral wrong.  She would be looked on with prejudice for any position here."  Miss Wuest willing took a lower grade certificate but wanted $50 a month anyway.

The 1890 Board of Education had difficulty getting along together.  Frequent and time-consuming disagreements arose.  Voting on teachers caused a division in the board.  Members after much discussion set up standards.  Teachers had to be recommended by the Committee on Teachers and hold a certificate valid in June, 1890.  The board knew that some teachers deserved a higher salary, but the books failed to show that money was available.  The retiring superintendent and clerk received a month's pay, but filed no report.  President Joseph Gadd hesitated about signing warrants.  The board overruled his objections and he had to sign.

In special session on June 28, 1890, one board member introduced a motion declaring the office of superintendent vacant.  Board member Wright declared the motion out of order and threatened to take the matter to the state superintendent.  Other members objected to Mr. Loomis serving on the board as he was a resident of Kansas City, Missouri.  A vacancy in the high school brought sharp words and many ballots at several meetings before it was filled.  School patrons wishes for a non-political board that concerned itself more with the welfare of children.

The board and the public joined in the controversy over introducing music into the schools.  A committee of the board recommended Mason's New National Music Chart be adopted.  Ginn and Company offered to send instructors for one month if the board adopted their "National Music Course" and bought 34 music charts at $8.20 each.  Music books would range in price from $.25 to $.50 with one year to pay.

Applications from J. W. Halton, M. P. Becker, George Holferty, a Mrs. Griswold and C. A. Boyle were received for the position of musical director.  Superintendent Olin recommended that Boyle be elected at a salary of $100 per month.  A Professor Davis of the New England Conservatory in Boston sent a telegram praising Mr. Boyle.  The board debated until November before hiring Mr. Boyle to commence work in January, 1891.  Principals were notified that music would be taught in all schools.

The public was slow to accept the idea of a music director.  Music was an accomplishment and not part of the practical education of a child.  People needed education to transact ordinary business.  Music had no value in trade or commerce at a time when everyone was taxed to the verge of bankruptcy.  The board should give the director's salary of $100 per month to the poor, who would derive more benefit from the money than the schools would.

The county superintendent in the summer of 1890 invited the board to send a representative to a meeting of the County Textbook Board.  An American Book Company agent addressed the board about a reduction in book prices.  A suggestion, however, was made that all publishers have an opportunity to complete, and that there be an even exchange if some books were discarded.

The meeting was held on September 1.  The Textbook Committee from Kansas City wanted to leave the meeting and to report to the board for instructions.  The group refused to excuse them and the American Book Company, Cowperthwait, and Ginn got the contracts.  The County Textbook Board neglected to adopt a fifth reader.  The Kansas City Board of Education adopted in September a reader introduced by Professor O. C. Hill. 

When the city extended its limits to Eighteenth Street, the Oakland School at Sixteenth and Muncie came under the ownership of the board.  F family rented it for a home.  In June, 1890, with some difficulty the board ejected the family and put the building in order.  On December 15, 1 Mr. Serviss from District Number 9, appeared before the board to request the use of the old building temporarily.  The new school erected at Twenty-first and Muncie, just outside the city limits, had been destroyed by fire.  The board granted the use of one room at old Oakland until the building could be replaced.  Both white and colored children went to Oakland.

Demands on the board increased, along with troubles.  A contract for an addition to Long School was awarded on August 11 to L. G. Ferguson, the lowest bidder.  He withdrew the bid on August 14, saying he had to amend it.  Instead of awarding the contract to the next lowest bidder, the board threw out all bids and called for new ones.  Ferguson made the sole bid and was awarded the contract.  The other contractors of the city, in indignation at the boards action, wrote a long letter of protest, charging the board with unfairness and partiality.

Greystone SchoolThe contract for the Morse addition also went to L. G. Ferguson.  John Buckley was awarded the Greystone contract for a two-room frame building.  The two-room Armstrong School was divided into four rooms to accommodate the increase in enrollment.  Lincoln underwent repairs.  The board wondered about heating, Long, Morse, London Heights, and Douglass in some way besides stoves.

A Mr. Haley rented two rooms to the board for Morse School pupils until the addition was ready.  When H. W. McKean, principal, requested a salary increase, he was told he must wait for the addition to be finished.  To relieve crowded conditions at Central and the High School, the board considered (in September) renting the first floor of the Tucker Building on the southeast corner of Seventh and Ann, but the matter was laid aside for consideration.

[Annotation:  By KERRI FIVECOAT-CAMPBELL Special to The Star, Date: 10/16/01 22:15 - Two Kansas City, Kan., property owners have donated a building at 621 Tauromee Ave. to Kaw Valley Center. The non-profit center, now known as KVC, will use the building for office space.  KVC is a 30-year-old organization that provides mental health, social and educational services to abused, neglected and abandoned children.  The building at 621 Tauromee was a gift from Dan Tucker, former owner of Tucker Hardware on Minnesota Avenue, and John Kearns, an Overland Park businessman who grew up in Kansas City, Kan.  Tucker now lives in Fairway but still owns several commercial buildings and vacant parcels in Kansas City, Kan. In 1997, he donated a building at 739 Minnesota to the Mental Health Association of the Heartland. Tucker said that the donated building was a former warehouse and that Wyandotte County once used it as a juvenile detention center.]

The new architects, Hogg and Rose, made a six-inch mistake in the Long addition plans and had to pay the contractor for extra work.  The board wondered if contracts were needed for repair work at schools.  Expenses mounted as needed repairs were made.  When classrooms were papered, critics of the board not only complained about the expense, but accused the board of preparing a "harbor for diphtheria germs."  Colored people in the Greystone District made a plea for a school for 25 children living near the present building.  Kansas City, Missouri, schools which the colored had attended were able to accommodate them no longer.

The building on the Bruce site was sold in June, 1890, by W. T. Mead, former board member.  By October 16 Mr. Mead had died.  His estate was declared insolvent and the money due the board remained unpaid.  Special taxes for 1888 on the Palmer building had to be paid.  The Masonic Lodge paid the general taxes.  James Snedded, who had papered and painted several buildings, presented a bill.  Lawyers Hutchins and Keplinger ruled that the board would be "criminally liable" if it paid.  One member, Mr. Gibson, wanted to honor the accounts.  The others said not, as there was no written contract.  Snedded was asked to do more than called for at first and should have had legally a written contract for the larger sum.  The matters would have to be settled in court and lawyers hired to represent the board.

Superintendent Olin pressed for a ruling on corporal punishment.  Members Beard and Short drew up on a resolution saying that principals and teachers enjoyed the fullest measure of the board's confidence in their judgment and discretion in the use of corporal punishment.  They could be sure of the board's sanction and support in maintaining order and discipline.  Parents should go directly to the principals with complaints and not to the teachers.

The board instructed teachers to dismiss all pupils from their rooms at four o'clock.  Any business after four had to be transacted in the principal's office for the janitor was then in full charge of the building.  The teacher at Stewart School was placed under the Long principal.  Maggin Tustin was appointed to have charge of an eighth grade room at the high school.

Early in September city teachers organized a Teachers' Institute.  Argentine, Kansas City, and county teachers held a Union Teachers Institute in December at Union Club Hall.  The Principals' Association asked for the use of the board rooms on Friday evenings for debate.  On November 3, 1890, the superintendent reported five teachers late for Institute.  He made the plea that a teacher who works faithfully all month and is sick on Institute day should not suffer loss of salary.  The board agreed if the superintendent would vouch for excuses.  Mr. Olin spoke of the success of the monthly grade meetings.

In spite of the board ruling, individuals still appeared before the board to ask for salary increases.  Requests for use of rooms for private schools were numerous.  Mr. Olin told the board of his attending the National Education Association meeting and of his work since taking the superintendency.  Mr. Norriston and Mr. Pearson received compensation for inscribing certificates and diplomas.

Superintendent Olin said John Wherrell's course of study had not been followed, that no course of study was authorized in the city.  He wanted to build a course for all years.  A fine high school teacher, Eva McNally, left to teach in the Emporia Normal.  The high school got its first library, 300 books.

The superintendent visited Topeka schools.  "Doubtless among the best managed and best taught in the West," he commented.  He found one desirable feature not in Kansas City's system -- a thorough, systematic course in physical culture.  Advantages were that6 it promoted good order decorous conduct, prompt and exact obedience, and symmetrical bodily training.  Mr. Olin personally examined the reading work in Kansas City and found it needed more thought and less mechanics.

When the excavation started for the new building on the northeast corner of the Huron Square, Silas Armstrong and sixteen others filed suit for the heirs and assignees of old Wyandotte Town Company.  The property, they asserted, should revert to the donors when the church left.  The courts affirmed the church's right to sell.  Major Coy urged a joint committee to plan to erect a new building in place of Central, in Huron Place or some other locality.

[Annotation  Huron Indian Cemetery , 7th and Ann Streets, Kansas City, KS 66101; Huron Indian Cemetery, established in 1843, has resisted schemes to commercialize the sacred burial ground as a casino, a parking lot or department store. Thanks to preservation efforts, the cemetery today memorializes the members of the Wyandot Nation who died of typhoid, cholera and exposure to the elements during the forced migration from their homes near Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Members of the Wyandot Nation of Kansas still live in the Kansas City area. -- Huron Cemetery has a colorful pastLydia Burton Conley]

Next Section   1891

Page Divider Bar

Download Adobe Acrobat ReaderLinks using reader are marked ( pdf ).
Click icon to download reader.
Use browser's back button to return

Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

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

Visit the KCKs Public Schools Homepage