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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 1894

The first kindergarten and manual training departments in Kansas City owe their establishment, not to a board of education, but to the Fowler family.  Upon her arrival in Wyandotte, Mrs. Fowler had been concerned over the poor living conditions among the colored people, the Exodusters.  These people had lately come from the South and were living in makeshift homes along the levee and lowlands by the rivers.  Mrs. Fowler visited the huts, bringing food and clothing to the occupants.  She instructed them in better ways of housekeeping and cooking and persuaded her husband to give them work in his packing houses.

In 1881, Mrs. Fowler established in old Kansas City, Kansas, an Industrial and Sewing School for girls eight to sixteen years of age.  Every Saturday afternoon between the hours of two and four, girls from all over Wyandotte County gathered.  At a cost of $300 to $400 a year, instruction was given in the best English methods of sewing.  Material was purchased by the bolt, and children were given the garments they made.  One time the school year closed with an English feast.

Miss Annie Fowler, daughter of George Fowler, started a kindergarten in 1883 at 301 North James Street.  Her father paid $6000 for a house and lot.  The school ran ten months a year at a cost of $1000, as there was no charge to pupils.  Mrs. Alice Cheney was the principal in charge of thirty-eight children.

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Canvas covered wagons, a larger number than usual, passed through the city in 1895.  Earthquake shocks alarmed residents throughout the area.  In Chicago, on a day in November when he was to have given readings in Kansas City, Eugene Field died.  Children and grownups mourned the loss of a man whose poetry had appealed to all ages.  Street pavement, not yet paid for, deteriorated under use and "diphtheria and malignant fevers."  Scarlet fever closed the London Heights School.

Mrs. Alice Cheney and Miss Williams opened a private kindergarten in April at 804 Minnesota.  Mrs. Cheney had conducted a school for Miss Anna Fowler in old Kansas City, Kansas.  Her assistant, Miss Williams, graduated from the Kindergarten Department at the State Normal.  The success of Miss Cheney's school led to the demand of a public school kindergarten system.  [Annotation:  "Old Kansas City, Kansas" was the area later referred to as the West Bottoms where the cattle pens and slaughter houses.  The area just west of where the Golden Ox and the Kemper Arena stands in 2003.  The west bottoms was bounded on the west by the Kansas River, on the north by the Missouri River, and on the east by the Missouri state line.]

W. H. Ryus appeared before the board in January to demonstrate a heating stove he had invented.  The board purchased two for the rooms in the Northrup Building on Minnesota Avenue.

Interested persons formed a Citizens Committee to promote a bill in the legislature for an increase in levy.  Money was needed for a ward school building and to pay teachers for the money they donated.  The high school should have been a bond issue.  Fair-minded members of the committee deplored the economy exercised by reducing teachers' salaries.

L.L.L. Hanks was elected in April to this third term as superintendent.  At the same time, the board announced that certificates would be extended for one year without examination if teachers would take a professional course in reading.  The superintendent and a committee from the board would outline the course.

Serious charges against Benjamin Friedburg, President of the Board of Trade, were made by board members.  William Fletcher, president, and Harry Bell, vice president, related at the meeting on May 9, that they had been approached by Mr. Friedburg in April.  He offered them $25 each if they would use their influence to have the election of the superintendent postponed to prevent the election of Mr. Hanks again.  The board appointed a committee, including Bell and Fletcher, to go to the Board of Trade and lay the matter before them.  Board of Trade members answered that people were sending their children to Missouri because of conditions of Kansas schools.

The superintendent ordered 6,000 invitations printed for parents to visit and examine the work of the grade schools in May, 1895.  The press of both teachers holding Kansas City was invited to view the exhibits.  A concession was made to teachers holding first grade certificates. They were excused from examinations if their teaching was satisfactory.  Persons holding other certificates would be examined only in the subjects in which grades were low.  The board agreed to honor State Normal diplomas.  The state superintendent wrote to inform the examining committee how other cities conducted examinations.  In June tests, only 35 out of 75 who took the examinations were certified.

Teachers in the spring of 1895 often failed to arrive promptly at school.  The board threatened rigid enforcement of rules if teachers failed to get to their buildings on time.  J. W. Ferguson's law suit against the board for work done without pay lingered on.

Unfortunately for the schools and good relations between the public and the board, religious differences came into open quarreling.  The dismissal of experienced, successful teachers because of their membership in the Catholic Church aroused bitter feelings.  The Kansas City Gazette opposed the election of Alex Carfrae to fill a vacancy on the board from the First Ward.  Upon his election Council Number 8 of the American Protective Association congratulated the board.  The association was violently anti-Catholic.

A Miss Dyer, dropped from the list of teachers in June, protested her dismissal and demanded reasons as to why she was not hired.  Her appearance stirred up a storm of protest.  A thousand people gathered one June evening at the Tabernacle to discuss the board's sectarianism.  Of several speakers, Edwin S. McAnany, attorney, was the only one who was not a Protestant.

Honorable John B. Scroggs said that Father Kuhls of St. Mary's Church read the same Bible as the members of the American Protective Association read.  Honorable C. F. Hutchings told of his Puritan ancestors, but he, too, was shocked at the dismissals.  As a Protestant, a citizen, and a minister, the Reverend J. G. Dougherty made his protests.  Nine-tenths of the Protestants of the city opposed the board's action, was Porter Sherman's plea.

James F. Getty objected to the rule of a secret political organization.  One man, Silas Porter, had not planned to attend the meeting.  When someone informed him that if he had political aspirations he had better stay away, he said that after that, barbed wire could not have kept him out.  Resolutions condemning the action of the board were drawn up by a committee consisting of L. W. Keplinger, Winfield Freeman and John O'Flanagan.

The high school made undesirable headlines on commencement night.  The class of twenty consisted mainly of girls, among them one who was married.  A quarrel started with the married girl in the basement of the Presbyterian Church where the group had assembled.  The girl refused to accept the place assigned her.  Unable to stop the disturbance, Superintendent Hanks called a policeman.  Later on the girl sat in the forbidden place on the platform and remained there, to the disgust of the graduates.

At the end of the year, 1894-1895, Kansas City had a population of 45,000 and a property valuation of $30,000,000.  Out of 13,000 school-age children, only 1/2 attended school.  The school system had 19 schools and 129 teachers.  Most buildings were crowded.

Aside from some "if's and when's," the board planned to reimburse teachers who taught one month free.  One mill was levied to provide money for payment.  The superintendent made no plans for an institute.  Needed repairs had to be omitted because funds were marked for new buildings, not improvements to the old.  The board rented another room on the northeast corner of Seventh and Tauromee in the Gamble Block for Central and the Fleischman Building at the corner of Fifth and Oakland for Everett pupils.  Mr. Bigger offered to rent a three-story brick on the southeast corner of Sixth and Ann for school purposes.

Morse children would have additional room in a building on the northeast corner of Baltimore and Miami, owned by A. Keys.  A lower room in a building on the northwest corner of Shawnee and Fifth was rented from W. H. Stoddard for Armourdale School.  The library, so recently established, had to move, and the two west rooms of the board's office building (Gray's, south of the high school) were made into one classroom for high school use.

Walker and Douglass asked for Additional rooms.  Lincoln took the extra children from Douglass.  Forty-seven children at Long had no place to sit.  Children under seven might have to be sent home for another year.  Non-residents and out-of-district pupils crowded the principal's room at Central.  Walker's colored annex had 106 to 160 children.  A room at Walker went on half-day sessions, until on September 23, 1 Mr. Searles offered a whole building for $23 a month for the school's use.

After Garrison (near Greystone School) closed, the colored children had no school.  In September, the board decided to send seven Garrison pupils to Kansas City, Missouri.  That city could not take them.  That city could not take them.  The board sent the children to Rosedale.  An extra room was fitted up at Wood.  Every school in the city needed more desks.

The newspapers as early as July, 1895, reported that board members were having trouble with Superintendent Hanks, Mr. Carfrae, and M. G. Jones, the clerk.  When Hanks refused an increase in salary for teachers, he spoke freely, blaming President Gadd of the board.  Other statements were made by Hanks concerning Mr. Gadd.  Difficulties arose over an argument concerning signing a contract for three years with the American Book Company or Ginn and Company.

C. H. Nowlin, former Long principal and in 1895 a teacher at the high school, left in September to go to a Kansas City, Missouri, high school.  His loss was deeply felt among school people, following the departure of other fine teachers.  La Pierre (Lapier) Williams, principal at Wood, took Novlin's place.  Annie R. Baker, who resigned, was mentioned as "an esteemed high school teacher."

Routine matters came up before the board during the year.  Stove fenders, feather dusters, and water pails made up orders for purchasing.  A group of people took the board's time in June to wrangle over teachers in the colored school.  Teachers, Sunday School teachers, and ministers asked for the use of classrooms during vacation.  A request to teach German at the Armourdale School was refused.  Mr. Gadd, before resigning as president, invited the board to meet at his home on the northwest corner of Seventh and Nebraska.

Vertical, not Spencerian, writing books were chosen for penmanship classes.  The board signed a petition to grade Eleventh Street from Minnesota to Sandusky because grading would benefit Barnett School.  A new typewriter, cost not to exceed $35, was ordered for the superintendent's office.  In August, the Reverend J. R. Richardson requested that the Central School be rung on September 1 at 3:00 p.m. to announce the dedication of the Baptist Church at Fifth and Nebraska.

A few teachers slipped into positions without proper certification.  The board warned teachers about avoiding partisan politics.  They were to devote themselves to school work and work in harmony with patrons.  London Heights and Armstrong closed because of scarlet fever and diphtheria.  A doctor was sent to Greystone where a child was ill with membranous croup. 

The library, crowded out of its room at the high school annex, moved to the second floor of the Court Block on Minnesota Avenue near Seventh Street.  The Federation of Clubs took over the management in November.  The Board of Managers appointed Miss E. M. Dickinson, librarian.  A $1 fee admitted a person to membership.

Next Section   1896

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History Site created on December 02, 2002
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