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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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

Return to Previous Section 1897

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1898

On February 15, 1898, screaming headlines announced the blowing up of the battleship, Maine, lying at anchor in Havana Harbor.  Kansas City, Kansas young men joined the thousands of recruits going to the Philippines, The Raggedy Pops or Coxey's Army, as local recruits were known, sailed to the islands and to glory during the Spanish-American War.

Mr. J. L. Howard and his teachers invited the board to the monthly dinner at Everett School.  Professor Carruth of the university, addressed the high school graduates and George Anderson Fowler gave Kansas University $18,000 for a physics building.  The contestants took part in the high school's fifth annual oratorical contest.  On September 22, the colored children celebrated Emancipation Day, and early in October the carnival in Kansas City, Missouri, drew crowds from here over the day and a half holiday.

The eighth graders, contrary to a rule previously made, entered high school upon graduation in January.  Parents asked that their children be given a more "practical" education so that high school graduates could begin early to make a living.  Students who wished to add French to their high school courses enrolled under Miss Helbach, the German teacher.

Tellurian Globe, circa 1910, Kansas City MOThe Wyandotte County Gas Company offered to furnish light for the high school office.  The electric company immediately reduced its bill by $1 a month.  With children filling every available space in the schools, the board appointed substitutes as regular teachers.  Early in February, however, Mr. Prine exhibited and sold to the board a "tellurian globe" at a cost not to exceed $15.

The superintendent, at the February meeting, explained to the board about the organization of school children into a society called Bands of Mercy.  The purpose of the society was to cultivate kindness toward children and animals.  He asked that teachers be excused for a funeral in the immediately family from the time of death to burial.  The request was granted.

Barnett parents wanted a new school.  The board agreed to building during vacation time and asked that five patrons help select a new site as the cost of grading the old Barnett site at Eleventh and Barnett made that ground impractical.  They chose a 157 1/2 foot frontage on the northwest corner of Tenth and Orville.  The board found a less expensive site, 200 by 137 feet, on the north side of Orville between Tenth and Eleventh Street.  The parents agreed that this plot, part of the Northrup estate, was a better choice.  The board purchased the land in Block 2 of the Northrup Park addition for an eight-room brick school and recorded in the minutes that the Barnett patrons thanked the board members for their courtesy.  The new school was named on May 16, 1898 for the "distinguished author" James Russell Lowell.  The contract was awarded to Frederick W. Soper.

The Western Highlands Land Company that had promised ground for a school in the northwest section, offered lots 8-11, inclusive, in block 10,  First Addition Western Highlands.  The ground fronted 200 feet on Waverly.  The lots were a gift, provided $7,000 would be spent on a school.  The company had first asked for a $10,000 school.  Frederick W. "Soper received the contract for a four-room school to be called Hawthorne after the "celebrated writer."  A four-room addition to Riverview was begun by John W. Ferguson, former superintendent, now in the contracting business.  W. W. Rose designed it.  Carpenters' Unions 170 and 180 asked the board to use its influence on contractors to employ union labor and mechanics on new buildings and additions.

Walker patrons became impatient for a school building and in April, 1898, were promised a school within the year.  On September 5, Greystone colored people begged the board to re-establish the school for their children.  They were told to present a petition with the name, age and residence of each child.  A week later the people were told that there were too few children and not enough money for a school.  The board arranged to pay Kansas City, Missouri, $12 per year for the Greystone children.

The "Herald" waged unending war against Superintendent Hanks and board members who supported him.  A 60-day deadlock held up the election of the superintendent from April through part of June.  If Mr. Hanks took action to sue the paper, there is no record of it.  He was called an ignoramus, a trickster, and a schemer.  The paper accused him of offering to make a certain school board member mayor, if he, Hanks, were elected superintendent.  The nickname "Shirt collar Hanks" was applied to him in an account of a 15 cents shirt collar he had returned to a shop.

Although the superintendent had an advanced degree, the Herald was critical of his grammar, his general knowledge and his ability to get along with people.  The board stood three to three to elect Hanks again.  When his case seemed hopeless, the board in June reached an agreement on L. E. Wolfe for superintendent.  Mr. Wolfe was a high school teacher from Kansas City, Missouri, and previously had been state superintendent of Missouri school for four years.  With no hard feelings against Mr. Hanks, the Herald, so it announced, welcomed Mr. Wolfe.

The board decided in April, 1898 that people had a right to two book depositories and exchanges.  The state had chosen new texts, but had made provision for their exchange for old ones.  W. T. Maunder was named the second book dealer.  An increase of 878 in the school census and the erection of two new buildings necessitated a redistricting of the schools.  A committee of principals was appointed in June to begin work on it.

The Barnett site and building owing to the building of Lowell School was no longer needed.  They were sold to John Hurne for $1500.  Mr. M. E. Pearson, for $18 a month extra, added the work of drawing teacher to his class duties.  Principals' salaries, depending on the size of their buildings, ranged from $60 to $110.  The high school principal received $150.

The high school in September, 1898, was organized for a principal and eleven teachers.  An additional room was needed.  The new superintendent asked that the board offer elocution to the students.  On the Presbyterian Church corner at Sixth and Minnesota, the Portsmouth Building was erected.  Hiram Northrup was dead and people wondered who would pay the taxes now for the Indian Cemetery.

After years of intermittent effort, the city prepared in a businesslike way to improve Huron Place.  The firm of Funk and Dryer was instructed to erect a stone wall on the north side of the Place.  It was to be two feet high and coped with Carthage granite, an excellent loafing place, the critics said, "for members of the Wool Exchange."  The city even hired a celebrated landscape to prepare plans to beautify the park.

After three defeats, the board was ready to try again for $75,000 bond issue for a high school.  Mayor Marshman set December 30 for election day.  On October 31, residents of the Fifth Ward asked the board to locate the new school in their ward.  The board attended, on the same date, a meeting of a group of citizens assembled at the high school to discuss the bond issue.

Leading citizens made speeches.  They called attention to the third of the high school pupils attending class in buildings outside the school in inadequate quarters and crossing streets in cold weather.  W. E. Barnhart, board president, told of improvements made during the last two years with money from the regular levy.

Fifth Ward citizens wanted a provision for giving voters an opportunity to select the location.  The board requested the city clerk to place on the official ballot the following:

Advisory suggestion of preference for location of proposed high school building.  Express your preference by making a cross mark, thus X, in the square at the right of location preferred as stated below:

North of Ohio Avenue          (      )

South of Ohio Avenue          (      )

The bonds passed by 1812 votes out of 2262.  The majority favored a location north of Ohio.

The first thought of the people had been to build the new high school on Huron Place where Central had stood so long.   The city went to court and obtained an injunction restraining the board from using Seminary Place.  The city claimed that Huron Place had been dedicated by the old Town Company for park purposes only, and that the Board of Education had no right there.  The court granted the injunction.

When the case was taken to the Supreme Court, the lower court's decision was reversed.  Seminary, declared the Supreme Court, meant "school."  The resolution of the city council thirty years ago neither added to, nor took from, rights.  The court ordered the city to ascertain Seminary Place boundaries and to give title.  By the time the matter was settled, the board had chosen a site at Ninth and Minnesota.

The Library Association, after a good start in rooms at Fifth and Minnesota, made a financial report on December 5.  It was unable to meet expenses and asked the board to accept the responsibility once again for the operation of the library.  This the board promised to do as soon as a committee was appointed to take inventory of the books.  Mrs. Mary Farrow was hired by the board to serve another year as librarian.

The board, amid the concern over important decisions, had other matters to settle.  One of the members, F. Westfall from Ward Six, was accused of blackmailing a janitor.  The county attorney threatened action.  Mr. Wolfe was allowed expenses to attend a superintendent's meeting at Chattanooga, Tennessee, in February, 1898.  Parents came to protest punishment of their children by principals.  Teachers asked for increases in salary and the use of classrooms in vacation.  Riverview patrons objected to transfer of their children to Armstrong and the board objected to transfer of their children to Armstrong and the board ordered more seats "put down" in Riverview.  District 2 to the west of the city limits sent fourteen pupils to Reynolds for tuition of $100 a year.

Next Section   1899

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

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