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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 1899

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The year 1900 provided no relief from the epidemics that brought illness and death to many in the community.  In April, Long School was closed for a week because of smallpox next door.  Dr. George M. Gray wanted a Board of Health for the city so that something could be done to control smallpox, scarlet fever and diphtheria.  In six weeks, twenty deaths occurred from diphtheria alone. 

Dr. Gray spoke to the Mercantile Club about unsanitary conditions throughout the city.  [Annotation:  Dr. Gray also served a term as Mayor of Kansas City, KS, 1906-1907.]  People with light cases of smallpox walked the streets.  The papers announced that vaccination was said to prevent smallpox.  Many, however, were unwilling to be vaccinated, saying it was only a detriment.  It might help, others said, if those who believed in it would submit.

The kindergarten movement grew in popularity.  At the Froebel Kindergarten at Seventh and Minnesota, Miss Blanch M. Richards and her assistant, Miss Haren, invited public school teachers to a demonstration.  The children from two to five years of age served a banquet to the visitors.  The public on the whole thought kindergarten training an excellent foundation for an education.  Children needed such training more than Latin or Greek, people said.

Improvements took place in the city.  In August, 1900, residents circulated a petition for the paving of Minnesota Avenue with asphalt from Eight to Eighteenth Street.  On State, they wanted brick paved from Fifth or Seventh.  The board ordered the purchase of fire extinguishers for the schools.  The demand had been so great that only twelve were available on the first order.  A few months later, Armourdale School had a fire scare.  A boy yelled"FIRE!" when a piece of paper fell from the ceiling.  Panic followed.  The stronger pushed the weak and children piled two or three high at the doors.  Fortunately, no serious injuries resulted.  Principal H. W. McKean and fourteen teachers led the more than 700 pupils outside to safety.  The occurrence pointed up, though, the need for precaution. 

E. A. Mead returned to visit the new high school and the many friends he had made when principal at the old building.  The Alumni Association was at odds with George E. Rose over its membership.  The association preferred to limits its members to white graduates.  Mr. Rose refused to recognize the association unless the colored also were admitted.  White citizens who wanted separate schools for the races said the colored were being forced into the group. 

Although the high school auditorium seated only 500, it was greatly in demand by organizations at $25 a night.  The board in January, 1900, permitted a Mr. Harry Minor to install a drop curtain on the high school stage for the privilege of displaying advertisements on the curtain.  The board would pass on the desirability of the advertisements which would remain unchanged for two years.

In the spring of 1900 the high school grounds were terraced, sodded, and packed.  Mr. George Kessler, under the auspices of the Mercantile Club, spoke to the board on tree planting.  When the trees were set out, the board ordered boxes to be put around them.  A sign was painted ordering drivers not to hitch their horses near the shade trees.  A. M. Burman was the first manual training teacher appointed to have change of the rooms equipped by Kirk Armour.  From sixteen 1899, the number of high school teachers had increased to 26.

[Annotation:  THE MERCANTILE CLUB. Kansas City, Kansas, is fortunate in having among her numerous civic societies a live commercial organization, and it may be said that in the remarkable development of the Kansas metropolis in recent years the Mercantile Club has been a leading factor.  The Mercantile Club was organized in December, 1898, as the result of the efforts of Evan H. Browne, a progressive citizen of Kansas City, Kansas. Its announced purpose was to promote the commercial and industrial advancement of the city. W. A. Simpson was its first president, and succeeding presidents have been W. T. Atkinson, Edwin S. McAnany, Northrup Moore, Evan H. Browne, George Stumpf, J. W. Breidenthal, Benjamin Schnierle, W. T. Maunder, Dr. George M. Gray, C. L. Brokaw, Willard Merriam, G. C. Smith and P. W. Goebel. During its life of a little over twelve years its secretaries have been W. E. Griffith, James S. Silvey, Carl Dehoney, Donald Greenman, A. H. Skinner and P. W. Morgan, the present secretary.

Among the earlier activities of the club was its aid to our educational authorities in building up its splendid system of schools. It was instrumental in obtaining an appropriation by congress for the erection of a post office building after many years of delay, and of securing from Andrew Carnegie a gift of $75,000 for a library building.  The annual "Sunshine" trade-extension trip of its members for a series of years covered nearly every mile of railroad in the state, and in nearly every city and town the name and fame of Kansas City, Kansas, was made known.

The Mercantile Club was first and foremost in the agitation that led to the erection of a system of parks and boulevards, and has backed every movement looking to civic betterment. It supported the Kaw Valley Drainage Board in its fight to obtain those improvements of the river to protect the property in the valley from damage by overflow. It has stood for the enforcement of law, and when the city was defamed by misrepresentations as to the effect of the closing of the saloons, through the enforcement of the prohibitory law, its members were quick to set the American people right by a presentation of the facts.

It was the Mercantile Club that advocated the purchase of the Metropolitan water plant by the city, by which our people were enabled to obtain an abundant supply of pure water at reasonable rates; and it is able to point with pride to the successful operation of the municipal water plant and the earning of a profit, above operating expenses and interest charges, each and every month. It was the Mercantile Club also that advocated the acquisition of a municipal electrical plant, for which an issue of $350,000 of bonds was voted and which now is building, and it was that organization which got behind the movement for the new city hall now building in Kansas City, Kansas.

And it was the Mercantile Club, ever and always advocating efficient government, that led the successful fight for the inauguration of the system of municipal government by commission which, in one year of operation, has demonstrated that a city can be run on a safe and sane business basis.  The Mercantile Club has comfortable quarters in the Commercial National Bank building at Sixth street and Minnesota avenue, and its meetings, held twice each month, are open to all members and to the public.

Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911.    http://skyways.lib.ks.us/genweb/archives/wyandott/history/1911/volume1/335.html#033906]

The enrollment in 1900 exceeded school capacity and patrons demanded increased facilities from the Board.  Erection of the high school had exhausted building funds, and the public refused to endorse an election for a new bond issue.  The board needed $75,000 for new schools and repairs to old buildings.

Delegates from the Taxpayers' League of Long and Everett sent a protect.  When board members listed needed improvements and presented them to the Mercantile Club, that organization replied by drawing up a resolution against a bond issue to build schools.  Study groups were invited to meet with the board and papers were issued informative statements.  The board economized by refusing to purchase invitations and programs for the high school graduates and planning an early closing in the spring.

For almost 15 years the Union Pacific Railroad, whose tracks lay south of Armstrong, had refused to consider itself a part of the city.    After years of litigation, the railroad lost its suit and paid $20,000 in back taxes to the board.  School was extended from May 4 to May 18.  When County Auditor Berger, in August, 1900, and a group of prominent citizens requested a drop in the tax levy for school purposes, the board promised to comply.

With reduced funds in the treasury, the board did what it could to meet demands.  Plans to improve Central School in Huron Place were stopped by an injunction brought in January by the city against the board.  A four-room brick school on the McAlpine site was needed.  The Hawthorne building plans would be used for the new McAlpine.  L. E. James and Company offered fifty feet adjoining the Hawthorne School and a fifty-foot lot across the street if the board would build a four-room addition to the present building.  The offer was accepted in May, 1900.

The old McAlpine building was sold on May 7 for $50.  School closed on May 10 for McAlpine children, as the space had to be cleared for the new building.  F. A. Thompson was awarded the contract.  In August, 1900, Herman Koenig deeded to the board an additional 25 feet, Lot 5, Block 2 of McAlpine's Addition to Wyandotte.  The new school was named Irving for the writer, Washington Irving, on May 24, 1900.  When the new building was occupied in September, it was so crowded that a basement room had to be used. 

J. W. Ferguson received the Hawthorne addition contract in May.  When the fall term opened, the school's enrollment had gone down.  The board rented a room at Osage and Mill, which could be partitioned into extra rooms for Armourdale School.  Reynolds had to have an annex in September, as cloakrooms were being used for classes.  Central, with the old high school building near, offered to take an additional 100 pupils from crowded neighboring schools.

The board, sometime in the years between 1885 and 1900 must have sold or returned to the district the old Stewart School at Ninth and Quindaro.  In August, 1900, the board tried to ascertain the name of the owners and to learn the price asked for it.  Seventy colored children lived in the district and a school had to be provided.  The building would cost $100 to get into condition.  On September 3, District 7 [Cobb/Stewart/Bryant; Eugene Ware/Waterworks] offered to sell for $1000.  The board was in doubt as to the property rights and refused the offer.

The graduates of the Teachers' Training School were awarded certificates in June, 1900. The board was pleased to learn that former graduates would attend the summer session at Emporia.  Teachers in the four months' training course would take examinations in June in any failing subjects, to earn a city certificate.  People criticized the board when out-of-town teachers were hired.  Board members preferred to employ home town girls, but wanted the best available talent.

"People think the board is a charitable institution," one citizen said, "and the people in poor circumstances should be given jobs."

Teachers invited the public to attend the Institute on September 15 to hear a discussion on the question, "What policy should control a board of education in the selection of teachers, and the professional growth of teachers in its employ?"  Superintendent Wolfe made a plea for primary teachers.  Examiners should test in primary methods also, and give a primary certificate good in grades one to four.

The state librarian notified the board of education in January, 1900, that any school district could have the use of fifty books for six months for a fee of $2.00 and freight. The Public Library moved to the Northrup Building at Fifth and Minnesota. Miss Mina Lane, librarian served until 1902. The next move of the library was to its own building in Huron Place in 1904. Local talent gave an entertainment, "La Fiesta" for the benefit of the library.

W. E. Barnhart, president of the Board of Education, interested the Mercantile Club in asking Andrew Carnegie for a gift toward a new library building. D. H. Stevens, W. A. Simpson, and Mr. Barnhart, chairman, were appointed to work with a group representing women's clubs, the Mercantile Club, and the Board of Education to present the request to Mr. Carnegie.

George N. Herron, retiring member of the board, presented an "elegant picture" for the board room in the high school.  Mr. Maunder framed it. 

The old board office in the Gray building near Seventh and Ann was given to the Superintendent of Repairs to use as a workshop and store house.  The board announced that no schools would be open for private schools in the summer of 1900.

The board listened to many please during the year.  Superintendent Wolfe informed the board on May 21 that another city had offered a salary of $2500, but he agreed to stay when offered $2250 in Kansas City.  Cypress Yards colored people asked that their church building be rented for a school.  In August, District 2 representatives offered $20 a month tuition for eight months so that children could attend the city schools.

The Anti-Cigarette League sent a "lady to address the board" in April.  Also in April, some Kansas City, Missouri, ladies asked that Kansas City, Kansas, children take part in a spelling bee for the benefit of crippled children.  The board refused.  McAlpine patrons wanted a male principal for the new school, which now was called Irving.  Please for use of schoolrooms for private summer classes were refused.

In May, the Kansas City and Leavenworth Electric Railway asked for the right of way along State Avenue by the Lincoln School.  The superintendent and clerk wanted signs for their offices and requested numbers for the high school rooms.  When the board equipped a room and furnished a teacher for the Children's Home, the Home requested that a Mrs. Greenman teach the class.

By September, 1900, District 2 and the Greystone colored were again in the minutes.  District 2 protested the payment of $200 and the Greystone children were sent again to Missouri schools.  At the Lowell School, the smokestack had to be raised five feet about its former height, and doors put on rooms and cloakrooms to shut them off. 

The storm and tidal wave in Galveston, Texas, aroused sympathy throughout the country.    On October 1, the board responded to a request from the stricken city's board of education to collect money from Kansas City schools for the Galveston schools.  Bethany Hospital and the Children's Home placed boxes in the schools for Thanksgiving offerings.

The board was occupying its office in the new high school by May, 1900.  Dr. Eager, a leader in the Library Association, and a group of performers gave a library benefit in October at the high school. Letter exchanges between Andrew Carnegie's secretary and the committee went on. The library has possession of this correspondence today.

The stone wall on Minnesota Avenue at Huron Place was bulging and in danger of falling.  The rains had washed the earth from the hill on which Central stood, and the wall was unable to support the weight.  Warning signs were needed.  The nephew of George A. Fowler took over the family's packing interests in July, 1900.  Education in Kansas would next be in touch with the Fowlers when the Baptist Seminary occupied the old mansion. 

Next Section   1900

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

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