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The History of our Public Schools
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 1901

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The city's ponds remained sources of danger to children.  A boy drowned on May 15, 1902, in a pond at Eighth and Barnett, close to downtown.  In September plans were made for an event that did not materialize at the time expected.  President Theodore Roosevelt was to visit the city on September 19 and children were to be dismissed for a half day.  J. C. Horton Mercantile Company and Maunder's offered to furnish small flags for the occasion, but the offer was refused.  The President arrived in the spring of 1903.

Smallpox spread throughout the city during the winter in spite of the efforts of Dr. John Hassig, city physician.  [Annotation.  In December of 2003, the Hassig Drug Store still remained on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and 10th Street.]  Again an order was issued that all children must be vaccinated before the end of the year.  The Fowlers sold their packing interests to Swift and Company and severed their ties with the city.  When the city agreed to let a Mr. Clark, representative of a publishing company, advertise the city, the board participated.  For $25 the firm provided a number of cuts of schools and an attractive advertisement.

As early as February, groups tried to interest the school children in improving the appearance of their neighborhoods by cleaning alleys, cutting weeds, and throwing trash away.  Social Service clubs made beautification a spring project and devoted their meeting time to plans.  One meeting was designated for pupils.  The high school senior class asked to plant foliage on the south side of the grounds, where the girls practiced basketball.

Early in May, 150 boys from different schools, in companies of 20, gathered at the high school.  Colonel Walter Vrooman's superintendent, Mr. Yates, instructed the boys in correct methods of carrying out a project initiated by Superintendent L. E. Wolfe.  Mr. Wolfe had obtained 1000 acres throughout the city for the boys to cultivate.  Any financial profit from the gardens would go to the boys.  Colonel Vrooman was to engineer the major part of the undertaking.  Some of the principals, whose aid was needed, were lukewarm about helping.  Clarence J. Smith, Reynolds principal, was said to be the only one to show much interest.

While the building of the library took much time and work, the board had the schools to consider.  Old Central in Huron Place would have to be abandoned to make way for the library. Other schools were crowded.  In January the board decided to purchase a new site with 150 feet frontage, to be located "north of Ohio to Ann," and east of Sixth Street.  A new four-room building would be erected.

On the north side of Splitlog between Fifth and Sixth Streets the board purchased early in February 200 feet of ground.  THe land was bought from A. F. Reitz, agent, for $4000.  The board had to petition the city to open the street between Fifth and Sixth.  J. H. Lasley, civil engineer and surveyor, reported on the grading of the site on March 10, and the work was completed on May 3, 1902.  President Alfred Weston advertised for bids on April 7.  The school would be named Bancroft in honor of "that distinguished historian."

The Gazette of June 2, 1902, carried the call for bids for the sale of old Central School on Huron Place.  Bidders were to deliver to the Board of Education offices at the high school building their offers for the building.  Excepted were furniture, clothes hooks and boys' outhouse.  Thirty days would be allowed after school closed to remove everything.  The name Central was transferred to the Seventh and Ann building (formerly Palmer Academy).

The bid of F. A. Thompson was not accepted and the board still had the school on May 19.  The firm of Blue and Williams bought the 34-year old building for $250 on June 19 with the provision that it be gone in 30 days.  Old residents remarked about Central's joining the disappearing landmarks, and remembered the early complaints about building on land set aside for a park and out in the country, too.  They had objected to a school so far from the residential section, but their objections had gone unheeded.  On August 4, 1902, Judge M. J. Manning purchased a lot of old schools desks at fifty cents each.  These may have been part of Central's furnishings.

Old timers were told in January by the Herald's editor that they would scarcely recognize Huron Place.  The "old Pennsylvania Dutch barn, built after the close of the Civil War as a schoolhouse" was torn down, and the grounds graded to Ann.  He predicted that when the trees had grown, it would be a good spot in which to idle.  The contract for grading was awarded to Thomas J. Williams for 10,000 cubic yards of dirt to grade through to Ann. 

W. H. Barnhart, president of the board, announced that plans for the library were ready for Carnegie's approval.  The east front would stand ten feet west of the west line of Central School.  There would be a 67-foot frontage on Sixth Street and 110 feet on Ann and Minnesota.  The Board of Trustees for the library, on March 25, 1902, advertised for bids on the construction of the Carnegie Public Library building.  Estimates were due by April 14.  The notice was signed by W. E. Barnhart, chairman, John A. Adams, treasurer, and George McL. Miller, clerk.

Carnegie returned the plans at the time the bids were due with the request that plans be modified to conform to the library gift.  By April 17, the board was aware that all the bids submitted were too high.  Architect W. W. Rose visited the St. Joseph Library and said he thought ours would be better.

The Carpenters Union was the agent for a motion drawn up by the Merchants Mutual Association.  The board agreed to a request by the association that all work on the library would be done as far as possible by union labor.  The date for new bids was set for May 5, 1902, by Alfred Weston, board president and W. E. Barnhart, chairman of the library committee.  The Library Committee had a seal or insignia, which was used on vouchers and other official papers.

The contract for a two-story brick and stone building with basement was awarded to F. A. Thompson for $57,300.  Lewis and Keplinger won the heating installation contract for $6,890.  The contractor promised that he would have the building ready by July 1, 1903.  Mrs. Greenman attended a school for librarians during the summer to learn to arrange and classify books in the new building.  The cost of the materials was increased slightly when the architect objected to the Madge blue limestone called for in the specifications.  This stone had iron ore in it, and Mr. Rose wanted the best blue Warrensburg stone from the quarries of Lawrence Bruce.

The Mercantile Club, which had been influential in getting the Carnegie gift, had charge of the laying of the cornerstone, due to have taken place on August 30, then postponed until Saturday, September 6, 1902.  President Barnhart was in charge of the program, which started in the twilight and ended with the laying of the cornerstone under the new electric arc lights.  Coleman's band was in the stand to open the program.  Reverend Frank Fox gave the invocation.

Three thousand people attended the ceremony and visitors swarmed over the floor of the building.  Prominent citizens made addresses.  Among them were:  Mayor W. H. Craddock, W. A. Simpson, Justice W. R. Smith of the Supreme Court, L. W. Keplinger, J. K. Cubbison, E. S. McAnany, Reverend Frank Streeter, and W. B. Sutton.

Contractor F. A. Thompson and Eugene Dreier handled the trowel.  William Wright sealed the box as it was handed down by M. E. Pearson.  Mr. Pearson remarked that one hundred years from now what an enlightened people would get the message sealed in the stone.  Several business men had put in their telephone numbers, expecting to be "called in heaven," he added.  Besides the daily and weekly newspaper, a copy of the resolutions concerning Andrew Carnegie's $75,000 gift and a record of the proceedings of the board and the Mercantile Club were placed inside.

The library was a monument to Mrs. Sarah A. Richart, who devoted the thirty years of her residence here to educational uplift.  As a teacher, she encouraged and inspired people for years and helped young teachers.  She was a member of the Wyandotte County Board of Education for several years.

Her interest in education made her turn toward helping to build a library.  The idea of using money from a dog tax originated with Mrs. Richart, and before long dog license revenues were being used all over the country for library support.  After the women's clubs of the city were federated, the members wanted to extend their work.  One group was in favor of fitting up a women's club room.  Another groups wish to build up the library.  Sentiment for the library prevailed, and as Mrs. Richart was the first president of the Federation, she emphasized library growth.  Soon the library grew too large to be maintained by the slender revenue of the Federation.   The state refused to enact a law so money could come from taxation.

It was then Mrs. Richard told Mayor R. L. Marshman how the city was overrun with unlicensed dogs.  As the mayor was in difficulty with the present dog catcher, he readily appointed Mrs. Richart as "official dog enumerator."  She would collect the tax and turn one half over to the city.  The other half would go to the library.  This ordinance was still on the books in 1910, long after the dog revenue had been replaced by other funds.

Mr. Perl Morgan in his "History of Wyandotte County" (1911) described how Mrs. Richart put the "yellow cur, the lean, lank hound, the brindle bull dog, as well as the dainty poodle" to use as an aid to education and literary culture.  He added that maybe the "yellow, whining cur that made night hideous on Oakland Avenue gave the Rubaiyat to the library, and the brindle bull pup from Minnesota Avenue might have contributed his mite, Soldiers of Fortune.  The Roycroft edition of the poets may have been purchased with the tax money of some Miami Avenue dog."

When Mrs. Vera Johnson was a girl of seventeen in 1899, she worked as an assistant in the free library rooms.  The only salary she received was $10 a month, donated by Sarah Ann Richart from her dog tax enumerator's money.  Mrs. Richart was particularly saving during her later years so that she could leave some money to the library for the purchase of badly-needed reference books.  After her death, some question arose from her brother as to the validity of the will, but the money was allowed for books for the new library.

Porter Sherman, in the city between his European trips, expressed the sentiment of many citizens when he said that with the building of the library, Kansas City had left the pioneer era behind.  The city had taken a long step forward in 1902.

L. E. Wolfe, superintendent since 1898, failed of re-election on May 5,  1902.  M. E. Pearson, principal of Long School, was elected in his place.  A delegation of citizens appeared before the board to ask Mr. Wolfe's retention.  W. E. Barnhart and George McL. Miller voted for Wolfe, but Alfred Weston, James Fee, A. G. Gates and Charles Bowles were in the majority.  Accusations of playing politics were made against the board, for Wolfe was popular with many leading citizens.

By electing M. E. Pearson, some asserted, the board had set the schools back five years.  There was nothing to be said against the new superintendent, it was acknowledged, except his lack of experience.  It was hoped he would make an "A-one" superintendent, for the sake of the schools.  That he did is attested by his long term of service from 1902 until his retirement in 1932.

Mr. Wolfe was elected superintendent at San Antonio, Texas, with an increase in salary of $400.  "The king is dead, long live the king," proved an embarrassing truth for a group of Hawthorne teachers and the principal.  On hearing of the new superintendent's election, they planned an "informal handshake in Mr. Pearson's front yard," as they expressed it.  The Kansas City Journal misunderstood their intentions, they said, and accused them of discourtesy and lack of loyalty to Mr. Wolfe.  In a letter to the Herald they expressed regret and added that some of Mr. Wolfe's most loyal friends had planned the party.

L. E. Wolfe's friends were ready to honor him.  When he and Mrs. Wolfe left in August, 1902, for their new home in Texas, a farewell reception was held at the large home of Mr. and Mrs. George Stumpf at Ninth and Minnesota on Friday, August 1.  Chinese lanterns were hung across the spacious grounds, a string band played, and several hundred people, "the best citizens," attended.  So high was the praise for his work that it "became an ovation."  San Antonio's gain, they mourned, was Kansas City's loss.  In December the former superintendent's friends were promised a visit the following July, when he stopped over on the way to read a paper at the convention in Minneapolis.

In spite of a new library building and a new superintendent, the board transacted other business as usual in 1902.  Besides the school on Splitlog, four-room additions for Reynolds and Irving had to be built.  John W. Ferguson was given the contract in May for those additions.  Morse and Lowell were crowded.  The board hired a lawyer in March to look after its interests in the old District 7 property at Ninth and Quindaro, source of dispute since it was acquired in the mid-eighties.  Trouble over an outlawed warrant for $700 claimed by one of the Fergusons was settled in the courts in June 1902.

The Reynolds addition in July was not going well, but District 7 had agreed to pay $200 to the board.  The Wyandotte State, Commercial National and Merchants State Bank asked the board for fund deposits.  Money was deposited in the three banks in August.

Children and teachers presented problems for settlement.  When the Northeast Teachers Association met in March for a day and a half the board said 2/3 of the teachers must agree to attend if classes were dismissed.  A week later a ruling was made that teachers who failed to attend would forfeit their salary for the time spent away from the meeting.  Later the rule was changed to read that a teacher not attending could visit a school all day and write a paper to be read by the principal.

Manual training teachers wishes to exhibit the work done in their departments.  The father of Miss Royal Varney requested that his daughter, two points short for graduation, be granted a diploma.  The board agreed to waive the full requirement.  The same privilege was granted another girl one point short, whose parents appeared in May before the board.  Teachers who read music by sight were appointed to serve on a committee to select texts and to adopt an educational system in music.

On May 9, 1902, Merchants Mutual Association told the board that Principal Frank Colvin and Janitor B_____ owed grocery bills.  The "Developer issued a special edition of a pamphlet and wanted the board to purchase copies for supplementary reading, but the request was refused.  Irving teachers were granted permission to serve refreshments on the last day of school.  Application was made for the position of high school matron, but members felt they were not yet ready to hire a matron.

The principal and teachers at Hawthorne surprise the board in October by sending a note of thanks for repairs made at the school, and also sent a bouquet of flowers raised on the school grounds.  Mr. Pearson and Mr. Rose attended Dr. Strong's inauguration as chancellor of the University at Lawrence on October 9.

Local teachers attended a meeting in December, held at the school for the blind.  The fortieth annual meeting of the Kansas State Teachers Association was held during the Christmas holidays in Topeka in the auditorium of the House of Representatives.  Prizes were awarded for enrollment and attendance.  A fee of one dollar was charged for joining, and dues were fifty cents a year.

Next Section   1903

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

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