A HISTORY OF DOUGLAS COUNTY SCHOOLS
(from a book written in 1893)

The following text was transcribed from chapters on the history of education in individual Kansas counties found on pages 123-128 in:

THE COLUMBIAN HISTORY OF EDUCATION IN KANSAS...
compiled by Kansas educators and published under the auspices of the Kansas State Historical Society, for the Columbian Exposition.
(Topeka, Kan. : Hamilton Printing Company : E. H. Snow, state printer, 1893)

HISTORY AND GROWTH OF SCHOOLS, BY COUNTIES

DOUGLAS COUNTY

by J. E. Peairs, county superintendent

DOUGLAS COUNTY -- Few counties, if any in the West, can point with pride to as many higher educational institutions as can Douglas county. A shorthand institute, a business college, three high schools, an academy, and three universities, all in a very prosperous condition, are monuments which attest the intelligence of the citizens of this county, and their zeal for the cause of education.

The school history of this county begins with its earliest settlement. Many of the first settlers, coming from the New England States, believed that schools and churches had much to do with the developments of a new State. They at once established private schools wherever there was a sufficient number of children to form classes. In 1858, they asked for a county superintendent, and Governor Medary at once appointed Dr. H. J. Canniff superintendent of schools for the county of Douglas, Kansas Territory. During the winter of 1858-59, Doctor Canniff organized five districts, the first one at Prairie City.

The old map, which shows the plats of these districts, is a very interesting study. It was compiled in 1857, from "field notes," found in the surveyor general's office, at the Territory capital, Lecompton, Kas. Many "paper towns," which do not now exist, even in name, are prominent features on this territorial map. In October, 1858, the people chose Mr. C. L. Edwards for county superintendent, but owing to the turbulent times, there was doubt about the legality of his election, and Mr. Edwards was not commissioned until February 7, 1859. Within three months he had organized 35 districts and had 30 schools in session. From this time the work was rapidly pushed forward.

Mr. Edwards tells some amusing incidents relating to the examination of candidates for teachers' certificates. One day a married lady came to the office and said she would like to take a school, and wanted to be examined. The superintendent proceeded to examine her, but had not asked many questions before she realized that it would not be possible for her to pass. The applicant then began to express doubts about the propriety of her teaching, as her husband had declared that he would have to hire some one in her place to herd the pigs and do the chores, and that, possibly, she had better go back and attend to those irksome duties. The superintendent at once coincided with this very practical view of the situation, and the examination ceased, then and there.

Later, Supt. John S. Brown asked an applicant to add one-fourth and one-half. After vainly endeavoring to scratch an answer from his head, he said: "I jist guess that's a little too fine fer me."

There was a striking contrast in the qualifications of the applicants. Some, just from Eastern schools, were proficient scholars, while others had not even the rudiments of an education.

The following is a complete list of the persons who have served as superintendents in this county: Dr. H. J. Canniff, 1858; C. L. Edwards, 1859; Professor Cunningham, 1860; Rev. W. R. Davis, 1861-63; Rev. John S. Brown, 1865; J. W. Horner, 1867; Rev. W. A. Starrett, 1869; H. C. Speer, 1871; S. M. Gaston (resigned), 1873; T. S. Murray (appointed), 1874; David Shuck, 1875; F. F. Dinsmore, 1877; Sarah A. Brown, 1879; F. F. Dinsmore, 1881; J. C. Banta, 1883-85; N. B. Bartlett, 1887-89; J. E. Peairs, 1891-93.

The first superintendents were paid $3 per day for actual service. When the Territory became a State, they received a salary based upon the population; and later a fixed salary.

Many of the schoolhouses built in early days were log, and many kinds of rooms were rented for school purposes; but before long the enterprising citizens began to erect substantial buildings, a number of which are still in fair condition. The greater number have been replaced by buildings that are a source of pride to the people, and are well adapted to the comfort and convenience of the pupils.

Many districts are supplied with all needful apparatus, and none are absolutely without aids for the teacher. Several districts have taken advantage of the law which provides that a tax may be voted to secure a library, and now have in their schools from 25 to 125 well-selected books.

There are now 84 organized districts, requiring, in all, 93 teachers. the estimated value of school property is $237,570. The total amount received for school purposes in 1891 was $69,550.80; total amount paid out, $62,290.50. In 1891, the population of school age was 7,961; the average daily attendance, 4,291.

It has long been recognized that, for the want of system, there has been in the country schools a useless waste of precious time. The constant study of superintendents and teachers has been to make some change which will enable the schools to do more uniformly thorough work, and to give the boys and girls of the country an equal chance with those of the city.

During the past 10 years, several attempts have been made to secure for the county a uniformity of text-books. Two years ago, a uniform series was adopted, and the superintendent immediately prepared a course of study for eight years' work, based upon the adopted books, printed several thousand copies, and distributed them to teachers and pupils. The effect was immediate and satisfactory. Pupils using uniform text-books, directed by teachers following a uniform course of study or manual, had an incentive to complete the work of the common schools. A friendly rivalry at once manifested itself in the classes of the different schools. The results was, that last year 54 pupils completed the required course of study and graduated from the common schools. The class gave its commencement exercise in the opera house, and the class representatives did credit to themselves and to the newly-inaugurated system. A number of these graduates are in the different higher schools of the county, and are doing excellent work.

A system of classification registers, with duplicate reports to the superintendent leaves in each school a permanent individual record of pupils' and teacher's work.

Uniform examination questions, prepared by the superintendent, test the thoroughness of the work in the different schools and give teachers an opportunity to compare results.

The rural schools are well classified, and the pupils understand what work is required in each year and what must be accomplished to complete the course.

The city schools of Baldwin, Eudora and Lecompton are thoroughly graded and are doing high-school work. The Baldwin schools have extended the course to three years of high-school work, and will soon meet the requirements of the freshman class in the University.

The normal institute is one of the most potent factors in the progress of our schools. A four-weeks session is held each year, in the high-school building, at Lawrence. From three to four of the best instructors are employed each year. The enrollment in 1892 was 161.

Teachers' meetings are held the second Saturday of each month, at the county seat, and the reading-circle studies are reviewed during the forenoon session. The exercises of the afternoon program consist of papers, discussion, and usually a lecture by some prominent educator.

About 90 per cent. of the teachers were enrolled last year as members of the reading circle, and almost all did good work.

President Eliot says, "The rural school is the ideal school." With a longer and more uniform term of school methods, a more regular attendance, teachers better equipped for their work, and the hearty cooperation of those interested in the public schools, I believe that the country school may become just as efficient in the training of boys and girls as the best city school, and possibly approach very near President Eliot's standard—the ideal.

Lawrence Public Schools (Extracts from quarter-centennial address of Rev. R. Cordley, president of the board of education, May 6, 1892) --— The board of education of the city of Lawrence, in its present form, was first organized May 6, 1867, in accordance with a law passed by the State Legislature th previous winter.

The first settlers of Lawrence—and of Kansas, for that matter—were a peculiar people. They did not come, as immigrants usually come, mainly to find a home and new openings. They came with a purpose in their hearts. Their primary purpose was to make Kansas a free State. But while this was their primary thought, to make Kansas free, they also had in mind what a free State ought to be. They came not only to combat slavery, but also to build up the institutions of freedom. Before they had builded their own houses, they founded churches and schools. They intended to found a free State after the old pattern, with religion, education and civil order as the foundation stones. Their purpose has never been better expressed than by the prophet bard, Whittier, in his "Song of the Kansas Emigrants:"

"We cross the prairies, as of old
The Fathers crossed the sea,

To make the West, as they the East,
The homestead of the free.

"We come to plant the common schools

On distant prairie swells,

And give the Sabbaths of the Wild
The music of their bells."

In his speech of welcome to Governor Reeder, the first Territorial Governor, appointed by President Pierce, General Pomeroy, afterwards Senator Pomeroy, said: "We come with the open Bible, and the open spelling book. Our purpose is to place the one upon the pulpit of a free church, and the other upon the desk of a free school." "A free school" was their ideal-—I might almost say their hobby. They wanted a system of schools open and free to all the children of the commonwealth.

In accordance with this sentiment and purpose, we find the first settlers of Lawrence opening schools before many of them had roofs over their heads. Among them were many ardent friends of education, some of whom had been largely concerned in educational affairs.

The settlement of Lawrence began in August, 1854, and on the 16th day of January following, 1855, Mr. Edward P. Fitch opened a school. There was no law by which taxes could be levied; so the citizens maintained the school by voluntary contributions, and threw it open to all the children.

In the spring of 1857, arrangements were made for regular and more extensive operations. Mr. C. L. Edwards was engaged to take charge of what was called the "Quincy high school," thus named after Hon. Josiah Quincy, of Boston. The basement rooms of the Unitarian Church had been finished off, and were occupied by this school.

In 1858, the city government was established, and the school came under the control of school trustees, and was supported from the city treasury. Mr. Edwards continued in charge of the school for two years, but retired in 1859, having been elected superintendent of schools for the county. Mr. Charles W. Adams followed as principal, but a year or so later he entered the army, and served as colonel during the war. Then came S. M. Thorp, cultured, bright, and breezy. He was from Alfred Academy, in central New York, that hive from which so many leading minds came to Kansas in the early days.

In 1861, an amendment to the city charter was secured, by which the schools were placed under the charge of a board of three trustees, one of whom was clerk of the board and superintendent of schools. A tax was levied for school purposes, and the proceeds were placed at the disposal of the board.

It may seem strange that, in a town like Lawrence, with so many educated men and so many ardent friends of education, it should be without a single schoolhouse for 11 years. But when we recall the turbulent times through which the city passed, the wonder ceases. First, there were the border troubles for three years; then, after three years of rest, the famine of 1860; and then followed four years of war. Yet during all this time Lawrence maintained first-class schools, free to all the people.

In 1867, a new law was passed, constituting the board of education essentially as it now exists. It provided for a board of six members—two from each ward.

The report shows that there were at this time 11 teachers, and an enrollment of 889, and a total expense for the year of above $10,000.

The next four years may be aptly called the building era. Until the erection of the high-school building, there had been very little addition made to our schoolroom facilities since then. In about four years there were built or purchased in the two cities ( north and south Lawrence), which were soon after one, eight school buildings—-six on the south side of the river and two on the north. January 1, 1865, the city did not possess a single school building of any kind. January 1, 1872, the two cities owned nine buildings, containing 24 rooms. The amount expended for all these buildings was about $75,000.

One advantage the new board possessed was authority to employ a salaried superintendent of schools. The work of this office had grown to such proportions that it was more than ought to be asked of any unsalaried officer. By the new order, the superintendent was paid for the actual time he gave to the schools. Under this arrangement, Dr. Albert Newman was the first superintendent, followed a year later by Rev. W. C. Tenney, and he in turn by Prof. W. C. Rote, who served for a number of years. He was followed by Prof. W. H. Cole, who remained two years. Prof. D. B. English was then chosen, but left at the close of the year. In 1877, Prof. W. A. Boles became superintendent, and continued until 1880, when the present superintendent, Prof. E. Stanley, was elected.

In 1870, north and south Lawrence were consolidated. This added over 1,000 children to the census, over 600 to the enrollment.

The growth of our schools during these 25 years has been steady and marked in all directions. I can only compare the figures, which never tell the whole story. Comparing the reports of 1867-68 with the latest figures available, we find some interesting comparisons. The census of 1867 showed a school population of 1,286; the census taken last year shows a school population of 3,459. The enrollment at the first date was 889; the enrollment of the present year has been over 2,500. The board 25 years ago owned but one school building; they now own 10. The schools then occupied 6 rooms, and employed 11 teachers; they now occupy 42 rooms, and employ 42 teachers. The high school alone occupies more room than did all the schools 25 years ago. The entire cost of the schools then for the year was $10,159; the entire expense of the schools last year was $26,252. In the morale of the schools there has been greater progress than either in the number attending or the amount expended. In 1867-68, the average daily attendance was only 431, on an enrollment of 889; the average attendance was less than 50 per cent. of the enrollment. Last year the average daily attendance was 1,959, on a total enrollment of 2,432, or more than 80 per cent. of the enrollment.

While the cost of our schools has increased from $10,000 per annum to $26,000, the enrollment has increased from less than 900 to more than 2,500. The cost per scholar, therefore, is less now than it was then, while the facilities are every way improved.

The growth of our schools has nowhere been marked more than in the high school. This school was organized about 1870, and graduated its first class in 1875. When I first became acquainted with the school, at the commencement exercises of 1885, there was a graduating class of 19. About that time the University began to drop off its preparatory department, and our school began to increase. This increase became so marked, it was evident we must make larger provision for it. It was evident also that the scope of the school must be enlarged, so as to fill the place made vacant by the dropping of the preparatory department at the University. This expansion must be in three directions: First, the scope of the school must be broadened to cover all the studies required in University preparation; secondly, the teaching corps must be increased to correspond with the enlarged scope of the school; thirdly, a building must be provided to accommodate this enlarged work. The aim of the school had been to give a good, solid education, without special regard to preparing students for college. There was a good English course of three years, with Latin as an optional. The board has since added Greek, and German, and French, and increased the number of courses to five. These courses are known as the classical, Latin-English, Latin scientific, modern literature, and the scientific. The school is now able to prepare students for any department of the University. Being right under the eaves of the University, our teachers are able to catch the spirit of that institution, and work in line with it.

At the spring election, in 1889, a proposition was submitted to the people to authorize the board to issue bonds to the amount of $35,000 for a new building. The bonds were voted with remarkable unanimity and heartiness. The building was finished in the fall of 1890, and is a marvel of beauty, convenience, and cheapness. Its broad stairs and ample hall ways, its high and well-lighted rooms, its perfect system of heating and ventilation, make it one of the best buildings in the State for its purpose. Without being pretentious, the exterior presentation "is a thing beauty and a joy forever." The growth of the high school has been steady and rapid. Five years ago it had four teachers; now it has eight. It then had 147 students; it now has 400. It then occupied a portion of the Central building; it now occupies nearly all of this large new building.

The people of Lawrence have always been profoundly interested in their schools. They have never refused anything the schools have asked of them. They simple ask that their money be wisely expended. They want economical management, but they do not want niggardly management. "Be careful of our money," they say, "but do not cripple our schools. Our children have but one life, one youth, one chance for an education. We want them to get the best.'" I feel sure this is the general sentiment of our people, and they will respond heartily to any reasonable call for the enlargement and improvement of the schools they love.

And I think I can say confidently that our schools deserve the esteem in which they are held. No schools anywhere are doing better work. Our students stand among the best. Whether the students enter the University for further study, or engage in teaching or business, they stand equal to the best of the same grade. With better facilities and a larger scope, we expect still larger and better results.

Hesper Academy -— During the spring and summer of 1884, the subject of establishing an institution for higher education was frequently and earnestly discussed by the citizens of Hesper and vicinity. The object for which it was established, as set forth in the chapter, is "to advance the cause of education, morals, and religion."

The incorporators, who constituted the first board of trustees, were: Winslow Davis, George F. Rogers, Samuel Stanley, Barclay Thomas, and M. Chalkley Hill. The charter issued by the secretary of State is dated June 10, 1884. The school was opened the following autumn, with Irvin Stanley as principal, and his wife as assistant.

Hesper Academy is controlled by a joint-stock company, with capital stock of $5,000, being composed of 100 shares of $50 each.

Since the opening of the school, the following persons have acted as principals, in the order named: Wilson Cox, Charles H. Edwards, Emma R. Clark, and Theodore Reynolds; likewise Lizzie Jessup, Alden Cox, John Hadley, Mattie Clark, Aurilena Ellis and Mary E. Lewis have acted in the capacity of assistants.

The school building is a two-story frame, erected at a coss of $3,500. The average enrollment is 60. A large per cent. of the graduates attend higher institutions of learning; a still larger number become teachers. Hesper Academy does preparatory work for any college or university in the West. The institution is dependent wholly upon tuition fees for its support. Average annual net receipts, $900.

Hesper Academy is under the control of the Friends' church, only members of that denomination being eligible to the office of trustee.

The first class graduated in 1887. The graduates now (1892) number 35. A good supply of apparatus, maps, charts, etc., are at the command of the teachers. The library consists of a large number of reference books, together with books for general reading, and a quite a number of public documents, in all a little over 800 volumes.

Founded for a noble purpose, sustained amid untold difficulties, Hesper Academy is destined to do much good in molding public opinion, and shaping the destiny of the young people in attendance.

Other Institutions -— Histories of the universities located in the county will be given under their appropriate heading, elsewhere in this volume.

transcribed by Rita Troxel, State Library of Kansas


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