A HISTORY OF PRATT 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 181-182 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

PRATT COUNTY

by S. P. Gebhart, county superintendent

PRATT COUNTY -- Prior to the year 1879, Pratt county was attached to Reno county for judicial purposes. Under this temporary arrangement, A. A. Axline was appointed deputy county superintendent, and E. R. Morgan and O. L. Peak, associate examiners. The first school in the county was taught at Iuka, by Miss Laura Long. It was held in a small frame building built for a store. The teacher's wages were paid by subscription, and amounted to about $15 per month.

The first schoolhouse in the county was very small, built at the above place by private donations, and was afterward sold to the district. Later, bonds were voted, and a frame building of two rooms erected, with a view of raising the roof and adding two rooms above when needed.

The second schoolhouse was built at Haynesville, in the northeast part of the county. It was constructed of sod, because of the great inconvenience in getting lumber, which had to be freighted from Hutchinson, a distance of 60 miles. During the early history of the county, most of the schoolhouses were built of sod; many of them being very comfortable, plastered inside, and fairly well furnished with seats and benches. Some of the leading teachers of the county at present received instruction and a certain degree of inspiration in these temporary sod buildings. At present, there are no sod schoolhouses in the county.

The first county superintendent was A. H. Hubbs, elected with other county officers at a special election held September 2, 1879, for the perfecting of the county organization, since which time the office has been held by the following gentlemen, in their order respectively: J. J. Wagoner, O. L. Peak, A. A. Axline, and S. P. Gebhart, the last named being the present incumbent, and serving his third term.

There were, in 1882, 21 organized districts, but only eight school buildings, some of the schools being taught in private houses, there being but 15 schools maintained a part of the school year. At that time the school population of the county was 506, and the average wages paid teachers was: Males, $22; females, $15.53. At present, January, 1893, the school population of the county, i.e., between the ages of 5 and 21 years, is 3,034. The number of organized districts is 82; teachers employed, 92, at a salary ranging from $30 to $100 per month, averaging as follows: Males, $45; females, $35.

There are good school buildings, and graded schools with course of study, at the following towns in the county: Preston, Cullison, Saratoga, and Iuka. The schools of the county are in a flourishing condition. Quite a number of pupils graduate from the country schools every year and enter the Pratt high school, college, or some foreign institution of learning.

Pratt City Schools.—The city of Pratt was founded in April, 1884, and organized as a district the following summer. The town grew very rapidly, and in October of that year a primary school was opened by Mrs. Eva J. Caldwell. In November, the higher department began, under the management of C. R. Caldwell. These schools were conducted during the winter, the teachers laboring under many disadvantages. There were from 60 to 80 pupils in each department, who were from all quarters, of all grades, and with all kinds of books. The schools were held in halls on Main street with chairs for seats, and no desks, maps, or apparatus, more than a poorly-painted wooden blackboard, about 3x6 feet. During the summer of 1885, a two-story frame building of six rooms was erected and equipped, at a cost of $7,000. By fall there were pupils enough for three departments, and the school opened with L. C. Miller as principal. The following year, Prof. W. H. Wasson was engaged as principal, and ably filled the position for four years, when Prof. J. A. Butcher was called to the position, which he still occupies.

Two more schoolhouses have since been built, and at present 10 teachers are employed, with an increasing demand for more. An excellent course of study has been adopted. The high-school course comprises Latin, geometry, botany, geology, chemistry, and other branches, to graduate from which prepares students for the State University.

The Southwestern Business College was established at Pratt during the summer of 1891, with Robt. Anderson as president and Prof. J. R. Startzell as manager. Instruction is given in shorthand, typewriting, telegraphy, bookkeeping, and such other branches as are taught in commercial schools. Several students have already become quite proficient in stenography and typewriting, and have at once stepped into paying positions.

The Baptist College—In the summer of 1891, arrangements were made by the South Central Baptist Association of Kansas and the citizens of Pratt for the establishment of a college in the city. The services of Prof. J. S. Gashwiler were secured as president, and the college was formally opened September 14 of the same year. They have a good, two-story frame building, which was donated by the city, well furnished, and a faculty of experienced teachers. The first year the success of the college was beyond the expectations of the most sanguine. The second year began with very flattering prospects, and there is still a steady increase in the enrollment of pupils from southwestern Kansas.

The course provides for eight years' work; the first four years covering the common-school branches, and the last four an academic course, viz., English, natural science, and classical and modern languages. Special attention is given to the departments of art and music. Another object of the college is, to afford a theological training for young men preparing for the ministry.

transcribed by Rita Troxel, State Library of Kansas


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