One-Room, Country, & Historic Schools of Brown County

School students in Brown County, Kansas, about 1940.

School students in Brown County, Kansas, about 1940.

Private or subscription schools were taught in the county from nearly the date of the first settlement, with records found as early as 1856. There was, however, no regularly organized district in Brown County before the Carson District, organized on March 11, 1859, by County Superintendent J.A. Stanley. The first School Board was elected on April 21, 1859. The County Superintendent of Public Instruction report for this year showed an enrollment of 204 children of school age and an attendance of 95 in the Carson and Myers Districts. That year, four school districts were organized, but there was no teaching in two of them.

At that time, Hiawatha’s founders put a high priority on education. In its early days, at least six schools were within the city limits. Teachers employed by the district were expected to be single, moral, and willing to work hard for little money. The average salary was $42.50, which was achieved after considerable years of hard work and service to the district and the education of the students.

In 1878, there were 69 organized school districts with a student population of 3,969. The average salary of teachers per month for males was $40.67; for females, it was $30.00. Three frame schoolhouses were built in 1878. There were 77, of which 69 were frame, one was brick, and seven were stone. The value of all school property was $71,197. A few of the school grounds were planted with shade trees, the varieties of trees being mostly soft maple, cottonwood, and box elder. One school ground in Irving Township was shaded with a natural timber growth. The grounds in Hiawatha were planted with 200 poplar and 2,000 cottonwood trees.

In 1879, Brown County had 70 school districts; in 1880, this number had increased to 81.

The number of students enrolled was, in 1879, 3,161; in 1880, 3,623; and in 1881, 4,067, with an average attendance of 2,349. During this period, the number of teachers employed had increased from 80 in 1879 and 85 in 1880 to 125 in 1881, when yearly salaries paid was $23,749.

The total expenditure for all school purposes in 1880 was $24,461.89; the assessed valuation of all school property was $3,300.129.

Hiawatha Academy & Hoover Hall, 1909.

Hiawatha Academy & Hoover Hall, 1909.

Hiawatha Academy was organized in 1887. Instrumental in its development and significant monetary and land donations provided by the former Governor Edmund Morrill and Family. The spacious new brick building, located on a commanding eminence in the city’s eastern part, was formally dedicated on August 21, 1888, with an excellent address by Chancellor J.A. Lippincott of the State University and other appropriate exercises. On September 11, 1888, the academy began its work, having about 90 students in attendance and an efficient corps of instructors, with Professor J. Edward Banta, an experienced teacher and an Amherst graduate, at the head. From the outset, the work in all the departments was very successful. The students were active and enthusiastic. In those early days of 1889, a paper called the Academic Acta was published for three months by the students and faculty. A literary and debating society was established and flourished. Christian work was carried on vigorously under the auspices of YMCA and YWCA organizations.

The Academy was considered to be “six schools in one.” The Academy offered music, college preparation courses, art, commerce, stenography, and a first-class “normal” school. The first class, of two members, was graduated June 14, 1889. The next class graduated eight students. Large classes were graduated in 1891 and 1892. After operating for 28 years, the school closed in 1915, and most of the land, assets, and buildings were turned over to the Hiawatha School District with the stipulation that these assets “be forever used for school purposes.”

Today, Brown County, Kansas, has two school districts. Hiawatha USD 415, in Hiawatha, Kansas, has an elementary school, middle school, and high school. South Brown County USD 430 supports an elementary and high school in Horton, Kansas, and a middle school in Everest, Kansas.

Historic Schools of Brown County


Name District Years of Operation Location & Information
Everest 38 ??
Old school in Everest, Kansas By Kathy Alexander.

Everest School

This building in Everest, Kansas, appears to be an old school.

Everest 38 1912-1965
This old grade school in Everest, Kansas now serves as the Everett Historical Society by Kathy Alexander.

Everest Grade School

This old grade school in Everest, Kansas, now serves the Everett Historical Society. The two-and-a-half-story building originally held grades 1-8 and 1-12 in the 1940s. It became a grade school in the 1950s and closed in about 1965. The Historical Society has owned it since the mid-1960s.  It is located at 641 N. 7th Street.

Grand Prairie 40 1869-1962
Grand Prairie School, Brown County, Kansas.

Grand Prairie School

This replica schoolhouse of District #40 was established northeast of Powhattan in 1869 and operated until consolidation in 1962. The museum program provides students with a unique opportunity to experience history by participating in a rural one-room schoolhouse set in the year 1910.  It is at the Brown County Historical Museum on East Iowa Street in Hiawatha.

Robinson 1959
Robinson School in Brown County, Kansas by Kathy Alexander.

Robinson School

This one-story brick building with a flat roof was designed in the Modern/Modern Movement style. The school reportedly closed in the early 2000s. A separate auditorium building is located on lots to the south. Vacant today, It sits at 609 Parsons Street in Robinson, Kansas.

Washington 44 1875-1919
Old Washington School in Hiawatha, Kansas.

Old Washington School

In 1875, $15,000 in bonds were voted for to construct a new schoolhouse. The structure was built that year for $13,000. Steam heat was added in 1881-1882. The school, later called Washington School, served the city until the spring of 1919. After it was no longer in use as a school, it was purchased by Ewing Herbert, publisher of the Hiawatha World. At the time of conversion to a residence, the building, which had faced Shawnee Street, was reoriented, and a gable-roofed porch with columns was added to the center bay on the west. A deep porch was added to the south elevation, and a garage to the north. It was then converted to a residence and remained in the family until after the death of Ewing Herbert, Jr. in the early 1980s. The rectangular two-story stone structure was designed in the  Italianate style with a hip roof with a double bracketed and lintel-trimmed cornice. The residence is located at 301 N. 5th Street in Hiawatha, Kansas.

Willis High School 73 1917-1965
Willis, Kansas high school ruins by Kathy Alexander.

Willis High School

Willis, Kansas High School Ruins. This old two-and-a-half-story square dark red brick building with stone sills was designed in the commercial style with a flat roof and parapet.

Old Willis School, 2004.

Old Willis School, 2004.

The school closed in about 1965 and was afterward used as a residence by several owners. It is in ruins today, located at 348 1st Street in the old town of Willis, Kansas.

Willis Public School 73 1912-1950
Willis Public School in Brown County, Kansas.

Willis Public School

This one-story rectangular red brick building is designed in the commercial style and has a hip roof. The school closed in about 1950. It is vacant and used for storage at 220 Linck in Willis, Kansas.

Willow Grove ?? 1910-1960s?
Willow Grove School near Hiawatha, Kansas courtesy Google Maps.

Willow Grove School

This one-story square red brick building was built in the vernacular style with a pyramidal roof. The front porch is enclosed and clad with asbestos. It likely closed when schools consolidated in the middle 1960s. There are two garages Northeast of the school. It is vacant today.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of Kansas, January 2024.

Also See:

Cities & Towns

Education in Kansas

Historic Sites

One-Room, Country, & Historic Schools of Kansas


Columbian History of Education in Kansas, Compiled by Kansas Educators,  Kansas State Historical Society, 1893.
Cutler, William G; History of Kansas; A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL, 1883.
Genealogy Trails
Hiawatha World
Kansas State Board of Agriculture, First Biennial Report, Brown County, 1878.