“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.”
— General Samuel Pomeroy, afterward Senator Pomeroy
Douglas County, Kansas, school history began with its earliest settlement. Many of the first settlers, who came from the New England states, believed that schools and churches had much to do with developing a new state. They immediately established private schools wherever there were enough children to form classes.
The first immigrant party, made up of 29 men, all New England Emigrant Aid Company members, arrived in Lawrence in August 1854. Though their primary mission was to ensure slavery would be illegal in Kansas, it was written into their original petition that immigrants coming to Kansas Territory would be provided with public education.
On January 16, 1855, just five months after their arrival, the first public classes were held with Edward P. Fitch of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, serving as the first teacher. There was no law by which taxes could be levied, so the citizens maintained the school by voluntary contributions. The first school district was founded in Lawrence in July 1855.
In March 1857, arrangements were made for regular and more extensive operations. Mr. C. L. Edwards was engaged in taking charge of the “Quincy High School,” named after Edmund Quincy, a benefactor of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. This school occupied the basement rooms of the Unitarian Church. A school building was constructed ten years later at 11th and Vermont Streets. By 1876 this high school was one of four university-accredited schools in the state.
In 1858, the citizens asked for a county superintendent, and Governor Samuel Medary appointed Dr. H. J. Canniff to the role. During the winter of 1858-59, Doctor Canniff organized five school districts, the first one at Prairie City.
In February 1859, C. L. Edwards was commissioned as the Douglas County Superintendent. He organized 35 school districts within three months and had 30 schools in session.
The first superintendents were paid $3 per day for their 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 the early days were made of logs, and many kinds of rooms were rented for school purposes, but before long, the enterprising citizens began to erect substantial buildings.
In 1867, a new law was passed, constituting the board of education. It provided for a board of six members, two from each ward. At that time, there were 11 teachers and an enrollment of 889.
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 schoolroom facilities. During this time, eight school buildings were built in north and south Lawrence.
By the 1890s, many districts were supplied with all needful apparatus, and none were without aids for the teacher. Several districts took advantage of the law, which provided that a tax could be voted to secure a library, and many soon had from 25 to 125 well-selected books.
There were 84 organized districts at that time, which required 93 teachers. The estimated value of school property was $237,570, and the average daily attendance was 4,291. With a few exceptions, most were one-room buildings that served as community centers and church meeting places as well as classrooms. The county also boasted a shorthand institute, a business college, three high schools, an academy, and three universities.
The last rural school, Twin Mound No. 32, closed its doors in 1966, more than 100 years after the first school opened.
Today, numerous old and historic schools continue to stand in Douglas County.
|Name||District||Years of Operation||Location & Information|
This rural school was built in 1911 on the site of an earlier school known as the Kretsinger School. The new school was built at the cost of $1,300. The original design indicated two front doors leading into a separate cloakroom, with a belfry centered at the front. The first teacher in the new facility was Edith Pearson. There were only about 14 students. By the 1920s, it had declined to ten students, and in the 1930s, only three. The school closed in 1936 but reopened the following year with an enrollment of five. The school struggled to remain open in the 1940s and closed for a period but reopened for the 1942-43 term. It then closed for the next two terms and re-opened in 1947. The Adeline School District was disorganized on June 4, 1949. It is a residence today located at the intersection of East 2300 Road and N 400 Road.
The Big Springs School was created when eligible voters met at the Pickens Hotel in 1869 and voted for a school tax. Students were first taught in a local church. In 1878 the district bought two acres of land and put up a frame building. The building’s front door opened directly into the schoolroom. Against the wall were benches on which dinner buckets rested, with space underneath for overshoes and hooks in the wall above for coats and hats. The far wall was one step high which held the teacher’s desk and an organ. In 1926 the school was replaced by a one-room brick and stone building just east of the town’s business section at the cost of $7,000. It had a basement used for a lunchroom and some play. In 1932 it became famous for having the largest number of students in a one-teacher school in Kansas. The teacher, Mrs. Mildred Brown, had 53 students. In 1949 the room was converted into two rooms, and two teachers were hired. In the late 1950s, schools and districts began to be consolidated. Big Springs school was terminated in 1963 and united with the Shawnee Heights school district in Tecumseh.
In April 1865, a one-acre tract of land was deeded to School District No. 54 by Henry T. and Elisa D. Davis. The school was named after George Brackett, the first director of the school board. Two buildings preceded this all brick building that remains today. The Brackett School District was disorganized in March 1963 when it was consolidated with Riverside School District No. 53. The building now serves the Lawrence Board of Realtors at 3838 W 6th St in Lawrence.
This wood-frame building was constructed in 1916. Consolidation talks began in 1958. In the fall of 1962, Burnette, along with White School Dist. 61, Oak Ridge School Dist. 63 and Bismark Dist. No. 79 all consolidated to form Grant School District No. 100. This school building still stands at its original location at Midland junction in northern Douglas County. E County Road 1400 and U.S. Highway 59.
Baldwin City. German settlers established the Clearfield School District in Palmyra Township in 1852. It is the second oldest school district in Kansas. Soon a log structure was built, and students were taught in German. In 1900, the Clearfield School was built northeast of Baldwin City, replacing the earlier log structure. It was initially built at a location one mile east but was moved to its current location in 1908. The school closed in 1946, but it continued to serve as a meeting house for the Clearfield Grange until it disbanded in 1991. Today, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The site also includes two outhouses and a shed. It is located at 2162 North 600 Road.
In May 1866, the school district recorded a deed, and this schoolhouse was built. In 1884, the school was supposedly condemned, and a new frame structure was built in 1885. The old stone school building was then advertised and sold for $150.00. It was then utilized for several years as the telephone office. In 1930, the building was sold, and after passing through a couple of hands, the Clinton Township Board of Directors bought it for $250.00. It then became known as the Clinton Town Hall. It continues to serve as a community meeting place for various organizations and has become the “culture center” for activities in the Clinton Lake Area. The old school is located at 1177 E 604 Rd, Lawrence, KS
The Colyer School was built of wood frame construction in 1879 for $1000. During the 1940s, the school was closed for five years due to low enrollment, and students were sent to nearby Lone Star School. It was reopened in 1949 with nine students. In 1962, the school closed with ten students. At that time the district was consolidated with Marion Springs District No. 101. In 1963, the building was sold at auction. It still stands on the southwest corner of the intersection of N. 600 Road and E. 800 Road.
|Crowder||69||1910?-1956||The first Crowder School was a log cabin structure built on a one-acre tract in 1870. Because of its location on a lonely rocky slope of a hill, it became known as “Stony Lonesome.” During the 1897-98 term, there were 22 students enrolled. During the first decade of the 20th century, the school became too small for the area population, and a larger brick building was constructed to the east of the original location. The last school term taught at the Crowder school was 1955-56. Only five students were enrolled at that time. The school district was then disorganized and absorbed into the Lecompton School District. Afterward, the building was converted into a private home. It is located at 948 N 1950 Road, Lawrence, Kansas.|
This school, located at the intersection of Clinton Parkway/23rd Street and Iowa Street in Lawrence, Kansas, was once located in the country and was known by most as No. 6. At that time, it was about When two miles west of what was the city limits of Lawrence. The first building on the site was a log cabin school. Later a wooden frame building was erected with two front doors. It would seat 48 students. This building was demolished in 1924 to facilitate the construction of the brick structure that exists today. Crutchfield No. 6 was consolidated with other county schools in 1959 to form the new school of Wakarusa Valley School District No. 98. This facility is now the property of Kansas University.
The Glenn school, built in about 1890, replaced a small frame structure built in 1879. This school was constructed by Chris Christenson, a Swedish stonemason, of native limestone, with three shuttered windows on the side. This school was always very well equipped and could pay the teachers an above-average salary due to the taxes paid by the nearby railroad. The one-acre site soon proved to be too small for the student baseball players, and A.G. and Elizabeth Glenn deeded one and one-quarter acres of land on the west and north side to allow for an adequate size ball field. It wasn’t long before the ballplayers had outgrown this space, and Cyrus and Josephine Glenn deeded another 1.85 acres extending the north and west property lines to include a little over four acres. This land was deeded in 1922. Glenn School saw many changes through the years. A front enclosed entry was added, and a basement was excavated in 1916 to facilitate the addition of a coal-fired furnace and store coal. A cistern was added about the same time. There were 52 students for the 1897-98 term. The term of 1929-30 had an enrollment of 28 students. The school was closed for the terms of 1940-41, 1942-43, and 1943-44, at which time students were sent to Lecompton. Glenn School was re-opened for the term of 1944-45 with Jessie Winter teaching. The school was consolidated into Lecompton in 1948, and the district was disorganized. Afterward, the building was given to a group to be used as the Methodist Church. However, they did not use the building, and it sat vacant for several years. Glenn School was finally sold and converted to a private residence. It is located at 342 N. 2100 Road, two miles west of Lecompton, Kansas.
The site was established for use as a school on March 29, 1871. The materials for this native sandstone building were quarried from the surrounding hills. Initially two doors were entering the one room. Early teachers were Alice Reed in 1894-95, George Nichols in 1895-96, and Alvin Crouch 1896-97. For the term of 1897-98, A. H. King taught 54 students. The following year he became the county superintendent. Faye Hagerman Deay taught 19 students in 1940 and continued teaching here until 1947 when the school was disorganized. The last term of school only had an enrollment of six students. On April 28, 1947, Harmony School District No. 57 consolidated with Vinland School District No. 88. The building still exists today and has been converted into a residence.1954 N. 800 Road.
The original location for India School No. 55 was at 506 East 23rd Street Frontage Road in Lawrence. In about 1920, a second building was built on the same site. This one-story brick structure was smaller than the previous building, but it had a basement. The main floor included a small library and had a folding partition, which could be used to divide the room in case two rooms were required. In 1951, Walnut Grove School District No. 11 was added to District No. 55, increasing the enrollment of India School.
In 1956, the school board determined that the second building had become too small. School bonds were passed to build a new school farther east at 1739 East 23rd Street. This new brick structure had three classrooms and a small gymnasium with an elevated stage. Soon this new facility became too small, and one class was held on the elevated stage for a year. India School District No. 55 was consolidated with the Lawrence Unified School District No. 497 in 1965. At that time, the district still used India to teach kindergarten through third grade, sending the upper grades to the old Kaw Valley No. 12. This building still serves the community as the Douglas County Citizens Committee on Alcoholism Outpatient Services Center. It is located at 1739 E 23rd St, Lawrence, Kansas.
|Lecompton High School||4||1927-1970||
Lane University was built in Lecompton right after the Civil War. When Lane University closed in 1902, a three-year high school course was offered in the Lane University building. Two years later, a regular four-year course was offered. In 1927, a new high school was built just south of Lane University at the cost of approximately $65,000. The building contained seven classrooms and a state-of-the-art theatre and auditorium. A tennis court was a little northwest west of the building, and a football field was directly north. In the 1950s, a larger gymnasium was added to the north side of the school. Owls were the school mascot with school colors of black and gold. A total of 793 students graduated from the Lecompton High School. The students of the class of 1970 were the last to graduate. The following year, Lecompton High School merged with Perry High School, creating Perry-Lecompton High School. Today, the old Lecompton High School building serves as a community center for theatrical programs, a library, classes, and community events.
After a previous school building proved too small, a new school was built in the fall/winter of 1895-96. By 1898, it had an enrollment of 58 students taught by J.W. Gowans. This building served the district for over 50 years and saw many changes. A roof was added to the front porch, a belfry was added, a basement was constructed beneath the building with an exterior entrance, a new double door entrance was made on the front, and much new playground equipment was added. A well was drilled in 1932. Students from Colyer District No. 42 were added in 1944 and from Apple Pie District No. 27 in 1946. The Last term for Lone Star was 1958-59 when it was consolidated with several other Douglas County rural schools to form Wakarusa Valley District No. 98. Afterward, the building was sold at auction and was converted into a private residence. It is located at 880 E 800 Rd.
|Model||83||??-1947||A frame structure was built on this site in 1895. Behind the school was a large pond, where residents often gathered to ice skate in the winter. Like most rural schools, it also served as the community’s social center. Teaching the 1897-98 term was Ed Shepp, with 35 students. In 1922, a basement was dug under the building to facilitate a furnace. The school was closed for the terms of 1947-48 and 1948-49. An agreement was made with Crutchfield No. 6 to temporarily accept the students from Model during this time. Model District No. 83 consolidated with Pleasant Valley District No. 14 in 1948. Afterward, the school building was sold and has since served as a residence. The building is located southwest of Lawrence, on Douglas County N 1000 Road, about two miles west of Highway 59 on the north side of the road.|
The founding of School District No. 63 began with J.F. Morgan and Governor Charles Robinson. Shortly after J.F. Morgan moved to this area he established a subscription school in 1866, to which the families paid $8.00 per student to attend. Augusta Hunt taught the first term of 12 students. District No. 63 was officially organized in April 1867, with J.F. Morgan as director, E.W. Morgan, clerk, and Dr. Charles Robinson, treasurer. The district’s first building was leased from Charles Robinson and his niece, Emily Robinson was the teacher. A native stone structure was built in the fall of 1870, on the Morgan property. In the early days, the building was known as “Robinson School.” However, Mrs. Robinson later began calling it “Oak Ridge,” which was also the name of their estate. During the early years, the district had enrollments of 50-60 students. At the close of the century, Winnie Reno taught 27 students. The first native stone building served the district for 46 years. It was replaced in 1917 by a second native stone structure with Emma Hartley as the first teacher. Twenty-six students were enrolled in 1920. At the end of the decade, enrollment was 17. In January 1933, the school burned down and classes were then held in the former Robinson home. The next school was built of brick and was dedicated in August 1933. At the end of the decade, there were 16 students enrolled. In1961 saw the school consolidated with White District No. 61, Bismarck District No. 79, and Burnette District No. 62 to form Grant District No. 100. The school was sold at auction in July 1962 and became a private residence. It continues to stand at 1924 E 1600 Rd about five miles northeast of Lawrence.
Pleasant Valley School District had several buildings over the years. This building is the fourth to be used as a school at this location. This more modern stucco structure contained two classrooms. In 1948 Model No. 83 joined with Pleasant Valley to form the New Pleasant Valley District No. 14. In 1959, Pleasant Valley No. 14 became part of Wakarusa Valley No. 98. Today this building serves the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lawrence. It is located at 1263 N 1100 Rd, about three-quarters of a mile west of Highway 59 south of Lawrence.
It was agreed upon by the New Prairie School District No. 87 to build a new building at a new location in 1903. Robert Miller sold one acre of land on the southeast corner of E. 1550 Rd. and N. 150 Rd. for the building’s construction. Prairie City No. 87, the first rural school district in Douglas County, consolidated with Baldwin City District no. 92.
Rock Creek School was a native stone building approximately 15’x17’. It was built with a center door on the west end and two windows on the north and south sides. A rock chimney was located in the center of the building. Though the small building still exists, it is not recognizable today. It has been enlarged, covered with modern siding, and converted into a private residence. It is a half-mile east of E. 300 Rd. on N. 750 Rd.
In 1865 a school board was elected, and a small one-room structure was built. The first structure served until about 1880, when it was replaced by a much more substantial stone building that still stands today. The final year for the Twin Mound School was 1966, with an enrollment of only seven students. The school is thought to have been the last rural Douglas County school to consolidate.
A one-room school was established in March 1868 when Dorcas and Nelson Strong deeded one and a one and one-half acre tract to the school board members. Four buildings served the district during its 94 years of service. Not much is known of the first building. Floodwaters destroyed the second building, and a fire destroyed the third building. The fourth and last building still stands prominently today in North Lawrence. Laura Van Tries taught 50 students for the school term of 1897-98 for $40 per month. In the late 1920s, 29 students were taught by Mabel Day for $110.00 per month. The school term of 1960-61 proved to be the last for White School District No. 61. The district then became part of the new Grant School District No. 100. The new Grant School opened in the fall of 1962. The old school building still stands on the east side of Highway 59, south of Highway 40.
Willow Springs School District No. 51 was established in April 1870 when Mary and E.H. Van Hoesen deeded a tract of land for a school. The first building served the community until 1903 when a new school was built. The new building had two front doors, entering into a boys and girls cloakroom on each side of a stage where the teacher’s desk was placed. In1930, the enrollment was 18. In 1950, there were 15 students. In 1964, the Marion Springs School opened, and Willow Springs was consolidated with others to form Marion Springs No. 101. The Willow Springs school building that stood at N. 550 Rd. and E.1100 Rd. was then sold at auction. The building and play equipment was then relocated southwest to about one-quarter of a mile south of N. 100 Rd. on E. 100 Rd. It is now on private property.
School District No. 70 was organized in 1869 on land donated by Mathias Winter. Construction of the native stone building began the same year. The school district covered an area roughly two miles from the school in each direction and included approximately 20 families. The first term of the school was held in the summer of 1871 with 27 students of varying ages. Classes were typically held for three months in the summer and four months in the winter. The building was also used for social activities and meetings. Between 1910 and 1920, an anteroom was added to the front side of the building. The school was closed in 1949. The land and school then changed hands several times. It is located two miles north of Kanwaka Corner in the Lecompton area. 744 North 1800 Road, Lawrence, Kansas.
The first school was held in a log cabin building in 1864. Yarnold School District was officially established in April 1869 when Mary and Christopher Wulfkuhle deeded a one-acre tract to the district. The first school was held in a log cabin and was named for early settler Thomas Yarnold. Another building was soon built of native stone. The records of 1898-99 show Ella Stone teaching 26 students. For the term ending in 1920, the enrollment was 12 students. Unfortunately, this school was destroyed by fire on January 23, 1940. At that time, there were nine students enrolled. Another native stone building was then built in a unique art deco design by the Works Progress Administration. By 1944, the enrollment had dropped to only four students. Yarnold School District District 40 was disorganized in 1959 and eventually became part of Lecompton School District 36. Afterward, the building was converted into a private residence. It now serves as an Airbnb. It is located south of Douglas County Road 442 in the area of Stull, Kansas.
Douglas County Rural Schools
Kansas State Historical Society, The Columbian History of Education in Kansas, Hamilton Printing Company, 1893
Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas
Lawrence Business Magazine