Douglas County KS Schools
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Kanwaka School District No. 15
The word “Kanwaka” was made by using parts of the names of the two rivers to
the north and south of this location. Those rivers were the KANsas River to
the north and the WAKArusa River to the south.
It is believed that the first place of learning for this area was that of a
blacksmith shop. This shop was then burned and school then moved to a barn.
School then moved to small frame building moved to a small tract of land
donated by Deacon Baldwin. The school did not become official until the
school district received the designation of District No. 15, by County
Superintendent C.L. Edwards in 1859.
The small wood frame building was replaced in 1863 by a rock structure.
Finally ion February 7, 1866 Ann and Henry Baldwin deeded one and one-fourth
acres to the school board. This location is on the west side of E. 600 Rd.
about one-half mile south of Highway 40.
As typical for most of these early schools, they were used for many things
and were very vital for the community. They were used community centers,
where church services were held, box socials, dances, plays, dances Granges
meetings and much more.
One story of this time was during the “Bleeding Kansas” and border ruffian
time period. It is told that the men of the community wanted to make sure
everyone knew where they stood on the issues of the day. The men of the area
spliced together small limbs and logs to make a tall flagpole, whereby they
would display an American flag made by the women of the community. This flag
would be displayed at its highest whenever it was hears that a battle had
been won by the Union and at half-mast when the Union was less than
victorious. (One might remember this story when passing by the flagpole at
Kanwaka on highway 40).
Cora Ahlstrom taught 38 students for the 1897-98 term, with Mary Topping,
O.A. Colman and Mabel Pontius serving on the school board.
The next term was taught by Alma Marvel, followed by C.A. Stone and Effie
A new building of wood frame construction, similar to that of Apple Pie had
been built and dedicated on October 20. 1903. Teaching the first school year
in this new building was Belle Kohler, followed by Lawrenia Shaw, Mabel
Ulrich, Edith Wolgamott and Mamie McLaughlin. School board members ending
the decade were George Dews, Guy Bigsby and G.S. Moore.
Emma Dews taught the first term of the next decade followed by Jessie
Worswick, N.W. Carrell, Nan Wear, Ruth Daniel, Ethel Worswick, and Cena
Calkins. For the term ending in 1920, the school board members were G.A>
Dews, Fred Gregory and Guy Bigsby.
Rose Watson taught the first four terms of the 1920’s, followed by Grace
Nemic, Esther McCall, Esther Aufdemberge, Mabel Shaw and Lottie Anderson.
Frank Houk, M.C. Elliot and Otto Johanning were the school board members
ending the term of 1930.
There were only four teachers for the decade of the 1930’s. They were
Mildred Chandler, Alta Murray, Marguerite Nunemaker and Margaret Fritzel,
teaching the las three terms. Carl Hird, Frank HOuk and Olin Button were the
school board members.
Margaret Hurley was the first teacher of the 1940’s, followed by Jennie
Sowash, Elaine Young, and Lois Ward teaching the last four terms. S.F.
Fentsemaker, Roger Carter and W.J. Brink served on the board.
Lois Ward again taught for two more terms in the 1950’s with Bessie Newby
following for the term of 1953. Faye Thomas taught the next term, followed
by Stephanie Harper, Eleanor Ellsworth and Mary Rodewald.
The term ending in 1960 proved to the last for Kanwaka School District No.
15. The district was disorganized and became part of Wakarusa Valley
District No. 98 on March 20, 1963.
The last building was sold and converted to a private residence for many
years. It was destroyed by fire in 2012.
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