The following text was transcribed from chapters on the history of education in individual Kansas counties found on pages 100-102 in:
No history of this county was prepared by the proper officer. The history of the schools in its largest city, which follows, was written by Supt. Guy P. Benton.
FORT SCOTT CITY SCHOOLS —- District No. 55, Bourbon county, Kansas —- what is now known as the Fort Scott city school district —- was organized in 1865, with Hon. P. P. Elder, now of Franklin county, and ex-Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, at that time Indian agent, as president of the board of education, Hon. C. F. Drake, now president of the Bank of Fort Scott, as clerk, and "Uncle Billy" Smith, as he was familiarly known, as treasurer. At that time, including Government troops and refugees, there were about 25,000 people in the town.
The first school opened in the fall of 1865, and rooms for school purposes were fitted up in one of the old Government buildings on the plaza, now used as an omnibus barn, and in the old courthouse, recently torn down on the corner of National avenue and Second street. A Mr. Remsburg was the first principal, employed at a salary of $60 per month. The money for school support was from Government funds, and no direct assessment was levied.
In 1869, the only school in the town was the one of four rooms in the Government building, above referred to, under the principalship of a Mr. Craven. The following year, 1870, in addition to this school in the Government building, hence-forward known as the Plaza school, four ward schools, of one room each, were established in different parts of the city. Col. T. W. McKinnie was elected superintendent, with some teaching to do, and the schools began under his administration to keep step with the forward march of civilization.
During 1869 and 1870, the Central school, the large, 12-room brick building still in use, on the square bounded by National avenue, Fourth, Fifth and Judson streets, was erected, at a cost of $65,000.
In 1873, Superintendent McKinnie was succeeded by R. B. Dilworth, now pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Astoria, Ore. In the fall of the same year the new four-room building known as the Margrave school was first occupied. Mr. Dilworth formulated the first course of study, and, although superintendent but one year, gave the schools an impetus that has been an inspiration for years.
Superintendent Hutchinson followed Mr. Dilworth, and remained in charge of the schools during the years 1874-75 and 1875-76. The two years following, 1876-77 and 1876-78, Superintendent Philo and Phales, respectively, were in charge.
In September, 1878, B. Hudson, now a very prominent attorney and chairman of the metropolitan police commission of the city, was elected superintendent, and served for seven years. During his superintendency three additional brick buildings were erected, as follows: The Eddy school, the Wilson school, and the Plaza school. The latter is used for colored pupils only, and supplanted the old stone Government building. Mr. Chas. Demoisey succeeded Mr. Hudson, in 1885, and remained in charge of the schools two years.
In 1887, three elegant brick buildings, with all modern appliances, the Main Street school, the Ivy school, and the Bell school, were erected, and that able and cultured gentlemen, so many years one of the leading educators of Michigan, Supt. D. Bemiss, took control of the schools. He was a graduate of the University of Toronto, and added to his superior education were years of experience, which enabled him to give the schools a place and name never enjoyed before.
In 1888, the city had grown to a population of 15,000, and become a city of the first class; and, as a result, the tax levy for school purposes was cut from 10 mills to 7 mills. The following year the revenue was so reduced that Mr. Bemiss, to the regret of everybody, resigned, to accept the superintendency of the schools at Spokane Falls, Wash., which position he still holds, and enjoys the distinction of being known as one of the best superintendent west of the Rockies.
Rev. Henry C. Bosley followed Superintendent Bemiss, and began work in the fall of 1889. He was a graduate of the University of Rochester, and a man of many years' experience, but at the time he took charge of the Fort Scott schools he was in very poor health, and after a long and heroic battle with that dread disease consumption, he died February 27, 1890.
Guy P. Benton, educated at the Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio, principal of the high school at the time of Mr. Bosley's death, succeeded the latter, and is still in charge, now serving his fourth year.
At present there are eight buildings owned by the board, and three rented ones, used for school purposes. The estimated value of school buildings is $110,000, and the bonded indebtedness $60,000.
The census of 1892 shows 4,317 children of school age, and an enrollment of 2,603.
Forty-four teachers are employed in the schools, of which number four work exclusively in the high school.
The course of study in the grades is eight years in length, and three years in the high school; a diploma from the latter admitting to the State University without examination.
Any teacher passing the teachers' examination with a minimum grade of 70 per cent. in any one branch, and an average of 90 per cent. or above in all branches, is granted a first-grade certificate, which is valid for life in the city of Fort Scott.
It is but just to say that the corps of teachers now at work in the schools is very efficient in every way, and that the school system is one of the best west of the Mississippi river.
The principals of the various schools at present are as follows: David M. Bowen, high school; Stephen D. Frazier, Central; Miss Lucy A. Ware, Eddy; Clarence O. Humphrey, Bell; Archibald M. Wilson, Plaza; John D. Orr, Ivy; John C. Richmond, Margrave; William D. Cowherd, Wilson; Miss Melissa A. Green, Main Street.
A personal tribute is due many of the teachers, but a history of the Fort Scott schools would be incomplete without an account of one of the most historic characters connected therewith; therefore, it seems fitting to close with a brief sketch of the oldest teacher, in point of service, in the schools.
Miss Sara D. Bates, a young schoolgirl from Evansville Ind., came to Fort Scott in the fall of 1870, and began teaching in one of the ungraded ward schools, and is now serving her twenty-third year, having been in the schools continuously since that time. After the first year she began to give her attention to primary methods, and since then has been engaged exclusively in that grade of work. She was the first teacher employed in the Margrave school, and when that building, during school hours of the bitter-cold day of January 2, 1879, took fire and burned to the ground, by her heroic cool-headedness she saved the life of every child, and sent them home with their wraps and books. The new Margrave school was erected and she began again, and, altogether, taught 18 years in that one school.
In 1890, she was transferred to the primary department of the Central school, where she is now employed with children as pupils whose parents were her pupils.
Although long in the service, she does not fossilize; but every year visits the schools of our larger cities, and during the summer puts herself in training for another year's work. Colonel Parker, after having visited her school two years since, remarked, "I consider her one of the finest primary teachers on the American continent." Modest and retiring, yet energetic and enthusiastic, she combines those traits of character that make her a veritable queen of her little kingdom, and she draws to herself and so lifts up the boys and girls committed to her care that forever after their aims are high. May she be spared for yet many years. She has been an inspiration to many a life that will be an enduring monument to her good deeds for all time.
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