The following text was transcribed from chapters on the history of education in individual Kansas counties found on pages 136-137 in:
GEARY COUNTY -- The history of the schools of Geary county dates back to a period before the admission of Kansas to the sisterhood of States-—back to the days when the vital question to every Kansas was, whether Kansas should be free or slave. Notwithstanding the all-absorbing importance of this question, the people did not forget the necessity of providing for the education of the future citizens of the State.
The first schools were private, or "select," schools, and were provided for by the interested parents, who paid tuition in proportion to the number of children in attendance. A subscription fund was usually raised for those who were unable to pay the necessary tuition.
During the winter of 1858-59, there were three schools of this character maintained-—one at Milford, one at Junction City, and one four miles northeast of Junction City. A. B. Whitney, Samuel Orr and Marcia Pierce were the teachers of the several schools, respectively.
Mrs. J. H. McFarland taught a select school for several years at Junction City, beginning the winter of 1860. She appears to have achieved signal success both as an instructor and disciplinarian. No one ever thought of disputing her authority, and woe betide the urchin that attempted to play "hookey" or loiter on the way to or from school. Her spelling schools were the literary life of the community. Everybody participated. These schools served a most excellent purpose. Not much was attempted; but the thorough manner in which the "three Rs." were taught may well deserve careful consideration by many of our teachers of to-day.
The first public school was organized in 1862. It comprised a territory about 10 miles square, including what is now Junction City. As there was yet no public school building, a room was rented for this purpose. It was the upstairs of a "store" building that stood on the ground now occupied by the Bartell block. The room was furnished with benches, and County Superintendent O. Davidson employed as teacher; 72 pupils were enrolled. The same year a district was organized in Ashland township, now Riley county.
During the next year, eight additional districts were formed, and the county superintendent's report for that year shows 11 organized districts, with seven teachers—-three males and four females. The average length of school term was 3 3/4 months, for which the male teachers received an average salary fo $30 per month, and the female teachers an average salary of $15 per month. The total enrollment for the county was 165 pupils.
None of the districts yet owned a school building, and the residence of the teacher was generally used for that purpose. Naturally, under such conditions, the advantages for obtaining an education were not of the highest order, but the opportunity of obtaining the rudiments of an education was, with certain restrictions, placed within the reach of all.
By the year 1868, every organized district is reported as owning a school building of some kind. Some were built of logs, some were frame, and a few were substantial stone buildings that are still used for school purposes. The schools for this year, 1868, are all reported as without any school apparatus. The 20 years succeeding showed no very marked or uniform advancement. A few schools continued to improve in a manner commensurate with the material development of the country, but, owing to the utter lack of any system, this was the exception rather than the rule. During the greater part of this time the county superintendent had very little supervision of the schools. There was no concerted action on the part of the teachers, and no general plan of work for the several school districts. Each teachers pursued his own plan, or, more frequently, kept school without any definite object in view. The lack of uniform books, even in the same school, frequently rendered it impossible for the teacher to do satisfactory work.
There had never been any regular teachers' meetings until the year 1887, since which time a regular county teachers' association has been maintained. The same year marks the introduction of county uniformity of text-books, since which event the educational advancement has been uniform and rapid. With the adoption of uniformity of text-books, Speer's "Graded Course of Study" was introduced, and, although not fully followed in all the schools of the county, it has already resulted in excellent work under very adverse circumstances. The attendance has been very much more regular, and pupils remain in school an average of nearly two years longer than formerly. There is great economy of time. The teacher knows definitely where to commence, and what work to attempt to accomplish; the pupil knows when he has finished the common-school course, and both are incited to do better work.
Examinations for graduation are held the last Saturday in April of each year. The questions used are those prepared by the State Board for teachers' examinations. The first class graduated in 1889, and consisted of nine pupils. Nearly 40 per cent. of the teachers for the year commencing September, 1892, are county-school graduates. Most of them have been induced to pursue their studies further elsewhere, and are among the very best teachers of the county.
The standard of the teacher has been constantly advanced, both as regards scholarship and general fitness. The roll of teachers for the year ending June, 1892, did not contain a single teacher who was not a subscriber for at least one educational paper, and each had read some standard work on pedagogy.
The enrollment of the Geary county reading circle for the year 1892 included every teacher.
A county normal institute has been held in Geary county every year since 1877. The largest enrollment was in the June normal of 1891, when the number aggregated 87.
The total number of schools in the county now numbers 44, including Junction City, and the total number of teachers required is 67.
The aggregate expenditures for all school purposes for the year ending June, 1892, was $34,753.28.
The valuation of all the school property for this year is a little over $90,000.
The average salary paid to male teachers is $49.44 per month, and to female, $39.92 per month.
The total enrollment of pupils is: Males, 1,218; females, 1,203.
Geary county has had 15 different county superintendents, only one of whom served more than two terms.
The following is a complete list of the county superintendents, together with date of commencement of service: James Magill, 1860; O. Davidson, 1861; A. B. White, 1862; Lorenzo Gates, 1864; M. E. Clark, 1865; Caleb Blood, 1866; D. M. Gage, 1867; T. G. Horn, 1869; I. Jacobus, 1871; M. S. Marler, 1873; J. A. Truex, 1875; Mr. Reynolds, 1884; W. T. McDonald, 1885; T. S. Harkins, 1887; J. W. Rodgers, 1891.
transcribed by Rita Troxel, State Library of Kansas
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