(from a book written in 1893)

The following text was transcribed from chapters on the history of education in individual Kansas counties found on pages 153-155 in:

compiled by Kansas educators and published under the auspices of the Kansas State Historical Society, for the Columbian Exposition.
(Topeka, Kan. : Hamilton Printing Company : E. H. Snow, state printer, 1893)



by B. D. Van Ostrand, county superintendent of schools

MARION COUNTY -- It is a noteworthy fact that, whatever the early settlers of Kansas lacked in culture and education, they were alive to the value of such training, and, upon their arrival, sought at once to provide for their children those school facilities which had been denied them in their childhood. Thus it was that almost the first building erected in this new land was the schoolhouse. It could be and was used for school, church services, neighborhood meetings, and for all other gatherings of a public nature. Marion county was in no particular essentially different from other counties of the State. The same spirit manifested itself here as elsewhere; and the imposing school edifices of the cities, and the roomy, substantial schoolhouses of the country districts, stand as monuments to the educational enterprise of the people of Marion county.

The first school ever taught in Marion county was presided over by Dr. J. N. Rogers, of this city. The building, which was situated opposite what is known as the William Brumbaugh place, had been erected especially for school purposes. Pupils came from the surrounding counties, and some even from Texas. The enrollment reached 36. All this was in the winter of 1865-66, before the organization of any school district within the boundaries of the county. The data of the organization of the first school district and of the first school election are not at hand but it must have been at an early date in the settlement of the county, for school district No. 1, which now comprises the city of Marion and adjacent territory, embraced at one time the whole county, an area of more than 1,000 square miles. In quick succession there followed the organization of district No. 2, known at present as the Antelope district; then Nos. 3 and 4, the former a few miles east of Florence and the latter at Florence, divided the honors with Marion and vicinity, and obtained their due proportion of the school funds. For a long time the districts in the eastern, southern and extreme southwestern portions of the county derived revenue from the unoccupied western and northern portions; but now, with the exception of the Scully tract of land, in the northwestern part, the whole county is divided up into school districts of convenient size.

There are now in Marion county 120 organized school districts, and 126 school buildings are located in these districts; 153 rooms are needed to accommodate the school children, and in these rooms 153 teachers look after the educational interests of the coming men and women of Marion county. The total school population is 7,758, 5,910 of whom were enrolled in the different schools between the 1st day of October, 1891, and the 1st day of October, 1892. Of this number, 3,152 were males' and 2,758 were females. The average daily attendance during the same period was 3,885.

Every district in the county sustained the legal four-months term of school during the past year, and the average length of the school term was 25 3/10 weeks, or nearly 6 1/2 months. The amount of money raised for school purposes from July 1, 1891, to July 1, 1892, reached the sum of $80,848.07; the amount expended during the same period of time was $68,225.28, leaving on hand a balance of $12,622.79, with which to begin a new year. To obtain this sum, a tax levy of 12 2/3 mills was made—a small sum, when there is taken into consideration the unsettled and practically nontaxable sections of land, and the unavoidable expense that attends the upbuilding and maintenance of school systems in new States. but with school property of the valuation of $160,000, and a bonded indebtedness of only one-fourth that amount, and that indebtedness, too, rapidly diminishing, the amount of that levy will continually decrease, without detriment to the schools, for the better cultivation of the already settled portions of the county and the opening up and development of new lands will greatly increase the valuation of taxable property.

The wages paid Marion county teachers are higher than in the majority of counties in Kansas. The average salary per month of male teachers is nearly $52; that of female teachers is nearly $40. Outside of the city schools, where male teachers, acting in the capacity of superintendents or principals, receive comparatively large salaries, sex cuts little, if any, figure in the wages paid in the same grade of work.

The first person to fill the office of school superintendent in Marion county was Levi Billings, a well-known and enterprising citizen. He served one term, and was followed by W. S. Moulton, who looked after the school interests of the county for another two years. Then came Dr. J. N. Rogers, who held the position for four years. Next, J. F. Rockafield, deputy superintendent under Doctor Rogers, succeeded to the position, which he held for one term. Following him came the first and only lady superintendent the county has ever had, Mrs. J. M. Sharon, who formed many new districts during her four years of office. David Harrison, now a resident of Wilson township, one term; John Madden, now a leading lawyer of Chase county, one term; W. B. Zercher, now principal of the Lost Springs schools, three terms; and the writer, for two terms, complete the list of those have supervised the educational interests of Marion county from its organization to the present time. This review of the schools would not be complete without a tribute to the wide-awake, progressive spirit shown by the teachers of this county in the formation of the Marion County Teachers' Association, which meets quarterly during the year at Marion, Peabody, Florence, and Hillsboro, in rotation. The president of the association is B. C. Hastings, principal of the Florence schools. There has recently been formed a local branch of the Kansas teachers' reading circle, which in connection with the four-weeks normal institute held annually at Marion, provides for the teachers, at small expense, that professional training which aids so much in the improvement of our schools.

City Schools -— The city schools of Marion county are Marion (the county seat), Peabody, Florence, and Hillsboro. Other village schools are Lehigh, Burns, Lincolnville, Lost Springs, Tampa, Durham, Ramona, Aulne, and Canada. Marion and Peabody are the largest schools in the county. Both have high-school departments that fully prepare students for our three State educational institutions—the State University, at Lawrence; the State Agricultural College, at Manhattan; and the State Normal School, at Emporia. The number of teachers employed in the Marion schools the past year was 11; in Peabody, 10; in Florence, 7; in Hillsboro, 4; in Lehigh, 3; and in all others, 1 or more.

Marion being a city of the second class, the schools are under special jurisdiction and supervision, consisting of the board of education of 10 members and a city superintendent. As the largest school in the county in point of pupils enrolled and teachers employed, the following history of its organization and growth will not be out of place:

The first schoolhouse, a substantial stone structure of four study rooms and four recitation rooms and four recitation rooms, was erected, on a commanding site overlooking the town, in 1873. The building is still standing, and forms a part of the present commodious high-school building. The first principal of the schools was Thomas M. Potter, who for two years strove to advance the educational interests of the city. He laid well the foundation, and, refusing a reelection to the principalship, retired to a farm. He was followed by T. A. Bogle, who for five years looked after the development of the schools with fidelity. Mr. Bogle afterwards served as county superintendent of public instruction for two years, and for four more years as county attorney. Mr. Bogle is now a leading lawyer in Ann Arbor, Mich. At the close of his service, William Bogle, his brother, was superintendent for one year. This Mr. Bogle afterward studied medicine, and is now a leading physician of Atchison, Kas. G. A. Boyle succeeded Doctor Bogle, in a term of one year. He is still teaching in Kansas. Then came E. M. Donaldson, who for two years labored industriously and unceasingly to promote school interests in city and county. During his principalship, a fine four-story stone structure was erected in the valley, to accommodate the large number of children living at a distance from the hill. These two buildings, with a one-room building, also of stone, one mile west of the corporation limits, furnished sufficient school facilities until 1889, when the original house was remodled and enlarged into the present high-school building. For three years following Mr. Donaldson, the author of this sketch, endeavored to the best of his ability to guide the stream of knowledge into its proper channels, and to provide seating facilities for the large increase in pupils, due to the rapid growth of the city. In 1886 and 1887, the total enrollment was 732, the highest number ever reached in the history of the school. Succeeding him, came D. W. DeLay, a veteran in this field of labor, who for four years has carefully watched and promoted the educational interests of the city.

transcribed by Rita Troxel, State Library of Kansas



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