The following text was transcribed from chapters on the history of education in individual Kansas counties found on pages 186-190 in:
RILEY COUNTY -- No history of this county was prepared by the proper officer. The history of Manhattan, its principal city, was written by City Supt. George D. Knipe.
Manhattan Schools-— The school history of the city, like its church history, is a large part of the record of the locality. Like many another town in Kansas, Manhattan began as a city. The plat of the site was lithographed in Cincinnati before it was surveyed, and school locations were indicated and reserved in the plat. Thus education was looked after at the very beginning.
A church society was organized by the pioneers en route, on the steamboat that brought them from Cincinnati, but the school had preceded them. A paragraph in the earliest sketches of te locality reads: "Manhattan was first settled in 1855, by two colonies, one from Boston, the other from Cincinnati, who commenced by building a church and a college."
As indicated, the plat had preceded the settlers, and the school site was already chosen. Therefore, we may fairly divide the school history of Manhattan into two periods of a score of years each—the first, from 1854 to 1873 inclusive; the second, from 1874 to 1893 inclusive, and we will look at these periods separately.
The educational work of the colony here was necessarily limited for several years. They could do but little more than to plan for the future. A school was first taught by Mrs. C. E. Blood at her home, about where now stands the State Agricultural College, then a part of the platted town site. This was in 1855-56. Mrs. Blood was the wife of the pioneer Congregational preacher. In 1857, several citizens combined efforts, raised by pledges $45, and procured the services of Miss Amanda Arnold to conduct a three-months term. The building used was the town company's office, located then about on the site of the brick livery barn near the foot of Poyntz avenue. The building was a very poor affair, but Miss Arnold had 16 names on her roll. Perhaps the only one of these pupils now in this vicinity is Richard Sarber, who lives just across the Blue river. Among those who combined to sustain this school were I. T. Goodnow, Mr. Sarber, Rev. Mr. Lovejoy, W. Marlatt, Rev. Joseph Denison, Mr. Arnold, A. J. Mead, the agent of the town company, Dr. Amory Hunting, Geo. Miller, C. F. Briggs, and Amasa Huntress.
In the list of teachers that followed Miss Arnold, we find the names of Miss Colburn, Mr. Jenkins, Miss Newell, Mr. Pierce, and others, some of whom are yet residents among us and well-known citizens. Mr. Jenkins was a young lawyer, a disciplinarian, and its remembered by at least one of our prominent merchants, then a pupil, because of a flogging administered by Jenkins. The modern sentiment against corporal punishment was not then in the ascendant as now. Then, teachers could manage a mixed school of all grades, instruct the abecedarians and the students of algebra equally well; construct a good pen out of a goose quill, and wield the birch when occasion required.
The stone schoolhouse, which, in the year 1883, gave place to the present fine structure on Poyntz avenue, was built in 1857. The town company donated three lots, as the locations on the plat were not thought to be near enough to the center of population, and also gave $500 towards the building, and the contract was taken by Levi Woodman, for $2,500. The structure was 32x60 feet on the ground, and two stories high; the first story 10 feet and the second story 8 feet in the clear. It was by the finest public school building west of Topeka, and placed Manhattan then ahead of all other towns of its size in the State, educationally, a position never yielded to this date.
One room in the building was made ready for the winter term of 1857-58, and lawyer Jenkins held the position three months, but we have no statistics. He, however made his mark, as the aforementioned merchant will testify.
It was a big undertaking to pay for so costly a structure, and school bonds were not then in order; so the people resorted to suppers, concerts and lectures to raise the needed funds. it is said that on one occasion the services of I. S. Kalloch, then as aspiring preacher politician of Lawrence, and later the sand-lot mayor of San Francisco, was engaged to lecture. He had a fine lecture, for he was a master of language, but the people did not seem to be pleased and would not turn out, and the proceeds of the lecture counted up $7 only. The pressing debt then was $50, and a few of the projectors of the lecture scheme personally paid the debt.
At the opening of the second period—1874 to 1893, inclusive—the old stone building was the high school, and a structure of wood, now transformed into the double house at the corner of Fifth and Leavenworth streets, was the primary building, for the schools had then been graded.
We find the school board and teachers in 1874 made up as follows, Manhattan being then a city of the third class:
The board of education was: John Elliott, director; Wm. C. Johnson, clerk; J. E. House, treasurer.
The teachers were: J. J. McBride, LL. B., superintendent, and principal of high school; J. K. Wood, A. M., grammar department; Samuel Kimble, jr., secondary department; Miss Amanda Arnold, first primary department; Mrs. J. A. Allen, second primary department.
Some idea of the condition of the schools may be obtained by the following extracts from reports made in December, 1874:
By the board of education: "Having visited the various departments, we are pleased to report to the parents that the schools are working very harmoniously, and all are doing well. . . There is a class in the high school well versed in the intricacies of geometry, and another just entering the more difficult field of trigonometry. In all the other grades we find . . . class application and rapid advancement the order of the day."
By the county superintendent:
"Having just completed a thorough examination of the city schools, it gives me pleasure to say that they are in a highly prosperous and flourishing condition. . . .Too much credit cannot be given to Professor McBride and his corps of assistants for the tireless energy with which they have prosecuted their work, and for the enthusiasm they have aroused in the pupils."
By the Assistant State Superintendent:
"The high school at Manhattan, under the direction of Professors McBride and Wood, is a type of the busy school, and it is no wonder that the results are so satisfactory. We have found that thoroughness of scholarship and rapid advancement from the rule and not the exception."
The conclusion of this second period, in 1893, finds the school board modified by conformity to the law, Manhattan having become a city of the second class in 1887. The board of education now consists of H. P. Dow, president; W. S. Elliott, Mrs. I. D. Newell, Mrs. E. H. Bowen, F. L. Irish, S. V. Lee, J. Q. A. Shelden, and Geo. C. Wilder. Miss Pearl Dow is clerk, and J. W. Webb treasurer.
The corps of teachers is: Mr. Geo. D. Knipe, superintendent; Miss Marion Hunter, principal of high school; Miss Jane C. Tunnell, assistant in high school; Miss Florence Fitzgerald, eighth grade; Miss Emma Glossop, seventh; Miss Emma Spohr, sixth; Mr. H. N. Whitford, sixth; Miss Alice McElroy, fifth; Miss Louise Peterson, fifth; Miss Nellie Little, fourth; Miss Eusebia Knipe, fourth; Miss Carrie Stingley, third; Miss Annie Green, second; Miss Rowena Whaley, second; Miss Hattie Smith, first; principal primary department; Miss Angie Young, colored primary.
Although a very fine, large, stone structure is now the Central building in the city, its nine rooms and the four rooms in the primary building are not sufficient, and three additional rooms are rented for the high school. The Central building is heated by steam, the others by stoves.
The school year is divided into two terms of 18 weeks each. There is a library of 1,000 volumes connected with the school, and tuition paid by nonresidents is used as a library fund.
The course is four years in the primary, four in the grammar, and two in the high school (English); and three years in the classical department.
We have not the statistics of the whole period, but note that D. E. Lantz was superintendent in 1878-83, W. L. Lemmon in 1884, Wm. Schliemann in 1885-86, L. S. Frey in 1887-88, W. E. Whaley in 1889-91, and Geo. D. Knipe in 1892-93.
The enrollment in 1880 was 616, and the average attendance 388; in 1892, it was 708, and the average attendance 651. There were eight teachers in 1882, and 16 in 1892. The average wages of teachers in 1883 was $51.25 per month, and in 1893 it is $51.80. The per cent. of attendance was the lowest (52) in 1885, and the highest (92) in 1892.
transcribed by Rita Troxel, State Library of Kansas
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