School History

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School History


The horizon of intellectual progress in any community can be guaged by its educational system and the interest shown in education by the people generally.  A history of Lincoln County not containing an account of its institutions of learning would, therefore, be misleading, as we have dealt to come length with the other side of the picture.  We are fortunate in securing an article from Mr. A.T. Biggs whom every one will recognize as an authority on this subject.  Believing our readers' will enjoy this article better than anything the historian might write, it is given here with a few additions:

"Settled as Lincoln County was by pushing Western people, along with Irish and Scandinavians, it is not strange that education occupied their first thoughts.  As early as 1867 or 1868, while still keeping an eye open for Indians, Mrs. Skinner gathered her own children, Everton, Alfred, and Bing, and two Ziegler boys, Eli and Frank, into her dugout and taught them 'without money and without price.'  She afterwards taught district school.  In 1868 Marion Ivy, one of Forsyth's famous scouts, taught a school in a dugout in Uncle Mart Hendrickson's dooryard.

"John Lyden, a bright, intelligent Irishman, who was murdered and thrown into a well four years later, was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction, on the organization of the county.  At the election in 1871 John Harshbarger was elected superintendent, but refused to qualify.  Washington Smith, a scholarly old gentleman, served till the election of 1872, being succeeded in 1874 by John P. Harmon.  In 1876 A.T. Biggs was elected, and served six years.  He was followed in 1882 by H.B. Harris, who served two years.  In 1884 James H. Allsworth was elected, and served four years, being succeeded in 1888 by A.T. Biggs, who served until 1892.  Horace Trueman, E.D. Smith, W.E. Lyon, and A.J. Stanley, the present incumbent, each served four years.  The leading characteristic of each superintendent might be summed up in a single word.  Washington Smith, oldest, Wright, Handsomest, Harmon, finest presence, Briggs, busiest, Harris, strictest, Allsworth, laziest, Trueman, jolliest, Smith, most dignified, Lyon, most scholarly, and Stanley most forceful.  Brains and energy pervaded the office of superintendent for many years, until to-day the county stands without a peer.

"But after all it is to the noble band of teachers, male and female, (particularly the latter) to which we owe the efficiency of our schools.  For the last sixteen years every Superintendent has received the bulk of his training in the schools of the County.  That there have been some "school keepers" in the great body of teachers cannot be denied, but the great mass have been conscientious God-fearing men and women.  A personal mention of all the worthy ones would be impossible but this history would be incomplete without the name of a few of the principle actors.


"No one who knows the early history of the County will deny to Mrs. Anna C. Wait the honor of being dean of the faculty.  Her influence more than that of any other person has shaped the course of educational thought.  She taught the first school  in Lincoln in the little old house next to the City Hotel.  This little building 10 feet by 22 feet was kitchen, dining room, bedroom and parlor, as well as Captain Wait's law office, but by some sort of magic it was made to contain a school of thirty pupils.

"This was 1872, and there are middle aged men and women in Lincoln today who were pupils in this school and who insist to this day that it was the "best ever."  She taught many years in Lincoln as well as Vesper, Lost Creek, Rocky Hill, and No. 63.  her influence in teacher's meetings, institutes and on examining boads was preeminent.  It was she and Captain Wait who brought about the organization of the Normal institute in 1877 when there were only twenty-three "de-fact" teachers to attend.  Without a paid enrollment of fifty no sate aid could be had, so by Captain Wait's advice the business men were enrolled.

"Teaching seemed to run in families.  There was the whole family of Skinners, Bing, Fred, Bert, Norah, and Calvin (Vinney).  They were educated in the Monroe School where Mrs. Skinner taught in 1870, and which maintained its preeminence as the Hub, educationally.

"The Bakers, Florence, Ella, Ina, Lena, Meta, Edgar, and Eli, all taught acceptably and their father, Congressman Barker, himself a college graduate taught one term in Sunnyside.

"The Smith family, Mrs. S.S. the mother, E.D., H.C., and Mabel, left a large impression for good in Lincoln County.

"It was said by one who ought to know that Anna C. Wait, Hannah McKorkle and Susan Smith were the "first three," Mabel Smith was the champion maker of bricks without straw, supplying the lack of apparatus by home made contrivances.  The work of E.D. and H.C. Smith was good but no better than that of the mother and sister.  The Stanley family, Dan, Nora, Sadie, Art, and Eunice all taught acceptably, but it has remained for Arthur to add luster to the family name as well as to Lincoln County.  For Lincoln is known as one of the preeminence of her superintendent in the work of School Law revision, and the more intelligent and practical of agriculture in the schools.

"Among the early teachers were John Stubbs, George Page, Viola Boutman, H. Hammer, Callie Scott, Ira W. Russell, Charley Price, William L.. Barr, John O. Wilson, now a prominent lawyer of Salina, Sarah A. Cole a leading physician and head of the Sanitarium at Lincoln.  Laura Page Peate, wife of J.J. Peate, of Beverly, W.T. Prescott, who secured a certificate and his wife taught the first school in District No. 23, F.F. Frans taught the second.  Probably Hannah Mary Moss for so many years in charge of the primary department of the Lincoln schools, started as many children right in her twenty-five years of experience as any other person.

"A.A. Songer who has taught acceptably some twenty years in Lincoln County, and fifteen more in other places is a man who understands the secret of success in his profession.  For the past five years he has been on the examining board, where he has acquitted himself with great credit.  In point of service he is one of the "oldest" teachers in the County, and his characteristic zeal and energy increases with each year.  His work is any given branch has always been complete and thorough.  he is now willing and abundantly competent to be probate judge.  In fact he is extremely well equipped for the duties of this office.  John A Schofield who taught long and successfully was a man of deep convictions and strong prejudices.  Few persons carried into their work a quicker, finer conscience.  His only fault was a peppery temper.  But being a very blonde blonde he could not help being "red-headed."  He is now clerk of Dewey County, Okla.

"Probably the youngest teacher that ever taught in Lincoln or any other County was Carrie Matson, now Professor of Latin in Kansas University.  About 1880 teachers were scarce, and Carrie who was thirteen but looked any age from eighteen to twenty-five, was granted a certificate and taught successfully at Rocky Point.  At Pottersburg her success was repeated but it leaked out that she was under age and the superintendent got the roast that was coming to him.  A quarter of a century of successful work has justified the judgment of the examining board.

"The oldest person who ever taught in the County was Mr. Brown from Ottawa County, who taught in District No. 54, Elm Creek, in the early '90's.

"James Dengate who taught in the schools of the County for a quarter of a century and was in active demand.  he was a bundle of live wires and his clear megaphone tones penetrated not only the uttermost corner of the school room, but also the atmosphere for a quarter of a mile.  Then there was Alice Reddingshaffer and Lillie Loy who spoke so low that the pupils had to keep very still to hear them.  All succeeded equally well.

"John McBride is another example of the soft voice but only eternity can tell what an influence for good was in that soft voice and spotless character.

"The earlier schools were taught in dugouts or vacant claim shanties, without desks, chairs, blackboards or other furniture.  In District 21 Laura Peate taught in Rod Wilmarth's kitchen and in District 56 the first school was taught in Fouts cellar and it was out and beyond better than average.  In District 22 Mrs. B.H. Ellsworth taught in the basement with earth floor and two small windows.  the seats were blocks of stove wood that could not be split.  Large sheets of brown manila paper were used for blackboards and to write lessons on to supplement the short supply of books.

 "District 34 started a school in a shanty with nothing but four bare walls, an earth roof and floor and a sad apology for a door.  The children were ragged but bright and industrious and many of them, now middle=aged and well to do people can point with pride to their rise in the world.  Mrs. William Nash taught the school furnishing hoe own apparatus, a board painted with lamp-black, some bits of chalk (not crayon) and four or five odd books.  Cornstalks and weeds gathered by teacher and pupils were burned in a cast-away stove.  And yet this was only thirty years ago!

"Ad Astra per Aspera."

 "The Normal Institute provided by the legislature of 1877 has been one of the prime factors in up building the educational fabric.  the good results obtained are largely due to the happy selection of the Normal Faculty, many of the very best workers of the State having been employed.

 "E.F. Robinson, Salome Pierson and Anna C. Wait were the first Normal teachers.  Robinson received $100.00 for his work, Miss Pierson $60.00, while Mrs. Wait gave equally good service free of charge.

"C.T. Pickett, once principle of the Lincoln schools, conducted five of the earlier institutes and left the impress of his genial kindly nature, an all precious legacy.  At present the institute has a core of instructors equal or superior to any in the state.  They are Mr. C.E. St.John, Mr. C.M. Ware, Inez M. Chapman, and Carrie F. Bradley."

Lincoln High School

This is the end of Mr. Biggs' article, but the conclusion of the matter is that he himself in not represented as he deserves.  In our educational universe he is one of the immortal gods.  When he left the office at the close of his six years; continuous service, he could describe the location of every schoolhouse in the county and he knew the names and faces of all the pupils attending the schools at that time and their rank in their studies.  he played ball, ante-over, and pull-away with them, even to the second generation, covering the sixteen years between 1876-1892, ten of which he filled the office of county superintendent.  From 1877 to the present (1908) the teachers of the county have been largely of those boys and girls.

Do they remember and appreciate him?  No Normal institute is complete without him and he has missed but one since 1877.  He is always drafted and compelled to come even from the uttermost parts of Kansas.  Last year the Normal institute surprised him with a gold watch in which was the inscription:

 "With love, from your Lincoln County Girls and Boys."

Mr. Biggs organized most of the school districts and upon his leaving the office in 1882 it was found that Lincoln County stood above any in the State regards to the per cent of enumeration as to population, of enrollment as to enumeration, and average attendance as to enrollment.  the wages of women more nearly approximated that of men than in any other county.

About this time the county had seventy-eight districts with buildings valued at $19,250, and was spending about $11,000 a year.  There was an enrollment of 2,267 out of 2,888 people of school age.  At the time of Mr. Biggs' final retirement from office there were eighty-five districts employing ninety-four teachers.  The school population was 3,600.

As compared with the valuation of school property in 1882-3 the high school building as it now stands is worth $18,000.

 Kansas Christian College

In 1884 the Bible Christian Church of Kansas proposed to build a college.  The State Conference voted a sum ranging between $6,000 and $10,000 to start the institution providing the city in which it should be located would furnish a like amount.  There were some very enterprising citizens of Lincoln who were members of this church, and they set about to secure the college for thir locality.  A meeting was held in the Baptist Church and a committee was appointed to present resolutions to the city council.  The result was that a sum of $7,600 was voted by Lincoln, and a committee appointed to secure $2,500 by subscriptions.  Thise who deserve most of the credit for bringing the college to Lincoln are Rev. E. Cameron, at that time the resident minister of that church, and Rev. Geo. Tenny, who was presidnt of the State Conference and Board of Trustees.  The college had its origin in the Southern Kasas Christian Conference.  Having decided the location and secured the pledge for money no time was lost in beginning.  April 21, 1844, college was opened in the Baptist Church to prepare students for successful work the next year.  The enrollment started at twenty-two and increased till it reached forty-nine.  Geo. Tenny was principal of this preparatory school.  it closed after several weeks of profitable work and plans were perfected for the beginning of autum term.

Thomas Bartlett, A.M., was chosen president.  he and Geo. Tenny taught the college classes.  Courses were offered in Bibical literature, higher English, ancient and modern language, economics, ethics, mathematics, and the sciences.  Rev. E. Cameron, principal of the preparatory school, was assisted by a full corps of teachers.

The cornerstone of the building was not laid until July 23, 1885.  it was occupied in 1886.  ten acres had been donated for a building site.

The Lincoln College Banner was first published in 1885.  At one time 1,800 coipes of the paper were issued.

In a few years the kindergarted and primary departments were discarded and the institution gave its whole attention to strictly college work.  The attendants came to be called students and not pupils as before.  by 1890 the preparatory fitted the student for first grade certificates.  the college at this time offered normal, scientific, classical, and commercial courses.

The work of the first president, Rev. Bartlett, extended over a period of eight years and through the early struggles he was a most effective worker.

Rev. Cameron, who succeeded him, served as president three years.  his work for the college did not close with his presidency as he is at present on the board of trustees.

President Whittaker, who served for thirteen years, probably did more than any one man for the institution.  He found it heavily in debt and the building yet unfinished.  he was a man of excellent business qualities, and by push and persistence cleared the college of indebtedness and finished the building.

Rev, Geo. R. Stoner, A.M., who has been president for the last two years, is a young man, unusually capable and well educated.  During his administration many permanent improvements have been made.  Many more contemplated for the coming year.

In looking over the courses offered and the splendid faculty secured we feel that Lincoln County ought to be proud of the Kansas Christian College.  yet in our rounds of the country we hardly heard it mentioned.  Lincoln County has a great many advantages to boast of, yet there is one thing which it ought to take pride in above all else - its educational advantages - its public schools and its college.  These many not add in any direct way a specified amount to its pile of dollars, but they stand near the goal toward which all material gain ought to aim - namely, intellectual and spiritual progress.  Material progress is not an end in itself, but it give an opportunity for higher progress.  When made an end in itself it loses all its value, and is a curse instead of the blessing it might be, if used for the proper purposes. if there was a prospect of getting a new railroad through the county the citizens would put up $75,000 or $100,000, by private subscriptions, or by bonds.  There are any number of men who would give a thousand dollars each out of their own pockets without expecting any direct returns, in order to see a new railroad come through their vicinity.  Why not invest a like amount in a college?  There is a financial as well as a moral and intellectual return in a good, flourishing college and the citizens ought to realize this and act accordingly.

The college at the present time is doing most excellent work in a $30,000 building, but it ought to have $300,000 in buildings in order to do the work it is capable of doing for the community and for its students.

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