(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 117-118 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 A. C. Van Dyke, ex-county superintendent

DICKINSON COUNTY -- The county was organized in 1857. The first county seat was located at Newport, one mile east of Detroit; but in 1862, it was removed to Abilene. The first regular election of county officers was held in November, 1860.

Samuel Ruthruff was the first person to fill the office of county superintendent of schools. He was elected in 1860, and till April, 1864, when he resigned in favor of E. W. Bradfield, who held the office till August, 1865. Ex-Superintendent Ruthruff was then appointed for the unexpired term.

The first school was organized in 1863, at Lyona. Matilda Smith was engaged to teach the school, at a salary of twelve dollars per month. For several years, the sessions were held in a log church, built by German settlers, and fitted out with plain board benches for seats. School supplies were scarce. Books and slates came from Leavenworth, by ox team. The alphabet was mastered first; then primary reading and number work. The children were robust and healthy. Corn bread and buffalo meat was their principal diet. Although numerous Indians tribes wandered over the county on hunting expeditions, yet, fortunately, no pupil was molested on his way to school.

In November, 1865, William Frost was elected superintendent, and served two years. His successor was William Ramsey, who opened an office at the county seat, and vigorously pushed the work of organization. A school-district map of the county was provided, and at the expiration of his term of two years the number of schools had increased from three to 22. Most districts owned comfortable stone or wooden buildings, fairly well supplied with furniture and apparatus.

Cyrus Kilgore, the sixth superintendent, was elected in November, 1869, and served till the next regular election, in 1870, when D. R. Emery was chosen, and continued in office till March, 1874, the "grasshopper year." D. W. Wilson, of Solomon City, completed the term by appointment.

A. M. Crary was elected in 1874, and held the office for eight years. During that time large colonies from the Eastern States settled in the county. The organized schools had increased from 75 to 112, including joint districts with Geary, Clay, Saline and Marion counties. The school population had increased to 5,800, and 4,900 of this number were enrolled in the schools. The estimated value of school property was $108,000. The average school term was six months. Monthly salary for male teachers, $37; females, $34.

From 1882 to 1887, the schools were ably looked after by D. D. Hornaday, a practical enthusiast in the cause of common-school education. He completed the work of organization, leaving the whole number of districts at 125.

J. S. Ford occupied the office from January, 1887, to January, 1891. He gave much attention to local and county associations formed to benefit teachers and patrons. A course of study was published, to secure system in classification and graduation of pupils in country schools.

A. C. Van Dyke succeeded Superintendent Ford, and served two years. Some marked features of his administration were the appointment of associate examiners not connected with higher schools of learning, labeling applicants' manuscripts in examination by number instead of by name, establishing local reading circles, publishing reports of school visits through the local press, and increasing the salaries of teachers by raising the standard for third-grade certificates.

Mr. D. F. Shirk was elected superintendent in November, 1892, and at this date, January 15, 1893, is actively engaged in the discharge of his official duties.

Each district now owns a comfortable frame, brick or stone building, fitted out with patent desks, and provided with excellent slate, canvas, hyloplate or native stucco-plaster blackboards. Wall maps, charts, globes, blocks and teachers' registers are seen in every schoolroom. Facilities for heating and ventilating receive much attention. During the year 1892, six new schoolhouses, costing $1,000 each, were built in country districts. The city of Herington, a railroad center in the southeast part of the county, owns a magnificent brick edifice, valued at $16,000. Solomon City, on the line of three railways, has also a fine brick structure, costing $8,000. Each of these employs seven teachers, at very good salaries. The thriving town of Hope, at the Missouri Pacific and Santa Fe crossing, has completed a neat frame building, at a cost of $6,000. Chapman, a growing town on the Union Pacific railroad, expended $5,000 in a schoolhouse built of native limestone. Each of these towns sustains four schools. The public school property of Enterprise is valued at $12,000. The new brick addition gives ample capacity for sustaining six schools.

Good two-story buildings for schools are erected at Banner City, Woodbine, Carlton, Detroit, Dillon, and Manchester.

A love for good literature is much cultivated in town and city schools, by means of public libraries and reading tables. There is a growing sentiment in favor of extending these advantages to country schools. Already several districts have purchased small libraries by public tax.

A system of gradation and graduation for district schools is now generally well established. Classification registers are being introduced, and all pupils who complete the adopted course of study and pass a creditable examination in the common-school branches of the State are given certificates of admission to the county high school, issued by the county superintendent of schools. This plan secures longer and more regular attendance of pupils in district schools.

In the spring of 1892, the class of graduates numbered 71.

A lively interest is taken in district and county associations by teachers and patrons. The county is divided at present into two institute districts, each governed by a constitution and by-laws, and managed entirely by the individual membership. Each district association holds six sessions each year, and the county association three. School methods, general history drills and the study of pedagogy proper are some of the subjects for general discussions.

The entire county is organized into 125 districts, giving excellent school privileges to all children; very few, comparatively, are compelled to go over two miles to attend school.

Invariably, each district holds but one term of school, the winter term. The average length of school term is 27 weeks. In all, 150 teachers are employed in the district schools. Male teachers, in 1892, received an average salary of $47.90 per month; females, $39.90; salary of county superintendent, $1,200 per annum. The average age of teachers is 22 years. The school population, excluding Abilene, is 6,600; enrollment, 5,300; average daily attendance, 3,400.

From a levy of 12 1/2 mills on the dollar, together with the State endowment fund, over $61,000 were expended in the districts in 1892 for school purposes, making the cost of schooling for each pupil $3.58 per capita on each inhabitant. The value of the school property belonging to the districts in 1892 estimated at $140,000, upon which rests a bonded indebtedness of $62,000. However, these bonds are generally cashed when due.

Practical educators are engaged four weeks each summer, at good salaries, to conduct a normal institute at the county seat, to train persons especially for the profession of teaching. About 140 teachers and others enroll each year. It is made almost self-sustaining by enrollment and teachers' examination fees.

The courthouse, at Abilene, was destroyed by fire on the morning of the 18th day of January, 1882, and all records of the county superintendent's office were burned except the school-district map. Hence, a considerable part of this history was obtained from reliable correspondence.

Abilene City Schools -— Prominently associated with the early history of Abilene public schools were ex-Probate Judge R. N. Smith and A. V. Jewett, attorney, who still reside at Abilene. The former was principal in 1872-73, just at the close of the "Texas cattle trade." A low stone building, in which one of the two schools was held, is still standing on the south side. The general character of the school was bad, but the stern and vigilant "master" soon commanded a respectful obedience to law and order.

In 1885 [compiler's note: This year has to be a misprint since the book was publish in 1893] came A. V. Jewett, who remained at the head of the schools for 14 years —- four years after Abilene was declared a city of the second class. During this period wonderful growth is accredited the school enumeration, necessitating schoolroom extension and frequent changes in the course of study. Mr. Jewett proved an able organizer as well as a good disciplinarian. The closing years of his labors were rewarded with a salary of $1,500, the most ever paid for the same kind of work in the city's history. More recently the frequent change in superintendency was due mainly to factional strifes, which, happily, is now vanishing. Since June, 1889, the following persons have occupied a place at the head of these schools: W. D. Moulton, two years; W. W. Reed, one year; and J. C. Gray, the president incumbent.

The school property includes two substantial brick structures, each three stories high, and two other one-story frames—in all a capacity of 16 rooms. A portion of the city hall is used for high-school purposes, also. The brick buildings are heated with steam and hot air. Floor ventilators are in use, and patent inside shutters are attached to windows to shield pupils from excessive sunlight. The grounds are the pride of the city. The entire valuation, including furniture and apparatus, is estimated at $75,000, upon which rest unpaid bonds to the amount of $14,000. The library contains 1,500 volumes, and the reading table is generously supplied with the best periodicals. Nineteen teachers are engaged, at an annual outlay of $9,000. A levy of 15 mills on the dollar is maintained, to pay all expenses and liquidate maturing bonds.

The records for 1892 show an enrollment of 885, with a daily attendance of 755. About 30 colored children attend the lower grades. The course of study embraces eight grades and four-years work in the high-school department. The high-school studies include algebra, geometry, trigonometry, geology, astronomy, ancient history, United States constitution, political economy, physics, rhetoric, Latin, and Greek.

Mt. St. Joseph's Academy -— In the north suburbs of Abilene, and rising gently above the surrounding country, is a beautiful knoll of prairie. Here is built the largest institution of learning in the county, known as Mt. St. Joseph's Academy. It is 120 feet long and 40 feet wide, and cost $40,000. It is practically free from any incumbrance.

It is designed especially for a school for girls, and as a training department for those who take the vow of sisterhood to the order. The Sisters are self-sacrificing in their duties, and many of them are sent out over the State to take charge of parochial schools. The proceeds derived from this source, along with the scholarship tuition fees, make the institution self-sustaining. While the parochial schools are fruitful nurseries to the academy, giving it the character of a sectarian school, yet children of Protestant parents are freely admitted.

Precautionary measures are used to broaden the character of those who attend, and to fit them for a successful life. Besides elementary work, instruction in music, painting, needlework, shorthand and typewriting is given.

The culinary and sleeping apartments are so attractive in themselves as to make the institution homelike.

The reputation gained by this institution at home and abroad is largely due to the efforts of Mother Bernard, who took charge of its affairs from the beginning, in 1887.

German Schools -— In connection with the German Lutheran Church organizations on Lyon creek, there are two schools maintained from four to six months each year for the especial purpose of giving rudimentary instruction in German. One is located in Union township, the other in Lyon. Plain but neat rooms are fitted for comfort and convenience. The acting pastors do the teaching.

Central College -— Central College Association was organized at Lecompton Kas., July 8, 1891. The corporation formed the board of trustees, as follows: Rev. C. M. McKee, Rev. H. E. Rice, Prof. H. M. Ambrose, A. M., Rev. E. B. Slade, Rev. J. A. Weller, Ph. D., D. D., Rev. M. R. Myer, M. S., Rev. G. H. Hinton, Rev. S. W. Foulk, Rev. J. Morrison, Rev. S. R. Thom, and Rev. W. S. Blackburn. The same trustees remain in office, except that Professor Ambrose resigned in June, 1892, and Rev. M. Jennings was elected to fill the vacancy. This board of trustees has the full control of the institution. In the absence of the board, the affairs of the association are managed by an executive committee, which is limited only by the by-laws and the general direction of the board of trustees.

After the board of trustees was organized, an executive committee, consisting of Pres. J. A. Weller, Revs. S. W. Foulk, E. B. Slade, C. M. McKee, and M. R. Myer, was directed to go to Enterprise, Dickinson county, Kansas, and accept the college building grounds from the Harrison Normal College Association, of Enterprise. This was accomplished on July 10, 1891, and arrangements were made to open the college on September 1, 1891.

The trustees are members of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and are responsible to the conference of which they are members for their moral and official actions. Thus the United Brethren Church has the moral control of the institution; besides, the founding of the institution is officially approved by three out of four of the conferences of the State.

The college building is a beautiful and substantial structure, 65x70 feet, three stories, 15 rooms, built of gray limestone. The architecture is modern, and the rooms and hall are finished in hard pine and oak, with oil finish. Other buildings are soon to be erected. The boarding halls are owned by private parties. The college building and the block upon which it stands cost $20,000. There are 500 lots, worth at least $50,000, belonging to the college, in addition to the college block. The location is a beautiful one, giving a splendid view of the surrounding country.

The object of the college is the pursuit of college studies under the influence of church and Christian teachers. Revivals of religion are encouraged. The Y. M. C. A. and Y. W. C. A. give a religious tone to the college.

A choice of courses of study, as well as many elective studies, are offered to students. The course afforded are classical, scientific, literary, commercial, normal, preparatory, instrumental and vocal music, fine art, shorthand and typewriting. The college year is divided into four terms of 10 weeks each. The tuition, $8 for college studies or shorthand and typewriting, and $10 for commercial studies and instrumental music.

There are 10 professors and teachers employed. The faculty at the present time are J. A. Weller, D. D., Ph. D., president, and professor of philosophy and pedagogy; Emma H. Weller, A. M., professor of Latin and Greek languages; T. D. Crites, B. S., professor of natural science; L. D. Arnold, B. S., professor of mathematics; D. L. Hoastson, M. Accts., professor of commerce; Rev. G. G. Grassmucck, A. M., instructor of German language; Jno. Van Wordragen, dean of music; Mabel I. Poulton, assistant in music; J. W. Ehrsam, B. S., instructor in mechanical drawing; and Mrs. R. M. Foster, instructor in fine art. The faculty is composed of learned and energetic men and women in the prime of life. Miss Mary Kness is an assistant teacher in the English language.

The management of the college is committed to the president. The faculty has a regular weekly meeting, in which plans for the management and inspiration of the classes are matured. The general control of the college building and the management of the students is committed to the president by the by-laws of the in institution. The literary societies—the Platonian for gentlemen, and Emersonian for ladies—are under the general direction of the faculty, their literary work being under their own supervision. The college has steadily grown, since its founding to the present. The total enrollment for the first year was 147; the present enrollment, (December 1, 1892,) in all departments, is 185 students. The library, at the time of the organization of the college, had 300 volumes. In addition to this nucleus of a library, the students have free access to 1,000 volumes belonging to the president and Mrs. Weller. The apparatus of the college is continually increasing. The Ladies' College Aid Society has, by solicitation and entertainments, gathered a fund for equipping the college with apparatus. The electric apparatus, microscope, etc., already obtained are first class. A good beginning has been made in the way of gathering a museum. The selections are good, and are awakening a new interest in the college. A class in taxidermy is supplying the college with some excellent specimens. The president, Rev. J. A. Weller, D. D., Ph. D., was born in Morgan county, Ohio, April 28, 1846. After his common-school training and service in the army, being a private in Co. K, 161st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, he settled on a farm until August, 1871, when he entered Otterbein University, Westerville, Ohio. From this institution he graduated in June, 1876, with the degree of A. B. In the summer of 1877, he graduated in the National School of Elocution and Oratory, of Philadelphia, Pa. In May, 1878, he graduated from Union Biblical Seminary, Of Dayton Ohio. During the next two years he served as pastor of the United Brethren Church at Marion, Ohio, where he was called as college pastor to Otterbein University, his alma mater. At the end of one year, he was unexpectedly called to the chair of ancient languages in Western College, at Toledo, Iowa. He gave life and enthusiasm to this department for six years, when he became president of Lane University, at Lecompton, Kas. This college was then in a dilapidated condition. The institution had run so low that its note would not be taken in the bank. Notwithstanding the many things in the way of making a college in the town, the college grew to an enrollment of 330 students during the fourth year of his presidency. He solicited personally $25,000 for Lane University. Much of President Weller's success as an educator is due to his faithful wife, Rev. Emma Howard Weller, to whom he was married January 1, 1883, at Clear Lake, Iowa. She is 35 years of age, and has been a teacher for 18 years. Besides teaching a number of years in the common schools of Iowa, she taught painting and drawing during the five years she was a student of Western College, Toledo, Iowa. From he alma mater, she took successively the degrees B. S., A. B., and A. M. She filled the chair of Latin and English languages in Lane University, and is still professor of Latin and Greek languages in Central College. President and Mrs. Weller are noted for their energy, enthusiasm and devotion to the building up of the college. Central College, with the principle of keeping out of debt, has a bright future before it. An enrollment at the beginning of the second year of 185 students, representing 25 counties of the State of Kansas, foretells an energy and life that are remarkable. It is bringing an excellent citizenship to the manufacturing city of Enterprise, which already contains 900 inhabitants.

Transcribed by Rita Troxel, Kansas State Library -- January, 2003



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