Clark county was organized by Gov, John A. Martin, May 5,1885. Previously it had been under the jurisdiction of Ford county, whose superintendent organized one school district, the record of which is as follows: "School district No. 1, county of Clark, formed January 12, 1884; preliminary notices posted January 18; notices of first district meeting posted February 16; Norval Dudley was elected director, Mrs. Nannie Baker, treasurer, and W. T. Wade, clerk." The first school was taught by Hamilton Myers, in a small frame building.
In October, 1884, the town of Ashland was located within the limits of district No. 1, and, in the following summer, was made the county seat. Therefore, in more respects than one, district No. 1 is the first in the county. The schoolhouse site was changed to Ashland, and Mrs. I. M. Walker taught the next school. Sometime in the summer of 1886, bonds were voted to build a schoolhouse. The foundations were completed, when the school board decided that the rapidly growing town needed a better house than the one contemplated. More bonds were voted, and the next spring a two-story brick building, with accommodations for 300 pupils, was contracted for. In August, when the house was nearing completion, it accidentally caught fire, and became a total loss in a few minutes. The foundation was not damaged, and another house like the one destroyed was built thereon and ready for use the following January.
While the above-described building was being erected, school was held in the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. Three teachers were employed: W. L. Cow-den, principal; Mrs. 8. C. Donnell, first assistant, and Miss Minnie Young, second assistant. Mr. Cowden resigned before the end of the school year, and Mrs. Donnell was promoted to the vacancy. Geo. W. Carr, the next principal, served two years, followed by C. W. Mills, one year; D. A. Tear, one year, and W. L. Cowden, two years. The school is thoroughly graded, and has a high-school course of three years. It is the only school in the county offering advanced instruction, and some of its students are among the most successful teachers in the country schools.
At the first election held after the organization of the county, June 16,1885, C. C. Mansfield was elected county superintendent, and served till the end of the year. He had J. B. Bradley and W. L. Cowden appointed associate examiners, and held the first examination for granting teachers' certificates October 31. During his term of office, and prior to January, 1886, Superintendent Mansfield organized 15 school districts, with an enumeration of more than 500 children.
At the general election in November, 1885, Dr. C. S. Williams was elected to succeed Superintendent Mansfield, and was twice reflected, serving, in all, five years. He completed the organization of the county into school districts, held a normal institute each year, organized a teachers' association, conducted an educational column in local papers, and did much in. general for the educational interests of the county. W. L. CoWden was elected in 1890, to succeed Doctor Williams, and was reflected in 1892.
The first county normal institute was held at Ashland, in the Presbyterian Church, during August, 1886. Four-weeks sessions have been held each year since. The conductors have been: B. S. McFarland, C. S. Williams, D. A. Tear, and John Cur-ran. Mrs. S. C. Donnell, Mrs. Julia A. Crane, Geo.,W. Carr, J. W. Campf and W. L. Cowden have served as instructors. Each session has cost about $150, and from 50 to 60 students have been enrolled every year. As a rule, the teachers who attend the institute do better work than those who do not. District officers have learned this, and young teachers who do not attend the county normal find it a little difficult to obtain schools, when others, who have institute training, can be employed.
A county teachers association was organized early in the history of the county, and from four to eight meetings are held each year. The meetings are held at the county seat during the winter, and at other places in the spring and autumn. The gatherings in the smaller towns and in the country are better attended and are more interesting than those held at the county seat. On such occasions, the farmers and friends of education turn out with their families, picnic fashion, and make a day of it.
In 1891, a reading circle was organized. Nearly all the teachers became members. Through the superintendent's office, 35 pets of the adopted books were furnished to teachers. County and township meetings were held, but not with much success.
In nearly all the districts, the first schools were taught in dugouts and sod houses most convenient to the patrons. Usually they were abandoned "claim" houses. Only a few were built for school purposes, and two or three of these improvised temples of learning are still in use. In 40 districts there are now good, substantial frame or brick buildings. All are supplied with approved furniture, and a majority furnished with dictionaries, maps, charts, and globes. A few districts have small libraries. The average cost of the frame houses and furniture is about $800. Besides the brick building at Ashland, already described, Englewood has a neat brick schoolhouse worth $5,000.
The following comparative statement will show briefly the progress of our schools: During the school year ending June 1, 1886, 32 teachers were employed, 22 being females. The average salary was $20 per month, for both male and female teachers. The enrollment for the year was 465, and the average daily attendance 328. During the school year ending June 30, 1892, 54 teachers were employed, 35 of whom were females. The average salary of male teachers was $36.14, and of females, $31.40. The enrollment for the year was 690, and the average daily attendance 531. The total expenditure during the year for all purposes was $12,858.48.
Source: Columbian History of Education in Kansas, Compiled by Kansas Educators and Published under the auspices of the Kansas State Historical Society for the Columbian Exposition, 1893, Commemorating the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Discovery of America, 1893, pages 105-107)