In the month of May, 1864, a party of five might have been seen wending their way from the "Elm creek settlement," where Clyde is now situated, to the present town of Washington, Kas., then only one log hut. The member of the party in whom we are interested was Miss Rosella Honey, who was seeking a Mr. Horfine, superintendent of Washington county, and also of Shirley, now Cloud, for the purpose of taking a teacher's examination. There were no roads - only the paths of the buffalo and the dim trail made by an occasional wagon. At last darkness overtook our friends, and they lost their way. There was not the glimmer of a friendly light, near or far, to beckon them on-yet on they went, and at last the barking of a dog told them they were not alone in that lonely region. A rude cabin was found, the inmates aroused, and the information received that they were several miles out of their way, also that the superintendent had gone to Junction City to mill. The journey had been made in vain, and must be made again. Imagine the disappointment of the party, especially Miss Honey, who was anxious, as teachers usually are, to take the examination.
A second attempt was more successful. The examination consisted of a few oral questions in arithmetic, grammar, and geography. More than this, she read a paragraph in a newspaper and wrote her name. Compare this with two days' continuous writing, after four weeks9 hard .work in the institute, and most teachers will conclude that it was something to have lived in the "good old times."
The next month, Miss Honey began the first school in what is now Cloud county. It was known as the " Elm creek school," and was taught in a log house, the typical early school building of the county. There were neither doors nor windows, only "logs left out." The floor was kindly provided by nature. The seats were logs split in halves, with pegs, which served as legs, driven in the convex side. Desks and blackboards there were none.
Among the distinguished visitors during the term was a tribe of Otoe Indians.
There were 18 pupils, and, for teaching these young ideas " how to shoot," Miss Honey received $8 per month.
The term was three months in length, and the last day was celebrated by the marriage of the teacher to W. M. Wilcox. Mr. and Mrs. Wiloox still live in Cloud county.
In 1865, the first schoolhouse in Clyde, a log one, was raised by the people, who did the work in connection with a picnic. But it was not until some time in the winter that the building was ready for use. The first school was a subscription school, taught by a Doctor Rogers, who, it is said, often left the pupils to care for themselves while he went to the store to read the newspapers and talk politics with the loungers. The building was considered a very good one for the times, and served as a public meeting house on all occasions. The commissioners met here, and in this house with a dirt roof, parts of which came through in piles on the desk and floor, the district court was convened.
The Clyde schools now rank among the best in the county. Eight teachers are employed. The schools have been especially progressive under the principalship of E. P. McMahon, who has served in that capacity for several years.
In those early days, the curriculum of the educational work was necessarily very different from what it is to-day. Owing to the thinly-settled condition of the country, the lack of good roads, and other inconveniences, public examinations were not to be thought of, although they were required by law. The superintendent usually gave the teacher an examination when he visited the school.
Mr. D. M. Stackhouse, now one of the prominent business men of Concordia, was a pupil and one of the pioneer teachers. He describes the early schools as follows:
"Like schools in all new countries, the first ones were, from the very nature of the surroundings, rather crude. The school building partook of the nature of school-house and fort, while the teacher was master, or, more often, mistress, teacher, friend, guard, garrison, and officer in command. For eternal vigilance was the price of existence in this land, at that time the acknowledged home of the buffalo, antelope, rattlesnake, and the more treacherous enemy of the early settler, the Indian of the plain.
"In those days, the subject of ventilation was not discussed in teachers' associations, as the matter of most moment was how to prevent ventilation. The school-house was so open that, when the dogs chased a jack rabbit, the rabbit ran under the schoolhouse door, as people in ancient times fled to a city of refuge when pursued by the avenger.
"In 1868, a school, known then as the Solomon school, was established, where the city of Glasco now stands, and Miss Jennie Paxton was employed to teach a three-months subscription school, and board 'round.
"The close of this school was celebrated August 14,1868, by the Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapahoe Indians, making the day one to be remembered by the settlers of Cloud county, and one that, but for the heroism and judgment of the brave little commander, would have proven a day of mourning to all whose little ones were entrusted to her care.
"The last two days of school were full of excitement, by reason of reported depredations of Indians, coupled with the fact that most of the men of the settlement had either gone away to seek work, or had gone to the assistance of settlers further up the river. On the morning of the last day of school, one of the men who had been up the river came dashing down the valley, giving the warning of immediate danger. The teacher collected her little flock around her, hurriedly distributed to them some tokens of remembrance, and, telling them of the danger, led them to the house of the nearest neighbor, just in time to escape the band of Indians, which was, even at that time, coming toward the schoolhouse, and which, a few minutes later, almost at the schoolhouse door, shot and left for dead Lewis Snyder, one of the little boys, who had gone back for his coat, which, in the hurry and excitement, he had forgotten. The little fellow, however, feigned death, and they left him lying on the prairie in the hot August sun, weak from the loss of blood. In about three hours he was rescued by a body of settlers. After days of suffering, and anxious care on the part of his parents and friends, he recovered.
"Another one of the small boys of this school, Benny Misell, who, however, was not in attendance that day, was killed by the Indians, near his home, and his body left on the bank of the river where he fell. It was three or four days before his friends were able to reach him."
The first school in Concordia was taught by Miss Emma M. Patrick, during the winter of 1871-72, in Donaldson's Hall, corner of Washington and Sixth streets, where the First National Bank now stands. From this germ has grown the leading school in the county. There are three fine public-school buildings in the city. Fourteen teachers are employed, under the judicious management of Supt. W. W. Reed.
There are graded schools at Glasco, Jamestown, and Miltonvale, where excellent school buildings will accommodate four teachers and 200 or more pupils each. At Aurora, there is a graded school of two departments.
An educational review of Cloud county would not be complete without mention of her Catholic schools.
Nazareth Academy, in Concordia, conducted by the Sisters of St. Joseph, was established in October, 1884, by Sister M. Stanilaus. The average number of pupils is about 60. In connection with it is the parish or day school, which also averages about 60 pupils.
St. Anne's School, at Clyde, was established by the Sisters in 1887. With this is an orphan asylum for girls, in which there are now 12 homeless ones.
At St. Joseph, Cloud county, there is another Catholic school, having an attendance of about 130. With this is the orphans' home for boys.
Doctor Lear was elected the first county superintendent of public instruction, but did not qualify, and A. A. Carnahan was appointed in his place, and was consequently the first acting superintendent.
In the fall of 1867, J. B. Rupe, now the venerable editor of the Clyde Herald was elected to this office. He was paid by the day, and his salary amounted to $21 for a year's service.
The second superintendent, B. H. McEckron, received $50 for one year; then the salary increased with the population, till 1884, when it reached $1,200, where it has since remained.
From the annual report of Mr. McEckron, October 1, 1869, it is found that there were nine organized school districts, and three log schoolhouses, valued at $160.
The whole number of school children between the ages of 5 and 21 years was 264; the number of pupils enrolled, 110; average daily attendance, 10£; average length of term, 4f months; number teachers employed - male 1, female 6, total 7; salary paid teachers - male $35, female $22, average $23.85. The county received from State school fund and State school tax, $301.92; from district school tax, $27; total expense for teachers, $302; total for repairs, fuel, and incidentals, $27.
In 1870, the number of organized districts increased to 26; in 1872, to 65; in 1873, to 79. Thus the good work has gone on, until now there are 110 districts, 112 school buildings, and 137 school-rooms. The estimated value of school property is $118,375; paid out for school purposes during last school year, $54,260.81; population between ages of 5 and 21-males 3,427, females 3,363, total 6,790; number pupils enrolled-males 2,960, females 2,586, total 5,546; average daily attendance - males 1,825, females 1,816, total 3,641; number teachers employed - males 57, females 80, total 137; average paid teachers per month - males $53.50, females $35.75, general average $44.62; average length of term, 7 months.
Several school-district libraries have been started, which are yearly growing in numbers and value.
Too much cannot be said in praise of our district schools. Some of the teachers hold State certificates, and most of them seem fully alive to the importance of the work there is to do. It is therefore without vanity that we trust Cloud county, with here excellent corps of teachers, with her "schoolhouse on every hilltop and no saloon in the valley," may "act well her part" in the great work of helping "Kansas u to the stars through difficulty."
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 107-109)