History of Education in Norton County
By F. H. Baker and H.M. Culter
[Source: "Columbian history of education in Kansas: An account of the public-school", Compiled by Kansas Educators, 1893 ]
Transcribed by K. Torp
The settlement of Norton county began in the spring of 1872. This territory, lying in the homestead region, was at that time an excellent hunting ground. Buffaloes, antelope, deer and other game were abundant; herds of wild horses could be seen, and the presence of beaver and other fur-bearing animals made trapping remunerative.
So rapidly was the county settled, that in August of that year its organization was effected. As soon as a settlement could muster 15 children, the number required by law, a school district was organized, and to get the requisite number, the boundaries were made, in some instances, to take in as much as two congressional townships.
The first school was taught by J. H. Simmons, in a dugout at Norton, there being 26 pupils enrolled, some of whom lived 50 miles distant. This school was opened in December, 1873. Another school was opened soon after near Devizes, by M. J. Fitzpatrick. J. B. Shepard began teaching near Almena, Ed. Huge near Oronoque, A. J. Davis near Clayton, and J. W. Longford near Edmond. T. J. Beaumont, Alonzo Simmons, Mrs. C. E. Hillsinger and Mrs. A. T. Rogers were also among the pioneer teachers.
The county superintendents, including the appointee at the organization of the county, are named in the order of service: N. H. Billings, D. W. Mills, J. W. Longford, J. H. Simmons, Samuel Means, J. H. Simmons (second term), George W. Blaine, and Frank H. Baker.
The first schoolhouses were dugouts and log cabins; then came sod houses; while at this time, 1893, the prairies are ornamented with excellent frame buildings, containing as good furniture, blackboards, etc., as can be found anywhere.
In 1888, under the leadership of Dr. Ely, a series of educational meetings was inaugurated, and stirring addresses were made in all the cities and villages of the county, besides in a number of country districts. By means of these meetings, which are still continued, the teachers have become zealous, the patrons interested, and the schools benefited.
Aside from the county superintendents may be named a long list of teachers of excellent ability, to whom great credit is due for the splendid condition of the schools. While all cannot be mentioned in this brief sketch, yet it may not be improper to name Miss R. D. Kiner, D. C. Nutting, Columbus Borin, W. H. Hiles, R. D. Emery, and Mrs. M. J. Davies, deceased.
In August of each year, a four-weeks institute is held, and each month a strong county organization of teachers meets. The schools of the county are well graded; and from many school buildings the stars and stripes, proudly floating in the breeze, keep the spirit of patriotism ablaze.
Graded schools, in excellent buildings, are maintained at Norton, Almena, Lenora, and Edmond, and a strong sentiment already exists for the establishment of a county high school, which should come, and doubtless will, in the near future. The people of Norton county are fully alive to the cause of education, giving it the first place in their support, and, as a result of this, her teachers and her schools rank among the best in the State. The newspapers of the county cheerfully bear their part, and space is always granted for the publication of any matter that may assist in forwarding the interest of the schools.
Thus, 20 years after the organization of the county, our educational institutions have grown from four to 113; their valuation from a few dollars to $90,700, with an annual outlay of $36,587.24, not including the income from the State school fund. As other statistics will be given under a separate head, we desire to call attention to a few general statements regarding the condition of our rural and village schools at the present time: Oronoque has a fine school of 50 pupils. Edmond has a large, two-story frame building, at present employing two teachers, having an enrollment of about 80; the principal, Prof. R. D. Emery, is an experienced educator, and well known as an institute worker. Densmore has a flourishing school of 40 boys and girls; the teacher, Mr. Porter, is one of our oldest and best instructors. Calvert schools are among the flourishing schools of the county.
Our rural schools are in excellent condition. Probably, with one exception, all are able to support four months of school. Some of them number 50 pupils. Many of our rural teachers are men and women of large experience.
This report would be incomplete without a word or two regarding the growth of the normal institute. In 1879, Miss Ida Alhborn conducted the first institute held in Norton county. From the first the county institute has been a success. The attendance has increased until the enrollment has reached 145 members.
The enthusiasm gained at the summer institute is kept alive during the winter by the county teachers' association, which now numbers among its members more than 40 per cent of our teaching force. The association maintains a teachers' library. This is well equipped with the latest and best books on the subject of teaching, as well as on current history and science.
Long may the institute and the association live and prosper in their good work.
The following figures, compiled by J. H. Simmons, have been taken from the annual report of the superintendent of schools of Norton county for the school year of 1891-'92: Number of males between 5 and 21 years, 1,833; number of females between 5 and 21 years, 1,651; average daily attendance, males, 897; average daily attendance, females, 890; number of organized districts, 113; number of schoolrooms, 122; average school term, weeks, 20.3; value of school property, $90,700; total salary paid for teaching, $18,724; bonded indebtedness, $84,413; total amount expended for school purposes, $35,023.40; balance on hand by district treasurers, $6,040.89.
Norton City Schools
(by Samuel Means, Norton, Kas.)
— Early in the spring of 1872, a settlement was commenced in the valley of Prairie Dog creek. The county was organized in 1872, and school district No. 1 was christened soon after. The first board was: W. D. Jarvis, director; W. B. Jones, clerk, and N. H. Billings, treasurer.
In 1874, the first school was taught by J. H. Simmons, who was, in 1877, elected county superintendent. The place where pupils were directed to assemble was in a part dugout, part log building, in the southeast part of the present town.
In 1877, a frame house in the northeast part of the city was built and was used until 1880, when a two-story frame store was hired and occupied.
In 1881, the present site was bought, and a four-room, two-story building erected. This becoming too small, the present brick structure was built in 1889. We now look to our school as the pride of our city. The location being sightly, and the building fairly well built, it adds much to the looks of our town.
Among our many excellent teachers, we take pleasure in mentioning the following: Columbus Borin, now editor of the Oberlin Opinion; Call. Newell, at present register of deeds, Norton county; Messrs. Wallace and Hiles, now attorneys at law; J. H. Simmons, at present statistician in the auditor's office of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad system, Topeka; Prof. D. C. Nutting, Reserve; Dr. J. H. Ely, Hailey city schools, Idaho, and H. M. Culter, the present efficient principal.
Under its present management, the school employs eight teachers, and has an enrollment of 384. The course of study has been prepared to the end that graduates may step into the first year's work of the State University, at Lawrence.
Our schoolhouse is heated with steam, and well equipped with apparatus. The library is well furnished with works on travel, history, science, works of reference, and standard literature. One of the new features in contemplation is the addition of a teachers' normal course. This will be adapted especially to the needs of those who cannot attend our State Normal School or other normal institutions.
Last, but by no means least, we, like our sister villages, salute the rising and setting sun with our nation's banner, and, as we catch inspiration from its folds, we, too, exclaim: "God bless the flag; let it float and fill the sky with its beauty."
(by O.M. Becker, principal)
Within a few years after the first settler came to Norton county, school districts had begun to be common and to multiply. Among the first to be organized is what is now district No. 12, or the Lenora graded school.
The district was organized September 1,1877, and included the then Spring City and about 40 square miles of the surrounding country.
A. S. Burroughs, director; G. W. Hood, clerk; and C. H. Lansing, treasurer, constituted the first district board.
During the same winter, a three-months school was taught in her own house by Mrs. S. A. Burroughs, wife of the director. Though the district was large in area, there were but few settlers and proportionately fewer children, and, as Spring City was but an aggregation of about half a dozen log and sod shanties, occupied by as many families, and of only one store and a shop, the school was that winter a small one, the enrollment being about 12 pupils.
The following winter, O. J. Burwell taught for three months, in a small log shanty outside the town, a school of about 15 pupils.
It was not until 1879 that the district owned a schoolhouse. Late that year, the Spring City Company, a mercantile organization, having built a new store, donated to the district the old store building. From this was evolved a schoolhouse. The 20x26-foot hewed-log frame was covered with a new earth roof, fitted with a new board floor, and made ready for occupancy by being furnished with several board benches. By the light straggling in from the one rear and two front windows, Edward Hugel taught 25 or 30 boys and girls.
In the winter of 1883, the town (which had been incorporated as Lenora) had grown so that the crowded condition of the school, then taught by George J. McDaniels, and having an enrollment of nearly 50, indicated the necessity of a new and larger building. In the spring of the following year, bonds to the amount of $3,000 were voted, and in time for school that autumn the hill of the town was crowned with a large, four-room frame schoolhouse. Geo. J. McDaniels, principal, and Miss Sadie frunkhouser, primary, were the first teachers.
N. H. Billings, Miss B. D. Kiner, T. F. Redmond, Miss Melissa Van Cleave and S. Elta George were successively principals.
When Miss Kiner left the school, at the end of two and a half years, she left an institution that was the pride of the town and of the county as well. No teacher, perhaps, ever had a more powerful influence over pupils or did more for them.
The school, now in charge of O. M. Becker, principal; Mrs. Anna Pugh, intermediate; and Miss Mary Wills, primary, had on January 25,1893, an enrollment of 110, eight of whom were taking the first year's work of the high-school course. The present course of study provides for nine years of common-school and two years of high-school work.
With the stars and stripes daily floating from its highest point, may the Lenora school ever be, as now, an object of pride and first interest to every citizen, and an inspiration to better living for our youth.
by F.H. Baker, county superintendent
Almena, district No. 2, was organized in 1873. The first school was taught by J. B. Shepard, afterward editor of the Almena Plaindealer, in the fall of 1873. As the records have been destroyed, it is not possible to give with any degree of accuracy its early history. Almena's school has numbered among its teachers many prominent men and women, viz.: Prof. N. Clair, of Illinois; Mrs. Sullivan, of Lincoln; Mrs. Curry, Norton; Prof. J. B. Bailey, Denver; F. H. Baker, present county superintendent; and Mrs. E. E. Evans, of Oronoque, a graduate of the Salina Business College, and the present enterprising principal of Almena schools.
At present, the work requires the aid of three teachers, the enrollment being about 150. The school has been made the custodian of the "Happy Thought" library, a donation from a Vermont lady, numbering in the neighborhood of 500 volumes of the choicest literature. The apparatus, as far as it goes, is first class. "Old Glory," from his flag staff on the building, teaches his daily lessons of patriotism and devotion, love and liberty. We are justly proud of our institution, the common school.