Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

The Roots of Public Education in Lawrence, Kansas

August 14th, 2018

If it’s August, then it must be time for school to resume!

The earliest settlers in what would become Lawrence, Kansas, also wanted school to begin, and as quickly as feasibly possible. The first immigrant party arrived at the town site in August 1854. It was made up of twenty-nine men, all members of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, the mission of which was to ensure that slavery would be illegal in Kansas when it became a state. Specifically written into their original petition was the provision that immigrants coming to Kansas Territory would be provided with public education. True to their word, Lawrence’s founders held the first public classes on January 15, 1855, just five months after their arrival. Edward P. Fitch of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, was the first teacher. Estimates of the number of students in that first class vary between eight and twenty.

Photograph of Edward Fitch, the first teacher in Lawrence, undated

Edward P. Fitch, the first teacher in Lawrence, undated. Photo courtesy
of the Douglas County Historical Society, Watkins Museum of History.
Used with permission from Roger Fitch. Click image to enlarge.

The second teacher was Kate Kellogg, and unfortunately no photo of her is available. Kate returned east after her marriage. She was followed by Lucy Wilder, who held a teaching position in Lawrence for many years. Lucy came to Kansas in 1855 with her father, Abram Wilder.

Photograph of Lucy Wilder, third teacher in Lawrence, undated

Lucy Wilder, the third teacher in Lawrence, undated. Lawrence Photo Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 18 K:140. Click image to enlarge.

The first public high school in Kansas was Quincy School, established in Lawrence in March 1857. The school building was constructed ten years later at 11th and Vermont Streets. It was possibly named in honor of Edmund Quincy, a benefactor of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. By 1876 this high school was one of four university-accredited schools in the state.

Photograph of Quincy School, undated

Quincy School, undated. Photo in Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas:
An Informal History
by David Dary, page 272. Call Number: RH D9258.
Credited to the Kansas Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

In addition to the schools located within the city limits of Lawrence, there have been as many as eighty-three rural schools located throughout Douglas County. With a few exceptions, most were one-room buildings that served as community centers and church meeting places as well as classrooms. The last rural school, Twin Mound No. 32, closed its doors in 1966, more than one hundred years after the first school opened.

Photograph of Burnette School No. 62, undated

Burnette School No. 62, undated. Lotta Watson, teacher. Shane-Thompson
Photo Collection
. Call Number: RH PH 500.1:47. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Crowder School No. 69, undated

Crowder School No. 69, undated. Jesse Ady, teacher. Shane-Thompson
Photo Collection
. Call Number: RH PH 500.1:60. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Fairview School No. 21, undated

Fairview School No. 21, undated. Shane-Thompson Photo Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 500.1:58. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Kaw Valley School No. 12, undated

Kaw Valley School No. 12, undated. Maryane Brune, teacher. Shane-Thompson
Photo Collection
. Call Number: RH PH 500.1:62. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of White School No. 61, 1955

Undersheriff Charles Edmondson helps children cross Highway 40-59 near Teepee Junction,
White School, District 61, September 14, 1955. Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection.
Call Number: RH PH LJW 9.14.55. Click image to enlarge.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

SOURCES CONSULTED:

Crafton, Allen. Free State Fortress: The First Ten Years of the History of Lawrence, Kansas. Lawrence: The World Company, 1954. Call Number: UA C79.

Daniels, Goldie Piper. Rural Schools and Schoolhouses of Douglas County, Kansas. Baldwin City, Kansas: Telegraphics, 1975? Call Number: RH D5195.

Dary, David. Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas: An Informal History. Lawrence: Allen Books, 1982. Call Number: RH D9258.

Kansas Women Schoolteachers Project records. Call Number: RH MS 872. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

The Lawrence Ice Jam of 1910

January 30th, 2018

Postcard images in Spencer’s Lawrence Photo Collection document the destruction and disruption caused by large ice jams (or ice gorges) along the Kansas (Kaw) River near Lawrence in January 1910. Articles from area newspapers provide additional details about the situation. For example, the Topeka Daily Capital reported on January 15th that “travel on the Santa Fe [railroad] tracks between Lecompton and Lawrence is practically blocked and all westbound Santa Fe trains are coming into Topeka over the Union Pacific tracks.”

Between Lecompton and Lawrence the tracks are partially submerged with water and ice and from the bridge across the Kaw river at Lawrence three miles this way the Santa Fe tracks are covered with from one to three feet of water and ice. An immense ice jam has formed at the bridge at Lawrence and the checking of the river’s flow has forced the water over the tracks. The jam is about six miles long.

Postcard showing an ice gorge at Lawrence, Kansas, 1910

The ice gorge at Lawrence, 1910. Lawrence Photo Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 18. Click image to enlarge.

Newspapers also described how widespread the problem was elsewhere along the Kaw and other rivers, in Kansas and beyond. A headline on the front page of the Topeka Daily Capital on January 15th stated that an “ice gorge in [the] Mississippi [River] in St. Louis goes out causing damage estimated at $200,000.”

Postcard showing high water caused by an ice jam, Lawrence, Kansas, 1910

High water caused by an ice jam, Lawrence, 1910.
Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18. Click image to enlarge.

Postcard showing an ice gorge at Lawrence, Kansas, 1910 Postcard showing an ice gorge at Lawrence, Kansas, 1910

The ice gorge at Lawrence, 1910. Lawrence Photo Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 18. Click images to enlarge.

A letter to the World from Burt Brown, who is at Junction City, says: “The ice has broken in the Republican river today, and at Ft. Riley the Kaw river is full of floating ice. The water is considerable above the normal stage. If all the floating ice I saw in the Kaw east of Ft. Riley reaches the ice jam at Lawrence it will surely do some damage there.”

Lawrence Daily World, January 27, 1910

Lawrence, Kan., Jan 28. — Even being a fish has had its handicaps lately, and the dwellers in the Kaw thought that the world had come to end when the ice began moving. Lou McCann was standing near the water’s edge watching the ice move down the stream, when almost at his feet a forty pound catfish was crowded out on the bank, and started for the timber to [e]scape the ice. McCann, who is fleet of foot, took after it and soon overhauled the monster cat and put it out of harm’s way.

Topeka State Journal, January 28, 1910

Since the ice gorge at Lawrence has been broken and the water has receded to the channel of the river, the Santa Fe has been able to restore its train service to normal condition.

Osage City Free Press, February 10, 1910

The county boards of Jefferson and Douglas counties held a conference at the Lecompton bridge this week for the purpose of taking some action to repair the bridge, which was partially destroyed by an ice jam in January. Nothing definite was accomplished. All three of the wrecked spans are in sight; one is about 100 feet from the wrecked bridge, one about 150 feet and the third about 400 yards distant at the mouth of the Delaware. Their condition could not be ascertained, owing to the mush ice in the river and the fact that they are partly buried in sand which is rapidly forming a bar around them…Cal Walton estimates that it will take $14,000 to repair the damage.

Lawrence Daily World, February 26, 1910

Meredith Huff
Public Services