Friday, July 25, 2014

Acker School-It wasn't all hard work and strict discipline

District 23-Acker School held classes from 1872 until May 17, 1963.  Like many other districts in Geary County, the lines actually crossed the county line to include parts of Dickinson County. When the school closed in 1963 there were 15 students; the next year, 13 began attending school in Chapman and 2 moved from the district.
 The stone building bearing the school’s name and district number above the door is located at the corner of K-18 and Milford Lake Road North and was built in 1911.  The stone school was erected by the Holmgren Brothers with stone from the quarry near Spring Valley School. At the time, the stone school cost $2500. The stone building, now a private residence, was not the first building to house Acker School children.
Acker began as a frame building in 1872.  The first building was moved to the Acker farm in 1911 when the stone structure was erected. The Acker family used the old frame school building as a wash house and butcher house, hopefully not at the same time.  The Acker family home burned in 1931 and the family moved into the frame building they eventually remodeled.
Acker was not the original name of the school.  Originally, the school was called Harmony Hill.  After 1917 the name gradually changed to Acker because the family was prominent in the community. Acker School held classes for over 90 years, and prominent families from Geary County spent their formative years within its walls. Altweggs, Gfellers, Hildebrands, Johnstons, and of course, Ackers all attended the school.
In the Altwegg family history it’s noted that the younger Altwegg children attended Acker School.  The family spoke Swiss, as they were recent immigrants, and so the children had to learn their English in school.  Their schoolmates called them the Dutch kids.  Instead of feeling discouraged, the children stayed in school, learned the language, and earned their schoolmates’ respect.  

1891-Acker School Original Frame Building.
Back: Henry Hildebrand, Millie Acker, Ben A. Johnston, Anna Kummers, Katie Carver, Annie Davis, (18) George Carver
Middle: John Kummer, Lottie Hildebrand, Clause Marston, Johnnie Acker, Emma Altwegg, Claude Kitsmiller, Bob Altwegg, Charles Wuethrich, Jerome Acker, Fred Hildebrand, Samuel Acker
Front: Lizzie Kummer, Mary Spessard, Charles Webber, Lizzie Altwegg, Ed Kummer, Mable Webber, Laura Johnston 
Country schools taught a wide array of subjects and they did it all in one room. Children were expected to do their lessons, keep quiet, and behave themselves.  Punishments were quite different from now, and included paddling.  According to the students, the worst day of the year “was when Jane Roether [superintendent of schools] would come to each school in the county and give tests. This was the most dreaded day of the year,” (Wayne Gfeller, 2010.)
If you look at the list of students with the photograph you’ll notice a number of the names are repeated.  Imagine going to school and being in the same room as all your siblings and cousins all day.  While this would have been nice because you’d never walk to and from school alone, it could also be bad because if you acted up at all your mother was sure to find out.
According to Gfeller, it wasn’t all hard work and strict rules. “There were times set aside for field trips. During the eight years at Acker School I remember visiting the JC fire department, Geary County Sheriff Department, KJCK radio station, Coca-Cola Bottling Company, [and] Shellhouse Bakery.” (Gfeller, 2010.)
At the closing picnic for Acker School more than 100 people attended and Mrs. Clarabelle Endsley, the final teacher, said, “The end of an era has come. Next fall most of the pupils residing in the Acker community will attend Chapman Elementary School. The one room rural school has served its purpose well over many years and it is not without regrets that it is put aside with the changing times.”(Union, May 28, 1963.)
Acker School-2013-Private Residence
Do you have a one-room schoolhouse story or memory you’d like to share? We are looking for stories of your own or your family’s experiences to include in the tour. If you have an amusing, interesting, or important story you would like to share with us please call or come by the museum. You can also write it down and send it to us at 530 N. Adams, Junction City, KS 66441 or