Friday, September 26, 2014

Snapshots of Geary County Schools



As most of you know I have been looking into the country schoolhouses in Geary County for the last year or so trying to develop an audio driving tour.  This project  is very time interesting and yet very frustrating. We have scoped out the schoolhouses we’re going to include in this tour, they are the ones that are standing, or mostly, and have enough information to be included in the tour. 
Some of the schools that I want to include because they’re still around I may not be able to because their stories lack depth. While I have the district boundaries and the open dates and the closing dates on all the school I am lacking those personal stories that really bring a historic building to life.
Today I am going to highlight two of those schools and I am hoping that you all can help us flesh them out so we don’t have to cut them from the tour.
Maple Grove or District #15 is just a stone’s throw from US-77 at the intersection of Dundon and Range Roads. District 15 was organized in 1869 the first classes were held in the upstairs rooms of a log house on Archie Stittsworth’s farm across the road from the current school building. 
A new frame school building was built and held classes until it burned in 1925. On the morning of September 7, the just before first day of class for the new term, a prairie fire started in the grass near the school yard and the blaze spread to the frame schoolhouse.  Luckily no children were in the building because the fire started early in the morning.  There is no record or hint of arson for this incident, but one cannot help but wonder if there were children who, just maybe, were not quite ready to go back to school.
The current structure was built in 1926. Like many of Geary County’s school districts the boundary lines changed several times often crisscrossing county lines into Riley.  In June 1873 the district was changed to Joint #10, Riley and Davis Counties, but was still known as District 15 in the 1940s. 

After the school district dissolved to join Milford in 1946 the building was converted to a private residence and remains private property.  The stone with the district number and date is still above the front door.  This is all the information I have on this school and I hope someone out there can illuminate this part of our history.
Half Acre or District #12 is located on Clarks Creek Road in southern Geary County and was an impressive limestone structure that was two stories and had a T shape.  The building now is private property and the building is in disrepair. 
According to Irene Jeffries who wrote a brief history of Half Acre, Union District #12 was first formed from Davis and Morris Counties on October 21, 1865. Later by mutual consent of the county superintendents of both counties, this union was dissolved July 25, 1872 and permanent boundaries for the district were established. On February 8, 1864 the first district officers were elected.  When the Junction City Area of Retired Teachers was researching for the book Project heritage most of the information found was lists of names of treasurers, directors, clerks, and teachers.

Unfortunately the only photo the museum has of Half Acre is from after it closed down. 
This Photo is a class of students from 1927.
We lack any personal stories of this school and the children who went there or the teachers that taught there. The most we know if it was located in the same section as land owned by John Aylward Jr., James A. King, the John King estate, and Mary I. Munsell in 1987. The district was disorganized June 5, 1959 and the students were divided between Berry, Humboldt, and Engstrom Schools.
Please if you have information about either of these schools, photos or stories, we would love to hear them or make copies. You can mail items to the Geary County Historical Society, 530 N. Adams, Junction City, KS 66441, or you can email things to GearyHistory@gmail.com.  Or you can come by any of the days we’re open, Tuesday-Sunday 1-4.