Friday, October 17, 2014

Kansas Falls: A Ghost Town and a One-Room School



Kansas Falls is not only the name of Rural School District 17 it is also the name of a small town site that was founded September 10, 1857. Kansas Falls was located approximately 7 miles southwest of Junction City at a point near Seven Springs on the Smoky Hill River, where small falls or rapids interrupted the course of the river. At this site an early day mill was erected and a considerable amount of native timber in the vicinity was sawed.
The sale of lumber came to be the principle industry, although several cattle drives arrived in the area as early as 1867. Shortly after the Kansas Pacific Railroad built through the Kansas Falls area to Salina in 1867, Kansas Falls and Seven Springs went out of existence. From 1857 to 1860 Kansas Falls had a post office, which now makes it one of Kansas’s ghost towns.
While the town was nothing more than a hamlet with a post office and a few buildings located one the Smoky Hill River that lasted only 3 years, the school lasted 84 and has left a greater impression on Geary County History. Rural School District 17, Kansas Falls was organized on May 14, 1869, at the home of William S. Shane, and named after the ghost town and the falls themselves.
Kansas Falls-The remains as they appear on Old Highway 40 in 2013.
Kansas Falls Students 1939
In 1900 Miss Matilda Moore, or Tillie, was the teacher.  At the tender age of 16 Matilda taught all eight grades. According to Mat MacGuire in an article she wrote about Moore’s retirement, “there was a bucket of drinking water, she did janitor work, the desks were crude, and some of the pupils were as old as she was. . . . There were old slates that had to be washed off, and slate pencils that creaked over the slates, making that funny scratching noise, not to mention toilet facilities that were far distant.” Despite these difficulties Moore remembers that “she watched with pride the success of her pupils and she grieved when misfortune came their way.”
On the same property as the one-room schoolhouse this church was also used as a school.
Like the many other Geary County Schools the one-room schoolhouse had to close its doors and combine its students with other districts. In July 1953 the district was disorganized and the pupils were divided between Acker and Brookside schools.
This schoolhouse will be featured on the One-Room Schoolhouse audio tour we’re making for Geary County, but we need your help to show it off in the right way.  We need photos of the school, stories from its students and teachers, and photos of the student body.  If you have any of these to share please contact the museum by phone 785-238-1666, email GearyHistory@gmail.com, or juts stop by the museum at 530 N. Adams, Junction City, KS. Thank you for all your help.