Friday, March 27, 2015

Kickapoo School-Joint District 29

District 29, or Kickapoo school was organized in 1878. The old schoolhouse is located at K-157 and Kickapoo School Road in southern Geary County near Rock Springs. The district was formed from parts of Morris County and Geary, or Davis, County.
Kickapoo like most other Geary County schools was built from native limestone. The building is still there today, looking old and worn, surrounded by farmland. The hand pump for water sits, lonely, among the tallgrass the mower misses. The view from the school is one of farmland stretching out, and you can almost imagine the drone of insects as summer approached and the excitement of the children anxiously waiting for the last day of school and freedom for the summer.
Many people picture the strict discipline at the one-room school, or any school of “yesteryear” with a sigh of relief that we were brought up in a time when teachers couldn’t strike students. But the students at these rural schools often remember their teachers with fondness because any truly good teacher can keep order without regularly hitting students.
The students who had teachers who were engaged and caring often found themselves excited about school and willing to participate in the extracurricular activities offered at the small country schools. Often, students at each country school had a close bond, and depending on the teacher, each school had special groups for plays, journalism, or even band. The Kickapoo School had a rhythm band, thanks to Elsie Jahnke who taught at Kickapoo in 1930 and 1931.
According to Bernice Muenzenmayer Murphy, who taught the two years after Elsie, she inherited the “unique, well trained rhythm band. While many schools experienced rainy day cabin fever, our students used play periods to enjoy the rhythm band. Those students were happy and had lots of fun.”(Project Heritage, 252.)
Like several of the other country schools, Kickapoo was unfortunate enough to have a fire. However, unlike some of the others, the schoolhouse did not burn down. Bernice said, “one morning I was called at 6:30am to be told that there had been a fire in the building during the night. When I arrived, all debris was cleaned up by the board members.
“The fire started in the wastebasket. Also in the wastebasket among the burned papers was a dead mouse. One scared little boy offered the information that he had thrown some ‘kitchen matches’ into the wastebasket so no one would know that he had them. Everyone decided that the mouse gnawing on the matches had caused the fire.”(Project Heritage, 252.)
Kickapoo school was featured in an article by the Geary County Soil Conservation District as one of the rural points of interest in Geary County. They point out that the poem “School Days” by John Greenleaf Whittie describes an old one-room school that is sagging with age, has initials carved in walls, and desks with scars from raps of pointer or ruler; it describes the feeling that the children left behind in the schoolhouse, slowly entering with dread of the day, but running out later, excited about play.
 The conservation district said of Kickapoo in response that “the only thing running through this school yard now are rows of last year’s milo stubble,” not children, “The door still is worn and the floor may sag but if they do it is from the weight of baled hay, not from current school function or furniture.”(The Daily Union, February 7, 1969). 
If you’re driving through the county and you pass a one-room school sometimes it’s easier to hear the raucous laughter of children playing or the meticulous recital of multiplication tables flowing across the fields from the old building than the whisper of the wind, and the silence of the land and the old limestone building.
If you have memories to share about the one-room school you attended please contact the Museum to share those stories. Or you can write them down yourself and send them in to PO Box 1161, Junction City, KS or email
This is Kickapoo School in the early years of Joint District 29. This is probably the class photo. We do wonder if the dog belonged to one of the students, or if he just wandered into the photo, a canine photobomb.

Kickapoo School as it looks in 2014.