District 30 School or Antelope School is located in southern Geary County on Cut Off Road in a stand of evergreen trees that act as a wind break for the little limestone schoolhouse. District 30 was organized in 1877, and classes were held in a frame building about a half mile north of the present day schoolhouse until 1890. According to Roy Swenson the remnants of the stone foundation are still in that location(Project Heritage, 255).
According to the school records, the board for District 30 decided the construction of the stone schoolhouse could not exceed more than $800. The contract to build the school was awarded to Emery Lowery for $765. He had to secure the bond to build it or forfeit the bid to the next lowest bidder, John Rolf. Originally, the stone building had a cupola, which was later removed because it caused a downdraft of smoke into the building. For accessory buildings, Jas. T. Freeman was awarded a contract to build two privies “complete in a workman-like manner for $20.”(Project Heritage, 256). One privy, not sure if it’s the original, is still on the property looking a little worse for wear.
In the early years, with limited funding, country schools often had very little in the way of provided learning materials. Schools typically had wall maps, a globe, and sometimes a library. In 1892 a library was purchased for Antelope at a cost of $44. “Mrs. Swenson remembered the library well and said that it consisted of a set of books called ‘Rolla’s Tour In Europe’”(Project Heritage, 256). Despite the limited materials the students learned a lot. Teachers could provide their own books to teach from, and people in the district could add their own books to the school’s library as well.
“Children then had few of the advantages enjoyed by the children of today, but at the same time they had fewer distractions and thus had more time to concentrate, so they did learn, they learned well. They also respected and obeyed the teacher, which is a plus factor in any school,” Flossie Buckley Swenson, the teacher at Antelope in 1921, said of the school.
Like today, once that last school bell of the day rings, students flooded out the doors to freedom. Sometimes it was just the feeling of freedom walking home from school or talking with friends, before they had to work on the farm, but it was a taste of freedom nonetheless. Students also enjoyed their freedom by lingering on the grounds to play with friends. This, in the days of horse drawn buggies, could be disastrous, as some Amthaur girls found out.
Viola and Ada Amthaur drove to and from school in a horse drawn buggy driven by Ada. The horse, like those at many other country schools, was kept in the barn or a shelter until it was time to go home at the end of the day. Ada would hitch the horse and buggy and pick up the rest of the children. “One evening [while] they decided to play a bit, the horse, buggy, lunch pails and books started for home.”(History of the Andrew Amthauer Family, 71). The children all had to walk home, the horse, I’m sure, was eager to get home to his feed and was not going to wait around all hitched up and loaded down while the children got to play.
It’s important to note, that while children from yesteryear are often described as better behaved than children of today there were still discipline problems. The teach was often the one that handled the discipline of the students whether it be with a reprimand, an order to stand in the corner, assigning the student to beating erasers, or the dreaded paddle discipline was typically handled in-house.
However, as we discovered in the school records for Antelope, sometimes the Board of Education was called in to handle discipline problems. “At one special meeting the director [of the school board] was ordered to go to the school and suspend for 20 days one pupil, ‘or two if necessary’ disobeying the rules and regulations. Apparently this did not completely solve the problem for again the next year, upon complaint of the teacher, the board met to investigate disobedience of the rules and agreed that the pupil must come before the school, ‘acknowledge that he had done wrong and was sorry for it and ask the teacher is he could come back—or stay out of school for ten days and then ask the teacher and the school board if he could come back”(Project heritage 257).
Antelope School was open for 79 years. In June of 1956 a vote led to the annexation of Antelope School to Joint District #73, Dwight Grade School in Morris County. The land, school, piano, and out buildings were given to Liberty Township and it was used as a polling place and meeting hall.
Reunions for all the past students and teachers were held at the School until 1971. Families who’d attended the school gathered for socializing, picnicking, and generally a good time. Often teachers were recognized, and the family with the most members present received a prize. According to Flossie Buckley Swenson, the Soderberg and Erickson families won that prize the most often.
If you or a family attended Antelope School, or any other Geary County country school and have memories, papers, or photos to share please contact the museum. GearyHistory@gmail.com or785-2385-1666, or you can just stop be. We’d love to hear from you.
Antelope School Students 1922
Front Row: Claud Larson, Don Reid, Don Knutson, Arthur Larson, Alvin Amthaur, Jim Quinn; 2nd Row: Mary Quinn, Doris Knutson, Catherine Freeman, Harvey Nelson, Jerry Quinn, Bernard Quinn; 3rd Row: Margaret Freeman, Vida Amthaur, Selma Vinberg, Helen Knutson, Rosa Amthaur, Gladys Larson; Back Row: Helen Vinberg, Ada Amthaur, Mildred Quinn, Flossie Buckley (teacher), Mary Hiveley, Clayton Shepherd, Carl Vinberg