Over the weekend we took our house-guest, Glenda, for a visit to a limestone one-room schoolhouse near Strong City, Kansas. The Lower Fox Creek School is located on the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve where we regularly visit for sunrise or sunset pics of the prairie and where the bison herd is located. So we’ve been here many times, just not when the school is open, so it was a treat for us to be able to get inside.
A very nice park ranger greeted us warmly as we entered the school and told us all about the history of the place.
In 1878 the Lower Fox Creek community decided they needed their own school. A local rancher, Stephen F Jones donated the land, and a local stonemason built the school of limestone from local quarries.
The school was completed in 1882, and the first school term was in 1884.
The teacher’s monthly salary was $35 per month. Teachers were held to a strict code of rules and behavior:
(If you’re having trouble reading this, click HERE)
Some of these rules make sense for the time period, but the one about no “loitering in town ice cream stores“, or the one where male teachers can’t “get shaved in a barber shop” are completely baffling to me. Why ever not??
Anywho, the average enrollment in the early years of the school was 19 students,
but by the final years the enrollment was down to 4 students.
After the school closed in 1930, the building reverted back to the ranch, and it was used to store hay or as a bunkhouse. A tornado took off the roof and broke the windows out sometime in the 50s or 60s.
But in 1968, the old school’s fortunes changed when a grassroots effort was made to restore it to its former glory of 1882. Repairs were made inside and out, the interior was scrubbed clean, the desks and chairs were installed,
and a new flagpole was erected outside.
And in 1974, the school was placed on the National Register of Historic places. Then in 1996 the school along with nearly 11,000 acres of tallgrass prairie was acquired by the National Park Service, and today a partnership of the Park Service and The Nature Conservancy manages the property.
And every April local schoolchildren can experience what it was like to attend a one-room schoolhouse in the 1880s. Students dress in period appropriate attire, carry lunch-pails, walk to the school across the prairie, and then spend a day at the school having lessons in subjects such as reading, spelling, math, science and history. They also get a recess and lunch period. For more info, click HERE.
For more information about the Lower Fox Creek School, click HERE to read the National Register application from 1974.
And a bonus today: Are you smarter than an 8th grader from 1895? Click HERE to find out. (scroll down to the 8th Grade Equivalency Test)
I took the test and I know those 1895 kids are way smarter than me. How about you?