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From “The hitching post. . .” column in the Ottawa Herald, a series of articles about early Franklin County schools researched by Bruce Fleming and written by Herald Editor and Publisher Jim Hitch.
This article has been altered from the form it took in the Herald to correct some factual errors. Deborah Barker, FCHS Director
The Moravian Mission School
From Revolutionary War times, the Moravian Church had maintained missions among the Munsees and had accompanied them as they migrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio, then to Canada, and finally, to Kansas. [See People/Native American Emigrants to Franklin County/Swan Creek and Black River Chippewa/ and /Munsee or Christian Indians]
An earlier private, religious school, known as the Moravian Mission, was located about a quarter of a mile west of what became Chippewa School. This was in the heart of the Chippewa and Munsee Reserve in Franklin County. Of all the emigrant Indians which were once living in this county, those groups were never removed to Oklahoma. According to historical records, Moravian Mission was opened Aug. 19, 1862, and had long been wished for by the Indian tribes.
A building was erected for school and church purposes in 1862, and it could seat 100. It had desks of graduated size, and blackboards. C.C. Hutchinson, the Indian agent, said, “There is no school house in the state better adapted to the purposes for which it is intended.”
The mission was closed in 1905, and the building torn down in the early 1930s. The bell and pulpit were acquired by the Greenwood Church and later the Mission’s bible was given to the Franklin County Historical Society. The Chippewas and Munsees were terminated as tribal entities in 1900, and their land divided among them. As time passed, fewer and fewer Indians lived on the former reserve, by their own choice.
Chippewa School #98
Chippewa School, District 98, was located five miles west of the intersection of US-59 and 23rd Street, on the north side of the intersection. The school was organized and built in 1902. John Elder, Ottawa RFD 3, has an abstract that shows that the Chippewa schoolhouse was built shortly before 1903.
Grace (Spooner) Rose, Wellsville, who has compiled much Indian history, reported that one year “Chippewa School was represented by four Indian tribes, the Munsee, Chippewa, Cherokee and Kickapoo. There was also an Eskimo child who had been brought from Alaska by a missionary, Edith Kilbuck, two Mexican children whose father worked on the railroad at Richter, and the children of a black family who lived next to ours (the Frank Spooners).” No other Franklin County school became such a melting pot.
The school continued to serve the district until 1961, when it consolidated with Greenwood, District 39, three miles west. Della White was the teacher at Chippewa when it closed.
The schoolhouse was moved to the Greenwood site, attached to that school and used as a kitchen for the hot lunch program until Greenwood closed in 1968. The building continued to serve as a community center.
Memories of Chippewas and Munsees on the Reserve
According to Bruce Fleming, “The last full-blood Indian in the county was Cappy McCoons(e), who lived 2 1/2 miles south of Richter. I remember his going through Richter in his buggy on his way to the Ottawa market sale.”
“Gene Spooner, who was of Indian descent, took me hunting and fishing. Nearly all the people of Indian descent whom I knew as a kid, the Deckers, Viexes, Spooners, Slankards, McCoonses, Bittenbenders and Lantises have disappeared from the Chippewa area. We could hear the (Chippewa) school bell at Richter, nearly three miles away, when conditions were right.”