From the “Scratcher” or notebook of Superintendent of Public Instruction Philetus Fales
Nov. 19, 1867: “Visited Dist. No. 3. 20 pupils present. Building shabby, but they are about to move into a good frame house just finished. Teacher Mr. T. Jones. Dined at Mr. Foster’s. Spent the night at M. Merchant’s.”
June 12, 1868: “Visited schools in district 3 and 32. Miss Naria (?) in 3 has an average attendance of 35. School doing well. Miss Noss in 32 has an average of 25. She also teaches a good school.”
Dec 7, 1869: “[School term began] Nov. 15. G.H. Edgeworth, teacher. 3 months. Order not the best. School full.”
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. No date given.
Merchant School, District 3, was the first school in Kansas to be rated a “standard school.”
According to the Franklin County Superintendent’s Review of October, 1915, “A standard school means an ideal school or, as some may say, a ‘topnotcher.’ The standard of any school is no higher than dispositions of the patrons and teacher, so it is necessary to interest the patrons as well as the pupil in the idea of making your school standard and get their cooperation and you can make what you want.”
Merchant School was located approximately a mile south of the Douglas County line and three mile east of US-59 (see locator map). When it was built is not known.
The building was destroyed by fire in February 1944, following a community meeting. It was believed the fire was started by a cigarette. A newspaper account declared, “Patrons said that following the community meeting in the schoolhouse Friday night the fire in the oil stove was put out and that only a very small fire was in the heating stove.
“It was rumored, however, that a small group stayed on to play cards after the meeting and that most of the smoking was done at that time.”
Some thought there was a law against smoking in the schoolhouse, but County Superintendent Ethyl Seymour said she could find no law against it.
After the fire, the school year was finished at Valley Chapel Church, one mile south and a half west of the school location.
Allen Vick, Wellsville RFD 2, a former pupil who furnished much of this history, recalls one humorous event.
“On a cold day a brother and sister brought their lunch together in a half-gallon bucket, and put it on the furnace to warm. But they didn’t loosen the lid. All at once the lid blew off and their lunch was on the ceiling, on George Washington’s picture and all the desks in the vicinity.”
The last teacher at Merchant was Laura Jean (Hamilton) Baker, 1211 S. Main. The last pupils were Robert Dunn, Roderick Dunn, Carl Kersley, Bill Barnes, Leon Barnes, Fern Smith, Bill Yakle, Patty Yakle, Jack Yakle, Anitha Burroughs, Barbara Burroughs and Richard Dunn.