Central #26

Section 29, Township 18S, Range 19E.

Central #26


Central School students Back row: Berdeau (Hoffman) Robinson, teacher; Gladys (Roberts) Huddleston, Lee Martin, Julia Hazeltine, Thelma (Bones) Pearson. Front row: verna (Bones) New, Wayne Martin, Esther Samsel, Dale Bones, Ellis Martin, Charles New, Margaret Jennings, Lee Roberts, Eugene Martin

From the “Scratcher” or notebook of Superintendent of Public Instruction Philetus Fales:

Sept. 19, 1868:  “Ascertained from Co. Clerk’s Tax Roll for 1867 & previous proportion of taxes paid for all purposes by that portion of old dist. 26, still remaining 26, and that part cut off and now numbered 54.  Ratios as three to one–according to which basis surplus funds, if any, and school house to be divided.”

Dec. 21, 1868:   “Visited School in Dist. 26–Mr. Shepard teacher.  School Board visited with me.  School in fair condition only.  Appraised building and furniture at Fifty five ($55).  Rode then to Dist 54 and spent the night.”

Jan 16, 1869:   “Conferred with parties from 54 & 26 with petition & remonstrance in reference to boundaries.  Parties stubborn, and left to renew the fight.  Also met Mr. Pickerell & neighbors on subject of new district.  Do not wish to be attached to territory west of Eight Mile [Creek].”

Jan 19, 1869:   “Second call from parties in 26 & 54, and find abrupt dismissal–petition & remonstrance tabled.  Mr. Hawkins with remonstrance against vote on bonds in his district.  After patiently listening to his tale, gave him a copy of school laws.”

June 23, 1869:  “Visited School 26.  Miss Carl: 22 pupils.  No blackboard.  No register.  Teacher not very efficient.”

Nov 24, 1869:  “[School commenced] Nov. 8 for 4 months.  L.T. Johnson, teacher.  1st class.  Visited Nov. 24.  24 enrolled.”

link to locator map

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 appeared 8 August, 1991.

 Central School, District 26, had more than one location according to “The Gentry Saga,”  a family history written by Earnest Gentry in the early 1870s, and furnished by Claudia Payne, 1031 No. Cedar:

“A new schoolhouse, called Central District  26 has been built and the old “Ivy” schoolhouse of logs has been torn down. The log building was located about one mile northwest of the new schoolhouse.  

“New adjustments were made to accommodate the large influx of families, many with seven or eight children of school age. At one time Central had an enrollment of 60 and an average attendance of 48. The old log schoolhouse was on Tom Ivy’s place., one of the first settlers on Middle Creek, coming about the same time as the Dietrich family, downstream near Ohio City.

According to Jim Reekie of Princeton, “Until 1943, the schoolhouse sat in the middle of the section” (2 ½ miles southwest of Princeton). It was moved to its last location  (dot on map) by Reekie and Wayne Martin, who used Caterpillar tractors.  “The hedgerows on each side of the road created a problem and the limbs had to be held back in many places,” Reekie said.

Lilly Ruth Wilhite, 510 S, Cherry, was the teacher about that time and said a telephone and electricity were installed when the school was moved.

Blanche (Sanders) Lamb, who with her husband, Harold, ran the Lamb Funeral Home in Ottawa for many years, died in January. After reading The Herald on July 12, 1990, she asked her daughter Roberta (Lamb) Whiting, 1423 S. Hickory, to give Bruce Fleming the following information, which she had recorded:

“My father, J.B. Sanders, a construction contractor, living in Princeton, built the last schoolhouse about 1900. After I had completed two years of high school at Princeton, at the age of 17, I  was hired to teach Central School. I had about 25 pupils in nine grades and was paid 40 dollars per month.

“I remember the president of the school board, Mr. Martin, promised me he would vote for me to teach if I would promise to teach penmanship every day. I promised and was hired.

“Mr. Martin was the father of Fred, Charles, Clate Martin and Nina (Martin) Blough. (Nina Blough now lives at 1419 S. Hickory.) Fred and Charles had the Martin Tractor Co. in Ottawa, which is now  Martin Tractor Co. of Topeka.

“I lived with the Tharp family and walked 1 ¼  miles to school and paid $10 per month for room and board. Still vivid in my memory are the times, in very cold weather, when I left the stove all filled with wood and ready to light the next morning, only to find that a tramp had come in during the night and started the fire and moved on without replenishing the wood supply.”

There are several references, from the early days in Franklin County, that the school boards left instructions that schools be left unlocked so travelers could seek shelter if needed.

Vera (Bones) New, of Paola, attended Central and still has the small reed basket she won, as a second grader, for first prize in a school crafts contest.

Opal Nitcher was the last teacher at Central, which closed in the spring of 1955. Her pupils that year included Jerry Stevenson,     Earl Stevenson, Ardelia (Stevenson)  Billings, Donny Cook, Barbara Cook, Billie Burgoon, Pattie (Gorton) Burgoon, Peggy Martin, Otis Brock, Larry Reekie, Phillip Martin, Carol (Richardson) Reekie,  Don Martin and Pat (Martin) Gretencord.

Among other Central teachers were Anna Williams, Birdine Hoffman, Mona (Sweet) Burdock, Helen Good and Irene (Nitcher) Shomber.


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