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From the “Scratcher” or notebook of Superintendent of Public Instruction Philetus Fales:
Feb. 8, 1868: “Saturday. This afternoon examined Rosa Beeson from Miami County, engaged to teach school in Dist. 19. The people of that Dist. had not found a teacher earlier and they wished school to commence next Monday, urged an examination.”
Mar. 31, 1868: “Divided district No. 19–on petition–drew plats, issued call for meetings, etc., etc. District agreed upon division, but very difficult to reconcile upon any dividing line. Petitions, remonstrances, and delegations not a few, but at last unanimity. Advised against division, as in favor of larger districts.”
Apr. 21, 1868: “Visited School Dist. No. 19. Commendable progress made by the pupils especially in Spelling and Reading. Order excellent.”
July 9, 1868: “. . . listened to alleged grievances per district 5 & 19.”
Jan 28, 1869: “Also visited in dist 19. D.R. Wathing teacher. Rather moderate. 52 enrolled.”
July 19, 1869: “Appointed Morris Mellem director of School Dist. No. 19.”
Nov. 5th, 1869: “[Term began] Nov. 1st. 4 months. Miss Irene Smith. Lessons too long. Wilson’s Readers. In the hands of such teachers failure. Visited Nov. 5th. Revisited Jan 26th. School doing excellently. Teacher diligent & capable.”
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.)
Christian Ridge School, District 19, was situated 1 ½ miles north and a mile west of Lane on the northwest corner of the intersection. It was organized during the Civil War, in the early 1860s, and closed in the spring of 1955.
Fern (Hills) Lee, 509 Willow Lane, reports that “My grandfather was a member of the school board for many years. Later, when my father was clerk, the warrant for the teacher’s salary was written by him. His children carried it to school and gave it to the child of the treasurer who took it home to him. He (the treasurer) then wrote a check, which his child returned to the teacher each month.
“The pay was $35 per month and included all janitor work. Sometimes the teacher could con the older boys into helping.”
Sunday school and church also was held in the schoolhouse.
“At one time,” Lee recalled, “seven surrounding school districts had three-act plays, which they exchanged. This furnished programs for the year’s community meetings, except for Christmas and the last day of school.
Danny and Henry Dean Harkins, twin sons of Mrs. Ilo (Carter) Harkins, 721 S. Cedar, were among the 15 pupils from four families who attended Christian Ridge when it closed in 1955.
The family moved several times and they also were among the last students at Old Rantoul, Chestnut Grove and Lane when they closed.
The schoolhouse was moved about a half mile and remodeled into a home now occupied by Homer and Bernice Russell.
A sign on the front reads, “1888—District 19.” The date indicates that an earlier schoolhouse may have existed. An acre of land donated by the Baffrey family was returned to the farm when the school closed. Orville, Ida, Lena, Clarence and Billie Jean Baffrey all attended Christian Ridge School.
Helen Belt of Lane said that entertainers from Osawatomie came to community meetings and that a hat was passed at the end of the program. The entertainers were Bob Martin, Bill West and Caleb Burns.
“My husband, Bob, rode a horse to school in the late 1920s and early 1930s, which he kept in the horse barn. A vivid memory is when he charged his horse through a big snowdrift, only to discover someone had piled brush there and made it appear to be a snowdrift. He and the horse rolled over and over, but miraculously, they weren’t hurt.”
Bill Robinson, the husband of Claudine, a teacher at Christian Ridge in the 1940s, wrote a 16-verse poem about the school. Elaine (Hills) Dyer, Ottawa RFD 1, furnished this verse:
“It’s a school very dear, to everyone here, a school of which we are proud. It’s a pleasure to know it, and I hope we can show it, a school with great interest endowed.
“The playgrounds about it, (there no one can doubt it) ten thousands of pleasures may bring. A quality high, that no money can buy, the envy of even a king.”
Other teachers at Christian Ridge were Maude Bray, Vada (Nofsinger) Mack, Ambrose Whytal, Frances Lefferson, Olive Brown, Belle Lehew, Verna Blunk, Luicile Kinder, Allie Hyton and a Mrs. Bircksfield, who was the last teacher.
Some school board members were Dennis Harkins, Floyd Carter, Newton Doman, Ansel Hills, Ray Belt and Louis Needham.
The last students to attend the school were Bill and Virgil Jones, Ralph, Darrel, Wanda, Roy and Ray Taylor, Norma and Katy Huston, Valeria, Danny, Henry, Dean, Phillip, Davy Joe and Dixie Lee Harkins.
Former students still living in Franklin County include Bob Belt, Elaine (Hills) Dyer, Elmo Shepherd, Dorothy (Hills) Chrisjohn, Fern (Hills) Lee, Clifford Hettler, Delores (Jones) Needham, Katy (Huston) Cunningham, Marilyn (Johnston) Waddle, Mildred (Carter) Higdon and Faith (Betz) James.