From the “Scratcher” or notebook of Superintendent of Public Instruction Philetus Fales:
Dec. 30, 1867: “Visited school in Dist. 16 under charge of Mr. Edgar. Best school yet found in the County. 30 pupils present.”
Dec. 28th, 1869: “[Term began] Dec. 6. Ephrain Pearson. 3 mo. Visited Dec. 28th. Wilson’s Readers. 50 pupils. Teacher 2nd class. Slow?
Old Rantoul School District 16
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. (Date Unknown)
The last schoolhouse for Old Rantoul, District 16, which was organized in 1857, was located a mile south of and a mile east of Rantoul on the northeast corner of the intersection.
The first settler in the Rantoul area, in 1857, was Hendrick Kincaid, the great uncle of Ruth Kincaid, 1043 S. Ash. The second was Daniel Cutler, who arrived in the area in 1855.
“Rantoul Kansas History” was published in the 1925 Rantoul High School annual. According to a copy provided by Ruth Kincaid, trees were scarce, except along streams, but Cutler got some logs and sawed them into boards to build the first frame house, which cost a total of $l.25.
That same summer a shingle factory was opened in Osawatomie and shingles were brought to Rantoul to roof “the best house” in the community. Other dwellings were log cabins. While 50 years ago, the cabins for sale these days are light years ahead of those back in the 1850s to 1860s it goes to show that the construction remains the same.
In 1855 also, John Brown, the anti-slaver, built a log cabin about a miles southeast of the present Rantoul, and his brother-in-law, Orson Day, occupied the claim the following year. About the same time (William Clarke) Quantrill, the man who sacked and burned Lawrence, settled on a claim across the river, about 1 ¼ miles northeast and taught school for one term at Stanton.
In 1856, the first school was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Orson Day. Mrs. Day was John Brown’s sister. She was the teacher and she operated a “subscription school,” where parents paid a fee for each child who attended.
The school was near a settlement called “Reedsville” which no longer exists. Later the school was moved to “Billy the Blacksmith’s house. It is believed the first church sermon in the area was delivered in the Day residence by a Rev. Adair, a Presbyterian minister who was John Brown’s step brother-in-law. Services were held monthly, and anyone who had a worship background may have been tempted to attend, particularly if there was enough coverage surrounding the church services at the time.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1859, in the center of the section a quarter mile southeast of Rantoul and was also a subscription school.
Several families furnished the logs, others money for shingles and flooring.
The school measured 20 by 20 feet. A low shelf was built around the room, attached to the walls and served as desks for the students who sat on benches. They faced the wall when doing work and faced the center of the room for recitation and other activities. Attendance sometimes reached 60.
The school was demolished during an 1869 storm, but a new one was quickly built a mile south and a mile east of Rantoul. It was used until a new one was built at the same location.
According to records furnished by the Henry Carters, 116 S. Main, a deed shows that an acres of land was purchased from Byron U. Reed for $20 on May 2, 1870. At the first recorded school board meeting Aug. 8, 1878, it was decided to offer four months of school, to begin April 1, 1879. $1 per month was allocated to clean the room.
At an 1895 school board meeting a contract was let to James Caylor for firewood at cost of $1.10 per cord for walnut to be dry and mostly split.
There were 41 children in District 16 in 1898, and the district’s valuation was $440,884.
On June 30, 1904, a special meeting was held during which it was decided to build a new school for $900. Beams and sills had to be of bur oak and other dimension lumber of yellow pine. The siding was to be of redwood and all outside finish of cypress or white pine.
Norene (Spears) Hobbs, 822 W. 6th, a former student, remembers the last teacher, Maude Eneihen, who taught many years at Old Rantoul and was known for maintaining control.
But, one day, she was having some trouble with the kids, so she announced that the next one to act up would have to sit on her lap. Johnny Martin, an eighth-grader, ended up on her lap and was sitting there when the county superintendent of schools walked in unannounced. It is said she never used that punishment again.
The school was closed in 1957, and Claude Myers auctioned the building and contents in March 1960. The building was bought by Floyd Moldenhauer and later burned.
The last students were Leonard Bickerstaff, Ellsworth and Leonard Burnett, David, Larry and Terry Evinger, Billy, Robert and Bertha Timblin and Marilyn and Phyllis Stevenson.
Former students still living in the county include: Norma (Gregg) Burgoon, Sam Caylor, Dale Burgoon, Roger and Norma Brockus, Bev (Caylor) Brockus, Bob Caylor, Betty (Ball) Keller, Marilyn (Stevenson) Walthan, Ralph Gruel, Phyllis (Stevenson) Johnson, James Gregg, Dorothy (Gregg) Schultz, Don Higdon, Milford Ball, Norine (Spears) Hobbs, Connie (Caylor) Alexander, Letha Mae (Womble) McCracken, Lucille (Caylor) Carter and Marilyn (Caylor) Stevenson.