Ottawa #30

From the “Scratcher” or notebook of the Superintendent of Public Instruction,

Oct. 17, 1867:  “Spent P.M. in colored school, Dist. 30.  Nine pupils present, average attendance 7.”

Oct. 23, 1867:  “Spent A.M. in upper Room Graded School, District No. 30. and P.M. in the Infant School.  Four teachers in the two departments.  School tolerably well classified.  Teachers well informed & energetic.  Pupils cheerful & happy.  Made some suggestions to teachers & talked to pupils.”

Nov. 27, 1867:  “Spent the P.M. in Schools in Dist. 30.  Schools appear to have made good progress.”

Jan. 4, 1868:   “Held Public Examination [for would-be teachers] in school house in Ottawa.  Issued one first class certificate, four second class & four third class.”

Jan. 6, 1868:  “Dist. 30 taught by Miss Miller.  Heard classes in Geog. & Spelling, 1/2 day.”

Jan. 15, 1868:  “P.M. Visited school in Dist. 30–highest grade.  Teacher Rev. Mr. Satchwell assisted by Miss Ricksecker.  90 pupils present.  Discipline excellent.  Pupils cheerful, contented & studious.”

Jan. 21, 1868:  “Visited Primary Department, Dist. 30 this P.M.  80 pupils present.  Miss Ward Principal.  Children making good progress but somewhat noisy.”

Jan. 28, 1868:  “Visited School for black children.  12 present.  Decided progress had been made since last visit.  Two of the lads read better than any I have heard read in the public Schools.  They seemed to excel also in Singing & writing.  After tarrying an hour and a half, went to Miss Hiller’s school.  Order better than on former visit.”

Aug. 25, 1868:  “Organized territory lying around the City of Ottawa into a new District–No. 30–and wrote & posted notices of first meeting.”

(no date):  “Schools commenced Sept. 20th.  Mr. Wheeler, Robt. Detwiler, Watson, Sallie Johnson, Susie P. Norris, Mary L. Churchill, Mrs. Griffin, teachers.”

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. April 9, 1992.

 Following the extinguishment of the Indian title in 1863, Ottawa School District 30 was formed in November of 1864.

The school district was immense and comprised a large area that extended west to the county line. It included most of present day Ottawa, Harrison and Lincoln Townships.

In the winter of 1864-65, just after Ottawa became the county seat and following the Civil War, John Walruff, president of the board of education, hired Mary Ward, for $50 per month, to teach the first organized school for whites, which was supported by donations.

School was to be held in the only large building in town, “Lathrop Hall,” which was located on the northeast corner of Second and Main and owned by Deacon Holt.

It had been moved from Minneola, where it previously had served as the legislative hall. The lower floor was divided into several rooms containing the county offices, a home for C.C. Hutchinson, the Indian agent, and another room housing the only store in town.

The second story was used as a courtroom and also for church services and general meetings. By adding desks and a blackboard, this became a school room also.

The desks were arranged so that all who were considered old enough to use ink faced the teacher. Other pupils had to sit with their backs to the teacher because their desks faced the walls, according to early records.

The moving of the building from Minneola to Ottawa was a tremendous undertaking, accomplished with only horses. Seven streams, as well as the Marais des Cygnes River had to be crossed.

Part of the building later was moved to S.F. Beeler’s residence at 536 Beech. Beeler was a prominent contractor who built the city hall and numerous other buildings around town.

On the opening day of school, to everyone’s surprise, 120 students enrolled. Some were as young as five and others were older than the teacher. A teacher’s assistant was needed and by the end of the first month, Lottie Meyers, one of the students, was chosen.

There were fewer than 50 houses in Ottawa, most located on the west side of Main. Streets and corners were marked on the ground by surveyor stakes and the streets were nearly impassible during rainy weather.

Ottawa was incorporated June 18, 1866. With tax money coming in, a two-story brick school building costing $6,000 and measuring 30 by 50 feet was built on the west side of Walnut between Third and Fourth (west of the present City Hall).

The school opened Oct. 10, 1866 with four teachers. This was Ottawa’s first public school that was supported by taxes.

From 1866 to 1871, the brick building was overflowing and other school rooms were scattered around town. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church at the southwest corner of Fifth and Main was purchased for a school in 1868 and the following year, the Presbyterian Church at Sixth and Cedar was rented for classroom space.

Other classrooms were rented in buildings on West Second and East Second.

In May 1871, a bond issue for a new school building was soundly defeated by voters. One month later the brick school building on the west side of Walnut was condemned as unsafe, five years after it had been built.

For the remainder of the year, classes were transferred to the upper story of the Whetstone Building, which is thought to have been on the northwest corner of First and Main.

After being condemned, the original school building then was used for a fire station for just over a hundred years, until the new station was built in 1973.

In February of 1872, a new bond issue was passed and a new school was built on the location of the present Middle School. It was called Central. It served until Lincoln and Hawthorne schools were built in 1884.

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