Peoria #14

Section 12, Township 17, Range 20E. Deed 58-539, from Pheby Rich, 7 Sep 1882, for consideration of $50, Peoria city lots 1 thru 8, Block 105 in City of Peoria.

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From the “Scratcher” or notebook of Superintendent of Public Education Philetus Fales.

July 9, 1868:  “With partners interested, adjusted boundaries between district 14 & 36.  With Sup’t ?? perfected programme for Teachers Institute for August and listed to alleged grievances per district 5 & 19.”

Dec. 14, 1868:  “Correspondence with School Boards about text books.  Also conference with officers of Dist. 14 & 9 about school difficulties.”

Jan 4, 1869:   “Visited Peoria, & conferred with the School Board & citizens about their school interests.  Found a select school in operation.  But as the district at the Annual Meeting voted down the tax, they have no public school.”

Feb. 5, 1869:   “One half day with clerk of dist. 14 at Co. Clerk’s office to adjust boundaries three years in dispute.”

Feb 20, 1869:   “Spent one half with school board from Peoria at Co. Clerk’s to ascertain boundaries, &c.  Also other miscellaneous business.”

Oct 28th, 1869, revisited Nov. 23:   “[Term began] Sept. 27th.  Six months.  L.D. Kibbe, teacher.  School still small.  Visited Oct. 28, revisited Nov. 23.  School full, but backward.”

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 August, 1991.

 Peoria School, District 14, was located in southeast Peoria, which is six miles east of Ottawa on  K-68 and 2 ½ miles south.

Peoria was named for Baptiste Peoria, leader of the Peoria Indian tribe. The first settlers arrived there in 1854 and the first rock school was built the following year by Timothy O’Neil and plastered by David Johnson. Later the school was used as a blacksmith shop.

Jacob Sumstine, who arrived in Peoria in 1857, and who built a store there, was Franklin County Superintendent of Schools from 1864 until 1868 and helped to organize several school districts. He also served as a probate judge and register of deeds.  While serving as township assessor, he walked the entire county to perform his duties.

In 1882, land was purchased for $50 from Pheby Rich (who signed the deed with an X) for a second school building, also built of rock. Board members at that time were A.R. Jones, George Evans and W.B. Cusick.

Peoria, according to the Kansas State Gazetteer—1885, “is situated on a high bluff of the Marais Des Cygnes River, about seven miles east of south Ottawa, and commands an extensive view in all directions. It dates its beginning from 1857, when the lands of the Pinkeshaws, Weas and Peorias, of which it was a part, were put upon the market.

Albert Johnson settled upon the present site and opened a store. In 1859 Peoria contested successfully for the county seat, and was declared such by the county board, but was finally rejected in the courts. The first election was held in Peoria in the fall of 1857 (with only one democrat voting). Peoria has two churches, a good schoolhouse and one store. Its general appearance is that of a town which has seen its best days.”

Juanita (Anderson) Evans, RFD 2, reports that a new frame school, with two rooms, was built in 1916. A high school was established in one room, but it met with little success. The first teacher was Odena Detwiler, and the first students were Cecil Detwiler, Elza Morgan, Ida and Joe Taylor. These were the only students ever to graduate from Peoria High School.   Classes later were cut back to the 10th year.

According to Mrs. Evans, “I remember in winter my dad, Earl Anderson, carried me to school a quarter mile on his back, because the snow was too deep for my short legs. Then he would go back for my brother, Ray Anderson. He’d come back for us when school was out.”

“We had lots of fun in the winter sledding down “Public Well Hill” at recess and noon. We had so much fun that sometimes the teacher would give us extra time at noon.”

Bessie Stewart of Batesville, Ind.. taught at Peoria three different times. She taught high school classes in 1933-34 and in grade school in 1952-53 and 1959-60.

“We had programs and box suppers to raise money for extra supplies, play equipment or for trips. Glenn Ainsworth was our bus driver. Many dogs came to school with the children,” she said.

When Peoria School was closed in 1962, children were sent to Rantoul, but a few years later the district consolidated with Wellsville, USD 289.

Other Peoria teachers include Iva Turner, Foster Evans, Dolly Williams, Bessie James, Lena Adkins, Josephine (McDonald) Strafuss, Mildred (Cornell) Snover, Aileen Hoopes, Mrs. Harry Funk, Sidney Watson and Katherine (Hall) Williams.

Former Peoria students still living in Franklin County include: Mary Sue (Evans) Finch, Esther (Evans) Slavens, G.Ray Evans, Eleanor (Evans) Harrell, Juanita (Anderson) Evans, Kenneth L. Evans, Roberta (Anderson) Elsasser, Cindi (Elsasser) Gentry, Lori (Brown) Rogers, Wesley Brown, Betty (Thomas) Bloomer, Brenda (Bishop) Cox, Bud Bishop, Wanda Lee (Williams) Durbin, Preston Meisel, Jewell (Phillips) Spratt, Eunice (Blunk) Williams, Mildred (Blunk) Somfleth, Loretta (Mundell) Gordon, Eugene and David Finch, Adell and Mike Dean, Leonard Roberts and Phyllis (Mock) Williams.

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