Prairie View #54 aka “Hard Pan”

Section 7, Township 19S, Range 19E

link to locator map

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

July 27, 1868:  “Organized District 54.  Wrote to Clerk of 29 to proceed against old Treasurer unless he should settle up his account with the district and hand over moneys in his possession.”

Dec. 22, 1868:   “Visited school in 54.  Day very bleak and cold–only five pupils present.  Miss Rigg, teacher, doing a good work.  Later tried to reconcile conflicting interests between 26 & 54.”

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.”

Nov. 19, 1869:  “[Term began] Sept. 20.  Mr. L.H. Brown.  Visited Nov. 19.  Good school.  New frame school house.  23 enrolled.  Average attendance good.”

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 27 February, 1992.

 Prairie View School, District 54, also was known as “Hard Pan.”  The district was organized in 1868 and the school closed in 1952. It was located five miles west and a quarter mile north of Richmond on the west side of the road.

The area encompassing District 54 may have changed more than any other district in Franklin County. The school house has been gone many years and there are few houses left as reminders to what was once a very active community.

Ed Platt of Richmond recalls that sometime after the school had closed, a pasture was being burned off and a spectator saw a rabbit whose fur had caught fire. It ran toward the school and a short time later the schoolhouse was destroyed by fire.

Betty Garber of Richmond was a member of the school board at one time and recalls chaperoning Prairie View students on a trip to Ottawa where they toured the Pepsi Cola bottling plant, The Ottawa Herald and either the Martha Washington or Drake’s Bakery.

Mary Jane (Powelson) French, Garnett RFD 1, attended Prairie View during the early thirties and taught there four years during World Was II. “We had lots of picnics and I especially remember when big dust storms blew up from the west or south. School would be let out early so that we could get home before the dust got too bad.”

Jim Cook, 1109 N. Mulberry, recalled that he and Barbara Howard were the only students one year, he thinks about 1935.

When the school was closed, it was listed as a joint school, since part of the district extended into Anderson County.

The last teacher was Mabel Chandler and the last students John Collins, Edward Platt and Gene Platt.

Members of the last school board were Mrs. Garber, Jennie McDaniels and Lonnie Platt. Franklin County has a large variation of landscape and soil conditions, and District 54 was located on the north end of a large area commonly known as “The Flats,” whose characteristic was an undesirable condition called hard pan.

The county’s two extremes are in close proximity, the flatness of Prairie View and the hills of Chippewa District 98 only 11 miles to the north.

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