Early District Schools
In 1971 the Chase County Historical Society published Volume IV of their Chase County History series in which they included information on early schools in Chase County. I am grateful for their permission in providing the following information which they had gathered from people who had attended the school or lived in the locality of the school. Many Chase County residents gave valuable help on gathering information for this history. The Chase County Historical Society maintains a file on each school district in their museum in Champion, Nebraska. They welcome any photos or other stories that any person may have to contribute to their collection. The history they provide is not entirely of dates and statistics, but more on what it was like to attend the early schools and the types of buildings used. Records of teachers for the schools in on file in the Chase County Superintendent's Office.
District 1 (Pioneer)
The first school was made of sod. The soddie had 2 x 4's placed vertically on the end of the school. These were attached to each other by wires extending through the ceiling, and were used to keep the walls from pusing outward. There is a picture on file in the Chase County Historical Society Museum. According to the photo the school was still in use in 1894, but the corners were badly rubbed by the range cattle.
One Chase County resident, George Smith, reported that his mother, Lillian Bourne Smith, taught at the pioneer school at $15.00 per month for three months. She paid $2.00 per week for board and room.
The only books used in the school were brought from home. They had benches for seats and a wooden table. There was no register to keep records for attendance. The teacher used a large sheet of paper for her record. When a proper register was purchaed at the cose of the year she was obliged to copy all the information from her records into the register before she could be paid.
In the 1890's the frame school replaced the soddie, according to resident Elva Johnston Dettman. It was built by J. T. Johnston and Thos Standidge. They traveled six miles from Imperial and carried hay for the horse and food for themselves and camped at the school site during the week while they were building the school.
The first sod school house was built in 1887 on SE 1/4 of 16-5-38. Local residents Al Roe, Mr. Bates and Mr. Lane broke sod to make the small school in order that their children could attend school. David Oilvie was the first teacher for a five month term.
The range cattle and the weather soon destroyed the soddy and a new frame school house was built on the northeast corner of the same section in the early 1890's. The first teacher in the frame school was Ella Martha Ruggles (Mrs. James Short).
Resident Nora Handel recalled that there were usually ten or twelve pupils. She said one time they ran out of coal and the children and their teacher went out and picked up cow chips to keep the school warm. On one occasion a prairie fire near the school and the older pupils went to help put out the fire.
Range cattle broke the door of the school down and went through the floor around 1900. According to the story, Literary was held that evening and ALbert handel stoon down in the hole in the broken floor and repeated some jingles of the presidential campaign between McKinley and William J. Bryan.
During a blizzard in 1917 the pupils and their teacher left the school house and reached the Blakeslee home safely where they rode out the storm. In 1926 Theresa O'Brien and her pupils were forced to stay in the school overnight until late the next day.
Mrs. Hubert Brown was the last teacher to teach in District 2, at which time the district was joined to District 41 in Enders.
Research on District 2 was done by Audra Lukheart Appleyard, a former teacher, and additional material was provided by Nora and Rosa Handel.
District #3 (Imperial)
The First school was a small square building which remained a school for lower grades after land was acquired in September of 1887 for a two-story school at Block 1, Burtch's Addition northwest of the Max Hoffmeister property. In a few years an addition was built on the existing property making it a T-shaped building. Part of the old school was used as rooming house for many years, and in 1999 was rennovated and is now a bed and breakfast. In August of 2000 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Place. A brick grade school was built at 6th and Broaday in 1915. It was added to several times, and currently houses the Imperial City Offices.
In 1968 a junior high school was built near the local high school. Imperial had a two year high school until 1915 when they had three years of high school and in 1916 they began a four year high school. This school continued until 1922 when Chase County High, the first in Nebraska, was build of brick. In 1991 a new K-12 school was built in Imperial.
The first sod school house was built in 1888 4 1/2 miles SE of Lamar and was in use until 1898. In 1889 the school board bought corn for furel. In 1898 a small frame building was purchased but it burned before school began and school was held at the A. P. Peterson home for two years.
The second sod school was ready for use in 1901 and was used until 1914 when a frame building was constructed. Chase County resident Orval Schmitt told researchers that the six years he attended the sod school they had midi-winter vacations in Janury and February to escape the harsh winter weather. He told that eight subjects were taught: geography, Nebraska geography, history, spelling, arithmetic, physiology, reading and writing. The palmer method of penmanship and spelling were strongly emphasized.
Some early teachers were Ellen C. Blake Bailey, Minnie McGaughey, Leota Mayo Statz, Hazel Rodabaugh Taylor, May Rodabaugh White, Hazel Peterson, Davidson Smith, Mabel Pterson, and Zillah Smith.
Information on District 4 was furnished in part by Hazel Peterson Kent.
District five was organized sometime before 1920. The pupils before that time attended school in District 40, known as Seward District.
Chase County resident Ira Draper told researchers that he helped to build two sod school houses. He helped construct the first frame school house which was then replaced by another fram building in the summer of 1938.
District 7 (Lincoln)
Resident Essie Wiley Hunt reported that the first school was sod and was located on the NW 1/4 32-5-37. Mrs. Hunt began school when she was four years old in 1984. Others attending at that time were Jay and Phillip Person, Dean, Fern and George Smith, Andrew Kunson, Charlie Singley, Frank, MErle, Willard, Earl and Essie Wiley. Early teachers were Scott Stiman (who taught for $25.00/month), Sadie Monk and Fay Brainard. On the fourth of July 1929 the old school house burned and the district was joined to 41. Audra Lukeart Appleyard provided the research on District 7 for the Historical Society.
District 8 (Bussell Mill)
Resident George Dashofsky said that he attended the sod house school in 1894 when it was newly constructed. The teacher was Charlie Towell, followed by his wife Mrs. Towell. There was a time when there were not enough pupils in the area to have school and the Daschofsky children to the Travis Sod School (District 8) where Mr. Ed Travis was the teacher.
The first school in this district was held in the home of A. S. Allen with Ethel Avise as teacher in Lenox. A frame school was built later 1/2 miles north of the west side of Section 12-7-42. According to George Smith, the last time school was held was in 1904. Allan Davidson said when he was young they had school three months in District 9, then three months in District 75. Due to the early abandonment of this school, another District was formed with the same number.
District 9 (Second)
The District was organized on 12/30/1916 and contained Sections 3 - 10, 18, N 1/2 17, 16, 15, T. 8 Range 39, also Sec. 1-12-13, T.8, R40. The school house was located on NE 1/4 6-8-39 on the J. I. Salsman land, formerly part of the Moreland District. On 1/27/1917 election of officers was held with Frank Kuhns elected Moderator, Frank Whips, Director and Jo Blackman, Treasurer.
The school was named Lone Hill but the pupils renamed it Rattlesnake Hill. Teachers were Lorena Browning, May Cowhert, Pearl Long, Cassie Coakley, Mrs. Goertz, Alta Widger and Lillian Wright.
Stories about the school depict life in a country school. One time Della Blackman went to the outhouse and a rattlesnake came to door and she could not get out. She was forced to call for help and the teacher and other students came to help her. The teacher took down the flag pole and killed the snake.
Another time children were chasing tumble weeds and two of them went further than the others and were late getting back in and had to stay after school.
On 9/1/1953 the school was closed when the District was transferred to District 74 (Perkins County). Research on District 9 (second) was done by May Salsman.
District 10 (Stoney Point)
The first school which was a wood-framed building, stood on a stoney point on the Southeast corner of the SW, of Section 32-7-39 and thus the school received the name Stoney Point. Residents John Mayo and Henry Clay were two of the organizers of theDistrict.
In 1925 the District built a school following plans that were considered necessary to make it a standard school which included having windows all on one side, furnice heat and a library. They also had a well on the grounds. In order to be a standard school, the teacher had to hold a first grade certificate and teach a nine-month term. Information on District 10 was provided by Homer Browning, Jr.
District 11 (Zell)
Zell school was located west of Wauneta, Nebraska. According to a photo in Chase County Historical Society files, Zell was a small wood framed school building. Chase County resident Rosa Handel remembers one year when she was teaching at Zell. It grew very quiet in the room and she turned around when she heard a swishing sound in the room. There a a big bull snake in the school room. She swept it out with the broom and killed it. The number of students in the district dropped to four by 1946 and no school was held after that year.
District 12 (Champion)
The December 9, 1886 issue of the Hamilton Herald newspaper stated, "S. W. Kelly commenced teaching a term of school Monday in the C. M. Kelly building." Mrs. Edson Smith remembers S. W. Kelly as her first teacher, and that parents who had children attending school paid the teacher's salary and purchased books for the students
Other early teachers rememberd by Mrs. Smith were Jennie
Deselms, Mrs. Eva Layon, Elma Kelly, Mr. Lou Rogers, Mr. Dell Fox, Miss McCaron, Miss
Willis, Miss Montgomery and Iva Hayes.
Champion resident Lois Beard recalls that in the late teens Violet Davidson was a teacher and the school had around 65 students. At that time Ms. Davidson persuaded the board to make the school into two rooms and hire another teacher, but they were still crowded into the same area which was aobut 25 x 40 feet.
In 1917 the cement block school building was built from blocks made on the site by James Hoke. In 1968 an addition costing $102,300.00 was added to the school.
This school began in a frame building. The records, as researched by Eva Maddux, showed no school by 1914.
email Linda Banks at FlorenceEm@AOL.com.
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