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 schools or lived in the locality of the schools. 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.
Residents Jacob Roller, John Brady and Mrs. John (Lola) Brady were organizers of this district. District 14 had the largest frame building in the area and was used for various entertainment and Church on Sunday. The Lutherans held church in the building until 1910. A Union Sunday School was held in the school building after the Lutherans stopped using the church. Fundraisers to benefit the school were held in the building, including box suppers, with suppers selling as high as $65.00, and medicine-type shows.
Literaries were held in the building and were well attended by people from as far away as Hiawatha to attend debates. There was a pond on a near-by farm owned by the Roller family and the students would ice skate there in winter. The school had a barn and many of the students drove a horse and buggy to school.
When the Immanuel Lutherans of Champion Valley consolidated with the Zion Lutheran Church of Imperial in 1949, they sold their church building and the parochial school building to District 14. The district was joined by Districts 35, 34, 38 and 69 and school was held in both buildings. Two teachers were employed at that time. Research was provided by Ruth Roller Ahrens on District 14.
District 15 (Hill Top)
District 15 was organized about 1890 and a sod school house was built on th eastern edge of the E 1/2 647-40. One of the first teachers was Miss Lillian Bourn, who later became Mrs. A. E. Smith. She taught a term of three months beginning in 3/31/1890 for a salary of $22.50. Rosa Deselms (Mrs. Dave Lee) taught around the fall of 1895, or spring of 1896.
In 1909 the condition of the schoolhouse was described as poor, and therefore a site was selected for a fram building to be erected. The building was to be 16 x 20 feet in size, have a cement foundation, four windows and one door. The new frame building was apparently used for the term of 1911-1912. Several former students of the school stated that the school never reached the 16 x 20 size. Mrs. Ralph Smith described the size as 10 x 12 feet, and another resident stated that it was 10 x 14. It was small and one student reported that it so crowded that in order to open the door two students who sat in a double seat in the back row had to get up and move their seat to let someone in or out of the room. Former student Mary Kohl Mullanex reported that she remembered an enameled water pail and dipper and wash basin. She said that the water was carried by the children from a nearby home until about 1924 when a well was dug on the school grounds.
Records show that in 1920 the condition of the school was again described as poor and that there were five books in the school libary at that time valued at a total of $1.00.
In 1923 a new schoolhouse ws built for use the next year. Miss Gertrude Hier was the first teacher in the new school. It was the first 9-month term in the school. The new school was larger and had an entrance hallway and two cloakrooms. All doors opened outward.
School continued at District 15 until 1955, at which tie the district was dissolved and consolidated with parts of neighboring Districts 3, 4, 10, 17 and 66 to form a new District 66.
The District 16 school house was built around 1889 of sod. It was 16 square feet with a center peak roof covered with sod. It had new seats for the students and a teacher's desk.
One early teacher was a Miss Kirgry, and another woman who later married resident P. W. Scott, a lawyer living in Imperial.
The school was noted for holding literary meetings and people came from Imperial and as far away as Holyoke to crowd into the building for the events.
Records show that no school was held in the building after 1895. At that time the desks and teacher's table were taken out and school was held in the James Davidson home. Research on District 16 was done by George Smith.
District 17 (Goddard School)
District 17 was known as the Goddard School and was located on the SW 1/4 of Section 11, Township 6, North, Range 40. Will and Ira Goddard, early homesteaders in Chase County, helped organize the school. The first building was sod. Resident Loree Towell told the Historical Society that his father taught in the district when it was a sod school house with a dirt floor. They had a dance to raise money for the district to buy books for the students.
Resident Aire Goddard Banks, (daughter of Ira Goddard, and wife of John Banks who at one time owned and operated the Champion Mill) recalled that the cattle rubbed the corners of the sod school building off and that the corners had to be rebuilt each fall. Mrs. Banks recalled that eventually the school had a weed floor.
When they decided to build a frame building it was moved in from another district. Nelson Smith helped with moving the building and sustained a broken leg wihle working on the project.
School District 19
E. E. Widger was one of the organizers of this school, and the school became known as the Widger School. School was held in the Widger home . Elsie Malcolm Tallman was the teacher at that time. The school moved from the Widger home to a frame building. Belle Mead taught six years and boarded with the Widgers during that time. Martha Einspahr McCurry remembered MRs. Widger and a kind person who would encourage Miss Mead to bring the students to her home for an evening of making candy and popping corn, and then staying the night. District 19 was dissolved at the end of the 1956 school year.
School was held in a frame building which was later moved to a second location. The same building was in use until the school was discontinued in the District. The school had an active Parent Teachers' Association until the school was closed. Some PTA meetings were held with District 19. Resident Mrs. Claney remembered Dr. Rider, Dave Moeker and Neil Gardner as some of the speakers at the meetings. The had a founder's day program each year honoring the founding of the State Organization of the PTA. The program was usually well attended, acording to Mrs. Claney.