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 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.
August Belau was one of the organizers of this District. Bertha Belau Wagner told researchers that the first school was held in the Belau sod house after the Belau family had moved into a frame house. The Lutheran pastor taught at the school, to all children, regardless of their faith. Mrs. Wagner also said that Russell Hammer's wife was one of the first teachers in the frame school building which was eventually built SW of the Belau home. Martha Einspahr McCurry reported that Sam Hammers and Bryan Marshall were also early residents of the District. Her father, Bill Einspahr, moved to District 19 in 1909. This District joined with District 3 when consolidation began.
The frame school house for this district was located near the Imperial Light Plant. It replaced a sod school house which was located one mile east on the Frenchman River. Some early patrons of the District were Alonzo Cunninghams, McElroys, Fitzgeralds, John Dragoons, Thomas Hayes, Otto Schrecks and William Gleason. William Gleason served as an early School Board Member.
The school usually had around 20 pupils. John Gleason told researchers that Mabel Veach was his first teacher and that Allie Davidson was his second teacher. One of the games that the students played was pump pump pullaway. The students some times searched the ant hills for Indian beads during the noon hour. John Gleason said that he and his siblings walked two miles to school. There was a barn by the school for the horses of those who rode horseback. This District eventually joined District 3.
District 66 (Chase)
In 1899 the original school building was a dugout-out tiled around the outside about 2 feet high with sod. Students used grocery boxes for seats. The school term was for three months. There was not any money for books, so the children shared books that homesteaders had brought with them, and no two books were alike. Martha Towell was the first teacher in the District.
By 1891 the District had a sod school house with plastered walls, wood floor, new desks and a teacher's table. Lillian Bourne (Mrs. A. E. Smith) in the sod school for $30.000 per month. A wood frame school building was eventually acquired.
Mrs. Lucille Long and Loree Towell told researchers that some early teachers were Rosa Deselms Lee, Mrs. Calkins, Frank Freeland, Harry Andrews and Grace Sappington (Mrs. Cap Hayes.)
On April 25, 1955 the District consolidated with District 10 and parts of Districts 8, 4, 15 and 17. The other portions of Districts 17 and 8 consolidated with District 25. The remainder of Districts 15 and 4 joined with District 42. At that time one of the finest country schools in the county was built for the District on Highway 6. They employed two teachers and provided the only hot lunch program in the county. School was still held in the building as late as 1971.
District 69 (Golden Slope)
School in this District was always held in a frame school building, however, it was moved once to the George Watts farm a mile west of the first site. It was never a large school. Mrs. Homer Clements and Leonard Greim told researchers that there were from six to about a dozen students. Some of the families who lived in the District were Dan Benson, Cy Jennings, May Collins and William Bauerle. George Watts moved to the area in 1918. Emma Bauerle Greim reported that her first teacher was Anna Harris followed by Della Jones, Anna Heburt, Florence Rummell and Yula Davis. Pump pump pullaway was a favorite outdoor game and drop the handkerchief was a popular game played indoors. When consolidation began, the District joined District 14, which later joined Imperial District 3.
School in this District began in a frame building. Harold Needham told researchers that his brother Clarence and he started school in the District in 1907. At that time they had 3-month school terms in he fall and 3 months in the spring. At that time there were four students from Charles Browning family:., LeRena, Delmer, Ivan and Elva, twins, and six from the Burtis family: Artie, George, Alfred, Homer, Eva and Alice, and Johnny Moreland and Doris Zeimer. Johnny was older than the other students and sometimes when the weather was bad he would take the Needham children home with him. Harold Needham reported that some of the teachers were Bessie Eagan, Rilla Petersen and Eva Moreland. The school sat in a very sandy spot and had blown out around the building until it was off the ground about two feet. Harold told how students pulled rocks out from around the base of the building until only one rock was holding it from falling. "We wondered who could muster the nerve to pull it out. I don't think I had any more nerve than the others but I told the rest of the kids, if they would get back out of the way, I would pull it out. The school dropped about two feet on that one corner and the floor bowed up in the middle. Harry Cooper, the teacher, came running out and wanted to know what happened. We told him the school fell in a hole." This information was given to the Chase County Historical Society by Harold Needham on February 25, 1970.
The school for this District was located on the SW 1/2 25-6-38 south of the Will Claney arm. Mrs. Wooddell, who homesteaded the quarter, told researchers that she donated the ground and had the small frame building constructed in 1905 in order that her children and the Eby, Ouderkirk and Harve Strange children could attend school. Miss Eve Lines (Mrs. Bill David) became the first teacher. The last year school was held in the building was in 11916. Miss Minta Scherr was teacher at that time. A photo of the school was given to the Historical Society by Mrs. Appleyard, who also provided the research on this District.
District 72 (Spring Valley)
The school for this District was located about seven miles north of Wauneta near the small stream called Spring Creek or Stinking Water. It began in a sod building. Earl Skelton and May Skelton were students at the school in 1899-1900. Katherine L. Bird was the teacher at that time. Elex Hanna and Jasper Skelton were on the school board. Other students were: Flora and Della Hanna, Libie, Ora and Ethel Ditton, Elva Bennie and Dora Lang.
Alta Bailey (later becoming Mrs. Lapp) started teaching in the sod school house on January 3, 1910. She taught at the school for 5 months while living in the Jasper Skelton home. The members of the school board were Jasper Skelton, Elbert Moody and Jack Shelton. All three families lived in sod houses. The sod schoolhouse was kept warm with a coal burning stove in the middle of the room. .Mrs. Alta Bailey Lapp told how the floor was made of plain twelve inch boards with some knot holes. There were two windows on each side measuring about two feet by four feet. There was a deep well at each window because of the thick sod wall. Children would sometimes sit in the wells. The plastered walls were whitewashed, and the ceiling was open, exposing wooden beams. Mrs. Lapp said that she believed the Spring Valley schoolhouse was the last sod school house in Chase County. She taught the last term to be held in the soddie. A new frame schoolhouse was built in the summer of 1910. Students who attended that term were: May Skelton, Helen Skelton, Forrest Nicholson, Bertha Dye, Marrion Dye, Dewey Foye, Mary Skelton, Lenora Moody and Elbert Moody. Mrs. Mary Nothnagel, who was County Superintendent during the Depression years, said that Miss Hattie Drake lived in the school and taught during those times. She told researchers that although the school was small it had a neat appearance. It also contained the teacher's living quarters.
School in this District, Section 16, T. 8, North of Range 40 in Northwest Chase County, began in 1894 in a large room in the home of Whitmacks, a quarter mile northwest of the site of the school that was built at a later time. The first teacher was Mirtie Bird. Her salary was given in a warrant for $25.00 to $30.00 per month. Board and room was about $5.00 monthly. When the school house was constructed in 1894-1895 it was of frame construction. The building faced east, with three windows in the north and south sides. The outbuilding, one side for girls, the other for the boys, had a space to store coal and cob in the middle. A hitching rack was put up to the south of the school house for horses.
Three elected board members governed the District and all texts were provided to the students without charge, including the Harper's books. In addition to classroom instruction, the building was used as a Community Center. There was a Literary Society, spelling bees, and entertainment with lantern slides and a gramophone. Church services were held in the building about once a month when Rev. S. S. Day, the circuit minister, was in the area.
Around 1900 an exchange was initiated with two others schools: Pierce, three miles west of District 73, and Draper, three miles south. For transportation, the children rode horseback or drove a buggy or cart.
Other teachers at the school in addition to Mirtie Bird were: Clara Watkins, Nettie Logan, Paul Hopkins, Fred Eggert, Laura Waggoner (Mrs. Ira Draper), Pauline Davidson (Mrs. Edson Smith), and later Hazel Peterson (Mrs. Elmer Kent). Some early families who attended the school were the Petersons, the Bill Watkins, the Moses Hedges, the Simpsons and the Fred Kents. Ida Kelly Kimberling, an early County School Superintendent, would visit the school prior to 1905.
In the 1960's the District was consolidated with other Districts and the frame building was torn down. Information on this District was provided by Inez Ken Justin and Leila Kent Black.
This District school was located about 10 miles north and two miles west of Imperial. There were from 18 to 20 students enrolled at most times. Clarence Needham told researchers that he and his brother Harold walked three and one-half miles to the school in the winter rather than riding a horse, because they could keep warm from walking.
Mr. Needham reported that the school was used in the evenings for many functions, including: box suppers, pie socials, debates, and spelling matches. He said that people came from miles around on horse back, in lumber wagons and eventually, a few in automobiles, but very few.
Mr. Needham and researcher Audra Appleyard provided the following list of teachers at the school: Ethel Avise, Evea Moreland, Minerva Bussell, Almeda Lukheart (Mrs. Samuel), Mabel Sieverre, Coy Tressler, Grace Oswald, Hazel Cooper, Lois Turtscher, Pearl Lundburg, Mae Trock, Viola Derra, Hettie Litten, Ellen Grose, Robert Reed and Mrs. Lula V. Brown (who taught in 1943. When Mrs. Lukheart taught she and her two daughters lived in a small house east of the school house while she taught. Mr. Lukheart drove his surrey up from Imperial on Friday and brought his family to Imperial, and then brought them back to the school on Sunday afternoon.
The Chase County Historical Society Museum maintains more information on this District in their files in Champion.