Monday, June 27, 2011

Rapp Schoolhouse, Rapp Kansas

The Rapp Schoolhouse was first built in 1871. The original structure was wooden, measuring 18 feet by 26 feet. This brick structure was built in 1929, the year the Great Depression cast its grey pallor over the country. Farming communities such as Rapp felt the economic sting, but struggled on.

Rapp village is located along the historic Santa Fe Trail, Highway 56, at a distance of about 5 miles to the west of Osage City.. The Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks are to the east and south. At its height, the community of Rapp consisted of about a dozen homes, railroad crossing, produce station, general store, lumberyard, blacksmith ship and stockyard. A few homes are all that remain.

The cupola or belfry still has a bell and rope that summoned children for all 8 grades.Classes were generally from September through April with many absences for farm chores. Most of the children walked to school, but some of the children who lived at a distance would ride horses (Torsten Isaacson).The Osage County Superintendent of Schools administered an examination at the end of 8th grade to assess progress of the students.

"The first term was held in 1871 without a teacher. At the first annual meeting it was voted to have 3 months of school in the summer and four months of school in the winter. It was alsovoted to have a male teacher for winter months and a female teacher for summer months, at a salary of $30 per month. Male teachers were preferred for winter terms because it was thought that they alone could control the older farm boys who attended school only during the winter when their time was not completely taken up by farm work. In the early years, many young Swedish, German, and Italian immigrants attended school in the winter months on average about four months but had to go to work on the farms come spring. Until the late 1930s, most teachers were single and customarily lived nearby, some boarding with local families."Application for status on the National Historic Register of Places.

The brick building has a full basement with windows. An interior pump brought in water from a cistern. Construction pre-dated the New Deal's Rural Electrification. Heating in the winter came from a coal furnace, the chimney for which can be seen to the left on the roof line.The building still has its furnishings, including a teacher's recitation desk and student desks, cloak hooks, bucket-lunch cupboards, wall maps, counting sticks and books, dual-purpose sand table and piano. Kansas Skyways. Image of classroom from LASR.

The tower bell still rings clear, but sadly no children answer its call today. In 1959 the last five students attended classes. Their names are inscribed on the plaque above.

Read memories of Rapp schoolhouse by Torsten E. Isaacson.

The schoolhouse was built with the Kansas weather in mind. The full basement provided protection from tornadoes. The front facing and rear facing windows allowed light from the south and north and avoided the harsh western sun. The toilet facilities were removed from the building and located at a distance from which this image was taken, adjacent to the Rapp cemetery.

Thursday, June 23, 2011



Arvonia, Kansas was settled in 1869 by Welsh emigrants under the leadership of John Mather Jones. Kansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 1977 (Vol. 43, No. 4), pages 448 to 469.

The town is located along the Marias Des Cygnes River in the Southwest corner of Osage County Kansas. There was hope of a railroad, but the railroad tracks were laid some four miles distant and passed through the nearby town of Reading instead. Today, the town rests peacefully to the south of Melvern Lake. Access is off of I-35 at Lebo Junction.

In its heyday, Arvonia boasted 150 citizens.  It contained three stores, one hotel, one blacksmith and wagon shop, a post-office, two churches and a schoolhouse. William Cutler's 1883  History of the State of Kansas. The commercial buildings are long gone. Little remains today but the one room schoolhouse, a church, and a few well-maintained homes.

I have not yet found any history on the schoolhouse. Unfortunately, there is no date inscribed in the limestone rock with which it is constructed.

When I drove through the town in the summer of 2011, I stopped to ask a gentleman about the school. He replied that his grandmother used to ride her horse to school. He also told me that once the building was two stories tall, but the top floor was removed because of the danger of tornadoes.

The schoolhouse was most likely constructed in the 1870's. Decorative corbels are placed underneath the roof line. The height of the schoolhouse and the large windows along with the native limestone assist in keeping the school cool in the blistering Kansas summer, but by then students were helping their parents with planting and harvesting on the area farms. Heating in the winter was a potbelly stove.

A cellar underneath the schoolhouse was built for tornadoes. The wire to the right of the image is a lightening rod.

The schoolhouse is beautifully proportioned. Beginning with its placement on a slight hill, the building stands out from the surrounding area. The correspondence among the measures of the lengths and widths as well as the doors and windows suggests a symmetry that was planned.The cupola on the top of the schoolhouse might have housed a bell to summon the students.

The one room schoolhouse is a testament to the rugged individualism of the men and women who settled Kansas. While not only working to provide their families a life in a new land, they sought to insure that their children were educated and so would have a better life than the one their parents had.