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.

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