Sunday, July 24, 2011

Richmond Hill School, District No. 64

Richmond Hill School, also known as the German Lutheran School, was relocated from its original location at 95th and Tyler and moved to the Clearwater Historical Society Museum in Clearwater, Kansas. It rests on a temporary foundation and awaits loving rehabilitation.


The original school is a one-story, wood-frame building measuring 25 by 17 feet, built in 1875. This is the oldest surviving one room school in Sedgwick County. The shutters might serve as protection from the weather. Three curious children watch the camera and wait for school to start.


Clearwater states that it owes its existence to Jesse Chisholm and the Texas cattle drives. While Chisholm never drove cattle, in 1865 he broke the trail for a freight train wagon route south from Wichita to Oklahoma Indian Territory. In doing so, he crossed the Ninnescah (Osage-Sioux name meaning "water clear") River southeast of the present Clearwater. Beginning in 1867, after Chisholm's death, cattle were driven north from Texas over the route blazed by Chisholm.

The arrival of homesteaders changed things. Settlers raised their own breeds of cattle which were often infected with disease spread by the Texas Longhorns.And even though drovers posted bonds for crop damage, settlers fenced in their property. The Clearwater Historical Museum has a copy of a diary by Abbie Bright, a 22 year-old school teacher from Indiana who staked a claim west of Clearwater, close to her brother. On June 4, 1871 Abbie wrote,
"Every week 7-10 thousands of Texas cattle are driven north over the trail. If the cattle stampede, and don't (sic) want to cross the river, the hearders (sic) yell and fire off their revolvers. Sometimes we hear them here, and it sounds, as I suppose a battle does. It is the catttle that keep the trail worn so smooth."
By 1883, the railroad extended to Caldwell on the border with Oklahoma. 

Schools and Education

Schools brought civilization to the prairies. Quaint customs such as the ciphering match, spelling bee and basket dinner, where students might bring in the rabbit, snared or shot by a local boy, combined to create a special camaraderie among students. Many of the area farmers were German immigrants and it was not uncommon to hear German spoken in the classroom. Drought and locust were always on the mind of the farmers who depended on their crops for a living.The phrase "right as rain" always had meaning in Kansas.

End of an Era

The last term at Richmond Hill School was a single semester in 1941-42. In 1947, the rural school district was unified with the city of Clearwater.

Clearwater Historical Society Museum maintains the school and is currently planning restoration of the historic school now located on museum property. Issues such as whether to remove the front addition and whether to restore the clapboard side need to be decided. Plans are being made to recreate a historical setting with costumes and original materials.

The Clearwater Museum has an extensive collection of artifacts from the city's early days. Visiting hours are 1 - 4 p.m. on Sunday.


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