Thursday, December 27, 2012

Clay Center

Clay Center, District 41, Butler County

Kansas State Board of Agriculture, First Biennial Report of Butler County, 1878, notes that Union Township, as the area was then known, had school districts Nos. 41 and 42 as early as 1874.

Don't be confused.

A larger, more prosperous city called Clay Center is in Clay County, Kansas. This Clay Center is in Butler County, an intersection at southeast 210th and Cole Creek. To get there one can drive west from Latham, south from Leon, east from Douglass, or north from Atlanta.

The Schoolhouse

The Kansas One Room School House Project by Kansas Heritage includes the school in its 1944-45 list of Butler County schools. A second list, Heritage Project includes the school.

Clay Center, District 41, Butler County, Kansas

Did you ever hear the saying, "A dollar a day"?

From Skyways we learn about the number of schools and teacher pay in Butler County schools in 1878.

Schools. - Number or organized districts, 125; school population, 5,043; average salary of teachers, per month, male, $31.80, female, $26.65.

The term a "dollar a day" started with cowhands who were paid a dollar a day and food for their work. Teachers could rightly complain about pay back then for they were paid similar wages.

Before you get up on your high horse about the discrepancy in male and female pay consider this -  male teachers often supported a family. Usually, female teachers taught for a year or two and married. Not always, mind you, but that was the way it was. Hey, don't get mad at the messenger (me), take it up with grandpa. Also, female teachers lived at home or with a student's family.

Again, from Skyways (id.):

School houses built during 1878, frame, 9. Total number of school houses, 123; log, 1; frame, 103; stone, 19. Value of all school property, $74,473. No report on shade trees.

In 1878, with a total of 123 schools for just over 5,000 students, the average school contained 40 children, but remember this list includes city schools such as those in El Dorado and Andover.

School attendance varied over the years. These small schools often had from ten to twenty children ranging in all ages. This can be seen from the few tattered old photos of schools and there students. Also, keep in mind there were no yellow school buses.  Children walked to school, a few rode horses, so schools were as common as a QuikTrip and located every two to three miles in the more populated areas.. In school, the older children would help the younger ones.The teacher had her desk at the front of the class and would give personal instruction.

Clay Center, Butler County
The school sits on the southwest corner of the intersection where Clay Center is located. Google Maps gives a birds-eye view. The north branch of Rock Creek passes just to the north of the school. I have not discovered any information to date on this Clay Center. My visit to Clay Center takes place the day after Christmas on a cold but sunny day. As the wind is not blowing it is a good day for a walk with the dogs Tobie and Sammy, one a mixture of Terrier, Shephard, and Coon, the other a German Shepherd.

South View
The school is typical of many one room schools with a foyer to shield the classroom from the biting winter cold. A central chimney spout can be seen, so the furnace was in the middle of the school room. One unusual feature is that there are no windows on the north side. In fact, the only windows on the school are on the south and east sides.

View from the west.
As with many schools, the land was typically donated by a farmer and the school often sits next to a field. District 41 school is shielded by several Oak and Ash that border Rock Creek. The creek is now dry with only a pool of water here and there.

Every school had its outhouse or two behind the school and District 41 is no exception. The door and the platform are long gone but the sturdy native limestone that make up the walls still stand.

Stone Fence along the road to Latham
The countryside is rolling pasture, good for hay, corn and cattle. Along the way to Latham one passes what must be the longest stone fence in all Kansas.

Ancient Bridge
If you take the time to look around, you'll discover a bit of Old Kansas. I don't like to give out the location of every site, so I will just say that it is near Latham. For the real stone bridge fans, visit Tour Butler County, which lists the still standing stone bridges in Butler County. I guess this one is #11.

Tour Butler County pdf

1 comment:

  1. I visited Clay Center in 2006, and I was more impressed with the old gas station than I was with the school. However, it's nice to see that this old school is still being kept up when so many are left to fall into ruins.