History of Topeka, Kansas (Part 4)
From: History of Shawnee County, Kansas
and Representative Citizens.
Edited by James L. King, Topeka, Kansas
Richmond & Arnold Publishers
Chicago 1905

Topeka's Educational Facilities.

If any one thing more than another can be said to have made Topeka famous, it is her magnificent school system, which is hardly surpassed by that of any city in the United States. The founders of Topeka were educated men, some of them coming here directly from college, and after organizing the Topeka Town Association, and reducing the territory to lots, almost their first thought was to provide educational facilities in keeping with the plans they had formed for establishing a large and important city. Early in the month of February, 1856, the association took up a collection for building a school house, and levied an assessment upon its shares for the same purpose, a suitable site having been donated near the corner of Harrison street and Sixth avenue, where the Harrison School now stands. Before the school house could be erected, private schools were opened in convenient locations, so that the school system was practically inaugurated in 1856, before the new city was three months old. In 1857 the New England Emigrant Aid Company erected the first school building. The first direct tax for school purposes was levied in 1862, providing for the running expenses of the schools and for a building fund. The old Harrison street school was the first school building erected at public expense. The first of the school buildings erected in North Topeka was at No. 128 Kansas avenue north, the cost being $1,350. Beginning with the year 1868, the city made liberal appropriations for educational purposes and for additional buildings, the amount for that year being $10,000. In 1869 the sum of $40,000 was appropriated, and buildings commenced at Nos. 50, 52 and 54 Monroe street, and at the southeast corner of Monroe and Fifth - the latter being known as the Lincoln School. The Lincoln School, when completed, cost $55,000. Another school building was erected in 1871 on the southeast corner of Quincy and Gordon streets, North Topeka, at a cost of $28,000. The building occupied by Washburn College, at the northeast corner of loth avenue and Jackson street, was also purchased by the city, for $15,000, and a small building for school use erected on the corner of Quincy and 13th streets. From 1861 to 1871 the sum of $155,000 was spent for buildings and equipment, providing facilities for 2,000 pupils and 28 teachers. During the ensuing to years several new buildings were constructed and most of the old ones enlarged, the value of the public school property at the close of 1880 being over $200,000, and the school population, 4,728.


The school idea which possessed the founders of the city has retained its hold upon their successors, and at the close of the year 1904 Topeka had 23 first class public school buildings, valued at $700,000, a school population of 10,665, an enrollment of 6,437, and employed 211 teachers. The annual cost of conducting the city schools is $150,000. A model High School building was constructed in 1893 on the northwest corner of Harrison street and Eighth avenue, at a cost of $85,000, and in 1904 a Manual Training School was completed on the southwest corner of the same streets, at a cost of $100,000. These institutions are the culmination of the hopes and efforts of Topeka's progressive and far seeing Board of Education, which is composed of the following members: First Ward, - C. C. Nicholson and E. E. Miller; Second Ward, - F. E. Mallory and W. H. Wilson; Third Ward, - J. W. Gleed and Edward Wilder; Fourth Ward, - Jonathan D. Norton and T. F. Garver; Fifth Ward, - C. F. Hardy and D. L. Hoatson; Sixth Ward, - E. E. Roudebush and L. C. Bailey. F. E. Mallory is president of the board, and T. F. Garver vice president, and J. E. Stewart, clerk.

L. D. Whittemore is the present superintendent of the city schools. His predecessors in the office have been: W. H. Butterfield, 1867-69; J. A. Bonfield, 1869-71; A. W. Haines, 1871-72; W. H. Butterfield, 1872-81; D. C. Tillotson, 1881-86; John M. Bloss, 1886-92; William 1\1. Davidson, 1892-1904; L. D. Whittemore, 1904-. The Board of Education has had the following clerks: L. C. Wilmarth, 1867-69; J. A. Bonfield, 1869-71; E. B. Fowler, 1871-72; R. H. C. Searle, 1872-75; T. H. Church, 1875-76; Hiram W. Farnsworth, 1876-99; J. E. Stewart, 1899-1905.

The following table shows the designation of the several schools, names of principals and enrollment of pupils:




High School

H. L. Miller



E. A. Sinimerwell



E. F. Stanley



W. H. Wright



H. W. Jones



E. H. Roudebush



Carrie Goddard


Van Buren

Elizabeth Guy



Fenella H. Dana



Elizabeth Tharp



Madge E. Moore


Lowman Hill

Lola A. Graham



0. P. M. McClintock



Eliza Nagle



G H. Mays



Eli G. Foster



S G. Watkins



R. H. Wade



J. L. Harrison



Fred Roundtree



Mary E. Langston



C. F. Clinkscale


Manual Training

H. L. Miller






In 1858 John Ritchie donated 17o acres of land directly southwest from the city as the site for a college, which was proposed to be established by the Congregational churches of Kansas. The college was located in Topeka in 1858, changed to Lawrence in 1859, and relocated at Topeka in 1860, under the name of Topeka Institute. When the incorporation was effected in 1865, at the close of the war, the name of Lincoln College was substituted. The first building was erected in that year on the northeast corner of loth avenue and Jackson street; at a cost of $8,000, and in the month of January, 1866, the institution was opened with Rev. Samuel D. Bowker as principal, and Professors E. D. Hobart and George H. Collier as assistants. The first president was Rev. H. Q. Butterfield, who was succeeded in 1871 by Rev. Peter MacVicar. The catalogue issued in 1867 gave the number of students as 92, and contained the following names of trustees: Lewis Bodwell, S. D. Storrs, J. D. Liggett, Ira H. Smith, Richard ordley, Harrison Hannahs, John Ritchie, Harvey D. Rice, William E. Bowker, J. W. Fox and Hiram W. Farnsworth.

The name of the institution was changed to Washburn College in 1878, in honor of one of the benefactors, Ichabod Washburn, of Worcester, Massachusetts, who contributed $25,000 to the endowment fund. A new building was erected on the permanent site in 1870, at a cost of $60,000, and since that date io other large and substantial buildings have been erected, the last one - a Carnegie Library - in 1905. The buildings represent a cost of $300,000, and the campus of 160 acres is one of the most valuable pieces of property in the suburbs of Topeka.

Dr. Norman Plass became the president of the college in 1902, after the death of Dr. MacVicar. The college is conducted under the auspices of the Congregational Church, through a board of trustees officered as follows Norman Plass, president; L. H. Greenwood, secretary; James F. Griffin, treasurer; Rev. D. M. Fisk, field secretary, Norman Plass, L. H. Greenwood, Jonathan Thomas, John R. Mulvane, Arthur J. McCabe, Albe B. Whiting, Timothy B. Sweet, Francis L. Hayes, Marcus A. Low, John C. McClintock and William S. Lindsay, executive committee; D. L. McEachron, dean of college; Dr. H. L. Alkire, dean of medical department; Ernest B. Conant, dean of law department; George B. Penny, dean of fine arts department; W. W. Silver, principal of academy; and Dr. A. H. Thompson, dean of dentistry department. The college has well equipped laboratories, a fine library of 12,000 volumes, and employs 25 professors and instructors in the various departments. The present enrollment is about 700.


On a large square of 20 acres fronting Capitol Square, west on Ninth street from the Capitol, stands the College of the Sisters of Bethany, an institution for the education of girls. It was founded as the Episcopal Female Seminary of Topeka, under a charter from the Territorial Legislature. In 1870 a new charter was granted and in 1872 the name was changed to "The College of the Sisters of Bethany," the name not referring to any order of Sisters, but to the scriptural model and example of the two sisters of Bethany - Martha and Mary. The main building is of the Gothic, rock faced, broken ashlar style. Wolfe Hall and other adjacent buildings are in harmony with the main structure, and, together with the large park, present a most beautiful appearance. The college is under the general management of Bishop Frank R. Millspaugli. The course of study embraces not only a primary and preparatory branch, a scientific and classical branch, but also departments for thorough instruction in vocal and instrumental music, drawing and painting.

The original site was donated by the Topeka Town Association in 1857, being a tract at the northeast corner of Topeka avenue and Ninth street. Rev. Charles M. Callaway, a missionary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, conducted the negotiations with the town company, and in addition to the original site the association gave the 20 acre tract now known as Bethany Square, where the permanent buildings were erected. The incorporators were Rev. N. O. Preston, Rush Elmore, Wilson Shannon, Cyrus K. Holliday, J. P. Bodine, George Fairchild and J. E. Ryan. Wilson Shannon was president until September 14, 1864, when he was succeeded by Bishop Thomas H. Vail. The main college building was completed in 1871, and is known as Wolfe Hall, named in honor of John D. Wolfe, of New York, and his daughter, Catharine L. Wolfe, who gave $32,000 to assist the institution. Holmes Hall was constructed in 1882 at an expense of $16,000, the money being contributed by Miss Jane Holmes, of Baltimore. There are five buildings in all, the total value of the property being $450,000. Fifteen teachers are employed, and the average attendance is 200. The building at the corner of Topeka avenue and Ninth street, first occupied by Bethany College, and still belonging to the Episcopal Diocese of Kansans, is now used for a theological school, of which Bishop Frank R. Millspaugh is president and dean, and Rev. Irving E. Baxter, Rev. James P. deBeavers Kaye, Rev. Charles B. Crawford and Rev. DeLou Burke, instructors.


The Topeka Industrial and Educational Institute was organized in May, 1895, following the plan of the Booker T. Washington Institute at Tuskegee. It is located three miles east of the city on a tract of land sufficient in extent to afford facilities for instruction in farming. It is non sectarian and its beneficiaries are the colored youth of Kansas, of both sexes. There are two brick and stone buildings and one frame shop building, the value of the property being $12,000. The enrollment is 140, and 750 pupils have been cared for in the past 10 years. The institution has no endowment, but receives an annual appropriation of $1,500 from the State, in addition to help from other sources. William R. Carter is principal of the school, which is managed by a board of trustees comprised of Joab Mulvane, president; J. B. Larimer, vice president; Robert Stone, secretary; and John M. Wright, treasurer.


A convent of the Sisters of Charity is maintained at No. 723 Jackson street, and in connection therewith is a Catholic parochial school, which has an average attendance of 225. The convent is in charge of Sister Alberta, superior, and five Sisters of Charity make their home in the institution. The German Catholic Church also maintains a school near the corner of Third and VanBuren streets, with accommodations for 200 pupils. Alois Nusang is principal of the school, and Christine Seitz and Minnie Sonderman, teachers.

In addition to those named, the following educational institutions are conducted in Topeka: Studio of Voice Culture and Piano Instruction, No. 816 Kansas avenue, Gertrude Tracy, teacher; Dougherty's Shorthand School, No. 118 West Eighth avenue, George E. Dougherty, principal; Standard School of Shorthand and Typewriting, No. 63o Kansas avenue, Anna E. Canan, principal; Topeka Business College, No. 523 Quincy street, L. H. Strickler, superintendent; Pond's Business College, No. 521 Kansas avenue, M. A. Pond, principal; Homeopathic Night School, No. 704 Kansas avenue, Dr. Eva Harding, president; Art Studio, No. 630 Kansas avenue, George O. Beardsley, instructor; School of Dramatic Art, No. 816 Kansas avenue, Nellie Lincoln, instructor; Music Studio, No. 109 West Sixth avenue, Kate B. Whittlesey, instructor; School of Pianoforte Playing, No. 722 Kansas avenue, Annie Parry Bundy, principal; Violin Studio, No. 704 Kansas avenue, W. C. Stenger, instructor; Reid-Stone School of Art, No. 501 Jackson street, Albert T. Reid and George M. Stone, directors.

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