My father was a pioneer settler in southeastern Kansas. He had moved out from Indiana during the early 70s. He labored faithfully to build up a home for himself and his family and to advance and encourage every movement having for its purpose the betterment of the community. He not only built his own house, but helped his neighbors build theirs, logs being the material generally used. He shared with his neighbors in all the experiences incident to pioneer life. Grasshoppers, chinch bugs, hot winds, low prices and hard times generally had to be contended with, but he continued to be brave and hopeful in the face of many difficulties and discouragements.
(Note: The following memories are NOT about Comanche County, Kansas, but the Kansas county - which is not named in the article - from which H.V. Butcher's family came. H.V. Butcher purchased The Western Star in 1898. In 1947, ownership of the newspaper had belonged to the Butcher family for 49 years.)
One of the first duties of the new settlers was to build a school house, for within a short time there were 30 or 40 children in the settlement along Duck Creek. All of the settlers reorganized the necessity for a school house and educational advantages for the young people.
One evening during the summer of 1871 a number of the settlers met at the home of one of our neighbors to discuss the matter of putting up a school house, so that a term of school might be started in the early fall. Only one opinion was expressed at that meeting - that a building should be secured and that no bonds for its erection should be voted. The men of the community each agreed to donate a week's work and a time was agreed upon to begin the work. Along the ridge near the western border of the settlement grew thousands of oak trees, of the "blackjack" variety. The settlers had used this timber with which to build their houses and it was agreed that the new school house should be constructed of the same material. While it was not particularly ornamental or especially durable, there was at least one advantage - cheapness.
Economy was the watchword of practically all of the settlers in those days. As a rule, people were content to get along as best they could with the material at hand. The fact was they were glad to have even a good log house. Expressions of delight were heard throughout the neighborhood when it was learned that a school house - even though it was to be a log structure - was to be built.
The building of that school house was a real community affair. Men with their wagons and teams, also men without teams, turned out. In a short time a hundred or more trees were cut down and trimmed and the logs cut to the proper length. A dozen or more teams soon had them hauled to the site agreed upon for the new school house, and soon the logs were properly shaped up and made ready for being laid in their places.
In just three days the building was up and ready for occupancy. It was 18 feet wide and 24 feet long. One small window on each side admitted light. It was at least the only, if not adequate, means of lighting the room, except when the door was open. The seats for the building were what would today be called crude, all being home made. There was no blackboard or writing desks. An old fashioned wood stove was used. In the building there was not even a suggestion of the conveniences and comforts found in the average modern school building.
In that pioneer school house, which was known far and wide as "Blackjack College," gathered during the four or five months of the school term as happy a lot of children as ever assembled in a school building. To be sure that was then an entire absence of anything like modern athletics, etc. but there was no lack of good wholesome amusement.
No one who attended school then will probably ever forget the games of "ante over," "dare base," "three cornered cat," "town ball." etc. And then what times we all had at the school house when about everybody for many miles around gathered for the spelling school, the literary and debate, the singing school or the Christmas tree.
I shall never forget that first Christmas program in "Blackjack College." The people were packed in the school house like sardines, most of them standing, but all were good natured throughout the entire exercises. The spirit of genuine happiness and of thoughtfulness for others seemed to prompt in everything that was done. Everybody stood on a common level, and good fellowship was manifested in all that was done.
The old log school house has long since been discarded. An imposing and thoroughly furnished new building has been erected. A new generation has come upon the scene, but there is one thing which will never fade away or be forgotten - the memory of the first term of school in that pioneer district in southeastern Kansas.
(written at) Coldwater, December 18, 1925.
Leona (Liggett) Butcher
The Western Star Enters 64th Year of Publication.
Was in Existence One Year Before County Was Organized,
The Western Star, August 1, 1947: "After the Star had been published for 14 years it was purchased in 1898 by H. V. Butcher, now deceased, and has continued under the ownership of the Butcher family for the past 49 years."
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
This RootsWeb website is being created by Jerry Ferrin with the able assistance of many Contributors. Your comments, suggestions and contributions of historical information and photographs to this site are welcome. Please sign the Guest Book. This page was created 25 August 2006.