Agnes City School District #87
School on the Santa Fe Trail

Compiled by Betty Rose Shellenberger Mason

     The following information was gathered from the Lyon County Superintendent of Schools Office, old Agnes City School Registers, Mrs. Alice Jennings Gray, Mrs. Ellen Henderson Eckel, Mrs. Gertrude Croyle Reaka, Miss Eva Jane Eckel, Mr. Arthur Eckel, Mr. Virgil Shellenberger Sr., Mrs. Susie Biggerstaff, Mrs. Esther Shellenberger McInnes and my own memories as a student from 1946 until the consolidation of Agnes City School District with the Bushong School District. With the exception of Mrs. Susies Biggerstaff, the last teacher of Agnes City, these people had close ties to the town and community of Agnes City. They are the children and grandchildren of people that lived in Agnes City and the surrounding community. The Justice of the Peace of Agnes City was the father of one of the contributors, the store owner and postmaster of Agnes City at one time was the father of another contributor. The mother of one of the contributors was a member of the first school board. The people were interview by me in 1962 for a college project. I had known all of these people since I was born. These people lived their whole lives in the Agnes City Community. Mrs. Biggerstaff was a history buff.

     When this territory was sparsely settled children from early pioneer homes attended school in a frame building which was covered with tar paper. The school was called Sodom by most and Tar-heel by a few people. The school was located about one mile north and a short distance west of the Virgil Shellenberger home (Road 350 (Highway 56) then 2 miles north on Road E and 1/2 mile east on Road 370 ). Later the school was moved farther north and the name was changed to Springdale because people did not feel the school should be named Sodom due to a reference to this name in the Bible. Springdale School District #77 was formed.

     By 1881 enough people had homesteaded to feel the need of better organized schools. Springdale was located a great distance from some of the pupils so the Agnes City School District was organized. It was named Agnes City after the store and the post office. A small frame structure was erected at the present site of the foundation.

     Board members of the first Agnes City School were R. D. Cotterell, W. H. Williams and Mrs. S. J. Henderson. Miss Lizzie Dillon was the first teacher.

     Ellen Jane Henderson Eckel, Gertrude Croyle Reaka and Alice Jennings Gray were among those who attended the first term of school at Agnes City. Gertrude Adell Croyle Reaka the oldest and last living student of Agnes City School died in 1964. Mrs. Reaka's father Daniel Croyle helped organize the school and helped build the first schoolhouse.

     In 1891-1892 the enrollment showed thirty-five pupils but at times during the early terms the enrollment reached forty pupils. The pupils sat in double desks, two of them often sharing the desk with a younger pupil that had to use a box for his feet because the desks were too high.

     When the school was first organized water had to be hauled to the school from the neighboring farms but in a few years the well that continued to be used until the school was closed was dug.

     In 1923 a new schoolhouse was built. It was a 32' x 37' frame building which in later years was made modern with electricity. The building had a large front porch, an entry hall, three cloakrooms (one later became the kitchen with a sink, stove and sink), and a stage across the front. The building never had running water. Bigger students carried buckets of water from the well to the building. During the winter students would dare each other to see if it was cold enough to stick a tongue to the metal pump! During the later years that the school operated the children had hot lunches. The parents furnished meal items and the teacher organized the students with seatwork and cooked the meal. During those years attendance was small and all ate around a large oak dining table. The students took turns setting the table, clearing dishes, and helping the teacher wash and dry the dishes. Yes, they took turns saying GRACE before the meal. The pupils practiced manners and conversation at the table while eating. Each week the students took home a note telling what food item or items they were to bring to school the following week. The meat sent by parents and if other was needed, it was purchased from a fund and the teacher brought it.

     The school site also had a coal shed, two outhouses, there was one for girls and one for boys, and a playground equipped with swings, a slide, a teeter-totter, and a merry-go-round.

     The building had electricity when I started to school. It was heated with a large black stove in the back of the classroom. We got to empty the ashes for the teacher. We often dried our wet coats and mittens by the stove in the winter after we played in the snow. The teacher always assigned an older student to watch that drying items did not get too hot. The heat was changed to propane in later years. The teacher was the janitor. The students got to sprinkle the floor-sweep when she swept the floors.

     Our teacher taught all of the grades plus being the cook and janitor. A lady did come for a while and do music with us when we had a teacher that didn't feel she could do music. She also made our worksheets using an old hectograph. I had three teachers during my seven years in the school. I had the same teacher the first five years and then a different teacher for sixth grade and a different teacher for seventh grade.

Back row L to R - Ernestine Schlesener, Helen Shellenberger, Lester Edmunds
Alvin Johnson, Geneva Schlesener, Monte Jackson
Front row L to R - Clyde Shellenberger, Jesse "Buddy" Johnson
George Shellenberger, Betty Rose Shellenberger - (1946)

     Agnes City had ten students when I entered first grade in 1946. By 1953 when I was a seventh grader enrollment was down to four students (one in eighth grade and three in seventh grade).

     The Agnes City School District was consolidated with the Bushong District in 1953. The schoolhouse was moved to Bushong and used as a classroom. Later the schoolhouse was moved to Americus and made into a home.

     The picture of George Washington that hung in the first school in 1881 was still hanging in the Agnes City School in 1953. The original school bell was still being used in 1953. What happened to these items since 1953 is not known.

     The school had four pupils in 1953. The pupils were Betty Rose Shellenberger, George W. Shellenberger, Clyde D. Shellenberger, and Dennis A. Jones. George W. Shellenberger was the last eighth grader to graduate from Agnes City School. The other three students (his sister, a cousin, and a neighbor) were seventh graders. The last teacher was Mrs. Susie Biggerstaff. The last board members were Mrs. Vinita Jones, Director, Mrs. Isla Shellenberger, Clerk and Mrs. Rose Shellenberger, Treasurer. They were the mother's of the last four students.

Photo on the Left - Agnes City's last teacher and 7th graders
Betty Rose Shellenberger, Dennis A Jones and Clyde D. Shellenberger - 1953

Photo on the Right - Agnes City's Last Teacher and last 8th Grader Graduate
Susie Biggerstaff and George W. Shellenberger - 1953

School Class Pictures 1899-1900    School Class Pictures    School Class Pictures 1905-1906
School Class Pictures 1899-1906
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School Picture 1951-1952    Agnes City School students
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Photo on the Left - School Picture 1951-1952
Row 1 Teacher - Violet Sexton and a little girl that was visiting school Grace Triemer
Row 2 L to R - Donald "Donnie" Johnson, Patrick "Pat" Johnson
Row 3 L to R - Dennis Jones, George Shellenberger, Betty Rose Shellenberger
Jesse "Buddy" Johnson, Clyde Shellenberger

Photo on the Right - Agnes City School students
Probably 1949 - maybe take at Bushong High School
Back row - Arlene Dieker, Alvin Johnson
Front Row - Betty Rose Shellenberger, Jesse "Buddy Johnson, Clyde Shellenberger
George Shellenberger (not Pictured - Monte Jackson)

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