• Last modified 892 days ago (April 18, 2018)


Country schools is topic at historical society meeting

Staff writer

“If your parents said they walked five miles to school, they were lying,” Lowell Ensey said.

History buff Ensey of Marion spoke at the annual meeting April 10 of Marion County Historical Society and presented results of several years of research he and Jim Bredemeier conducted into early country schools. They found that schools were one to three miles apart.

He delved into newspaper articles from The Marion County Record, quarterly school reports to the county, and other sources, using cross-referencing to verify information.

After many months of work, he created a large map of the county that names each school and pinpoints its location. He also compiled spreadsheets that record when schools opened, if they were moved, renamed, rebuilt, or consolidated, and when they closed. He has compiled an incomplete list of teachers for each school.

“There were 130 schools altogether, but they all weren’t open at the same time,” he said.

Ensey has obtained pictures of 70 schools, eight of which he has taken himself.

“My research ends with the consolidations of the 1930s and 1940s,” Ensey said. “I didn’t research students. Somebody else will have to take that up.”

He said he received a call from the grandson of James Ray, who served as county superintendent of schools for many years. Jeff Longhofer, formerly of Marion, is a professor at Rutgers University.

“It’s been interesting,” Ensey said. “I’m so thankful for all the people who call and share tidbits of information.”

He can be contacted at or (620) 381-3783.

At least 30 people attended the meeting.

President Peggy Blackman announced the society has received a donation of $5,000 from a multi-million dollar company doing business in the county.

Board member Steve Schmidt gave a summary of the progress made by the organization since its re-establishment about a year ago. It includes representatives of all historic entities in the county. An appointed board of directors wrote and approved a new constitution.

Board member Melissa Stuchlik has developed a website for the organization. It is a “work in progress” but can be accessed at It will give highlights of historic sites and provide links to museums and other historic organizations such as the Santa Fe Trail Association.

Blackman said the organization will have 501(c) 3 status soon.

A slate of candidates for board of directors was presented and unanimously approved. They are Schmidt, Santa Fe Trail; Stuchlik, Kapaun museum; Patty Traxson, Peabody Historical Society; Blackman, Marion Historical Museum; Anita Boese, Hillsboro museums; Fern Bartel, Goessel Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum; Mary Jane Grimmett, Florence Historical Society; and Mary Olson, Duane Bair, and Susan Gray, at-large.

Last modified April 18, 2018