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Ellinwoods St. Joseph school celebrating 130 years of teaching
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St. Joseph Grade School of Ellinwood, forefront, will celebrate 130 years of service to Barton County this weekend. In the background, St. Joseph Catholic Church. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

ELLINWOOD - Rev. Terrance Klein, parochial administrator of St. Joseph Parish of Ellinwood, was busy placing newly polished candlesticks at the church in preparation for Easter Sunday on Thursday afternoon. This weekend, the church is expecting the return of several hundred alumni of the parish school. They are coming to celebrate the 130th anniversary of this Ellinwood institution.
Klein, himself, is an alumni of the grade school. He attended from 1964 to 1972.
“The school has the same number of students today that it did when I attended school,” he said. The enrollment at Ellinwood Grade School, however, is about half as many now, he added. And thanks to the generosity of parishioners who created an endowment 30 years ago, as well as a living legacy 20 years ago, children of parishioners continue to enjoy a tuition-free education at St. Joseph’s which has been part of the school’s tradition from the start.
“We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for these gifts,” he said. “We have so much to celebrate. Such sacrifice and devotion. And so many wonderful stories of success!”
An open house is planned for alumni, families and friends on Saturday, March 26, from 10 to 11 a.m. A sizeable collection of memorabilia from the school’s long history, as well as a continuous slide show will be available to view.
St. Joseph Parish was founded by Germans and a church was built in 1876. The school was founded in 1885, and ground was broken in Feb. 1886, Klein said. The first classes began in the fall of that year. The first classes were taught in German by German nuns. By 1901, the school had 55 students attending, according to the parish history. That’s also when work began on a new church building. In 1903, the original building was turned into a school house, with boys playing and entering the school on the west side, and the girls likewise on the east side. During these years, school was taught by Dominican Nuns, but in 1911, a newly assigned priest, Father Warren Emmerich, requested the Sisters Adorers of the Most Precious Blood, Wichita, staff the school.
The existing school house was built in 1926 in response to growing enrollment. The cornerstone of this school was laid on April 18, 1926, and a collection for the school was taken. According to the parish history, “the new brick school building was completed at a cost of $41,003.23.” Of that, $28,520.60 were from subscriptions and donations.

Video crafted by alumni to premiere
At 11 a.m. Saturday, an Easter egg hunt will be held for children in attendance, followed by a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Students currently attending school will serve, as service is an important lesson at St. Joseph’s. Alumni who work in television, Reba Thomas, Oklahoma City, and Michelle Dole, Wichita, have worked with Klein to produce a promotional video about the school which will be presented at that time. There are plans to post it on the parish website at some point in the future.