A new display at the Barton County Historical Museum and Village celebrates schools and school districts of the past.
"There were 105 different school districts in Barton County," says Karen Neuforth, research coordinator for the Barton County Historical Society. "Most of them were rural. Over time, as transportation improved, schools consolidated and the numbers decreased." In the 1960s, the state pushed for Unified School Districts and many of the rural schools disappeared.
Included in this exhibit is a history of the Wheatland School District in Comanche Township, created by Wayne DeWerff. Five rural schools merged to create the Wheatland district, which was in existence from 1950-1966. Along with DeWerff’s information there is a map of the district, with photos of its schools.
Photos of a few other historic schools are also on display, including Great Bend No. 1, the first school and school district in Barton County. It was located on what is now the front lawn of the Great Bend Public Library, Neuforth said.
There’s an old student desk, readers and other books used to teach reading, writing and arithmetic, a globe and other classroom tools, and the "Rules for Teachers 1872."
There’s quite a bit packed into this relatively small display, which is located in the Ray "Jiggs" Schulz Research Library in the main museum. The historical village also includes a one-room schoolhouse, the District 50 building that stood 3.5 miles south and east of the museum. District 50 was organized in 1876, and the building was added to the village in 1968.
The museum is located at 85 South U.S. 281, just south of the Arkansas River in Great Bend on Main Street, and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.