Lower Fox Creek School

Over the weekend we took our house-guest, Glenda, for a visit to a limestone one-room schoolhouse near Strong City, Kansas. The Lower Fox Creek School is located on the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve where we regularly visit for sunrise or sunset pics of the prairie and where the bison herd is located. So we’ve been here many times, just not when the school is open, so it was a treat for us to be able to get inside.

A very nice park ranger greeted us warmly as we entered the school and told us all about the history of the place.

Glenda and Harland listen attentively to the Park Ranger.

In 1878 the Lower Fox Creek community decided they needed their own school. A local rancher, Stephen F Jones donated the land, and a local stonemason built the school of limestone from local quarries.

The school was completed in 1882, and the first school term was in 1884.

The teacher’s monthly salary was $35 per month. Teachers were held to a strict code of rules and behavior:

(If you’re having trouble reading this, click HERE)

Some of these rules make sense for the time period, but the one about no “loitering in town ice cream stores“, or the one where male teachers can’t “get shaved in a barber shop” are completely baffling to me. Why ever not??

Anywho, the average enrollment in the early years of the school was 19 students,

A typical 1880s lesson plan

but by the final years the enrollment was down to 4 students.

After the school closed in 1930, the building reverted back to the ranch, and it was used to store hay or as a bunkhouse. A tornado took off the roof and broke the windows out sometime in the 50s or 60s.

But in 1968, the old school’s fortunes changed when a grassroots effort was made to restore it to its former glory of 1882. Repairs were made inside and out, the interior was scrubbed clean, the desks and chairs were installed,

and a new flagpole was erected outside.

And in 1974, the school was placed on the National Register of Historic places. Then in 1996 the school along with nearly 11,000 acres of tallgrass prairie was acquired by the National Park Service, and today a partnership of the Park Service and The Nature Conservancy manages the property.

And every April local schoolchildren can experience what it was like to attend a one-room schoolhouse in the 1880s. Students dress in period appropriate attire, carry lunch-pails, walk to the school across the prairie, and then spend a day at the school having lessons in subjects such as reading, spelling, math, science and history. They also get a recess and lunch period. For more info, click HERE.

For more information about the Lower Fox Creek School, click HERE to read the National Register application from 1974.

And a bonus today: Are you smarter than an 8th grader from 1895?  Click HERE to find out. (scroll down to the 8th Grade Equivalency Test)

I took the test and I know those 1895 kids are way smarter than me. How about you?



Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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16 Responses

  1. Ok, I certainly want to join those school children that dress in period clothing and get to attend a day at this school…oh man!! That would be a highlight of my life!! Even at the age of 41!!

  2. Amy says:

    I am so glad this school has been restored and put to good use. I was impressed by the all the chalk boards circling the room! Such wonderful history!

  3. Julie says:

    I love the old desks with the metal scroll-work and holes for the inkwells. For all the technology we have for and money we spend on education, other than science, it really doesn’t measure up to what they were taught so many years ago. I love reading old letters, too. The penmanship is artwork and the eloquence is amazing and refreshing to read.

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Suzanne says:

      I agree, and here’s a sobering fact: The illiteracy rate in 1880s Kansas was 3%, and today it’s 8%.

  4. Tina says:

    I had the same comments as you on the teacher rules. Then I took the test…boy am I depressed! I flunked it big time! I love the school, it is very sweet.

  5. Kerry Hand says:

    I need to know why getting shaved in Barber shops is so bad. What was going on in those dens. ?????

  6. Karen says:

    That is a beautiful little school. I really love the windows with their dark trim inside. What a treat for the school children who get to spend the day seeing what it was like back then. I looked at the test and feel pretty rusty. xx

  7. Anne Comer says:

    I love this posting. Am I seeing two entrance doors? One for the girls and one for the boys?

    • Suzanne says:

      You got me. We couldn’t figure out the 2 front door thing either. Most schoolhouses are like that though.

  8. Kathy says:

    Love this little schoolhouse. My great-grandmother was born in 1884, so she probably had to take a test similar to the 8th grade one you linked too. I have a greater appreciation for her. I could never have passed 8th grade!

    I’m not that old, but when I went to elementary school we had desks just like those ones you showed. I may not be old, but I sure feel it now.

  9. Glenda says:

    Very interesting place. I had to check with my co worker to see if he knew the definition of orthography. Nope! We had to google that one.
    Thanks for the photos and narrative Suzanne.

  10. Anne Comer says:

    Back to the two doors, I think I have read about this somewhere but I can’t remember if it was in a historical article or in literature. So I googled and found this:

    Down the page a ways is this paragraph:

    “What You Will See in the Schoolhouse

    The measurements of the schoolhouse are 24 feet x 30 feet, with two front doors that have big granite stone steps. Boys entered one door and girls the other. They entered into a small cloak room where they hung their coats and hats and stored their lunches.”

    So it does seem to have been an element of early school design.

  11. Jim McCain says:

    Hi Suzanne, Just wanted to say what a great blog this is and awesome, awesome photography ! I’m not getting a thing done this evening except enjoying your blog. I found it by googling Lower Fox Creek School which I had the pleasure of accidentally finding a couple of weekends ago. What a treasure ! Furthermore, the next person who tells me Kansas is flat and ugly…well… I may just punch them ! I live in west central Oklahoma and travel quite a lot. I was in Topeka for the NCAA 2 Regional Basketball Tournament so had time to look around some then drive the back roads south of Topeka, winding my way home and discovering many photo opportunities. Sadly, I missed the stone bridge near Strong City but will see it on my next trip. I plan on coming up to Wamego for the Tulip Festival and also Topeka again. So, so much to see up there and because of your blog, I will discover more through your eyes…. You might want to share the name of the dating site you were on because I would love to find someone with your talents and interests. You are amazingly talented. Harland is a lucky guy ! 🙂 I signed up for your blog so will be reading more of your writings. Thanks so much for sharing ! Check out my website for pics of the school…. Sincerely, Jim

    • Suzanne says:

      Well thank you so much Jim! You just come on back to Kansas anytime… There is a lot more to see there than people realize, and true, only a small portion of the state fits the flat stereotype. Have you been to the tulip festival in Topeka at Shawnee Gardens? YOu have to see that one. Took a peek at your website and saw the pics of the school. I really liked the one where you included the tree. Have see lots of images of that school, but don’t think I’ve seen any with the tree. Great angle.
      The site where Harland and I met is Catholic Singles. I had heard somewhere at the time that if you’re going to go the dating website route, pick one that specializes is what is most important to you. That way you’ll already have something is common with everyone on the site you choose.

  12. Jim McCain says:

    Thanks for the reply Suzanne ! I plan on coming back to Kansas in a couple of weeks for the Tulip Festival in Wamego. Will make it to Topeka as well. Shawnee Gardens is the same as Ted Ensley Gardens isn’t it? I also want to see Gage Park. Do you think the flowers will be in full bloom? I know you just had some winter weather and possibly more this weekend. I’ve never been to a tulip festival so look forward to going. Thanks for the comments on my school pics. Like you, I always take many shots of the same subject. Thanks for the dating site info. I was kinda kidding though because I can’t slow down long enough to date…. LOL… Keep up the great work ! Enjoy your writings and am finding new things to see and photograph through your blog ….

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