Monday, October 10, 2016

Did You Know.....? Kansas School for the Deaf

Did you know that the Kansas School for the Deaf in nearby Olathe started out right here in Baldwin City? It's true and there is even a historical marker; of sorts, that marks the location. The small stone, that is easily missed as you drive by doesn't really tell the story. So we began searching for the story behind the stone.
Founded in the first year of statehood (1861) by Phillip Emery. Who according to the Kansas State School for the Deaf website, Emery himself, was a deaf man, who had attended and then was briefly a teacher at the Indiana State School for the Deaf, before coming to Kansas.  Upon arriving in the Wakarusa River Valley of Kansas, he became acquainted a neighbor, Jonathon Kennedy, who had three deaf children.
Kennedy was elated to meet someone who was a deaf educator, as their was no educational opportunities for the deaf in Kansas at the time. Kennedy persuaded Emery to begin a school for the deaf. A loan of $250 was secured from a relative of Kennedy's and the two set out to locate a suitable location.  In Baldwin City a small house, with two rooms and an attic was located at what is now the intersection of tenth and Indiana. Officially opening for business in October of 1861, even though they didn't welcome their first student until December 9, of that same year. That student was Elizabeth Studebaker, who arrived with her father along with some ham, eggs and butter to use in barter for the schools tuition of $2.50 per week.
On March 5, 1862 the Kansas legislature passed legislation appropriating $500 to the tiny school, along with 25 cents per student. In turn Emory and the school had to report to the Kansas state auditor, how many students he taught along with how many days each of them attended.
The school along with the city of Baldwin City survived Quantrill's raid after a group of men intercepted Quantrill as his forces moved towards Baldwin City from Lawrence, which they had just burned.
However, in Topeka there was a debate as to where the school should be located. Some thought it, along with every state agency should be located in Topeka. This created a three-way debate between Baldwin City, Olathe and Topeka.  In the end Governor Carney signed legislation, moving the school to Olathe on February 12, 1864.  The school moved on November 15, 1866 into a newly constructed stone building in Olathe, about twenty-five miles from it's original location here in Baldwin City.
In 1905 it became compulsory that all deaf children in the state, between six and twenty-one attend the school. Today the school is a large school for the deaf and is known for it's academic excellence.

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