Oral Histories

Collecting stories from long-time Leawood residents was begun in the late 1990s as a means to document the experiences and encounters of everyday life. Members of the Leawood Historic Commission (LHC) have interviewed many individuals over the years, writing down their personal experiences. Collecting these stories through interviews is an on-going project carried out by members of the LHC. Bound volumes of the collected stories are kept by the Leawood Historic Commission. Some of the oldest remembrances dates to before the establishment of Leawood as a city. These early stories include the Oxford School, early Johnson County, Oscar Lee and his contributions, the Kroh Brothers development, and then the founding of the City of Leawood. Mayors, police and fire chiefs and other notables have been interviewed. As a way to give easy access to some of the remembrances. LHC members are providing edited excerpts about particular subjects. If you are interested in reading the complete interviews, access to the bound volumes can be arranged. If you would like to share your stories and experiences for future generations, please contact the LHC for a personal interview.

The One Room Oxford Schoolhouse Edited by Charles Lusk

Bringing History to Life: Excerpts taken from the Leawood Historic Commission’s Oral Interviews Project Life at the One-Room Oxford School (from interviews with Helen Louise Brewer, Kenneth Klapmeyer, Amanda Lee Wilson, Wilbur & Virginia Young)

The one-room schoolhouse was originally located at the corner of 135th Street and Mission Road. It opened as a school in 1877 and continued until 1955. These stories date to the late 1800s and early 1900s when the interviewees attended Oxford School.

In order to preserve this historic building, it was moved to Ironwoods Park in March 2003. Through the dedication of the Leawood Historic Commission and the Leawood Parks and Recreation Dept., the exterior and interior of the Oxford School were renovated and refurbished to the school’s original character. Student’s desks (both large and small desks), blackboards, a heating stove in the center of the room, plus learning materials such as books, slates and maps are provided. Details for how the school was furnished were provided by Kenneth Klapmeyer and other interviewees. Rural schools at the time offered grades 1 through 8, all in one room.

In the early days, both boys and girls either walked or rode a horse/pony to school, which could be as far as two miles away. There was a horse stall built between the two out-houses where the horses stayed during the day. During inclement weather some parents took their children to school in a horse and buggy.

Amanda Lee Wilson remembered that school began on time, usually by the teacher ringing a hand-bell announcing the start of school. The first duty was the “Pledge of Allegiance,” with the American flag being raised. It was followed by the Lord’s Prayer. Now education could begin. Many times math problems were done on the chalk blackboard or on your own personal slate board. There were also spelling bees, plus recitations on history, science or other subjects. At the end of the school day, the flag had to be lowered and folded until used again. Monthly report cards were sent home to be signed by the parents and returned.

Wilbur Young stated that the boys brought in firewood for the stove and cleaned out the ashes periodically. They also brought in well water so hands could be washed and to have water for drinking. Boys cleaned erasers outdoors by banging them together or hitting them against something to get the dust out of the erasers.

He continued saying that boys played hide-n-seek (which may have been difficult with only the outhouses, horse stalls and fields surrounding the school yard), black-man (a form of tag), jacks, marbles, and the boys wrestled. Amanda Lee Wilson remarked there was also a field across Mission Road where “ball games” and other recreational equipment such as teeter-totters and swings were used by both boys and girls, depending on the student’s age.

Girls were responsible for keeping the school room neat with the assistance of the teacher. Any books had to be placed back on shelves or in bookcases. They would sweep the floor, as needed. Any trash had to be taken outside to the disposal site. Amanda Lee Wilson remembered what she frequently wore to school. Many girls sewed their own clothes because there was no store nearby to buy ready-made clothes.

Several interviewees commented on the two out-houses – one for boys, one for girls. Each had stools at different heights to accommodate for the younger and older students.

Helen Louise Brewer remembered the “pie auctions” which were held to raise money for school supplies. The mothers made the pies and auctioned them off during all-day events. Everyone knew who made the “best” pies, and those always went for a good price.

A few teachers who were remembered: Nanny Sargent, Ms. Hulse, and Louise McKinney.

Remembrance from Leawood Residents Collected By

Laura Bruce
Alice Hawk
Barbara Holzmark
Janet O’Neal
Diane Sharpe
Elaine Steinke