Lanesfield School is a one-room schoolhouse near Edgerton, Kansas that was established in 1869. The school is representative of the one-room schoolhouses that served much of rural America during the nineteenth century and is considered the last standing building from the now-defunct town of Lanesfield, a mail stop along the Santa Fe Trail and Pony Express.
James Lane served as a United States senator and as a Union Army general during the Civil War. He was an outspoken abolitionist who worked to eradicate slavery in Kansas.1 Lane founded Lanesfield in 1858.2 He oversaw the construction of a hotel, three stores, a blacksmith shop, three churches, a one-room schoolhouse, and some residential houses in the town.3 However, he did not live to see the school open as he committed suicide in 1866.4
The Santa Fe Trail formed a major part of the town’s identity. Lanesfield received monthly mail from stagecoaches traveling between Westport and Santa Fe, connecting the small town to a much broader world of cultural and commercial exchange.[NRF1] Students from the school even noted that they could see travelers on the trail from their schoolhouse window.5
One-room schoolhouses were often the lifeblood of small rural towns. Since many areas lacked centralized school boards, curricula varied greatly from one school to the next; supplies were often limited and students and teachers had to make do with what they had. Teachers were responsible for teaching many different grades in one small room, with children frequently missing school to help out at home.6
The Lanesfield School suffered many of the same issues faced by other one-room schoolhouses. Beginning in 1870, the nearby town of Edgerton–and its new railroad station–siphoned away some of Lanesfield’s population. Many buildings were left unused but the schoolhouse remained an important part of Lanesfield, serving all the children in the area. The school had sixty-nine students enrolled that year (from ages five to twenty), but only had an average attendance of fifty-one. In 1897 the county superintendent stated that the schoolhouse was in disrepair, sparking a major cleanup effort by the town.7 Despite these difficulties, the school played an essential role in the community. In addition to its educational functions, the building also served as a community meeting place, polling station, and even a venue for school reunions.8
In a dramatic turn of events, the school building burned down in 1903 after being struck by lightning. Only the stone foundation of the building remained. After some timely reconstructive efforts, the school was largely in use again by 1904.9
In the 1940s and 1950s many Kansas rural schools were closing their doors. With enrollment dropping, it made more financial sense to send children to larger schools with better facilities. The Lanesfield School was combined with Round Oak and Splinterville School in 1950.10 The town of Lanesfield began to decline in the late 1950s and early 1960s and, in 1963, the school closed its doors after 93 years of service.11
The school was turned into a museum in 1967 and it is still open to the public today. Visitors can visit the school and experience writing on slates, cleaning the blackboard, and other peculiarities of life in a one-room schoolhouse along the Santa Fe Trail.
Cart, Doran L. “Lanesfield School.” National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form. Shawnee, Kans.: Johnson County Museum System, 1988.
Feldman, Ruth Tenzer. Don’t Whistle in School: The History of America’s Public Schools. Minneapolis, Minn.: Twenty-First Century Books, 2001.
Gulliford, Andrew. America’s Country Schools. Niwot, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 1996.
“James H. Lane obituary.” New York Times, 4 July 1866.
Jenner, Gail L. One Room: Schools and Schoolteachers in the Pioneer West. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.