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American History
Isaac Tichenor Goodnow
contributed by Lu Hickey


A lot has been said of the new School Marm,  was she a pretty young girl from the East, how much learnin did she have, she is too young to teach these kids and on and on and on..Most of the time, she would live in a Boarding House, or some family home, depending on what was available.  And sometimes she would be a spinster, or a married lady, or the teacher could be the minister of a local church.

The community would acquire a building that would accomodate the students.  On the western frontier, one might see several Indian children in the room.

When Kansas gained statehood,. Isaac Goodnow, educator with inspiration, intelligence and the fortitude to gain "free speech, free men and free schools" established a system of common schools, a state university and the state teachers association. From the efforts of this man, the School Marm or School Master got the priviledge of being a teacher.  A few months attendance gained a certificate.

Isaac Tichenor Goodnow was up early the morning  of Monday, September 28, 1863.  As State Superintendent of Public Instruction, he was beginning another of his weekly journeys to organize school districts with federal land grants and to promote his personal land business on the side.  The summer had been one of extreme heat and drought..Rain was in the daily prayers of the settlers.

The State Superintendent was one of the most extensively traveled man in the new state, and was widely acquainted with citizens everywhere.  In 1855, at the age of 41, he arrived in Kansas with background experience as an English professor and Natural Sciences from the Academy of Wilbrahan near Springfield Mass., and at providence Seminary at East Greenwich Rhode Island.  His motives for coming to Kansas apparently were similiar to those of other New England settlers who became state leaders--abolition, land ownership and adventure.

During his first eight years in Kansas, Isaac Goodnow had set aside one of the attractive hills for the establishment of the Bluemont Central College.  He returned to the east, to raise $15000.00 and 2,000 library books to build the college and served as its president for the first years.  In February 1863, under the Morrill Land-Grant College Act became Kansas State Agricultural College and then later named Kansas State University. As it were, Isaac Goodnow could be named, "The father of formal education" for the new frontier.

A good many of the forts along the East-West trails of the Kansas Territory recieved "School Marms or Masters" that were educated by this anxious pioneer.

One of these such forts would be Fort Ellsworth.   Westwardly, Fort Ellsworth started life as a row of dugouts in a riverbank named for commander, 2nd Lt. Allen Ellsworth.  In these serene Smoky Hills, Indians once fought fiercely to protect their hunting grounds and ancient way of life from the white invasion that was fast turning their world upside down.  Isolated settlements and hunting parties were often the target as the Indians practived with their bows and arrows.  Fort Ellsworth was one of several outposts established to provide protection as folks followed the Smoky Hill River to gold fields of Colorado.  In 1866, the fort was upgraded, moved and acquired a new name, Fort Harker.

Although it held great promise in the beginning, Ellsworth was plagued with setbacks from its inception.  It was anticipated that the Kansas Pacific Railroad would halt for a time at Ellsworth.  Town promoters viewed this as a promising and profitable turn of events as the site would be a major shipping point for goods to Denver and Santa Fe.

The original townsite was platted in January 1867 on the bank of the Smoky Hill River.  In June the river flooded covering the young town with four feet of water, then the Cheyenne Indians went on a rampage and the settlers gathered at Fort Harker for portection from the Indians, Cholera broke out killing many and causing others to move to more hospitable areas.

In 1868, the railroad moved west from Ellsworth prompting town promoters to obtain a charter for the Ellsworth & Pacific Railroad Company.  They hoped the government would switch allegiance from the Kansas Pacific Railroad to Denver and route from Ellsworth to Santa Fe. Despite Gov. Samuel Crawford's apparent endorsement, the E&PRR failed.

As with this town and many of the others that sprung up with the thousands of settlers crossing the prairie,  the railroad ruled the land. The forts and stations that were not on the route of the "Iron Horse"  eventually died out.  There are a lot of ghost towns throughout the frontier, just ride across the frontier on a clear night and listen, you will hear the ghosts of Ellsworth, the town that wouldn't die.

Even with the all the changes in the station towns, there was always a need for a school marm or master, and that can be contributed to the foresight of  Isaac Tichenor Goodnow.