Category Archives: Schools

Emily Bluejacket and the Shawnee Indian Mission

Color postcard of the exterior of the West building of the Methodist Shawnee mission. The two-story brick building at the center is partially obscured by trees and shrubs. The building has two prominent chimneys at the gable end. A landscaped yard in the foreground has numerous flowering shrubs and trees. A planter is in the foreground. A white bench is behind one tree to the left of the building. The image has a narrow white border. Gray colored text in the bottom margin:

Shawnee Methodist Mission (Photo courtesy of the Johnson County Museum Collection on JoCoHistory)

The Shawnee Methodist Mission was originally located around present day Turner, Wyandotte County, but in 1839, it relocated to Johnson County at 3403 W 53rd St, in Fairway.  At one time, there were 13 small buildings and 3 large buildings, but the 3 larger buildings, East, West, and North, are all that remain on the campus today.  Twenty-three different Indian nations were represented including the Shawnee from Ohio. Because of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, a treaty was signed giving the Ohio Shawnee lands in Kansas.  The Shawnee Methodist Mission was a manual training school, where they learned basic academics, manual arts, and agriculture until 1862.

The First Territorial Capital of Kansas was in Pawnee, part of present day Fort Riley, but those in the legislature wanted to move closer to Missouri, so for 23 days in 1855, the mission served as the second capital of the Kansas Territory.  After 1862, the location included “a boarding house, a brothel, a frequent gathering spot for rowdies and ruffians passing through the open spaces and as a speakeasy”.(1)   During the Civil War it served as barracks for the Union troops.  There was very little upkeep after the closing of the school.  However, in 1927 the state acquired the property.  Work to restore the property commenced and the North building was completed in 1942.

Black and white film negative of 13 young women standing outside in the snowy yard in front of a building at the Shawnee Indian Methodist Mission. The women wear long dark skirts and light colored shirtwaists. Several of the women wear white aprons and/or jackets. Most of the women wear their hair tied back into buns at the crown of their heads. At least 7 women are holding snowballs. The group is gathered in the snowy yard directly in front of a large tree. One two-story building of the Shawnee Indian Methodist Mission is partly visible in the left part of the image.

Women at the Shawnee Indian Mission (Photo courtesy of the Johnson County Museum Collection on JoCoHistory)

Black and white informal photograph of the exterior of the Shawnee Indian Methodist Mission's north building. This scene shows the partially gutted building. The two story building has a side gabled roof and brick walls. The stone foundation is also partly visible. There are piles of bricks near the corner of the building at the left edge of photograph. There is a black

Shawnee Indian Methodist mission under reconstruction (Photo courtesy of the Johnson County Museum collection on JoCoHistory)

The North building was used as a dormitory and school for girls.  They learned spinning, weaving and other domestic arts.  Some of the Shawnee embraced the Methodist religion and approved their children’s attendance.  Some of the children were happy to go to a mission school because they were fed better than when they lived at home.  However, they also were given new names, new clothes, and their hair was cut on admittance to the school.

Black and white photograph of the exterior of the Shawnee Indian Methodist Mission's North building. The two-story brick building has a rough-faced stone foundation, a side gabled roof, rectangular brick chimneys on either end of the roof, and a wide inset porch spanning most of the width of the building. The porch has white, classical columns as porch supports. Surrounding the building is a grassy yard where several large trees are growing. In the foreground at the right side of the bottom edge of the photo is a road.

Shawnee Indian Methodist mission (Photo courtesy of the Johnson County Museum collection on JoCoHistory)

One little Shawnee girl, Emily, whose parents were Reverend Lewis McNiff, a white man, and Math-Ah-Pease, attended the school.  Emily’s mother Math-Ah-Pease married again to a man by the name of James Blue Jacket, hence Emily Bluejacket. Records show she was at the mission in 1844 as Emily Bluejacket but they also differ on her age.  According to the 1857 Kansas State Census an Emily Bluejacket was at the mission was 18.

The 1854 Treaty with The Shawnee stated that each single Shawnee person was entitled to 200 acres.  Emily Bluejacket was entitled to 200 acres and part of her land was where Grinders in Lenexa is today, SE 1/4 of section 4, township 013S, range 024E.  We find that Emily married Charles Barth in 1859 who took off to seek his fortune during the gold rush in California, never to return.  She then married Joseph Nipp in 1866 and had 2 boys, and eventually moved to Oklahoma.  The land changed hands several times, including the owner Icy Snow Beard in the 1930s, until it was purchased by Endicott Properties and a restaurant, Stonewall Inn opened as a restaurant with a pub-like atmosphere.  This restaurant closed down in 2002 but Grinders Stonewall owned by Jeff Rumaner, opened in 2014 after 8 months of renovations.

Photograph of L-plan hotel in the national folk style with dormers and varied gable roof. Stonewall Inn painted on awning over doorway. American flag on roof. Chimney on side of building.

Stonewall Inn (Photo courtesy of the Johnson County Museum collection on JoCoHistory)

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

(1)Thomas Johnson’s Story and the History of Fairway, Kansas, by Joe H. Vaughan, pg 14

Editor’s Note: There will be more JoCoHistory blogs in the future detailing a fuller history of the Mission, and the Johnson County Museum will host a travelling exhibit about Native American boarding schools in 2023.

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Buddy the Deaf Dog

Your dog can sit, but can it answer its own fan mail? Can it play piano and wear a stylish cap? Buddy could!

Buddy answering fan mail

Buddy answering fan mail in 1953 Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection

“Buddy the Deaf Dog” was a touring stage act put on by Bob Parker and his famous performing dog Buddy.  Buddy and Parker made a splash in the 1950s, touring schools and stage events throughout the metro area and traveling as far as St. Louis. Buddy had total hearing impairment but, with some ingenuity and a lot of practice, the team were able to develop a series of tricks that were based on visual cues given by Parker. When asked how the two came to be, Parker claimed to have found Buddy wandering lonely on the plains of Kansas. He had a mean attitude and tried to bite Parker, but the two quickly became inseparable friends.

Bob Parker and Buddy

Bob Parker and Buddy Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection

Buddy was particularly popular at Olathe’s Kansas School for the Deaf, where the duo performed a myriad of tricks meant to show that Buddy’s lack of hearing didn’t prevent him from excelling and learning new things. Some of Buddy’s best-loved tricks involved him writing letters, smoking a pipe, or joining Parker on the piano.

Buddy playing the piano

Buddy playing the piano Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection

Buddy "smoking" a pipe

Buddy the Deaf Dog Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection

The man behind the dog, Bob Parker, was born in 1899 as Parker B. Melluish in Ottawa, Kansas. Parker was a veteran of both World Wars, dropping out of high school to join the army at age 17. He fought in the Battle of the Argonne and was honorably discharged due to injury, at which time he joined the vaudeville circuit and toured the country as a song and dance man. When World War II arrived, Parker rejoined the service and took charge of theatre and entertainment for his regiment. He arranged USO shows, performed in variety programs, brought in the newest films, and was responsible for keeping up his company’s morale. He remained an active member of Olathe’s American Legion post and Veterans of Foreign Wars throughout his life. After World War II, he returned to Kansas and became a theater manager, touring with Buddy in his free time. He was a lifelong supporter of the Kansas School for the Deaf and continued his support long after he and Buddy had retired. Parker passed away in 1975 and requested that donations be sent to the school in his memory.

Bob and buddy perform

Postcard to Kansas School for the Deaf Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection


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Rising from the Ashes


Photo pulled from fire damage at the Hickory Grove School

Fire has always been a concern for schools, especially when we’re talking about old school buildings. Fire drills were first introduced because of the numerous severe fires in schools. Of course today, we have the newest technology for early detection, but the early days of Johnson County were not so lucky.  Two such fires were in 1920 and 1949.

In January of 1920, a fire completely destroyed the Overland Park High School building. Sources are conflicting as to the actual date, but the Kansas City Star states the date as Monday, Jan. 26. At that time the building was located at Santa Fe Road and Robinson Street. According to the Kansas City Star, the origin of the fire is a mystery, but possibly caused by a gas explosion. Witnesses claimed to have seen a bright light around 2 a.m. toward the vicinity of the building.


Overland Park High School fire in 1920

This building, built from stone, was not the first school at the location. A wood structure called Pleasant Prairie was built there in 1873. Because enrollment increased over the years by 45% and costs increased 56%, it was felt a new structure was needed. So in 1909 a new stone structure opened. There were four rooms on the first floor and four in the basement, with an annex attached at a later date. Enrollment continued to grow.  Four teachers were hired and the costs totaled upwards of $9,000. But on that fateful morning in January 1920, the building and its contents were a complete loss. The district rallied again, and a new school of a larger scale was built.


Pleasant Prairie School in 1899, the location where Overland Park High was later built.

Overland Park High would not be the last school to experience a devastating fire. The first Hickory Grove school, a one-room wooden structure, was built in 1865 and was once the largest school in the county. The name for the school was chosen because of the beautiful grove of Hickory trees on the site in Mission, Kan. This one-room structure stayed until 1916 when a larger one was needed. Stone structures were popular around this time, possibly from fear of fire, and this two-story stone school with two classrooms and one big community room on the ground floor was built.  The basement was converted to classrooms at a later date, with additions built in 1926, 1937 and 1946. The latest addition consisted of 11 more classrooms, a library, a gymnasium and increased cafeteria facilities.


Fire at the Hickory Grove School in 1949.

On July 21, 1949, a fire erupted in the new stone building.  Children who were rehearsing a play had just left the building when J. M. Smothers, the assistant custodian,  was locking the doors when through the windows he saw a light coming from the auditorium area. He discovered the entire stage curtain on fire. Previously, he had sternly advised the college students who had been directing the play not to smoke backstage.


Fire damage at Hickory Grove School

Firefighters from different local communities rushed to help control the blaze. Fire trucks from Overland Park, Shawnee and Mission townships, Mission and Kansas City, Kan., hurried to the scene. Six pumper trucks with eight streams were directed on the 100-foot high flames. Seen for miles, the fire drew 500 people. Thick black smoke billowed above until the roof was consumed an hour later. The damage was estimated at $100,000, but the new $250,000 addition was saved.

On a happy note, the play was also saved and moved to another school. Just like the old saying, “The show must go on.”

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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Black History Month: Corinthian Nutter

Five years before Brown v. the Board of Education, Webb v. School District 90 ended segregation practices in South Park, Kan. In honor of Black History Month, we would like to spotlight Corinthian Nutter, a major contributor in this case. Nutter risked her career to take action on behalf of African-American students and parents in her community.


Corinthian Nutter

In the 1940s, Nutter taught at the Walker Elementary School in South Park, now known as Merriam, Kan. Over the years of segregation practices in School District 90, Walker Elementary became dilapidated and unsuitable for a proper learning environment. While Walker Elementary School remained open, School District 90 built a new school, South Park Elementary. Unfortunately, the school district denied enrollment for African-American students at South Park. The denials continued even after several formal requests from parents and others in the community. So in 1948, Nutter, students, parents and other community members orchestrated a boycott of Walker Elementary.


Walker School, 1949. Photograph courtesy of Bill Curtis.

As a result, Nutter lost her job with the school district and was replaced by two new teachers. However, only two students remained at Walker Elementary after the boycott. With the help of teacher Hazel McCray Weddington, Nutter continued to teach the former Walker Elementary School children out of private residences, and their salaries were paid by parents and other supporters.

Over the next year, boycott supporters rallied and raised money to hire a lawyer to sue the school district. The case went to court and  Webb v. School District 90 successfully ended segregation practices in South Park.

Corinthian Nutter and her class at Walker School, around the time of the school boycott

Corinthian Nutter and her class at Walker School, around the time of the school boycott

For more information about the Walker Elementary boycott and other individuals that helped end the segregation practices in Johnson County, go to


-Beth Edson, Johnson County Library

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Then & Now: South Park Elementary and the Walker School

In 1887, the community of South Park, Kansas, was founded. A year later, District 90 was organized to educate the town’s children, and a one room school—known as the Walker School—was built.

Walker School

Walker School, 1949. Photograph courtesy of Bill Curtis.

In 1912, a second school was built, and the era of segregated schooling began in the community: white children attended the new school, and black children continued to attend the Walker School.

By the late 1940s, the Walker School, now a two room school, was delapidated and shabby. An outhouse served as the restroom facilities, and heating in the building was unreliable. When a bond issue was passed to build a new, modern school building for white children only, black parents were outraged. Despite their protests, however, the school board refused to admit black children to the new South Park School when it opened in 1947. In response, the parents, teachers and a group of concerned citizens filed a lawsuit, Webb v. School District No. 90, against the school district.

Esther Brown

Merriam resident Esther Brown was instrumental in organizing the lawsuit against School District 90. She later played a prominent role in bringing the 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education lawsuit as well.

As the lawsuit made its way through the courts, South Park’s black families boycotted the Walker School, choosing instead to hire two teachers—Corinthian Nutter and Hazel McCray Weddington—to teach the children in private homes. In 1949, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a state law prohibiting segregation in small towns, ruling in favor of admitting black children to South Park Elementary. The case is considered an important forerunner to the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit which would make school segregation illegal nationwide.

Walker School students and teachers

Corinthian Nutter, back left, and Hazel McCray Weddington, back right, and their students, 1948

 Today, the Walker School still stands at 9420 W. 50th Terrace in Merriam, and serves as the home of the Philadelphia Baptist Church.

former Walker School

Philadelphia Baptist Church, 1997

 The South Park Elementary School, located at 8715 W. 49th Street, closed in 2007 due to dwindling enrollment. The building’s future is currently unclear.

South Park School

South Park Elementary School, 1996


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History Mystery: Walker School photo

Walker School class

Corinthian Nutter and her class at Walker School, around the time of the school boycott

This photo shows the class of Walker School, a school attended by the African American students of the South Park area in present-day Merriam.

The teacher shown here is Corinthian Nutter. Nutter is best known for participating in a walk-out at Walker School in 1948. The Merriam school district had built a new school but refused to permit African American students from Walker school to attend. In protest, all but two Walker School students refused to attend classes until the policy was reversed. The subsequent boycott of classes had Nutter teaching in people’s homes until the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Walker students, effectively desegregating the Merriam school system.

The students here have not been identified though it is likely that many are still living.

View another Corinthian Nutter History Mystery.

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History mystery: Corinthian Nutter photo

Corinthian Nutter and Unknown Woman

Corinthian Nutter (right) sitting with an unidentified woman

Corinthian Nutter was well into her 90s when this photograph was taken around 2000. The photo has her sitting with another older woman who is not identified. The woman is holding a legal pad which brings to mind the possibility that she is conducting an interview or oral history. If you have any idea who this could be, leave a comment here or on the photograph record. Click the photo to view a larger image on the site.

Corinthian Nutter died in 2004 at the age of 97. You can read an obituary from the Johnson County Museum newsletter on the JoCoHistory site.

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History mystery: Prairie School class, 1927

Here we have a very evocative photo of the students at Prairie School, District 44 in present day Shawnee.

Prairie School, 1927

Prairie School, 1927

The teacher (at top right) is Elizabeth Burway, a teacher and principal in the Johnson County area who worked in a number of schools over the years. She is the only identified person in this photo.

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History Mystery: Twins at Bonjour Elementary School

This is a cute picture of two sets of twins at Bonjour Elementary School in Lenexa, Kansas. We do not have names or ages for the children or a year for the photograph. I personally would guess early 1980s but the item record only indicates “Circa 1980’s-1990’s”


Click to view larger image and photo record.

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Eureka School

Eureka SchoolThis little schoolhouse was located in Aubry township, just southwest of Morse. The building was sold at auction on January 31, 1953. View photos of Eureka School.

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