In 1873, a one-room building was built on the corner of First and Gunsmoke where the AT&T building is today.

    “Here they constructed a small one-story, one-room frame building, which of course in keeping with tradition of that time was painted red,” Heinie Schmidti, a reporter for the High Plains Journal, wrote in 1949.

    It was the first school in Dodge City. And, some claimed, the first school on the western frontier.

    Eleven students attended — 10 boys and a girl.


    In 1873, a one-room building was built on the corner of First and Gunsmoke where the AT&T building is today.
    “Here they constructed a small one-story, one-room frame building, which of course in keeping with tradition of that time was painted red,” Heinie Schmidti, a reporter for the High Plains Journal, wrote in 1949.
    It was the first school in Dodge City. And, some claimed, the first school on the western frontier.
    Eleven students attended — 10 boys and a girl.
    Amenities included wooden benches for students and a flat-top desk for the teacher.
    As Dodge City grew in those first few years of its existence, so did its school population.
    In 1877, 35 pupils were enrolled in school. A year later, there were 90 students.
    In 1986, Elizabeth Rindt, who wrote for the Front Street Times, wrote a short history on the first school overcrowding issue in Dodge City.
    “By 1878, an average of 60 children were attending classes there under the supervision of Mr. L.H. Roberts and Miss Annie Fleming,” she wrote. “One year later, enrollment had soared to 140 pupils.”
    And there were location concerns about the school. Rindt wrote about how the principal complained about its proximity to the business district. He thought the children would be exposed to people with some less-than-savory habits.
    But this wasn’t the only problem.
    Rindt wrote, “The building was described as ‘windshaken and otherwise dilapidated through vents in which on windy days the sand drifts as through a sieve.’”
    Educators were faced with a growing student population and a building that was falling apart.
    
The Old Third Ward School    
    By May 1879, the school board decided Boot Hill would be the site of a new school. In February of that year, all of the bodies buried on Boot Hill were removed to Prairie Grove Cemetery.
    A month later, the community voted to build a new school at Boot Hill. The vote was 176 for the proposal and 61 against.
    On Feb. 10, 1880, a new schoolhouse called the Third Ward School was dedicated on the top of Boot Hill. The structure was a 30-by-60-foot two-story building made of brick for a cost of $6,300.    
    Enrollment in Dodge City averaged 200 by then, with 160 in daily attendance.
    Still, there was unrest in the community concerning the school’s location. So much so that the Ford County Globe, reported accusations of voting fraud in August 1883. It was so contentious that some mysterious persons vandalized the school clerk’s office.
    Accusations continued into November before dying off.
    But there problems with the new building. A year after its construction, its roof was already leaking. By 1885, that building was braced by running rods.
    Student population was still on the rise, and overcrowding was an issue.
    In 1885, Dodge City faced three different bond elections to get the Second Ward School built. The first was in April of that year. It failed.
    On Sept. 10, the school board proposed building a school in the east part of town. But that bond didn’t pass, either.
    Finally, on Sept. 28, there was another school bond election. That bond issue passed, and a Second Ward School was built on what’s now Central Avenue.
    In December 1886, the U.S. Census determined that Dodge City’s population was 2,446. The Dodge City Times reported 320 pupils in daily attendance at the community’s schools.
    By 1889, however, the student population jumped to 520. Educators complained that even with two large brick buildings and eight rooms, there wasn’t sufficient capacity, the Dodge City Times reported.    Educators predicted a new school would be needed.
    
The New Third Ward School    
    Meanwhile, the Third Ward School was beginning to have serious problems. The bricks began to crack. The roof leaked. The structure was poorly ventilated, and its hallways were cramped. Running rods held the structure together.
    In May 1889, a Wichita man named F.A. Weston was brought in by the school board to examine the Third Ward School. Here’s what he reported to the board:
    “I found the building in very poor repair, generally, and some things I consider dangerous to life and limb,” he wrote. “The belfry was not properly constructed and it has been swayed so much by the wind that it has weakened the whole structure ... The condition of the building is such that it cannot be safe and comfortable without expending several thousand dollars upon it.”
    The board found this disconcerting and resolved to demolish the structure and build a new one on the same site.
    The school board brought a $15,000 bond issue at 6 percent interest with a 20-year payment plan to the voters.
    The issue caused considerable debate in the community over where the school should be located and how much it would cost.
    But the bond passed, and work began on the new Third Ward School at Boot Hill. It was completed in 1890 and used until 1927, when it was torn down and replaced by Lincoln School at another location.
    In its place, the Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce was built. But now it’s a vacant building on Fourth Avenue and Spruce Street, used by the Dodge City Fire Department to store equipment.