Lasita School

January 1st, 1892

Lasita School

January 1, 1892 – Default date for the beginning of construction for the Lasita School and Community Center – Lasita, Kansas

A brief History of Lasita School:

The building itself was built in 1892, by Johan “John” Backlund with a hired hand or two and help from several others.  One man was killed during the construction of the school, Mr. Flack.  He was blown off a scaffold during a brisk March wind.

John Backlund had progressive ideas about education.  They were quite advanced for his time, and the times, hence the size and stature of this otherwise “rural” school.  Only the bottom floor was ever the “school”.  The top floor was built for use by the community, a “community center” as one might say today.  It was the “Lasita Meeting Hall”, a place for meetings, to hold elections, to have debates about all the areas needs, or wants, or grievances or desires.  Up high one could get a perspective on things, see the town, see across the typically Kansas world.  It helped in making the decisions.

The building was also used as a place to hold Sunday School.  For many years these classes were taught by John Backlund Jr., a “Swedish bachelor farmer”, and son of Johan Backlund, the original founder of Lasita School and the original builder.

The heating of the building was never good.  As you can see in the pictures below the building had no plumbing.  Originally there was no electricity.  The walls were basically without insulation, which was typical of buildings such as this at the time.  But the building did have glass windows and effective shutters.  The Lasita School provided warmth from the wind and effective shade from the Kansas heat of summer.

The fact that the building remained standing until 1954, even though it was discontinued as a school in 1937, when the school board voted to not continue the school, speaks well for the quality of its construction.  The fact is also a testimonial to the fact that Lasita, Kansas was never hit (in these 62 years) by a tornado.

I (Donald Clayton) went inside the abandoned school in June of 1953 with Hemme Backlund, my grandmother, and youngest daughter of Johan “John” Backlund.  I even went upstairs.  I was on a two week trip to visit the Kansas farm with my mother and my two older brothers.  I was five years old at the time, but I remember the trip very well.

The Lasita School was torn down in 1954.  Hemme sold the Backlund Farm in 1955, which was the last year that she lived in Lasita, the town in Kansas nearest that of her birth.

The Lasita School in 1897, when it was new:

This photograph was probably one of the earliest pictures taken by Alfin Backlund, who courtesy of a timer is seen in his own photograph (he is the tallest person in the back row, right of center).  The year is probably 1897, in December obviously, you can see the snow.   The teacher for everyone pictured here is Cora Stump, seen on the far left, back row.  Hemme Backlund is the young girl on the far right.  No coat, but bravely not looking cold.  In the row behind her, to the left is her sister Hattie Backlund.  The names of the other students pictured are listed below.

A list of the School Teachers that taught at Lasita School:

The first year of classes at Lasita School was 1893.

The Lasita School was District Number 47 in Riley County, Kansas.

The following is a list of teachers who taught at Lasita School in Lasita, Kansas:

1893 – 1894     Ivy F. Harner

1894 – 1895     Ivy F. Harner

1895 – 1896     Marshall Harner

1896 – 1897     Cora Stump

1897 – 1898     Cora Stump

1898 – 1899     Jennie Knowles

1899 – 1900     Schuyler Harner

1900 – 1901     Marie Blatchly

1901 – 1902     Spencer N. Chaffee (1/2 year) – Ida Cox (1/2 year)

1902 – 1903     ‘Miss’ Howe

1903 – 1904     ‘Miss’ Howe

1904 – 1905     Hattie W. Backlund

1905 – 1906     Hattie W. Backlund

1906 – 1907     Dora Stafford

1907 – 1908     Lynn Fullington

Note:  There is a possibility that classes began in the fall of 1892, and that an Annie Reece was the teacher, or possibly a Romeo or Loyal Harner.

The above information was provided by Hemme Backlund Martin.  The original list that she wrote appears below.

Hemme Backlund at Lasita School:

Hemme Backlund began school at Lasita School in Lasita, Kansas when she was seven years old.  She completed the course requirements in the spring of 1902, with Ida Cox as her teacher.  On June 10, 1902 she began classes at the Kansas State Normal School in Emporia, Kansas.  Her older sisters Hattie Backlund and Hulda Backlund were also attending school there at this time.

“Hemme” loved Lasita School and loved learning.  She greatly appreciated the education that she received there and fondly recalled all her teachers.  It is courtesy of her memory and her records that we have here the list that we do.  But Hemme was born Swedish.  Her parents did not read or write English well, her name means “home” in Swedish, because that was their wish; a “youngest daughter” that might always stay home and take care of her parents as they would grow old.

The teachers at Lasita School didn’t understand this.  They wished to separate Hemme from the influence of her home and her Swedish language and heritage.  The first thing they did was “Anglicize” her name into “Hemmie”.  The name took.  The teachers were authority figures and, she thought they should know.   So Hemme went through most of her life as “Hemmie”, until she grew older, re-embraced her Swedish past and found herself and her place as her parents had wanted.  And she changed her name back to the Swedish under which she was born.

Throughout her life she was pulled between family and school.  She became a teacher herself, taught in a number of Riley County schools, taught in Arizona, and in California until she was forced to retire.  On the family side she researched much genealogy, even going so far as to relearn Swedish and going to Sweden to read the ‘old’ Swedish in the very old records.  It’s impressive.  It’s a tribute to both her and to the discipline taught at Lasita School.

Lasita, Kansas – Lasita School, Lund House, Shell Elevator and Frank J. Lund Store:

In this photograph of Lasita, Kansas, probably taken in August of 1908, by Alfin Backlund, the clouds are overhead and the foreground mud suggests that it has been raining.   This photograph shows clearly the very tall lightning rod on the top of the Lasita School.

Shell Mill & Grain Co. – Lasita, Kansas – showing the location of the railroad “through town” and Lasita School on the right:

Another photograph by Alfin Backlund.  It seems to have been snowing.  It is probably December of 1908 in Lasita, Kansas.

Lasita School and Community Center Building – Lasita, Kansas:

This photograph by Alfin was probably taken near the end of his life and in the declining years of the community and school.  Since Alfin died at Christmas in the influenza of 1918, this photograph was probably taken in 1914, perhaps a few years later.  Things obviously are reaching a state of disrepair.  The “old” photograph is faded, as the Lasita School seems to need some repair.

The structure out front was for more basic needs.  It was used during recesses a lot.  It was useful in the evenings if meetings went on too long.  “Pashaw” on plumbing.  It’s like cars, and the telephone and electricity – “who needs them”.  The building is evidence that you can have both education and community without the modern frills.  But by 1914 the world was changing.   There was a war.  Men were enlisting.  Life in Lasita, Kansas would never be the same; and then came the influenza.

In this picture you can see the single (small) chimney.  Maybe it is a reflection of the fact that people either had coats or didn’t need them.  The building was both designed and built by Johan “John” Backlund.  He was born and young in northern Sweden.  Kansas (it could be said, that he thought) was always warm compared to Sweden.

Photograph of Jennie Knowles, teacher at Lasita School:

Jennie Knowles was the teacher at Lasita School in the year 1898 – 1899.  This photograph of Jennie Knowles was taken by Kalin photographers on Lincoln Avenue in Clay Center, Kansas circa 1899.  It was apparently given to Hemme Backlund Martin by Mary Lee Caley.

Souvenir given to Hattie Backlund by Jennie Knowles, teacher at Lasita School:


Hattie Backlund attended Lasita School from 1893 until her graduation in 1899.  Jennie Knowles was her last teacher at Lasita School.

Graduation Exercises Program for Lasita School – 1899:

The 1899 Graduating Exercises for Lasita School were held at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Leonardville, Kansas on Friday, April 28, 1899.  Hattie Backlund gave the Recitation “Drafted”.  There was an Essay entitled “How the Yankees helped capture Havana in 1762” and another by Gustave Norell entitled, “Our War with Spain.”
The Methodist Episcopal Church in Leonardville, Kansas:

This is a picture, taken circa 1910, of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Leonardville, Kansas where the 1899 Lasita School graduation was held.

Swingle Hotel in Leonardville – A.J. Swingle proprietor:

The School Superintendent for Lasita School was C.G. Swingle.  The above pictured hotel in Leonardville, Kansas was (probably) owned by either his father or a brother.

Photograph of Hattie W. Backlund, teacher at Lasita School:

Hattie Backlund was the teacher at Lasita School in the year 1904 – 1905 and 1905 – 1906.  This photograph of Hattie Backlund was taken by Loomis photographers in Emporia, Kansas in 1904 at the time of Hattie’s graduation from the Kansas State Normal School in Emporia, Kansas.  The photograph is a part of the Hemme Backlund Martin Collection.  Hattie was her older sister.

Teacher’s Contracts for Lasita School – 1904 and 1905 – Hattie W. Backlund:

The 1904 – 1905 school year began on September 5, 1904.  The “year” was for a term of “seven school months”, ending at some point in April.  For this work the teacher was paid $40 dollars per month, about $2 per day; no benefits were included.

The 1905 – 1906 school year began on September 4, 1905.  The “year” was for a term of “seven school months”, ending at some point in April.  For this work Hattie Backlund was paid $45 dollars per month (an increase of $5 per month over last year), about $2.25 per day; no benefits were included.   M.A. Chaffee was “Director or Treasurer”, E.B. Senn was “Clerk or Treasurer” for Lasita School.

Map of the School Districts of Riley County, Kansas – early 20th Century:

On the far left side of this map, mid-map, one can see the Lasita District #47.  North of Lasita is the Pleasant Hill School, upper right of Lasita is the Alert School, further south is the Bala School.  The May Day School is north of Alert, Leonardville School District is east of Arbor School and south of Monitor School.

Unfortunately, the location of the various schools on this map that shows the school district lines are not shown.  The schools can be found on a map here, but this map of Riley County, Kansas does not show the school district boundaries.   If one goes back and forth between the two maps enough times one can figure out both where the schools are, and where the school district boundaries were.

Note:  The first post about Lasita, Kansas starts here: Lasita, Kansas.

[“Lasita School” Post written on May 4, 2011 @ 03:47  ZLT / GMT / Zulu / UTC]