Thursday, March 5, 2015

Once there was a community...

Once there was a community called Livingston located in Richland Township southwest of St. John, KS.  Isaac Werner attended a Union Labor lecture at the school house there.  He met a couple by the last name of Cornett and stayed with them overnight, enjoying what he called 'some of the most interesting literary and political talk I had experienced in a while.' Now this community has nearly disappeared, except for old photographs and images in the memories of a few people.  
 In 2012 when my husband and I paused to take these photographs of the Livingston school house, all that remained were ruins.  The community that once had an active Farmer's Alliance has disappeared.  During the height of the progressive movement Isaac came to photograph the communities' group of wagons on their way to St. John to join other wagons from around Stafford County.  They met at the train depot to form a procession which paraded around the square in support of the progressive movement sweeping across Kansas.
 The country schools that were the center of their small communities have nearly all disappeared.  (See "Isaac Builds a School House," 10-11-12 in the Blog Archives.)  Most of them closed in the 1940s, a few remaining until the early 1950s.  People tried to preserve the schools as the center of their community for dances, reunions, and other social events.  For a time some of them were used as the voting place for their neighborhoods.
Eventually not enough people resided in the old communities to support these rarely used gathering places.  Some of the old schools were bulldozed.  Others were left empty to deteriorate, crumbling symbols of the communities established by the early settlers and the high value those settlers placed on educating their children.

A P.S.:  Diane Getty, who grew up in the Richland community, posted a comment that the Greensburg tornado was the cause of the severe damage to the Livingston School.


The Blog Fodder said...

Communities outlive their usefulness as roads get better and vehicles get better. If you describe a community as an area 1 hour in radius it has expanded from 6 miles to 60 miles. Sad to see the towns go but they no longer serve a purpose. The town where my father and I went to public school is gone as is the town I went to high school.
That was a lovely school in Livingston

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

I'm not sure driving time is the way to define "community," although I do understand your meaning and it is valid. Community as I think of it has more to do with people who know one another and share common links--whether employment, entertainment, activities, etc. I certainly don't know everyone within a 60 mile radius, but I suspect my father knew everyone within a 6 miles radius...and Isaac probably did too.