July 5, 2014

Lanesfield Historic Site offers a patriotic step back in time

The Lanesfield Historic Site in southwestern Johnson County offered a quiet contrast Saturday to the noisier modern holiday with crafts and history lessons in a one-room schoolhouse.

No fireworks painting the sky. Just a blue paper pinwheel softly blown.

No beeping electronic games. Just a pen painstakingly dipped in an inkwell and letters applied to paper.

At the Lanesfield Historic Site in southwestern Johnson County, an “old-fashioned Independence Day” on Saturday lured visitors off the beaten path and back in time.

Grandparents June and Jim Winter of Overland Park brought Adelyn Winter, 8, and Jace Winter, 5, to spend time as June did when she was young: in a one-room schoolhouse.

“They really enjoyed writing on the slateboard,” Jim Winter said. “They actually didn’t want to leave.”

There was plenty to do, even without an Internet connection. Inside the sturdy stone school, which has stood at the same spot since 1904, kids fashioned paper pinwheels, used a pen dipped into India ink and wrote with soapstone sticks on slates.

“They didn’t know how to use some of this,” said Justin Border, education assistant at the Johnson County Museum, which maintains the site. “I’m pretty sure they hadn’t seen anything like some of this before.”

While Adelyn worked hard to master the pen, Jace was most fascinated with the outdoor water pump — and disappointed that it no longer draws water.

The schoolhouse, with its straight lines of dark wooden desks, was decorated for the Fourth of July with a paper-chain garland and red, white and blue bunting. Without the seasonal trappings, it’s open to the public every Friday and Saturday.

Not surprisingly, school field trips and random visits orchestrated by grandparents produce most of the visitors. On Saturday, 10 children and 10 adults came via the rural road to the place where wagons once crossed on the Santa Fe Trail.

Tena Hicks, 12, who came with grandmother Barbara Hicks of Lawrence, took her paper pinwheel outside to watch it turn in the breeze.

The stone structure is the second schoolhouse to sit at the site. The first, built in 1869, was struck by lightning. Classes were held in the rebuilt schoolhouse, the current building, until 1963, serving the surrounding farm community.

Across the schoolyard, a small museum tells the story of Lanesfield, a now-gone town, and the school’s history.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to dstafford@kcstar.com.

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