Calling former students
Local woman seeks subjects of photographs
Connie Putthoff is in her element.
The Tonganoxie woman, who is president of the local historical society, loves to solve historical mysteries. And she's in the middle of one now, much to her delight.
About two months ago, former downtown hardware store owner and local historian John Lenahan handed over to Putthoff's husband, Harold, a plastic bag filled with old school photographs and grade books. Ever since, Connie Putthoff has been working to find out who is pictured in the photos and obtain lists of students who attended the one-room country schools.
"All of these schools that I have were ones that Lois Penfold Ward taught at," Putthoff said. "Some were when she was Lois Penfold."
The schools, most of them in the Tonganoxie area, are long-gone.
In some cases, the buildings remain. They've been converted into homes or businesses. But others were dismantled.
Among the old photographs are class pictures. Putthoff has cleaned the photos and now is matching children's faces with names. She's had some success, and is hopeful she can identify more people and the years they were in school. In addition, she's hopeful she can gain more information about the schools -- how long they were in operation, exactly where they were and whether the buildings remain today.
"I want to put these up at the museum, of course, eventually," Putthoff said of the museum at the Tonganoxie Historic Site, 201 W. Washington.
Among the pieces of history Putthoff has is Ward's eighth-grade diploma, dated 1922.
According to information from a Journal-World article written in 1987, Lois Penfold Ward retired from teaching in 1972. She started her teaching career after she graduated and passed a teacher-qualifying test in 1926. During the final years of her career, she taught at Tonganoxie Elementary School.
During most of that 46-year career, she taught in Leavenworth County.
"There were a lot of little schools around that are no longer in existence," Putthoff said. "To me, it's so much fun doing this kind of thing."