The rich history of Cato came to life Saturday as Union troops chased away Confederate raiders from Missouri, and a teacher taught lessons in the 1869 Cato School.

The rich history of Cato came to life Saturday as Union troops chased away Confederate raiders from Missouri, and a teacher taught lessons in the 1869 Cato School.

“We have people in period costumes around,” said Susie Stelle of the Cato Historical Preservation Association, which sponsored the annual fall tour. “Not all of them are reenactors, but they add to the atmosphere.”

Cato, founded in 1854, is the oldest settlement in Crawford County.  However, it was part of Bourbon County until Crawford County was created in 1867, according to Anna Swank, who did a high school research project on one-room schools in Bourbon County.

She, her twin sister Elizabeth Thompson and brother-in-law James Thompson presented the school program. All three are teachers in real life. Thompson, originally from Georgia and now living in Cherryvale, teaches in Parsons, and his wife teaches in Coffeyville. Her sister is a teacher in Fort Scott.

Swank said she became involved with Cato around 2005 when Barbara Scott contacted her and asked if she would do a presentation at the old school.

“That first year I was the teacher and Elizabeth was my student,” she said.

This year Thompson was the teacher, and the sisters were his students.

“Most teachers back then were men, because women were supposed to be in the home,” Swank explained. “Then, during World War I, many of the men were off to war, so more women got into teaching.”

Since they were supposed to be above reproach, teachers were under many restrictions.

“Men teachers could not spend more than one night of the week in courting, unless it was for a church activity,” Thompson said. “Then they were allowed two nights. Also, men teachers could not be shaved in a barber shop.”

Women teachers had to be decently attired at all times in skirts no more than two inches above the ankle. And they had to wear at least two petticoats under their skirts.

Thompson led the two in lessons that covered much information on Cato, which was founded in 1854 by John Rogers, who built the first store building. In addition to having the first school in the county, the small community also  had the first grist mill, the first coal mining operation and the first county fair.

Cato has a fair amount of Civil War history, too.

“After I knew I was coming here, I spent about a week doing research,” said Rob Jackson, who heads the Sixth Missouri Cavalry re-enactors group.

He said that Cato, which boasted its grist mill, store and tavern, was an attractive target for raiders.

“Missouri boys would come on over, maybe steal a few horses and liberate whatever they wanted around the countryside,” he said.

Jackson noted that John Rogers, the Cato founder, raised a company of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry to fight for the Union.

“Captain Rogers was killed by bushwhackers in 1862 somewhere between Fort Scott and Cato,” he said. “In 1864 there was a battle between Cato and Cow Creek, with one Union man killed and three  Confederates wounded. After the battle, Captain Medford camped in Cato for two days to rest his horses and his troops, then went back up to Fort Scott.”

The re-enactment Jackson’s group put on Saturday featured three Union men trying to capture two  Confederates. “We kind of put this together in the last two weeks,” he said. “We hope to be back next year in a little better numbers.”

Stelle is looking forward to that, and noted that 2011 will mark the 150th anniversary of Kansas statehood and the beginning of the Civil War.

“We’re going to try to do a three-day celebration for our tour next year, and have a Civil War battle,” Stelle said.

She’s also hoping for better weather next year.

“I think the threat of rain scared away some people who would have come out for the tour,” Stelle said. “But we had a lot of new people who had never been to Cato before, and I’m happy about that.”weeks,” he said. “We hope to be back next year in a little better numbers.”