CATO — It is that time of year again when local schools take a field trip to historic Cato.  

Volunteers were dressed in late 1800s and early 1900s attire while they shared the history of the old town.

Elementary students from Frontenac and Pittsburg gathered around the old Cato school to sing and learn its history, led by Dan Duling.

Rosetta Coonrod Schemenauer, who was a first grader at the one-room school in the 1940s, was introduced to the smiling crowd of youngsters to share her story.

The stone school was built in Cato in 1860s and it was closed in the 1950s.  It was the second school built there — the first was a log cabin-style school,  which is no longer standing, Schemenauer said.

The school served up to 40 students at one time, from all different grade levels. Sometime before 1949, electricity was installed, but there was never any indoor plumbing.

The one-room school was placed on the Kansas Historic Register in 2005 and the National Historic Register in 2006.

Schemenauer said she remembers her teacher, Ms. Hinkel.

“I remember her as a very caring teacher, she took me under her wing when my mother wasn’t well,” she said.
She said her teacher had good organizational skills — although she only had about 12 students, they were all of different grades.

Schemenauer said she remembers making crafts — including kerosene lamps.

Fifth Grader Willie Jones said he learned all about school in the “old days”  — even lunch is different, he said.  

“I learned how they had lunch back then — it was a lot different,” he said. “In our school we go to the cafeteria.”

Outside the school, the students walked around to different booths which had toys, horses, a blacksmith and artifacts from the 1800s and early 1900s era.

At one booth, dressed as a Union cavalryman, Joe Maghe showed off artifacts — including personal care items, kitchen utensils and games — many of the items are over 150 years old, he said.

On the other side of the bridge, a blacksmith made nails right before the students’ eyes and safe from the light sprinkle of rain, the youngsters swarmed around a volunteer who shared the history of the old town.

Frank Layden Elementary School Fourth Grade Teacher Andrea Merrick students class has been studying about Kansas history and said she was thankful for the people there who volunteered their time to share the history with the students.

“I think it is a wonderful event that allows kids to see history right in their backyard — it’s so close to home,” she said.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.