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Albright School: The Albright School, also known as the Sheridan Lake School, was one of the oldest buildings still standing in Sheridan Lake. This building is an important part of Kiowa County’s history. This two story building was built in 1929. The Albright School was part of District number 13. This building wasn’t always used for education. When Plainview became the only school in Sheridan Lake, the Albright School became a community building. For example, The Lions Club met there twice a month to schedule and help with community services. The Albright School still holds many community events and activities today.
Kiowa County by Kelly Courkamp and Eads High School

Long Time Gone and Names Our Places Have

By Betsy Barnett

August 30, 2023

Have you ever entered a building, turned onto a street, or visited a geographic area where you wondered how that particular place got its name? Locally, there a quite a few places of interest that were named for people who either built them or were important enough to be remembered by having a place named after them. For instance, we all head down the walking paths or the roads south of town and eventually arrive at Jackson’s Pond. Who’s that pond named after? How did Holter Hill—or some call it Hickman Hill—get its name? Why is the community center and post office in Sheridan Lake called the Albright Center?

Some of these places’ names are legal names and some are as a result of local references, or names coming from the local culture. It’s an interesting phenomenon as we’re told that newly trained or hired police officers must right away learn the local culture’s names for certain places because when 9-1-1 calls come in those local landmarks are what they automatically reference instead of a county road number or street number. It’s the information they grew up with.

In the next few installments of Long Time Gone we’ll examine the names our places have and how they got them. Let’s first examine the Albright Center located in Sheridan Lake.

Kiowa Albright Memorial Center (AKA Albright Center) in Sheridan Lake, CO

The Albright Center in Sheridan Lake was placed on the local history register in 2013. The nomination form was prepared in 2012 and contains the descriptions of the architectural elements, the history of the building, the cultural significance of the building, and how it is being used today.

The building’s significancy is a storied one that is typical of the development of rural counties in southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas. The nomination form from 2012 states:

“The Sheridan Lake School is significant under Criterion A in the areas of education and social history. The school, which operated from 1929 to 1962, is important as the only extant historic school building in this small town on Colorado’s eastern plains. The building is a testament to the efforts of the citizens of the community in this agricultural region who planned and paid for the construction of a new school despite the serious financial and environmental crisis they faced on the eve of the Great Depression. The building represents the importance of education in the lives of rural families, who at great personal cost erected this professionally designed and finely crafted Renaissance Revival style school to provide a modern facility ensuring local children received a quality education comparable to any in the county. As in many small towns across the country, the school also served as a center of social, cultural, recreational, and civic activities for the community.”

In Sheridan Lake, a school building was erected costing $2,000 during the final decade of the 19th Century as a newspaper article of the time boasted, “Sheridan Lake has the finest [school in the county], a large two-story frame building of modern design, and very nicely finished within and without at a cost of $2,000.”

Sheridan Lake prospered for a good decade as the county seat of Kiowa County, but in 1902 the county seat was moved to Eads (that is another story to tell another day) which slowly but surely slowed the progress that had been going on in Sheridan Lake. Nevertheless, many people continued to come to the area through the first decades of the 20th Century—mostly homesteaders seeking free land to “prove” up.

By the mid-1920s the original school building in Sheridan Lake was in very poor condition as a report in the Kiowa County Press stated in February 1926, “Not even the days of melting snow in the attic, or the whistling of the wind in cracks” could detract from the students’ studies.” In May the school notes acknowledged, “. . . we have no building to boast of.” A few months later a school report printed in the paper mentioned, “Science students were “handicapped” by not having proper equipment and also stated that “during the wind storm last Tuesday the school building shook some and the junior high school students went over to the primary room until the worst of the storm was past.” Apparently, the building also lacked adequate heat; “teachers observed students could not have plants in their classrooms because they would freeze at night.”

Gladys Tinsley Hooker, a member of a longtime Sheridan Lake family and a student at Sheridan Lake, stated in 1976, ““The big two story building we started to school in was condemned and sort of swayed in the wind, but it was pretty hard to convince the community to go in debt for a new building . . . .” Former Sheridan Lake School student and town mayor Vern Harris concurs the building “was about done for” and a new school “was needed very badly.”

Another two years and two failed tax initiatives elapsed before the majority of voters favored the expenditure. In March 1929 residents of the district voted overwhelmingly (46 to 10) to approve a bond issue for a new $35,000 school. The Kiowa County Press contained the teachers’ report that the vote resulted in “quite a lively demonstration . . . staged as soon as the results became known. The bell was nearly torn from the old belfry. Auto horns resounded and a parade down main street made things lively for some time.” The school staff judged, “This will make it possible to erect a modern building adequate for the community and Sheridan Lake will take her rightful place among the up-to-date schools of the county.”

Students moved into their new school on December 2, 1929, when they participated in a full schedule of classes. District Superintendent C.L. Rose announced, “This week marks the beginning of a new era for the Sheridan Lake school. This community can now boast of one of the best school buildings in Kiowa County.” The building included “five splendid classrooms, a study hall, office and library room, laboratory, domestic science room, a fine gymnasium with a basketball court 35 X 60 feet and a stage 12 X 35 feet.” The classrooms, study hall, office and library, and laboratory occupied the first story, while the gym, domestic science room, toilets, and boiler and coal rooms were housed in the basement.

Students and the community quickly filled the schoolhouse with their activities. Of major importance was the new gymnasium, where students undertook physical training and athletic contests were held. Sheridan Lake, like other larger schools in the county, sponsored both girls’ and boys’ basketball teams during the 1920s and 1930s. Most of the community gathered in the gymnasium on Friday nights to watch the games played by teams of both genders. In addition, a town team of local residents formed and practiced in the facility. After the Domestic Science classes were phased out, the school used the kitchen equipment to offer hot lunches for students. The new gymnasium and stage provided a location for awards ceremonies, commencement exercises, speeches, band concerts, and plays. The school continued to be the location of luncheons and dinners, open houses, P.T.A. meetings, parties, and entertainments attended by parents and the community. Gladys Tinsley Hooker recalled the community dances held in the gym of the new school. Vern Harris states, “Everything was based around the school.” Within the substantial new building Sheridan Lake was able to offer a full course of high school classes for the first time. Included were such newer and vital components of the curriculum as Domestic Science. The entire high school enrolled in the General Science class after the building opened. The Brandon School eventually consolidated with Sheridan Lake and moved its students into the building. Vern Harris observes that the opening of the new school caused many of the little country schools of one or two rooms to be closed and their students to attend Sheridan Lake. He reported that within a few years the student census at Sheridan Lake rose to 120 children.

In 1961 county school administrators reached an agreement to consolidate the schools of Sheridan Lake and Towner as Kiowa County School District RE-2 and erect a new building serving both communities known as Plainview. The District occupied the new building in November 1962 and vacated the Sheridan Lake School, with part of the building leased as the town’s U.S. Post Office. Local community members organized the nonprofit Kiowa Albright Memorial Center to convert the building for recreational and historical activities. The name honored Kiowa Albright, the first white child born in Kiowa County. Until 1973 the organization leased the building from the school district for $1 per year. In 1973, the Kiowa Albright Memorial Center acquired the school and the land. Facilities in the building today include meeting rooms, game room, three-lane bowling alley, gymnasium, kitchen, and bathrooms, as well as the local post office. The building is used for a variety of events, including birthday parties, reunions, family gatherings, potluck dinners, group meetings, holiday celebrations and weddings. Until recently, the bowling alley serves men’s, women’s, and mixed leagues and holds a tournament raising funds for the center by attracting regional bowlers. Community members are not charged for using the Kiowa Albright Memorial Center, which is supported by donations, grants, fundraisers, and volunteer labor.

The following profiles are from the local history book by Ruthanna Jacobs, et al; Kiowa County, 1976:

Albright Family Among First Kiowa County Pioneers by martin Sollars: Westward Trek by “Hoof and by Rail”

In 1887, Colorado had been the Centennial State only eleven colorful years. A general Indian war, begun in 1864, was over. Crop failures, due to a grasshopper plague, diminished. Historians record that counties herds of buffalo, deer and antelope had been destroyed, but on the prairies were many thousands of horses, mules, cattle and sheep. Colorado soil, for the most part, had been unbroken and grass abounded.

That’s the way Colorful Colorado was advertised in the 1880s and that’s probably the way the William H. Albright family of Mount Vernon, Kentucky, found it when they arrived in Sheridan Lake in 1887.

For reasons of “Mammie” Albright’s health, a liberal land law, the challenge of proving up a homestead, running cattle on an open range and leaving the rocky, unproductive terrain of their old Kentucky home, the Albrights became one more family attracted to Colorado’s magnetic charms. The family rejoiced at Western enterprise and potential.

Mammie Albright

But tragedy struck two years or so later. William Albright became ill with a fever and died, leaving Mammie with the awesome responsibilities of not only raising a family of five, but also proving up the homestead. Over the next decades, she was to direct successfully the homesteads, cattle ranching, and managing of the Albright home, which incidentally, still stands in Sheridan Lake today.

Mary Susan Albright, known as “Mammie” to Sheridan Lake and Kiowa County residents was born on November 2, 1855, in Mount Vernon, Kentucky. Her parents, the Huffs, were early day pioneers who came from Virginia during the first settlement of Kentucky. Mammie was educated in private schools and graduated from a seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. On April 15, 1873, she married William H. Albright, a Kentuckian and a Mason. Seven children were born to the Albrights: Luetta B.; William H. (Willie); Anna; Allia; Hughie Kiowa; and Virginia and Susie who both died in Kentucky.

At the time of his father’s death, Willie, the oldest son, was fourteen and became the man at his mother’s side. Together they eventually helped prove up homesteads for the girls. The family grew and prospered, although blizzards, drouths and hot winds became a way of life.

“It was not understatement to say Mammie Albright persevered; moreover, she seemed to gain strength through her unselfish and tireless efforts toraise her family in a strange new land. She was a good manager, and, above all, a good mother.

Willie Albright

Born in Berea, Kentucky, in 1876, Willie was 11 years old when he helped his family move to Colorado in 1887. Recognized for his bronc breaking and roping abilities, Willie soon became known as “Buster” to neighbors. His cattle ranching and animal husbandry practices were highly respected and envied in the local cattlemen’s association. He married Blanche Miles of a neighboring homestead family to begin his own ranching operations separate from his mother’s enterprise.

Willie Albright’s herd of commercial grade Hereford cattle grew to seven hundred head, encompassing one of the finest spreads in Kiowa County, Colorado. Noted for his keen with and horse sense as “What keeps horses from betting on people,” Willie won a seat as Kiowa County Assessor for two terms during the early 1900s. He and his wife, Blanche, raised five children, Lola Ruth, William, Kathryn, Miles (Jack), and Jim.

Willie Albright ranched in Sheridan Lake until 1936 when a new opportunity arose. He sold his entire spread, moved to Denver and purchased a grocery store and market. He died in 1948. His family bank account remains the oldest deposit on record at the First National Bank in Eads, Colorado.

Kiowa Albright

Hughie Kiowa “Ki” Albright was the first white baby born in Kiowa County on August 4, 1889. He attended Sheridan Lake schools in his early years and later became enrolled in the Tonkawa Military Academy at Tonkawa, Oklahoma. During his formative years, he helped his mother and brother with day-to-day operations on the ranch. He later proved up a homestead north of Sheridan Lake and ran his own cattle operation.

Kiowa Albright enjoyed a personal friendship with Colorado’s Governor Alva B. Adams. It’s been said without equal that Kiowa Albright knew personally more people in southeastern Colorado’s Kiowa County and the history of families than perhaps any other person residing in the area. Upon his death in 1959, Kiowa Albright was a thirty-second degree Mason of the Southern Colorado Consistory #3 of Pueblo. The old schoolhouse in Sheridan Lake was recently renovated and dedicated in a community center shrine to stand in his memory.

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