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CHIVINGTON SCHOOL newly built in 1919 - In 1918, the Chivington School District held a bond election to fund the construction of a new school, as the current building was overcrowded. It passed, and the new school was completed by 1919. The school operated until the early 1960s, when the district was consolidated with Eads to form Kiowa County School District RE-1.
Kiowa County Museum

Long Time Gone and the North Chivington School

By Tyrell Richardson

October 4, 2023

The following story was written 25 years ago as part of the series created by the Eads High School history project—Kiowa County: A Retrospective at the Dawn of a New Millennium. This series was written by EHS juniors and seniors in 1999—as the new century was about to come on to the scene. Each student chose a subject they were interested in and then through first-hand interviews and primary sources did the research and wrote the article. Each article was printed in the Kiowa County Press. The high school staff that guided this project included Pete Conrad, EHS English teacher, and Betsy Barnett, District Media Specialist. The project won a state history award in 2000.

Today when you drive through Chivington, you notice little but a few old falling down buildings. One large structure that stands alone from the rest of the buildings is the old schoolhouse. The building is now falling in and all its history is going down with it. The school building was built with the hope of a rebirth of Chivington. The town of Chivington blossomed in the late 1800s, and by the early 1900s, the town was nearing extinction. The old school was in desperate need of improvement and parents felt it was unsafe for their children to go there. Then, in 1918, the school board decided to build a new schoolhouse. It would be an ambitious project that would become a dynasty of hope for Chivington.

H. H. King was elected treasurer of the school board in order to help things get started with the development of the new school. King and others decided to sell the old building and purchase a new site. The school board felt it was time to hold a public meeting. Friday, May 10, 1918, the old schoolhouse was packed with proud community supporters. The board proposed the plan to the community and then asked, “Does anybody want to give any opposition to the building of the new school?” No voices were raised except voices of support. One last meeting was held on May 14, 1918, when the board met to vote on the bond proposition for the erection of a new schoolhouse. The vote was unanimous and ground-breaking ceremonies were planned. The board then hired contractor J. H. Peck to start the construction of the new school.

Mr. North, a citizen of Chivington, was the highest bidder for the North Chivington School that was to sit on six acres of land. Finally, the ground-breaking was ready to be started. Friday, August 30, 1918, J. H. Peck eagerly began building the new school. He rushed shipments of lumber, cement, and brick to the new site. Three weeks after the arrival of the materials, the cement basement was finished. The vertical work of the school was ready to go.

The Chivington School building was to be gray-red pressed brick, with two stories and a basement. The basement contained a boiler, coal, and a storeroom. The first floor had four classrooms, with a cloakroom for each classroom, a luxury not usually supplied. The second floor had two classrooms, a principal’s office, and an auditorium. The auditorium was 25 feet wide and 59 feet long, with a 12-foot stage and enough seating capacity for 200 people. There was a laboratory and a drinking fountain on each floor. The water was supplied by a new well dug just for the use of the new school.

The old schoolhouse was used primarily for school events. The community was hoping the construction of the new building would be finished and in use by the holidays. The principal of Chivington, Professor Paul S. Neal, was hard at work doing the necessary paperwork needed in opening the school. He was expecting the school to open September 9, 1919. The teachers were also preparing to teach in their new school. Mrs. Irma S. Rehm was in charge of the intermediate grades, while Miss Morris was in charge of the primary grades. Mr. Wright taught the high school students. With the combination of great teachers and administrators, Chivington hoped to advance high school work and become an accredited high school in the state.

September 2, 1919, the North Chivington School was opened. The school welcomed seventy-three students on the first day of school. It was the first day of school for not only the students but also for the new building. The school ran five bus routes to transport children to and from school. Since the school opened a week before the original date, it did not yet have all of the equipment in the classrooms. They had not received their dishes nor all of their books. The school continued and a week and a half later the school was in full swing. It began to walk itself into history.

In the 1930s the school was at its peak, having 25 to 30 pupils in each classroom. It seemed to be holding up to its original purpose. People were moving to Chivington and sending their children to the highly-rated Chivington School.

However, things began to go wrong for the students and staff. Money got tight. First, the gym that had been used for sporting events was, in an unprecedented move, limited to only community events and plays. In essence, the sports program ceased to exist. This move caused many students to transfer to Eads where sports were offered. It seemed the reign of the Chivington School was declining fast. By the fifties, the seventh and eighth grade room was turned into a kitchen and those grades dropped. My grandmother, Lorene Richardson, was the first and only cook at the school. Three years before the Chivington School was closed, they put in indoor bathrooms. By the late 1950s there was a push throughout the county to consolidate all the small schools in the county. Chivington finally lost the battle to stay open when the consolidation passed, and the students were absorbed by the larger schools of either Eads or Plainview. The doors were closed for good in 1962.

Today, the school’s beautiful red bricks are falling in on themselves and the monumental bell tower has all but sunk into the rubble. There has been no use for the building since its closure and thus it has been abandoned, ignored, and finally, destroyed by the strong elements of the plains of Colorado. As one looks out across the once bustling school grounds and to the ever-increasing rubble, a sadness seems to surround the building. One would think that some use could be found for the beautiful building, or even better, some person or group could find a way to restore and preserve it. If anything is to become of the once proud building, it better happen soon as with each passing season the building and memories get ever closer to being completely gone.