William J. Mara Museum – KS School for the Deaf


The Kansas State School for the Deaf is the oldest state educational institution in the State of Kansas. The School was founded by Philip A. Emery, a deaf man who had been a teacher at the Indiana School for the Deaf from 1854 to 1860. Emery had come to Kansas to start a new life and a new occupation; but he was persuaded by J.R. Kennedy, one of the early Kansas settlers, to educate Kennedy’s three deaf children. Emery located a small house with two rooms and an attic in Baldwin City that could be rented for five dollars per month. On December 9, 1861, the Kansas State School for the Deaf opened its doors to the first student, Elizabeth Studebaker from Clinton, a niece of the famous Studebaker wagon manufacturer.

Disaster almost came to the Kansas School for the Deaf on August 21, 1863. Quantrill and his men had finished their infamous raid on the nearby town of Lawrence and were headed to Baldwin City, probably intending to destroy the town and everyone in it. However, Major Preston B. Plumb, with 200 Union Cavalry soldiers, intercepted Quantrill before they reached Baldwin City, thus saving the little school house that was the beginning of the Kansas School for the Deaf.

On November 15, 1866, the Kansas State School for the Deaf with its 18 students moved into a newly constructed stone building in Olathe.

The Kansas State School for the Deaf continues as a large center school for deaf children. The School is known for its academic excellence in pre-college preparation and its career and transition program leading to job placement upon graduation. The Kansas State School for the Deaf is also noted for its winning athletic teams (National Deaf Champions in football, basketball, and volleyball) and still boasts of beating the University of Kansas in baseball in 1897 and 1900.

The Kansas State School for the Deaf is a source of pride for all Kansans. We are proud of their history that tells of their commitment to the mission of quality education for the hearing impaired children of Kansas.

Study the history of the Kansas State School for the Deaf, dating from 1861, through old photos and archives.


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