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Stewart P. Rowland has devoted the best years of his life to teaching and education in the broader sense, and is now in his tenth consecutive year as superintendent of schools of Reno County.
Mr. Rowland had lived in Kansas since early boyhood, having moved there with his parents at an early age. His parents were Perry and Mary E. (Ellison) Rowland. His mother was born about fifteen miles from the City of Liverpool, England, in 1831, and died at her home in Reno Township of Reno County, May 26, 1810. Perry Rowland was born in Noble County, Ohio, in 1829, and died November 25, 1916. At the age of four years Perry was left an orphan, growing up in the family of James Taylor in his native county. He married in that county and he and his young bride began housekeeping on a rented farm. Their industry enabled them to acquire a home of their own by the purchase of the land which they first rented. In 1878 they sold their Ohio property and came to Kansas, buying a quarter section northwest of Hutchinson in Reno Township. Prosperity came to him in generous measure as a farmer and he became the owner of 500 acres in Reno Township near Hutchinson. During the Civil war he was a resident of Ohio and enlisted from that state in the Ninth Ohio Cavalry, serving three years in the army of the west. He was with Sherman through the Atlanta campaign and also the march to the sea. He was an active Methodist, a liberal supporter of the church and its various causes, his wife was a member of the same faith and their children grew up as Methodists. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Perry Rowland still living are as follows: John E., a farmer and fruit grower in Clay Township of Reno County; Charles W., a farmer in Reno Township; Eliza J., who now occupies the old farm near Hutchinson; Stewart P.; and Alfred E. Rowland.
Stewart P. Rowland was eight years of age when his parents came to Reno County. He attended the district school near the old home, and then entered the Hutchinson city schools. He was only sixteen years of age when he made his first application for a teacher’s certificate, and since that time had been almost continuously identified with educational work in Reno County. In the intervals of his teaching he had acquired a liberal education, spending his summer vacations and about six consecutive years in college, completing a three-years’ course in the Kansas Normal College at Fort Scott and a business course in the Hutchinson Business College. He finished his collegiate education in the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, spending two years in that institution.
His incessant work as a teacher and student in the course of time undermined his health, and he then left the schoolroom altogether and recuperated by a course of wholesome physical labor on his father’s farm. He then resumed work in the public schools, and for many years had been one of the inspiring leaders in teachers’ institute work.
In 1908 Mr. Rowland was elected county superintendent of schools, beginning his duties in that office in May, 1909. The character of his administration had been such that the people of Reno County have had no desire nor cause for making a change. Recently a writer who spoke evidently with a close and intimate knowledge of local conditions described the situation with regard to the county superintendency in Reno County in 1914. “In 1914,” says this writer, “when the biennial question of electing a county superintendent of schools in Reno County came up there was considerable agitation in certain quarters looking to the possibility of a change in that office. The arguments advanced in the quarters intimated being that it was not good politics to keep on retaining year after year, a democrat in a public office in a county which then was and for years had been strongly republican. The teachers of the county, getting wind of this agitation, put their heads together and drafted a series of resolutions, signed by practically every teacher in the county, as well as by the principal and teachers of the Reno County High School and the principals and teachers of the graded schools throughout the county. The resolutions recited on the part of the teachers the story of ‘the unusual record of our present superintendent,’ and pointed out some of the ‘remarkable results’ attained under his administration of the affairs of the county superintendent’s office, at the same time declaring that the ‘concensus of opinion is that the office should remain completely removed from politics as it had been for the past few years,’ urging that ‘the success of past years promises even greater success for the future,’ and declaring in conclusion the belief of the teachers ‘that the continuation of this great work should be left in the hands of the man most responsible for its recent rapid improvement.’ The voters ratified these resolutions and Mr. Rowland is still administering the affairs of his important office, the duties and responsibilities of which he takes so closely to heart that during the past few years he had declined several flattering propositions to transfer his services elsewhere, believing that his valuable labors in behalf of the schools of Reno County are still unfinished.”
It is conceded that Mr. Rowland had achieved conspicuous success as County Superintendent of Reno County Schools. The first inspection of the rural schools, made following the enactment of the state law for the standardization of such schools, gave to Reno County nearly one-third of all the Standard Rural Schools in the entire state. Reno County still maintains the lead over other counties in the number of these honor schools. During his term, the new modern type of architecture had been introduced into the rural schools of the county. More modern school buildings are located in Reno County than any other county of the state. The unusual number of Standard Rural Schools in the county caused the county superintendents at their annual conference to propose a visitation day for Reno County. In compliance with this proposal, a group of superintendents from over the state, and other educators spent one day, October 17, 1917, among the standard schools of the county. This was the first event of the kind in the history of the state. The Rural High Schools have been organized in the county during Mr. Rowland’s term. More than 400 students are now at work in these institutions.
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Thus, regardless of the fact that he is a democrat and Reno County normally republican, Mr. Rowland had been repeatedly reelected to office. In 1908 his election was accomplished by a majority of 1,019 votes. Mr. Rowland had a state-wide reputation as an educator. For some years he had conducted a June Normal School for teachers, and its popularity is attested by the fact that the last one held had an attendance of about 250. He had taken an active part in the general and professional activities of his profession. He had served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Kansas State Teachers’ Association, also as a member of other committees in connection with that association, and in the 1916 session of the Central Kansas Teachers’ Association, held at Hutchinson with 1,000 teachers present, he was president of the organization, the enrollment at this meeting being 20 per cent greater than at any previous meeting.
While teaching is his life work, Mr. Rowland had found recreation and profit in farming and as far as his duties permit keeps in close touch with the soil and its interests. He owned a half section of land adjacent to the corporate limits of the City of Hutchinson, also another splendid farm a little distant from the city. Mr. Rowland, though owning Hutchinson City property, prefers to live on the farm in the open country. He hopes to make his farms among the most productive in his section of the state.