Barber Elementary School, Trails West Junior High and Lawrence North High School.
None of these is in Lawrence, but they very well could have been if conversations in the community had swayed a little differently.
While it is hard to imagine our schools named anything other than what they are now, back before the first students entered their doors those names weren’t carved in stone.
Mary Loveland served on the Lawrence school board from 1987 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2011. During that time, three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school were built.
There were a number of names that Loveland would have rather not seen (we’ll get to that later), but one of her favorite names was Free State High School. In fact, she threw it out as a name for Southwest Junior High several years earlier.
“I really wanted it to be Free State,” she said. “It harkened back to tradition.”
But when Free State was first pitched, people immediately connected it to the popular Free State Brewing Company.
There were a lot of “only in Lawrence would we name a school after a brewery” comments, Loveland said. And, so an education campaign was set in motion. The name paid tribute to the somewhat bloody role that Lawrence played in opposing slavery so that when Kansas entered the union in 1861 it did so as a free state.
“I had to write an article explaining the 1854 to 1861 context and what that meant for the settlement of Lawrence,” said Steve Jansen, former director of Watkins Community Museum of History. “I had to explain that Free State wasn’t associated with the bar and that it was associated with people’s political beliefs at the time.”
Since then, Free State has been adopted by a host of businesses and organizations.
“It was kind of an ice-breaker. It helped rehabilitate it and make it more popular,” Jansen said.
For Jansen, historical names are an important way to carry on a community’s heritage.
“As much as possible, I’d like to see names associated with the history of Lawrence as opposed to generic landscapes or natural references,” Jansen said.
Back in the mid 1980s, when Quail Run School was being built, Jansen said he lobbied for the building to be named after Thomas W. Barber, a farmer who was killed by pro-slavery forces in 1855 during what was known as the Wakarusa War. Barber was memorialized by poet John Greenleaf Whittier in “Burial of Barber,” a poem that became a call to arms for the country’s abolitionists.
Barber died within a mile of where Quail Run stands today and Jansen thought using his name would be a fitting tribute to one of Lawrence’s historical figures. But others disagreed, worrying that people would confuse it for an actual barber shop school.
Ultimately, Quail Run was chosen, named after a nearby subdivision.
Many of the district’s earliest elementary schools, such as Pinckney, New York and the former Quincy School, were named after the streets on which they were located, according to former school board member Austin Turney.
In the original town site, the streets running east to west were named for individuals who were “distinguished for their Patriotism, Philanthropy, and Love of Liberty,” according to New England Emigrant Aid Company secretary Thomas Webb. In 1913, the city council switched the names of east-west streets to numbers. So, Pinckney Street was renamed Sixth, and Quincy Street became 11th, making their connection to the schools less obvious.
“We have gotten better, over the years” Turney said of the district’s naming process.
For Jansen there are still plenty of local historical figures worthy of school names.
(Read more at LJWorld.com stories http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/apr/29/whats-name-lawrence-school-names-are-nod-sometimes/)