A History of the Fort Omaha School

This is an 1890 map of N. 30th and Browne Street where the Fort Omaha School was located in North Omaha, Nebraska

As an active military base for several decades, Fort Omaha had to have all the necessities and conveniences of any neighborhood. When it was opened near North 30th and Fort Street in the 1870s, there were no churches, few businesses, and little infrastructure in any neighborhood around it. A decade later, the Omaha School District took action to fix one problem. This is a history of the Fort Omaha School.

Note: The Fort Omaha School is different from the Fort Street School, the Fort Omaha Officers School, the Fort Omaha School for Telegraphy, and the Fort Omaha Balloon School.

Before the Miller Park neighborhood had been platted for houses, there were kids living in the area. Although a few houses had developed south in the Collier Place neighborhood there weren’t enough residents to justify a school there for a few more years. However, the Fort had enough so they needed a school. In December 1888, the Omaha School District board decided to open the Fort Omaha School to serve the children of soldiers, officers, and others living in the vicinity of North 30th and Fort Streets.

An 1875 drawing of Fort Omaha, Nebraska
A circa 1875 drawing of Fort Omaha featuring the wooden buildings, and the hospital in the northwest (upper right) corner.

Immediately after the decision to open it, the district paid $175 to move a two room wood frame school building from the Lake School to the Fort Omaha School. This was the original schoolhouse for Lake School which opened in the 1870s. Mary McClausland was hired as the janitor. The school officially opened on January 15, 1889. According to the Omaha Bee, “All children of five years or older are allowed admission. Mrs. Norton, the principal, intends to establish a night school some time this week for the benefit of such as are obliged to work in the day.” Ida R. Notson was hired as the teacher for the school.

In 1890, the school made the news when W.H. Miller resigned from his position as janitor of the school. Apparently he quit to keep the job in the hands of “the widow who now holds the position and supports a family with the salary derived from it.” The paper applauded Miller’s act of kindness, saying “Such an act of generosity is rare and the man who is capable of such unselfishness ought not to be long without a remunerative position.”

Miller Park, North Omaha, Nebraska
A 1910s era postcard called “Birch Drive, Miller Park, Omaha, Nebr.” This car might have driven past the former site of the Fort Omaha School on its way to the park.

In the fall of 1891, Emily J. Robinson was the principal of the school. In spring 1892, the school district allotted $2,500 to pay for the site of the Fort Omaha School, which was located at North 30th and Browne Street.

In 1894, Aliss Agnes Hutchinson was transferred to teach at the school. Since teachers were not allowed to be married or have kids, there was often turnover among them when either of those two things happened. At the end of the school year though, the principal of the school was Mrs. E.W. Nichols and the teacher was Miss Carrie L. Robertson.

The plight of the widow Mrs. McClausland continued, and by fall 1895 she had lost her position again and was having it reviewed by the Omaha School District’s “committee on heating and ventilation,” which was apparently responsible for hiring and firing janitors.

There was a recession in the United States in the mid-1990s, and Omaha was struck hard. In late 1895, the U.S. Army informally abandoned Fort Omaha. In January 1896, the Omaha World-Herald reported that the district superintendent said “the Fort Omaha School was almost depopulated, but it is anticipated that at the beginning of the next term the regular membership would again begin to attend.” In Feburary 1896 the school board considered a proposal to close the Fort Omaha School along with several others. However, they turned down a proposition and kept the school open. That spring, a diphtheria epidemic struck Fort Omaha, and the school was mostly empty for two months.

In May 1896, the school district “abolished” the school. Reporting on the event, the newspaper said, “Friday was the closing day and exercises were followed by an ice cream social, given by the principal and sole teacher, Miss Agnes Hutchison.” Students were sent to the Saratoga School, and the district planned for the building to be dismantled.

In August 1896, one of the school board members protested that, “people in the neighborhood are kicking because their children had to walk too far to school” without the Fort Omaha School being open. However, the school stayed closed. 15 years later, the site of the school was used by the school district for the new Fort Street School for Incorrigible Boys.

Fort Street School for Incorrigible Boys, North 30th and Browne Avenue, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a picture of the Fort Street School for Incorrigible Boys, once located at North 30th and Browne Avenue. This school was built on the former site of the Fort Omaha School.

In May 1899, the school board voted to move the Fort Omaha School building to the Saratoga School to be an annex. Today there is no sign this school ever existed.

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