Schoolhouses: Pieces of Niobrara County's History
By Adam Louis, Staff Writer
The great brick hall where the Elks gather is much more than a lodge.
The building at 602 South Elm Street that currently houses the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge #1797 was once home to Lusk High School dating back to the very beginnings of Niobrara County.
The county was born from a classification of the state legislature in 1911, which moved the eastern border of Converse County westward. This created a 60-mile-by-40-mile county, and the first Niobrara County officials were elected the following year.
While there were no schools established during the first years of Niobrara County's existence, several Converse County schools came under the control of the new county. While these schools, namely Manville, Kirtley, Warren and Lusk, were named after their respective post offices, there were a number of Converse County schools named after the landowners.
However, several communities were without a schoolhouse; instead these communities taught out of bunkhouses or in homes.
Those municipalities lucky enough ti have schoolhouses certainly didn't let them go to waste. An excerpt of a historical provided by the Niobrara County Public Library said the community of Royal Valley, for example, used their schoolhouse as a stage for plays, a meeting place for the local Farm Bureau, Sunday school and as a meeting place for the Red Cross during World War II.
By 1921, Niobrara County had grown to include 13 school districts with 61 rural schools, two elementary schools and two high schools, one of which is the current home of the Elks in Lusk.
In the years following World War II, however, the state consolidated several districts and eventually voted to have a single county-wide district. Several schools were discontinued at that time, including Lusk High School, which became Niobrara County High School and is currently located at 702 West 5th Street.