Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918
PROF. GEORGE A. GEMMELL. It is doubtful if there is any other profession which demands so much judgment, tact, specialized knowledge, patient and natural executive ability as that of the educator, and the individual selecting it as his calling must be prepared to make many personal sacrifices, to endure many disappointments, to often spend himself for others without apparent gratitude in return, and to give the best years of his life without the material emoluments that equal effort would surely bring in any other profession. It is a profession for which there is no established table of weights and measures, but it is one which affords the man who would serve the race an opportunity than which there are none greater. Of the educators of Kansas who are engaged in a good and helpful work, one who has not allowed himself to be tied down by old methods or ancient dogmas is Prof. George A. Gemmell, principal of the Crawford County High School, at Cherokee. Mr. Gemmell has made teaching his life work, and in going beyond prescribed limits has shown himself one who is an educator in the best sense and whose practical instruction will be of lasting benefit to those who come under his charge.
George A. Gemmell was born July 29, 1882, in Crawford County, Kansas, and is a son of A. J. C. and Cora I. (Clay) Gemmell. His grandfather, Alexander Gemmell, was born near the City of Glasgow, Scotland, and in 1855, with his wife and eldest child, made the trip across the Atlantic to America, locating first for a short time in Canada, and then going to Illinois. For a number of years he was engaged in agricultural pursuits near Centralia, that state, but in 1882 came to Kansas and located in Crawford County, one mile south of Girard, to which city he removed at the time of his retirement. Not long thereafter his death occurred, in 1910, when he was eighty-three years of age. Mr. Gemmell was a sturdy Scotch farmer, who combined in his character all the sterling qualities of his race, and who took to each new community an influence for industry and good citizenship. He was married in his native land to Sarah Anderson, who was born in 1831, also near Glasgow, and they became the parents of the following children: John, who was for many years engaged in farming in Crawford County, but now a retired and well-to-do resident of Pomona, California, whence he went for the health of his family; A. J. C.; Alex, who is the owner of a fruit ranch at Claremont, California; Margaret, who is the wife of Alexander Cuthbertson, and lives on a farm seven miles southwest of Girard; William, who was engaged in farming and died in August, 1916, in the State of Washington; Sarah, who is the wife of Albert Cuthbertson and lives on a farm 5 1/2 miles southwest of Girard; Mary, who married J. T. Lindsay, a retired farmer of Emporia, Kansas; Miss Martha, who resides at Girard; and Nellie, who is the wife of Charles Thompson and lives six miles north of McCune, on a farm.
A. J. C. Gemmell was born September 1, 1855, in Canada, not long after his parents' arrival in America, and was still an infant when brought to the United States, his boyhood, youth and early manhood being passed in Illinois, where he was reared on a farm and educated in the public schools. He was married in that state and engaged in farming until 1880, when he came to Crawford County, Kansas, and here has since continued to be engaged in general farming and stock raising, owning a valuable tract of land eight miles north of McCune. He is one of the substantial men of his community, is known as a practical and thorough agriculturist, and has served as census enumerator and township clerk. He is active in the work of the Presbyterian Church, and is now serving in the capacity of elder. Politically he supports republican policies and candidates. Mr. Gemmell was married in Illinois to Miss Cora I. Clay, who was born in that state, August 21, 1861, and to them there have been born four children: George A.; Alvin J.; who was a homesteader at Holly, Colorado, and died there at the age of twenty years; William, who served for five years in the United States army, and is now a farmer in Crawford County; and Ralph, who is carrying on operations on the old homestead place in Crawford County.
George A. Gemmell was reared on his father's farm, on which he resided until he was twenty-one years of age, in the meantime securing a good education in the district schools of Crawford County and the State Normal School, at Emporia, which he attended for one year. This was later supplemented by attendance at the State Manual Training Normal School, where he was a student for four years, all told, and from which he received a teacher's life certificate at the time of his graduation, in 1913. Long before this he had entered upon his career as an educator, having taught in the district schools of the county for six years, and in 1905 was appointed county superintendent of schools by the board of county commissioners, an office in which he served for five years. Following this he was made principal of schools of Arcadia, where he remained one year, and in 1912 came to Cherokee to become teacher of science and mathematics in the Crawford County High School. After three years in this chair, in 1915, Professor Gemmell was made principal. He now has ten teachers and 220 pupils in his charge.
Owing to the fact that his pupils come principally from farming districts, Mr. Gemmell is carrying out a plan which he firmly believes is just as important an item in their education as that which trains them in book knowledge. In accordance with this project, he has induced the school to buy a ten-acre tract of land, a team of pure-bred Percheron mares, a pure-bred Jersey cow, four registered pigs, a wagon, harness, implements, etc., and has established a miniature farm, on which the boys of the school connected with the woodworking department recently erected a barn. Here, largely under the supervision of the Manhattan State Agricultural College, the boys are trained in agricultural work, not merely through propaganda, but through actual participation in the occupations which make up the daily routine of farm life. The newest methods are taught and the use of improved machinery is shown, and, in as far as possible, the youths are taught to be skilled in every department that makes for successful farming and stock breeding. This is a worthy object, and, as its author, Professor Gemmell deserves the gratitude of the agriculturists and of the people at large.
Professor Gemmell is a member of the Kansas State Teachers' Association, the Crawford County Teachers' Association and the Southeastern Teachers' Association. He began voting the republican ticket at the age of twenty-one years, at which time he was elected as a member of the board of township trustees. With his family, he belongs to the Methodist Episcopal Church, and his fraternal affiliation is with the Girard Lodge of the Knights of Pythias, and McCune Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
In 1906, in Crawford County, Professor Gemmell was married to Miss Mary V. Smith, daughter of John W. and Nannie (Meek) Smith, who reside on their farm five miles southwest of Girard. To this union there has come one son, Lee, born October 8, 1910.
Transcribed from volume 4, pages 2164-2165 of A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; originally transcribed October 1997 , modified 2003 by Carolyn Ward.
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