Interests Of Cottonwood County.
The pioneer settlers of this county were of the sterling type of American and naturalized foreign citizens who believed in education and in the free school system of this country. Hence we find that as soon as there were the required number of scholars in any given part of the county, a school district was organized, a school house erected and a competent teacher employed to instruct the young. While, between the dry weather and the grasshoppers of the seventies, the first settlers were having a hard struggle to gain a livelihood, yet they managed to maintain a school, which their children might attend at least a part of the time. The early school houses were neat, though quite plain, small frame structures, which, in time, were succeeded by more spacious, better planned and more comfortably furnished buildings. Many of the officials of the county and the leading business men and sturdy farmers of Cottonwood county received their early lessons in these pioneer school buildings, away back in the seventies and early eighties. They well recall, and frequently refer to, the dreary winter days, when the thoughts of both teacher and pupil were centered more on the clouds and the drifting, sifting snows of a genuine Minnesota blizzard than on the lessons found in the text books. In many instances schools had to be closed for part of the winter term on account of the deep snows and fearful storms.
But with the advent of better times, and the increase in population and wealth, the various townships in this county provided splendid country and village school houses, in which modern conveniences were to be found, and such a state of affairs has gradually developed until now the present buildings, their sites and furnishings are as good as the commonwealth affords.
The Great Bend school house, built in September, 1871, was destroyed by fire in January, 1916. Although built primarily for a school house, it was always used for religious purposes. It was one of the old landmarks of the county and about the first school house built in the county.
Early School Districts.
The first public school district formed in this county was district No. 2, organized by the board at the first county seat, Great Bend, November 25, 1870. It was on petition of James Thompson and others, who organized, under direction of the county board, sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 17 and 18, of township 105, range 36 west, into a school district in Great Bend civil township.
School district No. 1 seems to have been the one organized under the petition of Bernard Caughlin and others, the same being composed of sections 19, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33, of township 105, range 36 west.
District No. 4 was organized by the county commissioners through a well-signed petition presented by the citizens of Westbrook township, and the territory included in the district was sections 7, 8, 17, 18, 20, 29, 30, 31 and 32, of township 108, range 37 west, and sections 11, 12, 13, 14, 23, 24, 35 and 36, in township 108, range 38, in Westbrook township.
At the same meeting of the board, school district No. 5 was formed in Springfield township, from sections 26, 27, 28, 33, 34 and 35, in township 105, range 37.
District No. 7 was organized at a special meeting of the county commissioners, February 4, 1871, the same being in Springfield township and composed of sections 1, 2, 3, 12, 13, 14, 10, 11 and 15, in township 105, range 37 west.
School district No. 8, in Lakeside township, was organized February 25, 1871, of sections from 1 to 18 inclusive.
Another very early district was that in Mountain Lake township, organized at a special meeting of the county commissioners, May 13, 1871, the territory comprising all of the north half of the township of Mountain Lake.
At a meeting of the commissioners in April, 1871, upon a petition of Daniel D. Bates, a school district was formed from the south half of Mountain Lake township.
The same day, on petition of Simeon Greenfield and others, a school district was formed from sections 19, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33, in Lakeside township.
School district No. 11 was organized on March 12, 1872, and comprised sections 7, 8, 17, 18, 19 and 20, in township 106, range 35 west, and sections 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20, in township 106, range 36.
Early School In District No. 35.
The following is a description of one of the old school houses of school district No. 35, Midway township: The school house was perhaps the only one of its kind in the county. It was a two-story building of eight rooms, two of which were for school purposes, four for family use and two for sleeping rooms. Scholars living at a distance came on Monday morning and remained until Friday night. Patrons furnished the victuals, which were prepared at the school house. At one time this was the largest school in the county, having over forty pupils enrolled, fifteen of whom stayed during the week. Thus a district school and a boarding school were obtained, with none of the disadvantages of either. Mr. Raildbeck served as the teacher for a number of years.
The German school at Mountain Lake began its existence in September, 1898, with Miss Mary Yanka as teacher. At first the school was held in the H. P. Goertz building. There were many people who were unfavorable to this school because they thought the public schools well supplied the needs of the town and community. However, the school progressed with much success and as an educational factor has played an important part in the community.
Early School Teachers.
Among the teachers in the county in 1873 were the following: Alice C. Flint, Alice L. Fitch, Alice J. Brown, Nettie Mathews, Emma A. Young, Mary C. Nourse, Nellie C. Imus, Edgar A. Holmes, Orrin P. Moore and G. S. Redding.
Among the teachers in 1874, in addition to several of those mentioend [sic] in 1873, were the following: Lars O. Flage, Eva Cook, Orrill Wolcott, Nettie Sacket, Mrs. Bell Sheldon, Kittie M. Tingley, Edith M. Taylor, Mary Yale, Melissa Seeley, Maggie Morrison, William A. Peterson, Mary Bates, Mrs. Oella P. Mason, Mary E. Chapel, Mrs. Rilla Redding and Alva B. Swayne.
In 1875 the needs of the schools were growing and several more teachers entered the profession, among whom were: Della Clark, Mattie Underwood, Lillie J. Smith, Alice R. Jones, Lucy E. Vanbuskirk, Flora L. Oakes, Kittie Tingley, Katie Lamoreau, Belle Graham, Belle Smith, Mrs. Sophie Hayden, Mrs. M. E. Jackson, Clara E. Greenfield, Fannie Herrick, Lann Patrick, Maggie McGaughey, Emma B. Chapel, George Libby, Edith C. Allen, Minnie Fitch, Naomi Haycraft, Laura Merrill, Abbie Greenfield, Ida I. Hoople and Jessie Underwood.
In these early days of education the school terms were very short, not more than four months and more often two or three. It was no uncommon thing for a teacher to instruct twenty or thirty days and then resign, sometimes voluntarily and other times upon request. A rather unique feature in connection with the educational system, if it can be said that one really existed, was the custom of bonding teachers, especially young lady teachers. It has been hinted to the author that this was on account of the many young ladies who were picked out as being suitable to grace the household of some industrious farmer or business man in need of a helpmate.
House In The County.
The first school house in Cottonwood county was erected in 1871 in district No. 1, Great Bend township, and its first term of school was taught by Miss Nettie Sackett.
Bingham Lake Schools.
The school and village history of Bingham Lake began about the same time. The village now owns a four-room school building and, although not modern in every sense, it is perfectly adequate and sanitary. It is provided with excellent fire escapes, so that the building can easily be emptied in thirty seconds. Ten grades are taught by four teachers, with Jesse Hustob as principal. During the past year one hundred and thirty pupils were enrolled.
The school history of Storden is not very old, for it was only twelve years ago when the school building on the Kahoi Anderson farm was moved into town in order that a central location might be secured. Since then an addition has become necessary to accommodate the needs of the school. During the school year of 1915-1916 ninety-six pupils were enrolled. There is much agitation for a consolidated school, which is certainly commendable and which, if secured, will mean a new building, a high school and a better community interest. The school board is composed of the following: Chairman, J. C. Hanson; treasurer, A. H. Anderson; clerk, S. Anderson.
School At Jeffers.
A school for the village of Jeffers became a reality on March 31, 1902, when, at a special school meeting, eight thousand dollars worth of bonds were voted for the purpose of buying a school site and the erection of a building. This amount was seen to be insufficient, therefore, on the 12th of May, 1902, two thousand dollars more was voted.
The school is enjoying a very steady growth, the enrollment having increased until at the present time the number is one hundred and sixty-seven. Five teachers are employed and two years of high school work are given. The principal for the school year of 1916 and 1917 is Prof. O. E. Olson.
No records are at hand on the first organization of common school township No. 57, but the early settlers of this vicinity promptly provided for the educational welfare of their children. The little frame school house that stood at the intersection of the cross-roads on the northwest edge of town will be remembered by many as the seat of learning and social betterment of the early years. In 1899 the building was moved to the location where the imposing brick structure now stands. The teachers at this period were Clara M. Jaeger and Anna M. Amundson, both of whom held second-grade certificates and received the munificent sum of thirty dollars per month. On the 4th of August, 1900, a meeting was held for the purpose of voting on an application for a state loan of two thousand dollars for the purpose of erecting a new building. The meeting was presided over by Adolph Peterson, and Henry Peterson acted as clerk. Judging from the number of votes cast, fourteen, all in favor of the resolution, the number of legal voters in Westbrook at that time was not large. A two-story frame building was erected, but in less than two years it was found inadequate and it was proposed to build an addition. The more conservative citizens thought it would be better and cheaper in the end to build a modern school building for the future as well as the present, so arrangements were made for renting additional room and plans made for the present commodious structure.
The teachers of the early Westbrook history were Carrie Seely, Mrs. Cone, of Windom, Winnie Isham, Myrtle Stillings, Alice Seely, Mrs. Roberts and Sadie Wheeler. The last to instruct in the old frame building were G. A. Foster, Bertha Byington, Eleanor Reese, and Alice Seely, who taught the first and second grades in the rented cottages.
The village grew apace and the needs of the school required that it be organized as an independent school district. For that purpose a meeting was held on January 19, 1903, at which C. A. Zieska was chairman and M. A. Johnson, clerk. When the vote was counted, the result showed fifty-two for the resolution and three against.
On February 2 a board of six members was chosen, which included the following men: J. N. Rivers, J. B. Langum, H. W. Footh, J. J. Christy, J. A. Pearson and M. A. Johnson. Upon these men devolved the burden of erecting the new building and directing the destiny of the school.
Early in 1903 steps were taken toward the actual construction of the new building. The one that was first proposed consisted of an eight-room building and a full basement. These plans were accepted and seventeen thousand dollars worth of bonds voted, the vote standing sixty-three to one in favor of the bond issue. As evidence of the district's sound credit, it may be mentioned that the five per cent bonds were disposed of at a lively scramble by Eastern investors to Winona capitalists at a premium of seventy-five dollars for the issue. The building was constructed the same year and now stands as a monument to those who contended so earnestly for higher education.
At present eight teachers are employed and they have charge of an enrollment of about two hundred and twenty-five. Prof. J. B. Wright is the superintendent, he having served in the capacity for several years, a fact which bespeaks high credit for him, as he has labored honestly and faithfully for the betterment and growth of the school and surely he has been rewarded. However, his success is due in a great measure to the strong support and hearty cooperation of the school board, which at the present time is composed of the following citizens: President, H. W. Footh; treasurer, J. E. Villa; secretary, W. E. Mead; J. E. Nelson, Rev. O. J. Wolff and Mrs. L. P. Pederson.
The school is one of the few in the state to own a school farm. It was acquired under the old Putnam system, but failed because of the usual reasons. In fact, there is only one in the state that can be said to be a success and this one is at Cokato. The farm at Westbrook is at present leased to renters and consists of six and three-fourths acres on the northwest side of the town.
The pupils have many of the advantages of the city school, in that agriculture, domestic science and manual training are offered to those who may desire special courses.
Windom City Schools.
By Hon. C. W. Gillam.
The history of Windom's public school is so closely connected with the progress of Windom itself that it is almost impossible to give one without giving the other.
Windom was located on the present site in the summer of 1871, and the first school was held in the early fall in the upper room of Loop & Wood's lumber office, with Miss Lawton as teacher. This was sort of a select school, but in October and November of that same year Harvey Klock erected a building where the Redding building (formerly occupied by the Odd Fellows hall) now stands, the upper floor being used for the Masonic hall. The lower floor was rented by the school officers for a public school, and on Monday, December 18, 1871, the first public school in Windom was opened, with O. Phelps as teacher. Mr. Phelps, I believe, taught through the winter term of 1872 and the summer term was taught by Miss Clark, who afterwards became Mrs. Loop, daughter of Lyman Clark.
In October, 1872, an eight-mill tax was levied for teacher's wages and an eight-mill tax for rent and fuel. School opened this year on November 11, with Miss Imus as teacher, followed a little later in the season by Miss Alice Flint (now Mrs. C. A. Ludden, of Pomono, California), who taught during the spring and summer of 1873 with an enrollment of forty pupils.
Windom had grown so rapidly that our people saw that it would be necessary to provide more room to accommodate our school and, to that end, a meeting was called for March, 1873, to vote on the proposition of bonding our school district for four thousand dollars to build a new school house. The proposition carried, and in May, 1873, the contract was let to Samuel Wilson, father of Scott Wilson, to erect a two-story school building on the ground occupied by the present building (two lots having been donated for that purpose by the townsite company). The contract was let for the sum of two thousand nine hundred and ninety-five dollars, and thus was started, forty years ago, Windom's first school building, which was practically completed in December of the same year.
On October 9, 1873, our school officers voted to have eight months school and William Prentiss, who was then county superintendent (now a prominent lawyer in Chicago), was elected to have charge of the school. School opened in the new building on December 3, 1873, and from that time on Windom began to be in the front rank as a school town. With as fine a school building as any town of its size in the state and with a people who were determined to make this school the best possible, people began to settle in and around our village to avail themselves of our school privileges as early as the seventies.
Mr. Prentiss was again elected for the year 1875-76 and another department was added, with Miss Chapel as teacher. Probably no teacher that has ever occupied our school room had a greater influence over the eighty to one hundred pupils then enrolled than did Mr. Prentiss. He was a friend to everyone, a social, lovable man, and under his administration, during those hard, trying grasshopper times, our school prospered. The social life of our town centered around our school. We had a literary society, debating society, spelling school and so forth, participated in by people of the town as well as pupils of the school. Mr. Prentiss left us when the winter term closed in the spring of 1876 and returned to Macomb, Illinois, to study law. Mrs. Jackson, of Bingham Lake, and Miss Redding were elected to teach for the year of 1876-77 and in the fall of 1877 the board, deciding to have three departments for the winter and two for the summer, voted the sum of one thousand dollars for the school expenses, so you see our teachers did not get rich in those days.
In the fall and winter of 1877-78 L. C. Jones, of Bingham Lake, was elected principal, with two assistant teachers, Miss Taylor and Miss Francis Cooke, and the same line of work was adhered to as the previous year. In the fall of 1878 Mr. Ingalls, Miss Della Clark and Miss Bell Smith (now Mrs. T. C. Collins) were elected to teach for the fall and winter term. It seemed that the people had not been taking the interest in the school that they should and Mr. Ingalls opened his school with an appeal to the people to visit the school more often and co-operate with the teachers to improve it and to help make it a success.
In the fall of 1879 L. J. Robinson, of New York, was elected principal and Mr. Moore and Miss Underwood, assistants. Under Mr. Robinson's supervision our school took on new life and did good work. After completing his school year Mr. Robinson joined the ranks of Windom's business men and thereafter took a prominent part in the upbuilding and improvement of our school. In the fall of 1880, at the school meeting held in September, the ladies of the town decided to take a hand in the election of school officers. In speaking of the meeting the Windom Reporter said: "This is the first time the ladies have taken a part in our school meetings and we judge from the interest taken by them that they will hoop 'er up to the ugly sex hereafter." They did a great deal of talking back, showing that the fellows who think the ladies don't know how to vote were very badly in error. They behaved well, did not smoke, nor buttonhole, nor treat, nor do anything to corrupt the meeting (but they elected, if I am not mistaken, Mrs. E. C. Huntington a member of the school board). This, I believe, was the first time the ladies of our town had taken an active part in the business part of our school management.
In the fall and winter of 1880 and 1881 school opened with Mr. Graves as principal and Misses Della Clark and Florence Holmes as teachers in the two departments. There was a total enrollment during the winter term of one hundred and twenty-one and, in connection with the other work, the social literary department of our school was especially active. Debating societies were organized in which the people of our town took an active part with the pupils of our school. Spelling schools were held, dramatic entertainments were given and a general co-operation of students, parents and teachers along these lines added much to the success of the school during the term. At the school meeting held in September, 1881, a nine-months school was voted and one thousand one hundred and fifty dollars was levied for school purposes and one hundred and fifty dollars to build a wood shed. School opened on September 19 with A. W. Annes, of Madelia (later a judge of probate), who had just finished a three-year term at Madelia, as principal, and Miss Della Clark and Miss Florence Holmes as teachers of the primary and intermediate departments. Mr. Annes had a very successful term and was re-engaged for the year 1882-83 with the same assistants in the other departments.
After completing his term, Mr. Annes returned to finish his law course at Michigan University, and H. J. Keith was elected as principal for the year 1883-84, with Miss Della Clark and Miss Nettie Goss for the primary and intermediate departments. Our school had increased in number and when Mr. Keith took charge he found a total enrollment of one hundred and forty. Under Mr. Keith's administration our school began to plan some improvements. Up to this time it had been sailing along under the old common school law, with no apparent end in view except to give our young people the same advantages they might get in any district school of the county, but Mr. Keith, with the assistance of Mr. Robinson, who had now become our county superintendent, planned an eight-year course of study; high school studies to be introduced as rapidly as the needs of the school demanded, and a definite plan of action for future progress was mapped out and a regular course of study was planned for each grade. Up to this time one thousand three hundred dollars had been the most that was levied in any one year for school purposes, but at the school meeting held September 5, 1884, our people began to show signs of breaking ties that up to this time had held them to the old common school system and began to agitate the question of organizing an independent school district. The seeds of progress had been sown and had begun to grow, a public sentiment had been created by the progressive men of our town who were determined to make our school the best possible, and so a tax of one thousand six hundred dollars was levied and a nine-months [sic] school in all departments decided upon.
T. J. Hunter was elected principal, with Miss Johnson and Miss Della Clark as teachers for the year 1884-85. School opened September 15 and had an enrollment of about one hundred and seventy before the term ended. At the annual school meeting held in July, 1885, the report showed that two thousand dollars had been expended for the year and a nine-months school was voted. A. W. Annes, who had finished his law course at the University of Michigan and returned to Windom, was again selected as principal of our school, with Miss Della Clark and Miss Johnson as teachers in the primary and intermediate departments. School was opened in September and before the term closed had an enrollment of one hundred and seventy-five. Up to this time Mr. Annes was the only man to be given a second term as principal, with the possible exception of Mr. Prentiss in the seventies. Is it any wonder we made slow progress? Under Mr. Annes' second administration the seed of progress had been sown nearly two years before it began to mature and the result was that in May, 1886, independent school district No. 6 was organized and the first board of education was elected, consisting of E. C. Huntington, J. H. Tilford, J. S. Kibbey, A. W. Annes, J. S. Ingalls and L. J. Robinson. Our school started on the road with flying colors that was eventually to lead to a high school. Our district had already been bonded for four thousand dollars, a portion of which was already due and still unpaid, and a special meeting was called for June 7, 1886, to vote on the proposition to rebond the said district and also to secure additional grounds for school purposes. This meeting was adjourned to the regular meeting to be held July 17. It was given out by the board that was elected in May that their policy would be to establish a system of grading of study as nearly as possible to the one laid down by the state high school board, intending to start a class at the opening of the fall term on the high school course. Their policy also included the rebonding of the district, taking up the old bonds, that were drawing eight per cent. interest, and, with the consent of the people, rebonding at a lower rate of interest. But, alas for the plans of mice and men. When the regular meeting was over it was found that nearly all of this board had been defeated and practically a new board elected. Windom up to this time, with a population of one thousand people and two hundred scholars, had nothing much better to offer in the way of school privileges than the poorest district in the county; but progress was in the air, and in the minds of many of our people it was believed that we must provide better school advantages, or our young people would soon leave home to attend school elsewhere. So, in the spring of 1887, our board purchased two lots north of the old school building for additional grounds.
In July, 1887, our school board elected James Ruane, later editor of the Slayton Gazette, as principal, and Miss Silver and Miss Della Clark as teachers for the intermediate and primary departments, and voted nine months school. At the annual school meeting held in July, 1887, the report showed an enrollment of two hundred and eighteen for the year, with three departments. Think of three teachers doing justice to two hundred and eighteen pupils! A tax levy of two thousand one hundred dollars was voted for school purposes for the coming year. At this meeting John Clark, who built and owned the Park Hotel, and who was a progressive man from the East and very public spirited, made a strong speech in favor of building a new school building and urged the establishing of the high school, but nothing farther was done at this time. Otir school board decided to employ four teachers for the coming year. James Ruane, who had been taken sick soon after school opened, was obliged to resign, and M. H. Manuel was secured to take his place, after a three weeks' adjournment of the department. Our school made good progress under Professor Manuel's administration and the board re-elected him for the year 1888-89 and also decided to add another department and build an addition to the school house.
High School Department Added.
In June, 1888, a special meeting was held, at which it was voted to build a two-story addition on the north side of the old school building on the lot purchased the previous year, and the board was voted permission to borrow three thousand five hundred dollars for the purpose. School opened September 10 that fall with four departments, Professor Manuel as principal, Miss Helen Hunt for the grammar department, Miss Silver for the intermediate, and Miss Della Clark for the primary. During this term all of our teachers put forth every effort in their power to prepare a class for the high school work and to carry out the graded plan. They also prepared classes for the first state examination and the result was that the following year the upper room of the new addition was finished and a high school department added. In December, 1890, the state high school board placed the Windom high school on the map as a full-fledged state high school.
The Passing Of An Excellent Teacher.
There is one event in connection with our school that happened about this time that I feel I ought to call your attention to just now and that was the passing of Miss Della Clark from the teaching force of our school. For nearly fifteen years she had devoted her entire time, her talents, and practically her life, to the primary department of our school, with always a very large enrollment in her department, mining as high as seventy-five to eighty some years. You teachers who have handled small children can realize something of the responsibility that was upon her shoulders. She was not only a teacher to these children, but practically a mother, as well, always looking after their welfare in school and out, visiting them in sickness, and encouraging them in every way she could. No mother has ever watched over her children closer than did this little woman over her flock of children that was placed in her charge. It was no uncommon sight to see her coming down the street from school house with a dozen or more of her little folks as close to her as they could get. Her services to our school and to the mothers of Windom cannot be estimated, and no amount of money could ever repay her for the sacrifice she has made for the children of our community during those fifteen years.
P. G. Fullerton had now been elected principal, with four other teachers to assist in the other departments, and our school continued to grow. We graduated our first class in the summer of 1892 as follows: Miss Jennie Warren, Miss Nellie Scott, Miss Ada Ellis, Miss Edna Jefferson and Miss Cora Smith.
Mr. Fullerton was re-elected for the year 1892-93, and more improvements and new apparatus were constantly being added to increase the efficiency of our school.
In the fall of 1893 A. N. Farmer was elected superintendent for the school year of 1893-94 with a good corps of teachers and that year a class of three was graduated. Our school was now growing by leaps and bounds, more teachers were being added, and it was very evident that more room would have to be provided. In July of this year our board voted to have free text books and also to secure another room for school purposes. Such a room was fitted up in the temple for a temporary school room, and four thousand dollars was voted for the support of the school for the ensuing year. Our board, as well as the people of the town, now saw that the time had come when we must build a larger building and as a step in that direction a meeting was called for July II, 1894, for the purpose of voting upon the proposition of building a new school building upon the present site, and bonding the district for twenty thousand dollars to cover the cost. The result was that the proposition carried, the bonds were sold, and the contract for the new school was let to Donehue & Hoffman, of St. Paul, for sixteen thousand six hundred dollars. Another lot was bought of J. C. Christy and added to the school ground and six thousand dollars was voted for school purposes the coming year.
Professor Farmer was re-elected as superintendent for the year 1894-95 with practically the same corps of teachers, and later the school moved into the new building. Our school continued to increase in the number of pupils enrolled, a large number of them coming from the country to attend. Professor Farmer was again elected for the year 1895-96. For the year 1896-'97 Mr. Blanche, who had been filling the place as assistant superintendent, was elected superintendent.
For the year 1897-98 A. F. Armstrong was elected superintendent and at the annual meeting, held in July, the report showed a total expenditure of twelve thousand nine hundred and twenty-five dollars for the year and a cash balance on hand of three thousand three hundred and seven dollars. In 1898 and 1899 Mr. Armstrong was re-elected with an able corps of teachers to assist him, and this year a class of three graduated.
On April 7, 1899, J. M. Rhodes was elected superintendent for the year 1899-1900. He was a man equipped in every way for the position and under his directions our school progressed very rapidly. In the spring a class of nine was graduated and from this time on to the present I believe our school continued to graduate a class each year. Mr. Rhodes was re-elected for the year 1900-01, and at the meeting he showed our school to be in a very prosperous condition, with a large enrollment and a cash balance in the treasury of seven thousand one hundred and ninety-six dollars and twenty-seven cents.
More Improvements Made.
It was beginning to become a problem to provide room to accommodate the pupils that wanted to attend our school and our board saw that it would only be a short time when something would have to be done. So they called a special meeting of the district for October 22, 1900, for the purpose of voting on the proposition of buying the Stedman property, adjoining the school grounds, and also purchasing a site for a school building on the east side of town. The result was the purchase of the Stedman property for one thousand six hundred dollars, and of block 3 on the east side, for one thousand dollars, and it was voted by the board to elect fifteen teachers for the ensuing year.
In July, 1901, Mr. Rhodes tendered his resignation and Mr. Conger, of Minneapolis, was elected for the year 1901-02.
In the summer of 1902, A. M. Locker was elected superintendent for the year 1902-03 and music was added to our school in connection with the library.
Our board now saw that we would have to have more room the coming year to care properly for the increased attendance and they called a special meeting on June 20, 1903, for the purpose of voting on the question of building a school house and raising funds for the same and deciding on a site. The result was our board was instructed to build a four-room building on block 3, on the east side of the town, and on July 8, 1903, the contract was let to J. B. Nelson, of Mankato, for six thousand seven hundred and twenty-two dollars, all of which was afterwards paid for from funds on hand without an additional bond issue, and at the annual school meeting held in July, 1904, the report showed that the school house had been completed and paid for and a balance on hand of two thousand four hundred and nineteen dollars and fifty-nine cents.
In 1911 the construction of a new school building was begun, at a cost of forty thousand dollars, for high school and grade purposes, commodious and well arranged. The aim of the school board was to make it as near perfect as possible in respect to its light, heat and ventilation. This building was dedicated in January, 1912, with the usual dedicatory ceremonies. Among the notable visitors present were President Vincent, of the State University, and Hon. George B. Aiton, state high school inspector. In the latter's remarks he said that as a preparatory school Windom's was second to none in the state of Minnesota.
The basement of the building contains a gymnasium, sixty-five by thirty-five feet, a domestic science room, and lavatories furnished with lockers and shower baths. The first floor contains quarters for four grade rooms, a normal department and an ungraded room. The second floor provides a high school assembly room, sixty by forty-eight feet, a library, double office, a teachers' room, two class rooms and a place for supplies. The old assembly hall is divided into class rooms for the sciences and languages.
On March 19, 1914, the board had a meeting and selected E. T. Chesnut as superintendent for the year 1914-15 and his work has been so satisfactory that he is still serving in that capacity.
The school year of 1915-16 was perhaps the most successful and prosperous in the history of the school, due in greater part to the untiring efforts of Superintendent Chesnut, assisted by an accommodating and appreciative school board. The board of education at the time this is written consists of the following: President, D. U. Weld; secretary, Dr. F. R. Weiser; treasurer, A. D. Nelson; Jene Anderson, T. A. Perkins and Dr. H. C. Beise. The exact amount paid out by the board for the school maintenance for the school year of 1915-16 was twenty-four thousand three hundred and thirty dollars and eighty-six cents.
The high school offers everything in its course of study that is found in our city schools, including domestic science, manual training, a complete commercial course, agriculture, mechanical drawing and three different languages.
Mountain Lake Public School.
There is nothing of a public nature for which the people of Mountain Lake have more reason to feel grateful than their public school. In order to give a brief history of the school it is necessary to begin with the organization of the school district in 1871. At that time there was erected a little "box house," fourteen feet by twenty feet, and which, in the modern sense, would be called a cheap shanty. The weather boarding was of boards placed edge to edge, perpendicular to the foundation. It was through these cracks that the cold winter winds whistled and shrieked and, with other things, caused the big boys to snigger out loud and finally to stand on the floor with their noses in a ring. The school benches were of sawed boards and were placed around the wall, and the teacher's desk, if it may be called such, was near the center of the room. About sixteen or eighteen pupils was the total enrollment.
In 1872 the school district comprised nearly all of what is now Midway and Mountain Lake townships, but, considering this broad area, only thirty-six pupils were in attendance. After 1874, the boundaries of the district contracted from year to year and in 1887 the district comprised only six and three-quarter sections. In 1888, the village formed an independent school district.
In 1875 the one-room school house was situated on the present site of the Mennonite hospital. This building was used for about five years, but as immigrants were coming in fast, it was necessary to erect a more commodious building. A two-story, two-room building was erected and used for about ten years. Additions were made, until the building consisted of four rooms. The need for a more improved and modern building became imminent, which led to the sale of the building to a hospital corporation and the final construction of the present modern structure in about 1908, at a cost of thirty-two thousand dollars. Already the building has become too small to accommodate the needs of the school and a fifteen-thousand-dollar addition is to be built within the next two years.
Among the early teachers who will be recalled by many of the old settlers are: O. P. Moore, who will always be remembered on account of his spelling reforms; Mr. Sharp, Mrs. Kennedy, J. J. Balzer, I. I. Bargen, Mr. Miller, Miss Rice, Miss Dredge, Miss Yanke and others.
The present school system has at its head Superintendent H. A. Falk, who has been weighed in the balance and found equal to every occasion and emergency. He is assisted by an able corps of sixteen teachers and an appreciative and helping school board consisting of the following men: President, H. P. Goertz; clerk, J. H. Dickman; treasurer, Frank Balzer; A. A. Penner, J. I. Bargen and D. Ewert. In the person of H. P. Goertz, Mountain Lake has a public spirited citizen of whom it may well be proud. When a lad of fifteen years he came to Mountain Lake in 1875 and ever since has been a man of public and business affairs, working tirelessly for the growth and betterment of his community. He has served for twenty-seven years continuously as president of the school board, a fact which alone speaks of the high esteem of his fellow citizens.
The total enrollment for the past school year was three hundred and eighty-five, of which number the high school contributed about one hundred.
In several respects Mountain Lake may not excel other villages of its class in the state, but when educational interests are considered it would be a difficult matter to find another village of the same size that can offer such educational advantages. Besides a German academy, the village has a public school building that might do honor to a town of a much greater population and superior business advantages. The brick edifice is situated on a hillock in the north central part of town, surrounded by a gently sloping lawn interspersed with flowers, trees and shrubbery. The village owns a two-acre tract devoted entirely to agricultural purposes. Individual plats are given to students for the growing of crops and garden products, which, when ready to market, are sold and the proceeds placed in the agricultural fund.
In the way of athletics the high school has always been among the leaders, especially in basket ball. Several times they have been champions of their district and on one or two occasions have been the final contenders for the state championship.
Rural School Commencements.
The third annual rural school graduating exercises occurred in the Wonderland theater July 1, 1916. The theater was packed with an interesting audience which enjoyed the splendid program prepared by Superintendent Iverson.
The rural school graduation has come to be an important event in the county. It means as much to the pupils of rural schools to receive a diploma of work well done as it does to the city pupil. The first event of this kind did not attract much attention. The one held in 1915 was not very well attended, while the one in 1916 was a success in every detail. Future events of this character will doubtless grow in magnitude. State Superintendent Shultz gave the principal address to the forty-five graduates. His address carried with it the idea of preparedness, not for war, but for life.
In the afternoon the school officers held a meeting for the promulgation of ideas pertaining to the betterment of school affairs. Superintendent Shultz spoke as also did Senator Gillam. Before adjournment an organization was formed known as "Rural School Officers Association," which is intended to be a permanent affair and to take up matters of general benefit in school affairs. The first officers include the following: C. W. Stark, Selma, president; R. C. Asquith, secretary; John Gustafson, Dale, treasurer.
Salaries Paid County Superintendents.
Many changes in the salary and plan of remunerating the county school superintendents of Cottonwood county have obtained. The following changes are noted in the commissioners records: In 1872 the salary was fixed at $20 per year; in 1879 it was increased to $350 per year; in 1880 it was changed to $450 per year; in 1882 it was increased to $520; in 1887 it was fixed at $600 per year; in 1889 it was changed to $650; in 1892 the plan was changed and the superintendent received eleven dollars per school district in the county. In 1912 it is shown that the salary was $1,500 and the officer paid all of his own expenses. In 1914 the wages were changed to $1,200. The record reads: "On motion, the salary of the county school superintendent, A. R. Iverson, is fixed at $1,200 a year, with $500 additional for clerk hire and expenses, the same to be paid monthly. In 1915 another change was made by the commissioners and the salary of the county superintendent was placed at $1,450, he to pay his own expenses; also $250 for clerk hire was allowed him.
Last School Lands Sold In 1891.
Of the vast acreage of school lands sold in this county, the last sales were made in the month of May, 1891, when three thousand acres were disposed of all there was left at that date.
A grand state spelling contest is
held each year at the state fair in the Institute building. Each county in
the state is allowed to send two representatives to this contest, the same
to be winners of county spelling contests.
In Cottonwood county, township contests were held during the past school year and the winners selected from the various townships. The township winners met at Windom, June 30, 1916, to compete for the county championship. Rosie Peterson of Westbrook township, and Almira Riffle, of Mountain Lake, won in the contest, Miss Peterson winning in the oral test and Miss Riffle, the written. Separate contests are held at the state fair, and premiums amounting to forty-five dollars are given in each division.
In 1910 the enrollment in the semi-graded and rural schools of the county was 2,243; number of male teachers, 12; number of female teachers, 72; average wage of male teachers, $48.33; average wage of female teachers, $40.36; total number of libraries, 68; volumes in libraries, 5,646; value of libraries, $3,388.88; number of school districts, 79.
In the high school and graded school districts the enrollment was 878; number of male teachers, 8; number of female teachers, 36; average wage for males, $105; average wage for females, $58. Officers at that time were Mr. Hale, president; Mr. Hubbell, vice-president; Mr. Nelson, secretary-treasurer.
An Early School Superintendent.
William Prentiss, now an attorney praticing [sic] in Chicago, served as county school superintendent of this county from his appointment in the spring of 1873 to 1877. He left the old farm home in McDonough county, Illinois, in April, 1869, going to Minnesota in search of health, as he had symptoms of pulmonary trouble, which compelled him to quit his college course at Knox College, Illinois. He succeeded in regaining his health. In the spring of 1871 he drove a pair of horses, with covered wagon, from his old home in Illinois, over the states of Illinois and Iowa and landed at Mankato, Minnesota, from which point he went direct to Three Lakes, Cottonwood county. He had pre-empted land and taken a homestead and on a portion of this he put in oats; broke prairie during the early part of the season; worked during harvest time in Blue Earth county, where he remained during the following winter. In 1872 he again broke prairie on his Cottonwood claims; harvested near Madelia, Watonwan county, binding the half of one hundred and sixty acres of wheat and oats on a Marsh harvester. Late in that autumn he returned to Illinois and on Christmas day married Elizabeth Helen McCaughey and brought her to Cottonwood county the following spring, 1873.
He became an active member of the Patrons of Husbandry and was lecturer, secretary and master of a grange.
In 1873, the first year of the grasshoppers in this county, he lost all save his wheat and oats crop. He was appointed county school superintendent of schools in this county in the spring of 1873, as above mentioned. He went through the entire grasshopper scourge in this county, losing everything he had except the pre-empted quarter section, and left Cottonwood county heavily in debt in the spring of 1876. He had taught school in Windom in the winter of 1873-4 and 1875-6. He left this county simply because the grasshoppers would not let him stay. He re-settled in Macomb county, Illinois, and began the study of law, being admitted to the bar in June, 1878. The following November he was elected state's attorney of McDonough county and was re-elected in 1880. In August, 1891, he moved to Evanston and in 1897 to Chicago, where he is still practicing law successfully. He also kept up an interest in agriculture and owned, a few years since, a farm in Illinois and a fruit farm in Allegan county, Michigan. He served as one of the three civil service commissioners for Chicago at one time.
Burning Of The Big Bend School House.
When the Big Bend school house, the second in the county, was burned a few years since, William A. Peterson wrote an article on its passing. As the historic facts therein are too good to be lost, excerpts from the article are here incorporated in the annals of Cottonwood county:
"When the old 'Bend' school house was destroyed by fire an old landmark in the history of this county was destroyed. The building was the second built in the county and was erected in the fall of 1872 forty-three years ago. The first term of school held in this county was taught by Miss Nettie Sackett, a girl of fifteen years of age, during the summer of 1871, in a sod claim shanty erected by Isaac Vansky about three-quarters of a mile to the northwest of the site on which this school house was later built.
"During the winter of 1871-72, a term of school was taught in the sod shanty by Cyrus M. Finch and in the winter of 1872-73 John E. Teed, brother of William M. Teed and Mrs. D. B. Jones, taught the first school in the new school building above referred to. The building was not then as large as it was later.
"The old school house has been the social center of a large neighborhood since it was first built and many notable gatherings have been held there and many quite famous speakers have addressed audiences in it. The Bend neighborhood has always been a religious community, since its first settlement. The first sermon I heard preached in the county, and it was doubtless the first ever heard here, was preached by Rev. Edward Savage, then a young unmarried man, just out of college. It was preached in a claim shanty on the Dave Evans farm of eighty acres, in the summer of 1870. Somewhere about the same time, Rev. Peter Baker, an itinerant Methodist Episcopal preacher, began preaching in the neighborhood occasionally. During the same year, 1871, preaching services were held in the sod school house above referred to, and a Sunday school was organized. After the Bend school house was erected, in the fall of 1872, divine services and Sunday school were held there and were continued regularly for the last forty-three years.
"The first Methodist church in this county, I think, was organized there; Rev. J. W. Lewis was the first pastor.
"The Des Moines Valley Patrons of Husbandry (Grange) was organized and held its meetings and social gatherings in this building for a number of years. Hon. William Prentiss, now of Chicago, a former county school superintendent, was one of the officers and lecturers for this society.
"Political meetings, farmers' clubs and, in fact, gatherings of all kinds have been held there. It has been a central place of meeting for a large community for all these long years.
"Many of the younger generation of the valley and old settlers have a very warm spot in their hearts, and many a fond recollection of this old school house has been the pleasure of these people. But it is gone. The fiery elements have licked it up and we fondly hope to see a modern and more pretentious edifice erected on the very spot where it stood for so many years. Nothing can ever take its place in our hearts and memories, nor quench our love for dear old 'Bend school house.' "
- - 1895 - - SCHOOL BOARD PROBLEMS
Source: Zumbrota Independent (Zumbrota, MN) October 17, 1895, page 2; submitted by Robin Line
The school fight has cropped out again at Windom. The dissatisfied members of the school board through S. S. Johnson, have petitioned Judge Brown for an injunction to prevent Prof. Farmer from teaching in the high school or to receive pay for so doing. So far, Prof. Farmer is ahead in the fight.