Submitted by Carol Halverson
Blue Hills Genealogical Society’s October program was on Barron County rural schools and the resources that the society has available in their resource room concerning this.
This project was begun by Carol Gehler and Denise Ervasti several years ago. They began to copy and scan records of all the eighth grade graduations from Barron County schools beginning in 1893 to 1942 that was recorded by Hazel M. Calhoun, Barron County Superintendent of Schools. These records are now on our website and also in notebooks in the resource room. After saying yes to plotting out 150 rural schools on a current Barron County map, I began by using a current Barron County map, plat maps from 1800s, and a book titled Barron County Schools that was done in 1976 by the Barron County Retired Educators. This book has a short write up about all the rural schools. This map and a listing of all the schools are also available in the resource room. So if your family was from Barron County you could quite possibly locate where they went to school, when they graduated from 8th grade and who their teacher was by using this map and the listing of 8th grade graduates.
Carol then proceeded to give a little history of rural schools and school life in Barron County. Barron County was organized in 1869. The first school was established in Prairie Farm, Wisconsin in the mid 1850’s. Schools were very small and were located within walking distance of the students’ homes. Teachers were very young and boarded with local families who attended that school. They didn’t have much training. Later a teacher training school, called a “Normal School” was established in Rice Lake, Wisconsin in 1906. Teacher’s monthly salary was about $22.60 for a female teacher and $27.00 for a male.
On display were old reading texts—Dick, Jane, and Sally and math books; several books and folders of specific rural schools, notebooks containing pictures of various old rural school buildings and activities in these schools, and a teachers state guide for scheduling and what subject material was to be covered for each grade level and a state guide of Poems and Stories to be read for each grade level and what years to do them in. Members and guests were encouraged to share pictures and articles about rural schools that they have in their collections. We would like to create a notebook with pictures of every one of the 150 rural schools at one time in Barron County.
Members and guests shared about their experiences with rural schools and were encouraged to write about their school years to share with their families. It is important to keep these stories alive as the generation of rural schoolteachers is slowly dying out.
This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of “The Echoes”, Blue Hills Genealogical Society’s quarterly newsletter. To receive this newsletter when it’s released and access additional articles published in it, become a member today.