Tricounty News

Early school days were Golden Rule days

With high school graduations upon us and the end of the school year near, it’s appropriate that we take time to look back at some history of the schools in our area.

The educational system in Eden Valley began way back in 1887 when a two-room structure was built. J. Winings was appointed the first superintendent of schools.

As important as learning in those early years was, discipline and the teachers could sometimes be very strict. One former Eden Valley resident, Fay Jones remembered “there sure were some cranky teachers.”

One of those teachers was Martha Murray, who taught in the early 1900s.

Jones was not the only student who trembled when Miss Murray spoke. Blanche Brossard, another long-time Eden Valley resident recalled walking two miles to the public school only to be scared silly by her teacher.

“One day I came in and Miss Murray was scolding someone. She said, ‘I’ll paddle your bottom if you don’t behave.’ That scared me out.”

Those early students often spoke of the Spartan-like conditions of the schools. Because of the drafty atmosphere — students often sat on planks that were placed on empty milk kegs with three-board picnic tables as desks — an epidemic of scarlet fever shut down schools from time to time for several days.

There were plenty of great teachers as well, including one Walter Salisbury who taught in the late 1800s. “He was a good one,” Brossard was quoted as saying in the book “The Valley of Eden” which was written for the community’s centennial celebration in 1986.

Salisbury and his wife, Mary Myrtle Shea, moved to Eden Valley and Salisbury became the school’s first principal. He also taught seventh and eighth grade until he left the school in 1905 to take a job as a cashier at the State Bank of Eden Valley.

Salisbury was the first white male born in Meeker County. He was born in a log cabin on his parents’ farm in sections 18 and 19 of Kingston Township on the south side of the Crow River. He attended rural schools and graduated from Litchfield High School.

At 18, Salisbury taught his first term of school in French Lake Township in Wright County. He continued to teach for 34 years with few interruptions and mainly advanced through self-study.

Salisbury also served on the Eden Valley Board of Education before retiring from public service in 1936. He passed away three years later and will be remembered as one of the most influential members of the early school system.

The first Catholic school in Eden Valley was built in 1901 when St. Mary’s was erected.

Sports and other non-curricular activities were not a big part of the early learning days. Schools did not have gymnasiums or stages. For the few sporting events or school plays that were conducted, the Village Hall was used. Many early residents remembered watching both boys’ and girls’ basketball teams competing there.

In the early 1920s the Eden Valley High School girl’s basketball team consisted of players Edna (Martin) Tintes, Clea
Nelson, Lucille O’Brien, Olive
Sullivan, Veronica Foley and Addie and Fannie Caswell.

An interesting school-related story from the early 1970s revolved around the then bus driver Frank Mausehund. It was joked that Mausehund had trouble with his eyesight because he was seeing double. There was nothing wrong with his eyesight, but rather the fact that on his route were six pairs of twins. They were Jim and John Lahr, Leonard and Louis Vossen, Sharon and Karen Wolf, Barb and Debbie Wolf, Lois and Lori Vossen and Allen and Alvin Vossen.

The first buses in the Eden Valley district began transporting students in 1939 when Art Weis started a bus service. Those early buses were large, 54-passenger vehicles with no heaters or other comforts. Some said they resembled a railroad boxcar on rubber wheels.