Early School Days

My father, Torkel T. Vigesaa, came to America from Vigesaa, Bjerkrem, Norway in 1888 as a twenty-year-old single man.  He spent a year in the Grafton area before coming to the Cooperstown area where he homesteaded in the beautiful Sheyenne Valley, Broadview Township, Griggs County.  Although not the most convenient land for farming since the river bisected the farm, still it consisted of very fertile soil free of rocks.

In the early days, he did considerable herding of horses and cattle in the hills along the valley where grass was abundant.

My mother, Lovisa Osland, arrived in America in 1891, coming mainly for the purpose of visiting her sister and family, the Torkel T. Fuglestads, who had come to America in 1883.  Her plan was to remain a year, but in the meantime she met Torkel, the young man who had arrived a few years earlier.  Although not previously acquainted, they were from nearly the same locality in Norway near Stavanger.  They were married November 28, 1894, and took up residence on the homestead in Broadview Township approximately fifteen miles southeast of the village of Cooperstown.

Their first child, Betsy, was born August 22, 1895.  My birthday was April 24, two years later.

Since no schoolhouse had been erected in the new settlement, there was no chance to attend school at the prescribed age of six or seven.  Betsy became nine years and I was seven before being introduced to the common, rural one-room school and teacher.  It was located one mile to the south of our home down the valley, so we had some very enjoyable early morning and late afternoon walks when weather permitted.  However, in winter, we were privileged to ride by team and sleigh on the icy "pavement" provided by the river itself.  There we were entertained by the many rabbits and other animals as we rode along, often with our Uncle Martin as driver.

Our very first introduction to grade school was during the summer of 1904, when Miss Anna Westley began a three-month term beginning May 2 and ending July 22.

She lived with her parents, the Ole Westleys, and provided her own means of transportation by horse and buggy, and drove twice daily a distance of nearly eight miles.

Attending at the time were twelve pupils.  Julius and Mary Knutson, Inga Loge, Christian and Inga Rustad, Mary Rasmussen, Constance Thompson, my sister Betsy and myself, Bertha, Torval and Sigvart Vigesaa, who had recently arrived from Norway with their parents, 1'er and Elizabeth, and were living in the immediate vicinity.

In the fall of 1904, Miss Rachel Taylor, whose home was at Clifford, North Dakota, came to teach our school.  She taught until May 10, 1905. The enrollment was now fifteen pupils.

Our third teacher was a local girl, Miss Regina Klubben. 

She taught the term in 1906 when the enrollment had swelled to twenty pupils, of Swedish, Norwegian, Dane, and English backgrounds.  I was now in the third grade and besides my sister, Betsy, our younger brother, Trygve, had started school at age seven.

Beginning February 18 and ending April 12, 1907, Miss Jarina Bull came to teach our school.  She boarded at our home.

As time passed we became a family of five sisters and three brothers.  Besides those already named, there were Agnes, Lawrence, Ruth, Mildred and Hurluf.  We all attended the little schoolhouse by the side of the road in the valley, called at that time the "Thompson School".

We have many pleasant memories of our school days with our many schoolmates and school activities, such as programs at Christmas, Valentine parties, and end of school picnics which we enjoyed most of all.

By 1912 I finished the eighth grade and after a couple years of advanced study, I was persuaded to teach the Sinclair school north of Hannaford.  I did have the required certification for teaching the elementary grades.

During the autumn months, I boarded at the Watnes, but when winter set in, we were forced to close school because of extreme cold weather and poor condition of heating facilities.  However, the school board decided to make improvements so we could again resume school.  I was invited to stay at the Milton Mills' home near the school until the end of the school year, paying$i6.00 per month for room and board.  Salary for teachers having second grade elementary certificates at that time (1915-1916) was $50.00 per month, minus 1% off for retirement paid to the State.

Gudrid Vigesaa Het1and

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 57

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