Story of a Country School

The story of the Gallatin and Loge Schools was written in 1976 by Florence Loge Johnson.

The Gallatin School was located in Section 23 of Sverdrup Township, in Griggs County, on land that now belongs to Lester Larson.  A short distance to the north of the school was the Sheyenne River and to the south was the Chalmer Hill, named for one of the early Scotch families in the district.

Teachers' records show that approximately 350 pupils attended Gallatin School from 1885-1929, and 60 pupils attended the Loge School from 1929-1959.  There were others who attended for a portion of a year, but whose names were not included in the teachers' final reports.  Many of these were immigrants who were eager to learn the English language.  Most of the students were Norwegians and Swedes, as this was predominantly a Scandinavian settlement.  There were also a few Scotch students attending, such as the Saunders, Atchisons, and Chalmers.

The Gallatin Schoolhouse had one room, no basement, and was heated with a wood and coal-burning space heater.  When the Loge School was built in 1929, the Gallatin School was then torn down and the lumber used to build the dining hall (The Inn) at the Cooperstown Bible Camp.

Gallatin School District was organized in 1883 and dissolved in 1897.  Territory embraced therein passed to the civil townships of Broadview and Sverdrup.

Sverdrup Township soon had four schools.  The first teacher's reports for the Watne and Westley Schools are dated 1897, and for the Bolkan School, 1898.

In the late teens or early nineteen twenties, there was a proposal to build a consolidated school in the Township.  Torkel Njaa, a proponent of the idea, offered land north of the Bible Camp on which to build the school.  However, when an election was held, the vote failed, and Sverdrup Township retained its four schools.

In 1926, a petition was circulated in regard to the relocation of the Gallatin School.  This led to the building of the Loge School near the Lars Loge farm in Section 27 (now Kermit Ueland's farm).  This location was near the center of the southeast part of the Township.  The school was built in 1929 by the Bolstad brothers, and was larger than the old school.  It had a basement, a coal and wood furnace, roomy cloakrooms, and indoor lavatories.

Sports and games were important recreational activities in both schools.  Gallatin School, because it was located in the valley near the hills and river, offered opportunities for skiing, sledding, and skating during recesses and noon hours.  Other games played there were Pom-Pom Pullaway, Caddy, and Fox and Geese, to mention just a few.  Students at the Loge School spent many recesses during the spring and fall playing softball.  Occasionally, the teacher would arrange a ball game with another school.  Prisoner's Base, Kick the Tin Can, Last Couple Out, Tag, and Five Hundred were some of the other games played by the children.

A day which the pupils looked forward to in the spring was Play Day.  This was held in Cooperstown and there was no school that day.  In the forenoon, athletic contests, consisting of dashes, high Jump, broad jump, softball throw, and beanbag throw were held.  Each school in the county prepared a float and entered it in a parade in the afternoon.  The floats were judged and prizes were awarded.

Spelling bees were often held in the Gallatin School, as they were in many early schools.  Two sides were chosen and each tried to "spell down" the other one.  The spelling bees evolved into countywide spelling contests in later years.  Each school was represented by the best spellers, who went to Cooperstown for the county contest. This consisted of an oral and a written test. The winner of the seventh and eighth grade contest then entered state competition.

Students also participated in declamation contests, reciting memorized speeches - humorous, serious, or poetry.  Participants entered a district contest and winners advanced to the county contest.

An important activity in the schools was the Young Citizen's League.  (YCL) This organization trained young people in different ways.  Meetings were held once or twice a month, officers were elected, and these officers learned how to conduct meetings, serve on committees, plan programs, etc.  In the spring of the year, YCL members could attend the state convention in Bismarck.  This was a most interesting trip, as most youngsters had not been that far away before, and it was also the first visit to the capital city for many of them.  The Patterson Hotel was convention headquarters and since many students had never stayed in a hotel before, this, too, was quite an experience.  Also, seeing the state Capitol building for the first time was a big thrill, as was riding to the top floor of it in an elevator.

Christmas programs, pie and basket socials and carnivals were a few of the evening events held in the schools.  Until 1948, when REA brought electricity to the Township, lighting at these evening events was not very good.  Parents brought gasoline lamps, lanterns, and Aladdin lamps to help light the school building.  Needless to say, everyone enjoyed the songs, recitations, and plays put on by the students.  A stage was made at one end of the schoolroom, using bed sheets fastened on wires as stage curtains.  Days prior to a program were always exciting ones for the children - perhaps because classes didn't meet regularly, and there was less work.

Halloween and Valentine's Day were usually celebrated with a school party.  Often, a special treat on Valentine's Day was homemade ice cream furnished by some parents who knew that a good party needed good food, too!

Time marched on - and with it came progress.  Due to a decreasing enrollment and increasing cost of education, progress took the form of school district reorganization.  The year 1959 was the last one in which the Loge School was in operation.  The following year, orange school buses were seen on the roads in Sverdrup Township.  These buses carried the students to Cooperstown, because the former Sverdrup School District was not a part of the Cooperstown Special School District.

As you think about your school days, I am sure each of you has a story to tell.  Memories are many - sleigh rides on cold, crisp winter days, walking to school on spring mornings when the air was alive with migrating geese, the fresh, clean smell of the school room on the first day of school in September, and the taste of Jelly-soaked sandwiches at lunchtime - to mention just a few.

Mrs. Albert Johnson (Louise Johnson), who attended Gallatin School from 1894-1905, is thought to be the oldest person, living, who attended this school.  She wrote:

Gallatin was the name of the school in Sverdrup Township where I attended school when I was of school age.  It was also the name of our Post Office in Griggs County.

My oldest sister, Betsey Johnson, later, Mrs. Olof Johnson was my first teacher.

At Gallatin School, there was a small building where the teachers could live during the cold months in winter.  We sisters stayed with her.  At night we could visit the close neighbors like the Chalmers, Larson, and Freer families.

Our schoolhouse was not modern and we seldom had water to drink at school, so when we ate our dinner the food would go down our throats with a pain.

The school was near the Sheyenne River, so in winter at the noon hour we could run down and do some skating.  There were big hills around us, also, and when the snow came we could skip and go sledding, which we enjoyed a lot.

We had several teachers after my sister Betsey taught, and one of them was H.A. Bemis who had the position for several years.  He used to make his pupils interested in school by meeting them on their way to school and finding out what subjects they were most interested in.  He used to have parties at school in the evenings and he would bring us treats and we would play games.  On some Sunday afternoons he would have Song Services for us and taught us new songs.  This teacher too would have some of us older pupils help sweep the schoolroom and he would pay us by giving us a Dictionary.

Most of the time my sister and cousin, Eric Stadig, who lived at our house for a time had to walk to school which was two miles.  Before going off to school we had to do chores like milking etc., so it was a rush to get to school in time.  It was not uncommon to see a wolf in the morning crossing our road.  He would stop and look at us and then run on his way.

The homes from which the school children came were Uelands, Chalmers, Herigstads, Atchisons, Sandersons, Hagles, Larsons, Freers, Klubbens, Loges, Mattsons, Stokkas, Molers, and Johnsons.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 55 

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