Pioneer Schools

The first Cooperstown school, built in 1883, was the second school completed in Griggs County.

Pioneers who came to this county were concerned that the children should attend school. Perhaps the earliest effort to instruct children was a parochial school held for a few weeks in the Norwegian language by a missionary pastor. Another informal school was held where immigrants met to learn to read, write and speak English.

The first regular school in the county appears to have been held before school districts were organized. In the fall of 1881 there were 6 or 7 families in the river valley east of Cooperstown who had children they wished to have a little "schooling" during the winter. Since there was no school organization, nor teachers available, they agreed among themselves to hire C. P. Balkan, who taught in January, February and March of 1882. School was held in the John Qualey home as it was the biggest house, a two story cabin with a lean-to on one side - the side building was used as the classroom. Mr. Bolkan boarded two weeks with each family, and the next summer they did a little sod breaking for him for pay.

After Griggs County was organized in 1882 there was a district formed in the Mardell neighborhood and another district further north up the Sheyenne River. A district was formed for each school. The officers were: District Number 1 - Omund Nelson(Opheim), director, S. K. Norgard, clerk, Martin Robinson, treasurer. District Number 2 - John Arneson, director, Iver Seim, clerk, John E. Qualey, treasurer.

Term of school began in each of these at the same time - January 8, 1883 to March 30, 1883. Teachers were Ole Serumgard and S. C. Gunderson. Ole Serumgard taught in the log cabin (now standing on the Courthouse grounds) after the Opheim family had built their frame house.

The first schoolhouse in the county was built on Section 6 of what is now Sverdrup township. The Cooperstown Courier of January 26, 1883 says "At a recent school meeting at the residence of S. B. Langford for District No. 3 it was decided to at once receive bids and proceed to the erection of an 18 x 30 schoolhouse with coal shed connected." The Courier reported in March 2, 1883, that work on the schoolhouse commenced on Monday by contractor Muir and force, and that the frame is up and enclosed. An ice cream social was held at the school, which was called the Meadow Brook School House, in April 1883. Maria Rankin taught the school May 21, 1883 to November 9, 1883 - the first woman teacher in the county in the first schoolhouse in the county.  Her pupils were: Belle Rice, Ollie Langford, Bertie Langford, Matilda Orin, Georgie Barnard, Herbert Langford, Alfred Langford, Lillie Langford, Cora Langford, Nellie Newberry, Mabel Newberry, Sankie Newberry, Bertha Zimmerman. This school was moved in 1896 to section 8 in Sverdrup and is known as Sverdrup No. 2 or the Langford or Wathne School. This school has been closed for four years because of the small enrollment. Pupils are being transported to the Cooperstown City Schools.

The majority of the terms of school of pioneer days were summer terms or between spring and the fall. A few school districts had winter terms for older boys and girls. New schools were used as soon as possible.

A teacher would sometimes teach a term of 6 weeks in one school, then another short term in a different school. Some teachers taught nearly the year around this way, the first few years when there was a teacher shortage.

Teachers were often homesteaders, such as C. P. Bolkan, S. C. Gunderson and Nathan Sifton. Some were lawyers, namely Ole, Anton and Siver Serumgard. Others were children of pioneer settlers: Andrew Sinclair, Nina and Grace Van Voorhis and Ella Hagerty.

Teachers did their own janitor work except for the annual scrubbing given the schoolhouse before school began.

Material for the first two schoolhouses was hauled overland from Sanborn or Hope as they were built before the railroad was completed.

The first teacher in Cooperstown was Z. A. Clough, a graduate of Albion College, Michigan.

While is was impossible to obtain full identification of all members of this early day school the following are included:

Mrs. John Cain, Teacher, Prof. Fred Wanner, Amy Glaspbell, Alice Jimeson, Laura Retzlaff, Nellie Brown, Tillie Johnson, Tony Retzlaff, Ethel Newsberry, Thirza Gimbelt, teacher, Lela Spangenberg, Lizzie Johnson, Sadie Glaspbell, Josie Nordhougen, Helga Hammer, Minnie Newberry, Maggie Jimeson, Clara Brown, Anna Hammer, Edna Glaspbell, Elsie Glaspbell, Oswald Melgard, Milton Hoggarth, George Berg, Nora Kiel, Otto Marquardt, Inez Enger, Ruth Almklov, Wadel Almklov, Lief Almklov (Dr.), Grace Thompson, "Rudy" Retzlaff, Black; Schmidt (Mrs. L. A. Liurd,), Lizzie Marquardt, Emma Hammer, Harold Brown, John Morris, Oscar J. Thompson, Tena Reger, Brownfield, Brownfield, Natie Urquhart, Josie Hammer, Nora   Black, Edith Johnson, Eben Nordhaugen, Clara Hammer, Orry Retzlaff, Henry Retzlaff, Lynn Warner, Johnnie Maggerty, Joe Sansburn, Oliver Stevens, Clarence Berg, Leo Stevens, Adolph Melgard, Ernie Regner, Alex Urquhart, Theo. S. Syverson, Rostuen, Rostuen.

He formerly taught at Sanborn. He was hired to begin a summer term as soon as the new schoolhouse was completed. This was to be followed by a six months term extending into the winter. In June 1, 1883 he reigned at Sanborn and came to Cooperstown. His salary of $88.88 was higher than the average paid teachers for that period. Both he and Mrs. Clough and musical talent and were active in many programs presented at Cooperstown. He taught in Carrington the following year and came to Cooperstown to take part in programs. He also participated in debates. He died in 1926 in Minneapolis. His report for the term ending April 4, 1884 listed the following pupils: Belle Rice, Laura Langford, Christian Lochle, Hilbert Jorgenson, Willie Rockwell, Mary Retzlaff, Frank Retzlaff, Laura Retzlaff, Christina Harrison, Johnny Harrison, Nellie Newberry, Mabel Newberry, Sankey Newberry, Clark Gillespie, Carl Gillespie, Annie Gillespie, Edith Brown, Lewis Brown, Nellie Brown, Aggie Rukke, Frank Haskell, Johnny Nelson, Julia Nelson, Norman Brown, Jas. Yancey, Walter Bachman and Hannah Hicks.

There were two teachers in the year 1885 - one for a few months of the year as assistant. In 1887 two time teachers were hired. A third teacher was added after school started in September 1892. School was discontinued for a few days while a partition was built to make room for the third teacher.

In 1896 bids were received for an addition to the large school. In 1900 the large school was remodeled - adding SW two rooms - the first floor for janitor, the second floor for a recitation room.

April 1900 the ground was prepared for planting of trees. According to the clerk's report, prepared by Oscar Purinton, 800 trees were planted during the .school year 1900-01.

The first graduating class of 1903 consisted of three members: Lynn Warner, Inez Enger, Adolph Melgard.

In March 27, 1904 the large schoolhouse burned down. The school-board took immediate action on a petition signed by 107 voters to build a new schoolhouse. Election was held April 28, 1904 to bond district for $15,000 to build a new schoolhouse. School was held in various parts of the city such as fire hall, courtroom and churches.

In 1905 the small schoolhouse was sold. This was moved from block 49 and used as a residence. It was located in the southeast part of town on block 67 when it burned to the ground in the early 30's.

In 1910 the only school then in town, which housed both the high school and the grades, was becoming overcrowded and the basement rooms were fixed up for use. The enrollment had increased considerably after the school had been built.

In 1911 it was decided to rent the building on block 75 (now the Creamery) for the primary pupils. The children used as the playground the vacant lot north of the primary building. This block later became the playground of the city and is now a parking lot. This building was used until the new grade building (now called the Central School) was completed.

School Board - Mrs. Oscar Tang, Roy Solberg, Mrs. Carl Johnson, Aldo Iverson, Richard Engebrecht and Henry Herigstad, clerk.

The Central School was built in 1914 and inspected as completed December 7, 1914.

In 1915 a gift of the Gymnasium "The A. H. Berg Memorial Gymnasium" was presented by Mrs. Emma Berg - as stated in the agreement with the school board "In memory of my late, beloved husband and in compliance with his desire and request I have caused to be erected on lots furnished by the City and Special School District 18 of the City of Cooperstown, a building intended by my late husband, Andrew H. Berg, and myself, as an Auditorium and Gymnasium combined. The building is intended as a gift to the people of Cooperstown and to the schools of the city . . . I hereby dedicate the A. H. Berg Memorial Gymnasium' to public use, adding my humble prayer that it may be found useful to the people of Cooperstown and to help promote what is right and just and good.€

In 1940 permission was given to enlarge the Berg Memorial Gymnasium under WPA labor and said improvement to be of no expense to the school district.

In 1950 the C. P. Dahl home, which had the moved been moved in from Jessie, was purchased as a teacherage for the use of the Superintendent of the school.

It is interesting to note that:

Cooperstown has been accredited since 1915 in the North Central Association.

1253 have graduated from the Cooperstown High School.

In the early 1900's many of the teachers were hired from New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin.

The first basketball team to be organized was a girls' team.

Baseball was most prominent sport in the early 1900's.

June 5, 1906 it was decided at a school board meeting that a teacher in music, drawing and physical culture be added to the teaching force.

December 7, 1906 Girls Glee Club gave their first performance in the Opera House.

H. S. orchestra was organized in 1913.

May 24, 1909 it was decided by the school board that manual training and domestic science be introduced into the school the next year, compulsory for the 6, 7, 8 grades and elective in high school.

In July, 1904, block 11 was donated to the school by the citizens of Cooperstown for an athletic field.

In 1910 the unused lots in block 49 were used as a tennis court.

FHA (Future Homemakers of America) was organized in 1948, and has been an honorary chapter since 1y52.

Throughout the years Cooperstown schools have won many honors and trophies: Some of them include:

Cooper High Record or the Cooper Hi Zip:

Contest by the Northern Interscholastic Press, in schools in their own division - Sweepstakes, first, Matrix Cup, best periodical, best edited woman's publication, best printed paper.

Grand Forks Herald trophies, University of North Dakota trophies.

Basketball - Class B - District champions, first place, second place winners. Grade Champions - county tournament.

County Track Meet - (since 1928) H. S. 17 track trophies, 37 relays. Grade - 11 track meets, 28 relays.

Little Six - won 6 times in succession. State Baseball Championship.

Declamatory and Speech - 7 cups (cup must be won three years before it belongs to school.)

Spelling - 2 cups (cup must be won three years in succession before it is presented to school permanently.)

Current Events - 5 medals - highest town contestant.

Throughout the years school board members have served the community faithfully and well. First School board when Cooperstown was known as district number 4: George Barnard, director, Frank M. Rockwell, clerk, William Glass, treasurer.

First school board of Greendale School District of which Cooperstown Schools was a part:, Knud Thompson, director, William Glass, clerk, Jack N. Brown, treasurer.

First school board of Cooperstown Special School District:

Clerk, M. W. Buck

Treasurer, E. W. Blackwell

President, David Bartlett, P. A. Melgaard, A. H. Berg, F. J. Stone, Mrs. R. M. Cowen

The present School board of Cooperstown Special School District is:

Clerk, Henry Herigstad

Treasurer, Clarence Njaa

President, Mrs. Carl O. Johnson, Aldo Iverson, Richard Engebrecht, Mrs. Oscar Tang, Roy Solberg

The citizens of Cooperstown of today are also interested in maintaining a school of high quality and accreditation. One evidence of this is that for many years they have voted, by a large majority, to increase the tax levy limitation in order that Cooperstown may have a school of high standard.

A solid foundation in basic elementary curriculum is given in the grades by well qualified teachers. A full curriculum is offered to high school students:

Present Faculty: Back row - Gene Torrey, David Borchert, Arnold Maurer, Benjamin Bjertness, Elton Oppegard, Harland Larson, Middle row - Mrs. Anna Delvo, Betty Salzwedel, Florence Lodge, Fay Bower, Mrs. W. A. Skjolden; Front row - Mrs. Mary K. Campbell, G. E. Appel, superintendent, Mrs. Appel and Lois Lilke.

English I, II, III, IV, Speech, Algebra, General Mathematics, Geometry, Citizenship, Orientation, Psychology, World History, U. S. History, Problems of Democracy, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Typewriting, Bookkeeping, Shorthand, Home Economics I and II, Shop, Journalism, Physical Education.

The school also offers a full program of extra curricular activities: Band, Boys Glee Club, Girls Glee Club, Mixed Chorus, Basketball, Football, Baseball, Track, Dramatics, F. H. A., Honor Society, Newspaper, Y. C. L., Spelling, Central School Program.

Cooperstown City Schools have an outstanding music department.

Source:  Cooperstown Diamond Jubilee 1882-1957 Page 18

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