School (1896)

A school meeting was held Wednesday and decided to build school house, cost not to exceed $800.00. Site was not decided on. Bond district $400. Warrants to raise the remainder of the sum to build and furnish the building. School to be held in Malzahn building (at 3rd and Minnesota) until the building is completed starting Sept 1, 1896. Miss Cora Omich will be in charge.

The First Schoolhouse (1896)

This quality article on the early history of Bemidji’s schools was found in an early edition of the Bemidji Pioneer (March 7, 1901) and gives a fine history of the first years of Bemidji’s education system.

By Chas. Jones in the SIRIUS.

Thinking it might be of interest to the readers of the SIRIUS to know the real progress of the schools of Bemidji, I have undertaken the task of giving a short history of the school from the first organization of the district up to the present time. The brief period of our story naturally divides itself into three epochs the first of which covers the time from the first organization to the sub-dividing of the district into three, in June, 1896.

It was sometime after the first of January, 1895, that the whole township of Bemidji was organized into a common school district. The first school meeting was held in Carson Bros. store, a log building about 80 rods beyond the bridge crossing the Mississippi, between lakes Irvine and Bemidji. In this building, now the house of C. O. Glidden, the following officers, G.M. Carson, director, R. H. Carr, treasurer, and M. E. Carson, clerk, were elected to serve till the annual election the following July. After the election of the board, the next thing to be done was to select a favorable location on which to build a schoolhouse.

The site selected is about one fourth mile southeast of where the B. & N. Ry. roundhouse now stands. It was one fine March morning that the following men, Ed Trask, D. W. Stevens, Al Godbout, D. Stillman, R. H. Carr, Harry Bachley, Ole Muligan, Knute Halverson, Porter Nye, Willis Nye and Carson brothers, were gathered at this spot for the purpose of donating their strength and physical endurance in the rolling up of a log structure about 16×20 and eight feet high.

When this much had been done toward a schoolhouse, D.W.Stevens took the job of putting on the roof and adding such other finishing touches as would render the building fit for holding school.

April 5th, Early this bright Monday morning we might have seen Mr. Porter Nye with an armful of books and a crowd of children coming along a newly-cut trail in the direction of the school house. It was not long after the teacher and pupils had reached the building till the ringing of the bell announced that it was time for school to begin. This day began a term of four months’ school, which Mr. Nye finished, except about three weeks taught by Miss Eva Cobly, one of the first teachers in this section.

The following children were enrolled during the term: Maynona Nye, Evan Carson, Calla Trask, Inez, Henry and Georgiana Nye, Vernon and Victor Carr, Westly, May, Edith and Eddie Walden and Henry Wolcot, in all 14 pupils for the term. At the annual school meeting held in July, nine months of school was voted and the following officers were elected G. M. Carson, treasurer John Steidl, director, and El Carson, clerk. The latter resigned, whereupon E.S. Kincannon was appointed.

Mrs. M. Achenbach, a pioneer, who was selected as teacher and who has kindly consented to describe the rural scenes and to tell what they did to be cheerful and gay, says: “It is quite impossible to give anywhere near a correct idea of the primitiveness and loneliness of that first school in the wilderness, to those unacquainted with pioneer life. Imagine if you can a school located in the midst of a dense forest of pine, far removed from any habitation. The towering trees on every side completely hiding the little log cabin until you reached its very door.”

“Once inside you can think of nothing more desolate. The empty room, the rude home-made benches, two small windows to admit the meager sunlight sifted through the waving treetops, casting shadows we were not always brave enough to trace the outline. It was no uncommon occurrence to be startled by the appearance of an Indian face at the window. The owls took the liberty to hoot all day, and the wild deer frequently grazed just outside the door.”

“Still it was not altogether without its attractions. The early morning walk through the sweet-scented pine woods the path bordered with gentian and golden-rod and the return at evening across the lake with the small band of children all in one boat short trips into the woods at intermission in search of the wild strawberry all made it possible to convince ourselves that we were happy and learning lessons every day that would be of great value to ourselves when Bemidji could boast of better schools and advantages.”

Among the names not heretofore enrolled were, Erton, Pansy, Ida and Inez Geil, Guy, Hazel and Norman Wood, and Arthur, Wilby, Bertie and Walter Brannon. Mr. Porter Nye taught the last three-months term.

School District #4 (1896)

School District #4 was organized. Pearl Geil was hired as teacher for two months, to end Nov 1, 1896. Ida Olson, Anne Nelson, Laura Nelson, Alda Alsed, Hilda Olson, Clara Hensel, Paula Hensel, Henry Osled, Gustave Eickstadt, Fred Eickstadt, Emil Eickstadt, Awald Hensel, Signe Froilrock, Emmon Froilrock, Albert Finseth, Evan Finseth, August Belke, Axle Larson, Hannah Larson, Fred Belk, Martin Nelson, Gunlock Langerach, Bertha Eickstadt. (Nov 23, 1896)

New School House (1898)

At a meeting of the Bemidji school board last week, the contract for the new school house was let to W. H. Cordin of West Superior at the gross price of $7,300. In order to reach this figure some minor alterations were made in the plans, but the main features were adhered to. The contract for the steam heating and ventilating plant was awarded to the American Steam Heating Co., of Duluth for $1,100. The plans of the architect in this case were not used. (Bemidji Weekly Pioneer, Sept 22, 1898)

New Schoolhouse (1898)

At a meeting of the school board held Tuesday, the new school house was accepted.

It is a beautiful two-story brick structure, with a seating capacity of about two hundred, heated by steam and well ventilated. The brick used in its construction were made at Bemidji, and are of good quality and very durable. In the interior of the building every effort has been made for the convenience of the teachers and pupils. The walls are kalsomined in agreeable tints, and the blackboards will be of slate. The stairs are of oak and the floors are of hard wood. It is possible the board may make removal to the new school building at once, as the steam heating plant must be kept going. (Bemidji Weekly Pioneer, Dec 15, 1898)

This was the Central School.


Division Into School Districts (1896-1899)

This quality article on the early history of Bemidji’s schools was found in an early edition of the Bemidji Pioneer (March 21, 1901) and gives a fine history of the first years of Bemidji’s education system.

(From the SIRIUS.)

The second epoch begins by the division of District No. 4 into three common school districts, namely 4, 6 and 7 the one which is of the most interest to us is district No. 7, as it was composed of the same territory of land as is now called the Independent School District of Bemidji.

This division was made by the county commissioners some time during the month of May, 1896, and on the 10th of June the first school meeting of Dist. No. 7 was called to order by Porter Nye, in the Eagle office, (the office of the first paper printed in Bemidji). D. W. Stevens was elected secretary pro-tem, and they proceeded to elect the following officers: Director, Dan Dennis Treasurer, W. S. Brannon Clerk, H. 0. Geil, to serve until the annual school meeting in July. At the first annual school meeting, held in Malzahn’s hall, now the room occupied by his dry goods store, the following officers were duly elected: Director, Dan Dennis Treas., W. White, to serve until July, 1898 Clerk, D. W. Stevens, to serve until July, 1899. At this meeting, nine months of school was voted and the school board was instructed to find a suitable site for a school house. School was to be held in Malzahn’s hall until a site was found and a school building could be erected and furnished.

So on the 6th day of Sept. Miss Gertrude Omich, whose father had the first drug store in Bemidji, and who now has a fine home on the south side of upper Lake Bemidji, commenced a three months’ term. She taught about two months in this building, when the new school house, being built on the northwest quarter of block 10, or now the City Hail block, was finished, so she taught her last month in the first school house in the city of Bemidji. The building is a frame building 23×45 feet, one story high, and is quite an improvement on the little log school house in old district No. 4. Mrs. H. L. Heffron, who was among the early settlers of Bemidji, and who now has a beautiful home one-half mile northwest of the city and whose son is the manager of this paper, was engaged to teach the last six months of school. The enrollment for the year was 54 pupils. I may be well at this time to say that Portar Nye was appointed Jan 1, 1897, as the first county superintendent of schools in this county.

At the annual school meeting for the year ending July 31, 1897, the following officer was elected: E. Achenbach, to serve until July 31, 1900. Nine months of school was voted for the coming school year. Mrs. E. J. Achenbach was hired to teach the fall term, consisting of three months, beginning September 6. But, at the end of that time, the school house was found to be too small to seat the fast increase of pupils, so a small building, then situated on the same lot that Barney Burton’s clothing store is now standing on, was rented for a school room for the next six months. Mrs. H. L. Heffron was then hired to teach the A  and B grades in the school building during the winter and spring term, or six months, while Mrs. E. Achenbach taught the primary grades in the building rented near the
Remore Hotel. The enrollment for the year was 127 pupils.

At the annual school meeting for the year ending July 31, 1898, W. P. Street was elected treasurer to serve until July, 1901, and nine months’ school was voted forthcoming year. On the resignation of D. W. Stevens as clerk, A. H. Weagant was appointed in his place on Aug. 22, 1898. It may be well now to say that P. Dunwoody was elected at the November election to succeed Nye as county superintendent. Mrs. E. Achenbach was hired to teach the first and second grades in the old school house. Mrs. Ida M. Bailey, who needs no introduction to the people of Bemidji, but is known by all to have been one of the best and kindest teachers that has ever taught here, was hired to teach third and fourth grades, in the little building which was down by the Remore, now moved back of Ted Smith’s place.

J. H. Eschliman, from Cloquet, who, during his stay in Bemidji, organized the Literary Debating Society, and had a school entertainment by which he added about $30 worth of books to the school library, was hired to teach the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, in the Presbyterian church.

This is as good time as any to note of the resignation of A. H. Weagant as clerk, in November, and the appointment to the vacant office Frank Sprague, November 22, 1898. During the time between September 1st and the Christmas vacation, a fine, four-roomed, brick school building was being built up in the northern part of the city, on a block, between Beltrami and Minnesota avenues. [Central School]

On the Monday of the new year [1899]  all the schools moved into this building, and it was found that they needed another teacher so Miss Rhoda Moon, of Wadena, and who is now teaching near the Maltby postoffice, south of Bemidji, was hired to teach the primary department. Mrs. Achenbach then took the second and third grades. Mrs Bailey the fourth and fifth grades and Prof. Eschliman, the sixth and seventh grades and high school.

F. Sprague was elected July 11, 1899, at the annual school meeting, to serve until July, 1902. Nine months school was voted for the coming school year. School began the first Monday in September. Miss Moon was to teach the Kindergarten in the old school house Miss Dixie Smith, who is a fine elocutionist, was hired to teach the primary department. Miss Nellie Covell, from the schools of Marinette, Wis., whose home is Sandusky, Ohio, and who has won the approbation and friendship of all those who have come in contact with her as a teacher, was hired to teach the second grade in the brick school house. Miss Edith Bland, of Anoka, who made many friends while teaching here, was hired to teach the third grade.

Miss Minnie Bailey, of this city, was hired to teach the fourth and fifth grades in the Presbyterian church.  Miss Blanche Goudy, of Anoka, who won high esteem from L. D. S. for the active part she took in helping it along in its most trying time, was hired to teach the sixth and seventh grades in the brick school house. Prof. Bret E. Cooley, from the University of Minnesota, was hired to teach the eighth grade and high school. He won many friends among the people of Bemidji while here.

After the Christmas holidays, Miss Goudy resigned and Miss Katrine MacMahon, of Minneapolis, taught the rest of the term. Miss Clara Sathre, of Bemidji, taught the A part of the third grade and part of the fourth grade in the Methodist church for the rest of the year. The total enrollment was 418 pupils.

Bemidji Weekly Pioneer: Oct 26, 1899: “The steady growth of Bemidji is shown in the constant increase of her school membership. To carry on the educational work at present four buildings and seven teachers are furnished. Two new school rooms and two teachers have been added since school began two months ago to the original facilities. Next Monday Miss Smith will take charge of a primary class in the Presbyterian church.”

Bemidji School Addition (1900)

This quality article on the early history of Bemidji’s schools was found in an early edition of the Bemidji Pioneer (May 2, 1901) and gives a fine history of the first years of Bemidji’s education system.

Evolution of the Schools of Bemidji
(Third Epoch).
May 12, 1900, was the time set for the election of aboard of education, to be composed of six members, which would have charge of the new district on its organization. The election was held in the city hall and the following persons were duly elected to the membership of this board, namely: R. McLennan, I. G. Best, Mrs. Ida R. Bailey, M. J. Leak, P. J. O’Leary and J. A. Ludington, to serve until the regular election in July. On May 17 this board was convened and the independent school district of Bemidji was duly organized under the laws and regulations of the state of Minnesota. At the same meeting M. J. Leak was made president of the board, R. McLennan, secretary, and P. J. O’Leary, treasurer.

At the annual election in July, R. McLennan and M. J. Leak were elected to serve for three years Mrs. Ida R. Bailey and P. J. O’Leary for two years, and I.G. Best and J. A. Ludington for one year. The above named officers were appointed to their respective offices, the same as before the election.

One of the first things brought before this board was the need of larger school facilities, as the former school board had to rent rooms apart from the school buildings, and as the number of pupils were steadily increasing they would probably have to rent four or more rooms apart from the school buildings to supply the wants of the pupils during the coming years. The many inconveniences and cost of renting led them to call a meeting for the purpose of bonding the district to build a six-room addition to the old brick school house. The people, realizing the need of larger school facilities the same as the school board, the bonds were easily voted. Bids were then let for the building, C. L. Gilbert being the lowest bidder, was awarded the contract for building the new portion. Mr. J. H. French was appointed by the board to oversee the building. But while the building was progressing school began the 4th of September with a faculty of nine, as follows: W. B. Stewart of Minneapolis, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, was employed, with Miss Mary Mclntyre also of Minneapolis, and a graduate of the University of Minnesota, as his assistant to teach the eighth grade and high school Miss Katherine McMahon of Sauk Rapids, Minn., a graduate of St Cloud Normal, and Northern Illinois Normal, was re-engaged to teach the sixth and seventh grades in her old room of the brick school house Miss Josephine McMahon, Miss K. McMahon’s sister, a graduate of St. Cloud Normal, was engaged to teach A and B, fifth grade, in the Presbyterian church Miss MacDougal of Royalton, Minn., a graduate of St. Cloud Normal, was engaged to teach A and B, fourth grade, in M. E. church Miss Nellie M. Covell of Sandusky, Ohio, a graduate of the Western Reserve Normal, Ohio, was engaged to teach A and B, third grade, in her old room in the brick school house Miss Rose Duclos of Henderson, Minn., a graduate of Mankato Normal, was engaged to teach A and B, second grade, in the other lower room of the old school house. Miss Margaret Marin of Crookston, a graduate of Moorhead Normal, was engaged to teach A, first grade, and A and B, second grade, in a hall owned by Mr. E. Nelson on Third street Miss Edith M. Morgan of Bagley, Minn., a graduate of Larsboro High School, Iowa, and a teacher for three years in Lynnville schools, Iowa, was engaged to teach the kindergarten and B.J. first grade, in the old frame school house on American avenue.

Evolution of the Schools of Bemidji.
Third Epoch–Continued.
On Dec. 1, 1900, a person walking six blocks up Beltrami avenue from Third street would have seen that the new addition spoken about in the first part of this epoch as being under construction was now completed and fashioned along with the old apartment into a grand and beautiful 10-room structure composed of brick, stone and mortar. But, although it looked fine from the outside, the stranger on entering and walking through the rooms found that inside was far superior to the outward appearance. He would notice that the Warfield Electric Light Co. had put electric lights in all the new rooms, halls and basement. While down in the basement he found that the Jerrard Plumbing Co. had put in a complete and
most up-to-date system of steam heat and also waterworks through the building. While upstairs we found a fine library room situated under the bell tower, and on a later visit a collection of about 300 reference and story books in it. Well, in fact, he found the building to have the latest and most modern ideas throughout. While he was reviewing it men were putting the seats and black boards in the new rooms, so that all the outside schools moved into the new addition a few days later with one exception, as the high school and eighth grade moved into the large northwest room upstairs, and Miss Josephine McMahon took the old room.

School closed for the Christmas vacation with a tine entertainment in the city hall. During the vacation Miss Mary McIntyre resigned her position as assistant principal, and Miss Luella Turrell of Redwood Falls, Minn., and a graduate of Carlton college, Minnesota, was engaged to take her position for the rest of the school year. One other change was made in the school faculty, as it was found that Miss K. McMahon’s room was too crowded, so Miss Clara S. Jacobson of Wood Lake, Wis., a graduate of Carlton academy and a member of the Superior Normal, was engaged to teach A, seventh grade, and a portion of the eighth grade in the southwest upper room of the new addition. These being all the changes made school went on with its usual activity. On looking over the register of the different rooms the writer found that the total enrollment at the beginning of school last fall was 327, and that the present enrollment is about 450, or an increase of 123, or 37  per cent.

It is quite a change for the old pioneer to use in the duration of five year’s time the little log school house one-half mile southwest of the Brainerd & Northern round house, with an enrollment of 17, to be changed into the beautiful brick building we have just been describing, with a present enrollment of 450, a school which will have all the latest advantages of any modern graded and high school in the state next year.

Now, in closing we would say that it has been our object all through this “write-up” to impress upon our readers the progress the schools of Bemidji have taken in such a short time, and also to show our appreciation of all the work, money and trouble the people have taken to give us all those advantages which we now enjoy. The end. (May 16, 1901)
From The SIRIUS.


First Teachers Summer School (1902)

The Beltrami county training school began in this city last Monday with a substantial enrollment, fifty-five teachers being present. This is the first school of this character held in Beltrami county. The instructors selected for this school by the state superintendent are of the best, and those who are in attendance will be better qualified to fulfill their duties as teachers on account of spending four weeks at this time in training for their work.

Those in attendance are teachers who have taught school in various parts of the country. They are school ma’ams from ages “sweet sixteen” to twenty-two years, and every one is beautiful and charming. The oldest has seen but twenty-one summers. A few gentlemen are also attending.

Teachers attending from Bemidji are Gussie Heffron, Clara Heffron, Stella Minton, Frank L. Minton, Callie Walker, Kathleen Walker, Charlotte Walker, Blanche Barrett, Marie Belle Barrett, Alma Garvin, Bernice Garvin, Arthur Garvin, Lena E. Leak, Maynona Nye, Edna Casler, Alberta Woods, Vilettia Brant, Daisy A. Lyon, Jennie B. Anderson, Cynthia Bishop, Cora Simpkins, Harriete Frizelle, Gertrude McClernan, Rozella McKiernan, Espie McLennan, Charles D. Jones, Nellie C. Shaw, Ellen Halladey,  Clara Hendrickson, and Tinnie Pendergast. (Excerpt from Bemidji Pioneer, July 17, 1902)

School Election to Purchase Lots for Two New Schools (1905)

A special school election was held at the high school building for the purpose of bonding the district for $5,000 and purchasing two sites for new school rooms. The vote was light, with only 56 votes cast, but all three propositions carried by large majorities. The first proposition to purchase four lots in Carson’s addition; the second was to purchase two acres in the northwest portion of the city, and the third was to issue bonds in the sum of $5,000. The school board plans to commence the erection of the new buildings upon the pieces of ground as soon as possible.  (Bemidji Daily Pioneer, August 24, 1905)


Crowded School Conditions (1905)

Owing to the crowded condition, the Board was authorized to purchase the Catholic church which is being fitted up to accommodate two grades. Two very good rooms are arranged for. it is thought best that a first and second grade be placed therein. All parents having pupils to enter either the first or second grades and living south of Fourth street will kindly send their children to that building. We hope that all others may be accommodated in the Central Building. Other arrangements may be made later. A. P. Ritchie (Bemidji Daily Pioneer, Sept 7, 1905)


Meyer’s Dwelling Used for Classrooms (1908)

During the coming year, school will be held in the three buildings belonging to the district as last year also in the Meyer’s dwelling at the corner of Third St. and Mississippi Avenue, just across the street from the old Catholic church building. This is not an ideal school building, but was the best the district could find at this time.

The Central building is being improved, another entrance to the basement has been provided and the heating and ventilating system has been entirely remodeled. The basement room under the new part will be used for manual training and commercial work. As it will be impossible to seat all the high school pupils in the assembly room, two rooms will be used for that purpose. (Sept 3, 1908)

Bemidji High School (1909)

New High School Building Is Now Occupied, and Congested Conditions Are Relieved. Removal and Changes Made Very Expeditiously.
Bemidji’s New High School

Bemidji’s three public school buildings (which include the magnificent new high school building, as well as the Central school building and the North Side building) are now occupied by scholars, and the congested conditions which have prevailed in the schools of this city for several years past has been relieved. There is plenty of room for the present school population of Bemidji and will prove adequate for some time to come.

The “changing around” of pupils from the Mayer building and the old Catholic church building, which have been used as school buildings for the past two years, to the Central building and the new high school building, as well as the changes from the Central building to the new high school building, were made yesterday morning and in the manner of making the changes Superintendent Ritchie and his able corps of teachers showed much executive ability.

The changes were started at 9 o’clock, just after school had been called in the different buildings. When the signal was given to move, every scholar took books and personal belongings and moved from the old seats to the different rooms assigned to each grade.
In exactly thirty minutes from the time the signal was given to move, every scholar attending the Bemidji schools who was supposed to move to a new building or new seat in the same building, was in his or her place and the classes went on uninterruptedly as though there had been no “moving day.”

There was a general exodus from the Mayer and the old Catholic church buildings to new quarters and there were changes all around in the Central building, which has been literally “crowded to the roof” for several years.

The High school and Seventh and Eighth grades were moved from their old location in the Central School building to the new high school building. The first and second grade scholars of the old Catholic Church building were moved to the new high school building. The Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth from the Mayer building to the Central building.

In the Central School building, Miss Bell’s First grade was changed from the kindergarten to Miss Westberg’s Second grade room Miss Westberg’s Second grade moved to Miss Fenderison’s Third grade room Miss Fenderison’s Third grade was changed to Miss Hill’s Fourth grade room, Miss Elliot’s Third grade remaining in the Third grade room and Miss Hill’s Fourth grade changing to Miss Hanson’s and Miss Donaldson’s Fifth grade room Miss Hanson’s and Miss Donaldson’s Fifth grade changed to Miss Johnson’s Eighth grade room. Miss Koerne’s Third grade changed from the Mayer building to Miss Kennedy’s Fourth and Fifth grade room in the Central building. Miss Kennedy’s Fourth and Fifth grades changed to Miss Leon’s Sixth grade room. Miss Cosgrove’s Fourth grade changed from the Mayer building to Miss Hayden’s Seventh grade room in the Central building. Miss Bergquist’s Fifth grade to Mrs. Dwyer’s Sixth grade room. Mrs. Dwyer’s Sixth grade changing into the freshman room. Miss Rose’s Sixth grade changed from Mayer building to the new high school building. (Oct 13, 1909)

Site Chosen for College (1915)

The site for the college was selected by a committee and presented to the state legislature. The tract chosen comprised from forty acres and ran from Doud Avenue to the lakeshore and extended from Fourteenth Street to Grand Forks Bay on Lake Bemidji. An act of the legislature in April of 1915 gave $25,000 to be used to lay out the grounds. In April, 1917, an additional $75,000 was appropriated and these funds were used to begin construction of the main building. On August 10, 1918, Judge C W Stanton of Bemidji performed the ceremony of laying the cornerstone. Governor J.A. Burnquist delivered the address. The ceremonies took place on a platform erected at the main entrance to the building. The twenty-first Battalion Home Guard band played the musical numbers and  the Rev. B.D. Hansom of the Methodist church gave the invocation. The close of the ceremonies was the singing of the National Anthem by a large crowd in attendance.

Teachers Attend Summer School in Tent (1922)

FAMOUS SUMMER SCHOOL TENT — The old timers at Bemidji State College always will tell the new faculty members about teaching in a tent during the summers of the Twenties. Dr. Ruth Brune Mangelsdorf liked to tell the story of how her class was interrupted from time to time when grass snakes appeared on the scene. The tent was a necessity as summer school classes at the time were always larger than regular sessions and the tent took care of the overflow enrollment from Deputy Hall. (1922)

East School

The pupils in east Bemidji, from the first to the sixth grades, until the new building is completed, will attend school in the Poor Farm building, as they did last year.  (Sept 5, 1910)

The East School was established just after World War I in Nymore on what became Fifth Street NE in Nymore village. Its pupils came from east Nymore and parts of Bemidji Township. The earliest building had two rooms. Horse-drawn wagons and sleighs brought the pupils to school. The East School closed in 1932. (A History of the Rural Schools of Beltrami County, by Louis Marchand, pp 61-62)

The old East School wormed its way slowly up Bemidji Avenue enroute to its new home on the high school athletic field where it would serve as a field house. (Dec 21, 1936)