Sargent County Schools

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History of Hamlin School

This is a transcription of materials compiled in 1924 or thereabouts. One of the authors 
was Vesta Goolsbey Harrington. This compilation is in the Sargent County Historical 
Society.
Through the efforts of Ezra Post, a school was begun in Hamlin in 1881-2. School was held in an upper room of John Herman's house. Mr A. M. Blythe was the first teacher. The first school house no. 1 was taught in a little shanty on John Muruck's farm. The furniture was home made and two half windows lighted the room. The school was in session al the way from two to four months. The pupils usually passed through what now would be the fourth grade before leaving school. Their education was finished. The first Sunday School in Sargent County was organized in this school room, and the first church services were conducted here. Here was the social center for a large territory, and the first event of a social nature was a dance in celebration of the completion of the building. Later came other social gatherings, spelling bees, school entertainments, plays by local talent or the combined talent of Ransom City and Hamlin, political meetings and elections. Pasted to Vesta's handwriting is this summary for years 1882-84 and 1924 commentary; I quote "Through the first school House was erected in 1882 at Hamlin. (The builder was James Gray) about 18x28 feet. The lumber used in its construction was brought from Waorton. The first teacher was Miss Mary Wolfe. Now Mrs. H. ?. Pennington of Milnor. Mrs. Pennington writes: The school house was finished the first Monday in January in 1883. The furniture consisted of a table, one chair, a stove about the size of a wash boiler, four planks placed on soap boxes, and chunks of wood on which the children sat. The weather was the usual brand of North Dakota January weather and the heating plant so inadequate that the children had to sit close around the stove as possible. The teacher marched around that square until her feet were so chilled that she could not wear her shoes, consequently she had to close school until the arrival of more furniture that had been ordered." This school house, still standing after forty years, is still used as a school house (1924). From an educational standpoint this would be an interesting historical spot. From another page I find this: There was a medium sized entry and cloak room all in one where there were hooks for hanging the children's wraps. The equipment in the main room consisted of an ordinary wash boiler, a chair for the teacher, a water pail and dipper from which all drank water from a nearby shallow well without fear of germs or contagion; a broom and dust pan; a plentiful supply of crayons, a black board made from wide plain boards painted black and hung on the wall under globe. There was a small building for fuel. School opened again January 13, 1883 with about 20 pupils in attendance, ranging in age from five to twenty-one years. Some had neither book, tablet nor slate. Slates were used generally and paper for written work was used mostly by the older pupils. A few had the necessary supplies. Some came long distances, thinly clad and without mittens, their hands blue with cold and faces tear-stained. So the teacher's duties and the activities of Mary Post, one of the older girls, was added the knitting of mittens. The teacher was young and timid; it was her first school, and when she looked into the eager faces of those pioneer children and realized that here was material for future legislators, governors and perhaps a president or two, beside the homemakers, mothers and teachers. She certainly felt that her equipment for the tremendous task before her was quite on the par with the furnishings of the school room. The pupils were eager and willing workers and were soon busying every way the teachers could devise with means at hand. She fed the miniature heating plant to its full capacity every few minutes and bravely took up the march around the outside of that hollow square, continuing that march for two weeks until her feet were so chilled and swollen that she could neither march nor wear her shoes. The weather was of the usual January brand for North Dakota, so with the consent of the directors she closed the school until the large heater, seats and desks arrived, which was two weeks later. Mrs. Nancy Herring was in Wahpeton when Miss Wolfe made application for a date for teachers examination. Mrs. Herring advised her to wait until she visited the Hanlin School when that could be attended to without a long trip through the snow which was very deep. During the enforced vacation it was deemed wise to go to Lisbon for this examination. Mr. Post kindly offered to take her on the long cold journey. On the 8th of February, a clear day with the ther- mometer registering ten degrees below zero, they decided to make the trip. In the bottom of a double wagon box on a bob sled was placed a thick layer of clean straw, over that a blanket and then a feather bed. With a long fur coat over her regular outdoor apparel, the teacher climbed in and sat down on the feather bed which Mr. Post drew up over her and tucked closely about her and then placed a fur robe over all. He was warmly clad and in fur outer garments. He sprang into the seat, wrapped a fur robe about him, and they were off for a drive of over 35 miles over a trackless expanse of prairie. Snow covered to a depth of at least eighteen inches. They traveled seventeen miles before reaching the first pioneer home on the route, the Preble farm about four miles northwest of where Milnor is located. While there they stopped for a few moments to chat. A quarter of a mile from the Preble home they passed the Lanegan farm, both typical pioneer homes and the only ones they had seen since leaving Hamlin. On reaching the Sheyenne River at what is now known as the Foster Crossing, they found the trail on the north side of the river covered with high snow drifts. In the first one, the horses sank until the snow covered their backs. The canny driver had come prepared for such an emergency, and also he knew where to find helpin a pioneer home hidden away in the timber. Soon three men were digging the horses out and opening a way through the deep snow drifts out from the river to the high ground. From there they had a little more than a mile to travel to reach the home of Horace Gates, where they received a real pioneer welcome. The evening they spent in gossip of neighbors far distant, as most neighbors were at that time. Ten miles to Lisbon in the morning where they found Mrs. Herring at her office. She said heartily, "Come right into my office, Miss Green." The teacher was puzzled, but said, "I surely am Miss Green, as this is my first teacher's examination, but that is not my name. Mrs. Herring I think you should be afraid to be alone in this same room with a Wolfe." The examination was partly oral and the fee for the certificate was two dollars. Mrs. Herring stated that it was the first certificate she had issued since entering on her duties as county superintendent of schools. The memory of her kindness and consideration can never be effaced from the mind of that timid teacher. On the return trip they again spent the night with the hospitable Gates family, and completed the journey on the third day, Mr. Post, happy in the knowledge that he had done a kindly deed, and the young teacher with a heart full of gratitude to her kind friend and joy in the possession of that certificate, a guarantee of her fitness for her work. This year was 1925, one may drive thirty five miles in the morning in perfect comfort in a closed car on the state highway, take the teacher's examination and return in the evening. What will it be when these trips are made by airplane? During the first term of school in the Hamlin school house, in mid afternoon, without warning, a terrific blizzard came sweeping down, enveloping the building in its blinding swirl of large snowflakes which were at first beautifully soft and feathery, but soon beaten to a heavy frost. This so filled the air that it seemed as if seeing and breathing in it would be an almost impossibility. The older boys, who had lived in the district for several years declared, "We are in for a sure enough blizzard." They asked if they might go to their homes nearby to assist in the care of the stock, assuring the teacher that they would be perfectly safe if allowed to go immediately and advising her to keep the younger children in the school house. After carrying a huge pile of wood and leaving the remains of their noon lunches, they fared bravely forth, and reached their homes safely. On their departure the teacher felt that heavy weight of responsibility had fallen upon her. No matter what happened to those children in that building, held the grip of that terrible storm, no message could be sent out or received. They were completely cut off from all communication with or assistance from outside that room. Determined to make the best of the situation, the teacher made a brave effort to hold her thought to the inside of that room for the most efficient care of those little ones in her charge, and to find, in that little place of calm, opportunity to strengthen their faith and courage by calling to mind the Father's promises to his children in need. She led the children's thoughts away from the outside conditions and got them interested in games that were too active, as the food supply consisted of but a few mouthfuls for each one, and none could foretell the length of their stay in the school house. Just when it seemed impossible for any human being to find his way to any desired place through the storm, they heard the tinkle of bells, and thought they must be deceived by the melody of sounds made by the blizzard, and their intense desire for the coming of help, but the sound grew louder and ended in a merry jingle in front of the school house door, and Mr. Post entered. The relief and joy expressed by the look and action of those brave little pioneers made plain the extent of control which they had unselfishly exercised over their fear and the natural longing for home and the safety of the arms of father and mother, which could be replaced by nothing else in the knowledge of the little ones. Mr. Post said, "Bundle the children up good as quickly as you can, and we get out of here. I have plenty of warm robes." To the teacher's query, "Will it be safe?" he answered, "Perfectly." He had come through the storm, surely he could return safely. In a very few minutes they were out in the bob sled, all the children completely covered with robes and the teacher kneeling beside the driver, never for a moment doubting that they were in God's care and keeping, so absolutely safe. From their point of advantage in the front of the sled it was at times impossible to see the horses; and as they drove out of the narrow road out through the woods onto the field the storm seemed doubled in its fury. The teacher shouted to the driver, "How can you ever find your way in this blinding storm?" He shouted back, "By the lay of the furrows in the breaking on the field." Without hesitation he drove on the distance considerably more than a mile by the route he had chosen, reaching his home in so short a time that the family had not had time to be anxious concerning him. He managed to get to one neighbor's home with their children and to send word to another that their little ones were safe in his home. The good old scout making his way unerringly, with cheery word and kindly deed, he had saved his neighbors many a heart ache. In the winter of 1883-84 Hamlin had five months of school and the following summer three months giving eight months for the year, which was much above the average through out the country. They employed Miss Wolfe for both terms. The attendance increased to something over thirty and instruction was given to seven grades. A few years later the eighth was added. The first and second grades were dismissed at two-thirty or three o'clock and the older pupils put in a full day. The teacher had to plan her work so that each equaled ten, but loved it. Although the governors and a president or two have not arrived after a period of forty two years, she is proud of the men and women developed from those pupils, and the work they have done and are doing." Use BACK BUTTON to return to Sargent County Schools.