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home : news : news April 30, 2016

8/15/2013 3:35:00 PM
Got old schoolhouse photos? Contact Don at the Historical Society

Several years before Minnesota even became a state there were already 18 schoolhouses in Chisago County. By 1888 there were 46 schools, and shortly after the turn-of-the century 59 buildings were designated places of learning for area children. Obviously, no bus transportation was available so children had to be able to get to school on foot or riding the family farmhorse. School houses sprang up wherever enough students were clustered to support a teacher.

Amazingly, these schoolhouses are not all gone, and neither are they forgotten. Don Zachrison, North Branch, has been collecting photos and facts about early local schools for about 10 years. From the information he’s been able to find there are 31 Chisago County schoolhouses that still exist...some have been relocated from their original sites, some have been married to other structures, a few are hiding in plain sight as single family homes, and sadly-- many are crumbling and abandoned. Zachrison tells about his special schoolhouse documentation project while presiding over the Clover Blossom Schoolhouse exhibit on the Threshing Show grounds.

Threshing Show visitors could talk with him about his efforts and look up schools of interest in his looseleaf binder. Inside the restored Clover Blossom School, rescued and moved to the threshing show grounds from between Taylors Falls and Center City, Zachrison dished details about early school days and also listened to peoples’ stories. He attended Rystrom School himself, (north part of Chisago County) where he completed 4th grade and started fifth grade around 1948. His folks took him away from Chisago County when they moved to what is now the suburbs of the Twin Cities. Much later in life, Zachrison accompanied his wife who was doing her family’s research at the Isanti County Historical Society facility.

He picked up a three-ring booklet all about Isanti County one-room schools and he said his interest was piqued. “I thought we should have one (schoolhouse anthology) for Chisago County,” he said and this project was born. He says there was one superintendent for all the county and this fellow was expected to submit a yearly report to the state, he explained. The Supt. Records are stored in St. Paul at the state historical society’s headquarters. Zachrison has viewed the reports and made notes for his booklet. He especially gets a kick out of the “building condition” adjectives submitted by the superintendent; like “tolerable” whatever that means. Got pics? Zachrison is off to a good start assembling a comprehensive collection of at least one photo of every schoolhouse ever erected in Chisago County. Alongside the photos he has typed details about when the school was constructed, its location, etc.

He would love to hear from anyone who has an old schoolhouse photo that could be scanned into the historical society computer system. You don’t have to donate them, photos are returned. The list of schoolhouse photos he needs is lengthy, so he suggests you just call the society phone and leave a message about what your photograph depicts, how to contact you and he will get back to you. Contact 651-257-5310.

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