By Lois E Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Glimpse into History: Junior Four Minute Men, one-room school houses in Carlton County

1918 Revisited


Editor’s Note: This year, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of three great events in history: World War I, the 1918 influenza epidemic and the Fires of 1918. Take a glimpse of history of the schools back in 1918. The war effort extended into the schools.


9/26/1918 – $37,000,000 has been spent on flour, $14,000,000 for sugar and $43,000,000 for bacon. We have spent $126,000,000 for shoes, over $500,000,000 for clothing, winter and summer, and nearly $150,000,000 for blankets. The people of the United States, through the Liberty Loan, are making the soldiers as safe and comfortable and as powerful and effective as possible. Every subscriber to the Liberty Loan has helped, and every subscriber to the Fourth Liberty Loan will help to win the war.

10/3/18 – Every school in the country has been given an opportunity to participate in the third Junior Four Minute Men contest to be held during the Fourth Liberty Loan Campaign. Children prepare four-hundred-word essays, which are then recited as four-minute speeches. A winner is chosen from each grade. Inter-grade contests are then conducted to decide the winner for the entire school or for a sub-division of it as the principal may deem most fair to the contestants, considering the difference in age.

From Schools of Carlton County, Minnesota, by Nancy C. Hanson, 2011

Because of the difficulties of transportation, it was necessary for schools to be close to the families that they served. This resulted in many small schools that often burned, were moved or later demolished.

The one-room school house had a teacher or a student who would get to school early to heat the building with a pot-bellied stove. Some teachers were innovative and had the students bring a stick of wood for the fire every day. Wood stoves were not effective heaters. It was too hot by the stove and too cold away from it. The snow often blew in under the door. Students hauled water and they used a common dipper. The outhouse was in back, of course. Lunch was brought in a lard pail, which often contained the makings for a soup, to which everyone contributed.

The one room had up to 45 students, age four to 18. Most people saw that the one room school offered a sound education with lots of review and practice for the older children and enrichment for the younger.

As populations grew, larger schools were built and consolidations began. This was always controversial and required many referendums before the issue was passed. Carlton County had 48 school districts at one time.

A new brick school was built in Moose Lake in 1911, costing $55,000. The first graduation class was in 1915 and had three students: Mildred Anderson, Lloyd Carlson and Robert Mossberg. Rural students wanting four years of high school had to provide their own transportation.

There were many one-room schools in outlying the districts. Gunderson District: Gunderson, Mud Creek, Pickeral Lake (Lost School). Automba District: Automba, Bjorklund, Jokimaki, Erickson, Karlson. Kettle River School District: McKinley (Ronkainen), Paapanen, Michaelson, Eckman, Birch Grove (Sandblom) and Kettle River. Split Rock School District: Johnson (1915), Wilson (1915), Lincoln (1915), Washington #3 and Kachinski. Kalevala District: Mansikka, Hokkanen, Salo, Kroter-Holmi and Konsti.

Superintendents covered the entire county to visit the schools up until the 1940s.

Nora Nilsen was the county superintendent from 1913 to 1934, and drove a car converted to a snowmobile in the winter to get to the country schools on unplowed roads.

The Moose Lake Area Historical Society is collecting unpublished stories about the Fires of 1918. Contact the historical society at 485-4234 for more information.


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