Anoka County History: Early schools in north of county

Now that we’re a month into the beginning of the new school year let’s take a look backward to see what came before.

Much of our information about schools in the Cedar/Oak Grove area comes to us from Karin Gallagher who wrote “A History of Cedar” in 1975 to commemorate the Bicentennial of 1976 and to complete the records for the Minnesota Historical Society.

The following is excerpted from Karin’s account of schooling in this area.

“Most people in those days who lived out in Oak Grove were farmers. Before the children could go to school, they had to rise early to milk the cows, feed the animals, chop wood in winter, and stoke the fires.

“They would have to walk to school, rain or shine, if their fathers didn’t have time to take them on the horse and wagon or if they didn’t have a horse to ride.

“On cold days neighbors would often invite the children to come in and get warm by wood fires.

“The day started with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, depending on the teacher.

“In those days teachers went to what was called ‘normal training’ for a couple of years in Anoka, and then would be eligible to teach.

“Teachers had to live in with families near the school or drive a horse and buggy to get there.

“Most of them had eight grades to teach in one room so that meant always having something for the children to do while another class was being taught.

“This provided an opportunity for the smarter kids to learn what was being taught to the older kids.

“In those days it was not uncommon for an individual to skip a grade because he or she was so far ahead.

“There were many schools in and around the Cedar area. The school district had not consolidated so it was possible to have many schools in one area. This helped the transportation problem.

“One of the older schools was Grasslake School which was located on Sims Road.

“The Green School, also known as District 19, was located on County Road 58 where the old Tom Thumb building is now located.

“It originated around the turn of the century and was named for the Greens who lived nearby.

“Many of the teachers who taught there boarded at the DeLong home.

“The Keup School was built around 1913. It was named for the J.H. Keup home nearby.

“This first school burned in 1928 and while the new one was being built, school was held in the Keup’s parlor. This school became District 25 around 1932.

“In the last years before consolidation it became the Kable School when the Roland Kable family bought the Keup home. The school was moved in 1956.

“The Kelly School, also known as the McGrew School or District 10, was located at the corner of County Road 58 and 9.

“Mrs. Edna McClintick taught there from 1919 to 1921. She recalled that at that time she had 46 children in eight grades, including 10 first graders in a one-room school.

“The school had a large entry hall where the children hung their coats. In that room hung a rope that was pulled to ring the bell.

“For lunch Mrs. McClintick often made toast and soup for the children over the large wood stove.

“One of the things that she said was so hard was the double seats and desks where two pupils would sit. She said she was used to single seats and felt that it made discipline harder with the double seats.

“After consulting with the school board on this matter, it was agreed that they would saw the desks in half. And so they did.”

Editor’s note: June Anderson is a member volunteer of the Anoka County Historical Society. Join her and other docents for more history in a spine-tingling Ghosts of Anoka Tour by calling ACHS at 421-0600.

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