Etta Simmonds

Lars C. N(i)elson History

Anna Matilda N(i)elson

Etta Simmonds

Hans L. N(i)elsen

Harry Jensen

Lars C. N(i)elsen

Peter Peterson

Rosetta N(i)elsen Jensen

Mink Creek History

Mink Creek Photos

Lars C. N(i)elsen Photos 1

Lars C. N(i)elsen Photos 2


Etta Simmonds

“Teaching in a One Room Log School House”
by Etta Simmonds Robbins
From “Starlight and Syringa” Written by the Members of the Gem State Authors’ Guild Pages 80 through 83

[Editor’s note: In her autobiography Sarah Rosetta Nelson Jensen states,

“When I was a baby, Etta Simons was boarding with our family and teaching school in Mink Creek. Since my mother's health was poor, she helped with things in the house and tended me quite a bit. In her later years, when she was in her 80's, she regained contact with Anna and wrote me. Among other things, she said that I was a pretty baby and it was a joy to help take care of me.”

This history is the account written by this schoolteacher about her experiences while living with Grandma Jensen’s family. Note that Grandma misspells the teachers name (Simmonds not Simons) in her history while the teacher misspells Grandma’s father’s name (Lars not Larse Nelson) in hers. At the end of this story, the teacher singles out as examples of successful students Grandma’s older brother Edwin Nelson and her uncle Daniel Nelson.

Max Jensen provided this account.

In the summer of 1900, Teacher's Institute was held at Malad, Idaho for those wishing to take the examination to teach. Certificates issued were for first, second and third grades. 1 attended the Institute and obtained a second grade certificate. Later I took the examination in extra subjects and received a first grade certificate which would enable me to teach in any county in Idaho for three years.

I applied and obtained a school at Strawberry Canyon, located at the head of Mink Creek.

I had not taken into consideration the remoteness of the place; few houses could be seen as one traveled the rough road from the town of Mink Creek. In stormy weather the mud hub deep clung to the wheels only to drop in great heaps by the roadside, great clouds of dust obscured the vision in dry weather. In winter, snow piled up in great drifts and to a considerable depth. On either side of the road were many ravines and hills, and tucked away in secluded spots were small farmhouses often overflowing with healthy, happy children. The families were chiefly of Scandinavian descent.

The time arrived to begin the school. After traveling all day in a "white-top" we arrived at the Larse Nelson home. School was to begin the next morning, and after breakfast I was taken to the one-room log schoolhouse on a hillside. It looked as formidable as a prison to me. This was to be my first experience as a pedagogue and there was a great struggle within me as I bade goodbye and my folks drove away.

I was left to take charge. Strange, the children eyed me with apprehension and I noticed that several of the children were larger than I was. I learned later, that owing to the fact that a very strict man had taught the school the year before, and ruled with an "iron hand," some of the older pupils had decided to manage the school to some extent.

The interior of the room was similar to many schoolhouses in remote places. The walls were roughly hewn logs white-washed with lime. The central heating system was a large "pot bellied" stove which stood in the center of the room, it's heating capacity was sufficient to keep the room comfortably warm during the bitter cold days, if continually refueled with the mahogany wood cut and hauled from nearby canyons. Billows of smoke swirled out into the room when the door was opened and soon transformed the whitewashed walls to a drab gray.

On either side of the room, were two small windows, at the right of the one door on a small bench was kept a large bucket of water carried from the creek that meandered its way at the foot of the hill. By the use of a long handled dipper thirst was quenched with never a thought of microbes or mixing of germs. Along the wall left of the door, two tiers of large nails had been driven into the logs on which to hang wraps. A blackboard extended along the opposite wall, a small desk held a large school bell and several extra books, on both sides of the room were two rows of desks or seats, the large pupils occupied the larger back ones towering above the smaller children in the front rows.

A rapid segregation transformed the students into separate personalities with their individual ways and features. My work became more interesting as I perceived the interest taken by the children. The grades ranged from first including the seventh. It required planning and ingenuity to manage all the grades and give each pupil time and attention.

Teachers are expected to be just, patient and extremely self disciplined, often when under stress the blackboard served as a safety valve, and as I put work on the board I gained composure.

The pupils in the Strawberry School were very normal children and youths - some times good and at times not so good: but never very bad, each had his or her own personality.

Slates were much in vogue at this time, which contributed much to noise and confusion; often one fell to the floor and disintegrated causing noise and distraction, they were continually in need of cleansing, and although considerable time was given to impress pupils to use a small damp cloth to do erasing and cleaning, it was not unusual to see a boy or girl pucker lips and spray the slate then do the cleaning with fingers, side of hand, sleeve, shirt cuff and even elbow.

As in all schoolrooms, some pupils were more adept than others and became restless when assignments were completed. The announcing of a test was often an incentive for some to review and use time profitably. The tests were accepted by some and abhorred by others.

After correcting a test in spelling one day I was accosted by a sixth grade pupil and told, in positive terms, that I had marked some of the words wrong that were right. I asked him to spell the marked words and each word was carefully checked with the book; I remember one of the words was "raspberry," upon finding the marked words were spelled incorrectly he said with some disgust "Who ever heard of a "P" in raspberry?" I had to admit he had a point, but it was there and must be accepted.

There were times when my authority was put to the test as to recognition. After dismissing school for recess one day - on looking out the window I saw two covered wagons drawn by thin teams of horses traveling the muddy road in front of the school; just at that moment a fusillade of mud daubs battered the slowly moving vehicles transforming wagon covers into polka dot canvas, the dodging teamsters were not spared the bombardment. Taking the bell I stepped out and rang it vigorously and returned to my desk, the pupils came in and sat down, some shamefaced, some with looks of victory won, and others with looks of defiance because of a shortened recess period. That the remainder of the recess time was used as a lecture period was brought to my attention more than forty years later when a college professor, who had been an eighth grade student at the time, came to our home at Logan, Utah, and reminded me of the incident and admitted it made a deep impression for good on him. <>As a rule the pupils were orderly and kind hearted, many times the older girls and boys surprised me by cleaning the school room on Saturday, often shiny evergreens and berries were brought from the nearby mountains and used to decorate the log room.

The lowly schoolroom was our "Institute of Learning" and at times an amusement center. Aside from the regular daily routine of school, advantage was taken of holidays and all worked in unison to prepare interesting programs to which parents were invited and made welcome.

The Scandinavians are fond of music and song; a common interest, that of singing was established which did much to promote friendliness and cooperation. Parents were invited and the school trustees were frequent visitors, they were justly proud of class recitations and singing. We were often visited by the Superintendent, Mr. John A. Dalley, from Preston.

Owing to lack of funds the school term was short. It was nearing the end of this particular term, and a special program was being prepared. An eighth grade boy and his father were asked to furnish the music on their violins for the children's dance, which was to be the final act. The program was presented in the morning of the closing day, followed by the children's dance in the afternoon. Every student participated while parents and other members of families were in attendance and were noticeably pleased. The children's dance was quite an occasion in early days, usually a tallow or wax candle was whittled over the rough boards of the floor, making dancing less fatiguing while the square dance, Berlin polka, heel and toe polka and other dances were danced with gusto to the music of the violins.

I was asked to return the following year, and was promised a five-dollar raise in salary, which would amount to forty-five dollars a month. After some deliberation I decided to return.

The curriculum for the year 1901 and 1902 was similar to that of the previous year, the closing of school was similar to the spring of 1901, with one exception, I was pleased by being showered by a deluge of lovely "name cards," these were small folders, a plain card contained the name of the sender, this was covered by a lovely embossed floral card in delicate colors. I appreciated this kind gesture as parents and pupils were involved. The school term came to a close with our "Commencement Exercises." I am certain many of the thirty-six pupils enrolled in the Strawberry School became successful men and women.

I have received letters, recently from several of them, and it is heart warming to learn that many became interested and active in many fields of higher education. To mention a few, Peter Nelson, a professor at Stillwater, Oklahoma, Daniel Nelson received his PhD at Ames, Iowa, later worked in the field of science in Wisconsin. Enoch Nelson was school superintendent of Franklin County and later elected as state representative from the same county. Edwin Nelson, now deceased, was manager of the Ogden Woolen Mills. Some served in the service of our country and became commissioned officers. Others became successful farmers, among the descendants of a few are a doctor, two dentists, a jeweler, a musician, an engineer, and in instructor in electronics.

I was the fourth teacher in the little Strawberry school, before me were Nettie Pratt, Margaret Grave, from Weston, and Chancey E. Barney from Blackfoot. Others who taught at Strawberry School were Bernice Dudley from Clifton, Idaho. Those who came later were Mable Purkey, Ella Hawkes and May Underwood. A great transition has taken place during the last half century; much of the success of the school system today can be attributed to the integrity of those who received the rudiments of learning in the "one room school house” of more than half a century ago.