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