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JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: Saum School achieves historic educational success

One hundred years ago, John Wolden purchased the first car in Saum, Minn. It was a 1916 Ford. Saum was growing and the purchase of this car was a testament to its growth. Nine years later, according to the book Saum Century, "there are now two Fo...

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John Eggers

One hundred years ago, John Wolden purchased the first car in Saum, Minn. It was a 1916 Ford. Saum was growing and the purchase of this car was a testament to its growth. Nine years later, according to the book Saum Century, "there are now two Fords, five Chevrolets, three Overlands, one Dodge, a Velie, and a Pan." Saum was on the move.
What was the catalyst for Saum's growth and progress? On October 25 of 1912, a new four-room school was dedicated in Saum. People gathered from all over Battle River Township in Beltrami County to be part of a all-day celebration. Why? This would be the first time a consolidated rural school had been dedicated in Minnesota. This was a truly remarkable event not only for Saum but also for education in Minnesota. The new Saum School laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most important progressive educational changes in Minnesota history. Before Saum's new school, there were thousands of rural school districts in Minnesota. Most of these were the one-room schoolhouse variety. Every few miles farm families would get together and build a school that was convenient for their children. They would hire a teacher and with the help of community funds, a school would be born. These one-room schoolhouses dotted the Minnesota landscape during the first half of the 20th Century. A teacher might have 20 to 40 students in eight different grades. Reading, writing, arithmetic, and grammar were the courses taught. Many elderly citizens in Minnesota today attended these one-room schools and make up the great generation. The one-room schoolhouse teachers must have done something right. Driving along country roads you can still see a few abandoned school buildings. If you stop and look in a broken window or walk around the outside graying wood walls hidden by tall weeds and lilac bushes, you can still hear whispers of kids reciting Longfellow's poems or the multiplication tables. Unfortunately, the community funds that could be generated to fund one-room schools were meager at best. There was little supervision by a county superintendent and resources like books and maps were scarce. Teachers were pretty much on their own and received little help. What was unique about the Saum School and what made Saum a growing community at the time was the innovative foresight of its founding fathers. The question they posed to themselves was, "What could we do to improve rural education? What if we brought together several one-room schoolhouses and made them into a bigger school? Wouldn't that be more efficient and effective?" The Saum School Board answered those questions by sending their board clerk, Peter Krogseng, to St. Cloud in 1910 to meet with state school officials. Combining small school districts into one was a unique request but the Minnesota Department of Public Instruction gave its approval. Joining the Saum one-room log school (which still stands today) would be Foy, South Battle and part of the Quiring school districts. No doubt the action already taken by the Minnesota Department of Education regarding the Saum School consolidation had much to do with the passing of the Holmberg Act in Minnesota in 1911. It provided for, among other things, funding, teaching standards and qualifications, and standards for facilities for school districts that wished to consolidate. By 1913, there were more than 60 other consolidated schools joining Saum. In 2016, there are fewer than 350 independent school districts in Minnesota. All of the country schools are gone except for one remaining in the Northwest Angle. What Saum did in 1912, helped lead the consolidation movement. During the first year of operation the Saum Consolidated School teachers were: Edna Wilson, Mary Simons and Carrie Krotsch. The first high school students to graduate from the school in 1924 were Marie Mullen, Alma Olson, Benora Tuttle, Mabel Anderson and Pearl Johnson. In 1953, the Saum Consolidated School consolidated with the nearby larger Kelliher School. Grades one through five continued to attend Saum. In 1960, the Saum School closed its doors. The building was deeded to the Beltrami County Historical Society in 1961. The building today is well maintained and is still used for community functions. When John Wolden purchased his first car in Saum in 1916 it signaled that times were changing for education in small rural communities and for small rural schools. What Saum began in 1912 set the stage for our comprehensive schools today that offer endless opportunities for young people. Education owes a great deal of thanks to the Saum Community Consolidated School for their vision, creativity and commitment. (Note: Some of the material used in this column came from the book "Saum Century - A History of Saum Consolidated School.")   Riddle of the Week: What did the paper say to the pencil? (Write on!) And we can say "Right On!" to the Saum community for beginning the school consolidation movement in Minnesota. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.One hundred years ago, John Wolden purchased the first car in Saum, Minn. It was a 1916 Ford. Saum was growing and the purchase of this car was a testament to its growth. Nine years later, according to the book Saum Century, "there are now two Fords, five Chevrolets, three Overlands, one Dodge, a Velie, and a Pan." Saum was on the move.
What was the catalyst for Saum's growth and progress? On October 25 of 1912, a new four-room school was dedicated in Saum. People gathered from all over Battle River Township in Beltrami County to be part of a all-day celebration. Why? This would be the first time a consolidated rural school had been dedicated in Minnesota. This was a truly remarkable event not only for Saum but also for education in Minnesota. The new Saum School laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most important progressive educational changes in Minnesota history.Before Saum's new school, there were thousands of rural school districts in Minnesota. Most of these were the one-room schoolhouse variety. Every few miles farm families would get together and build a school that was convenient for their children. They would hire a teacher and with the help of community funds, a school would be born.These one-room schoolhouses dotted the Minnesota landscape during the first half of the 20th Century. A teacher might have 20 to 40 students in eight different grades. Reading, writing, arithmetic, and grammar were the courses taught. Many elderly citizens in Minnesota today attended these one-room schools and make up the great generation. The one-room schoolhouse teachers must have done something right.Driving along country roads you can still see a few abandoned school buildings. If you stop and look in a broken window or walk around the outside graying wood walls hidden by tall weeds and lilac bushes, you can still hear whispers of kids reciting Longfellow's poems or the multiplication tables.Unfortunately, the community funds that could be generated to fund one-room schools were meager at best. There was little supervision by a county superintendent and resources like books and maps were scarce. Teachers were pretty much on their own and received little help.What was unique about the Saum School and what made Saum a growing community at the time was the innovative foresight of its founding fathers. The question they posed to themselves was, "What could we do to improve rural education? What if we brought together several one-room schoolhouses and made them into a bigger school? Wouldn't that be more efficient and effective?"The Saum School Board answered those questions by sending their board clerk, Peter Krogseng, to St. Cloud in 1910 to meet with state school officials. Combining small school districts into one was a unique request but the Minnesota Department of Public Instruction gave its approval. Joining the Saum one-room log school (which still stands today) would be Foy, South Battle and part of the Quiring school districts.No doubt the action already taken by the Minnesota Department of Education regarding the Saum School consolidation had much to do with the passing of the Holmberg Act in Minnesota in 1911. It provided for, among other things, funding, teaching standards and qualifications, and standards for facilities for school districts that wished to consolidate. By 1913, there were more than 60 other consolidated schools joining Saum.In 2016, there are fewer than 350 independent school districts in Minnesota. All of the country schools are gone except for one remaining in the Northwest Angle. What Saum did in 1912, helped lead the consolidation movement.During the first year of operation the Saum Consolidated School teachers were: Edna Wilson, Mary Simons and Carrie Krotsch. The first high school students to graduate from the school in 1924 were Marie Mullen, Alma Olson, Benora Tuttle, Mabel Anderson and Pearl Johnson.In 1953, the Saum Consolidated School consolidated with the nearby larger Kelliher School. Grades one through five continued to attend Saum. In 1960, the Saum School closed its doors. The building was deeded to the Beltrami County Historical Society in 1961. The building today is well maintained and is still used for community functions.When John Wolden purchased his first car in Saum in 1916 it signaled that times were changing for education in small rural communities and for small rural schools. What Saum began in 1912 set the stage for our comprehensive schools today that offer endless opportunities for young people. Education owes a great deal of thanks to the Saum Community Consolidated School for their vision, creativity and commitment.(Note: Some of the material used in this column came from the book "Saum Century - A History of Saum Consolidated School.") Riddle of the Week: What did the paper say to the pencil?(Write on!) And we can say "Right On!" to the Saum community for beginning the school consolidation movement in Minnesota.Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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