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Mrs. Maribel Berg


Debra Rabe


Teaching school in pioneer days was a vocation that required great dedication for teacher's salaries were only slightly higher than wages for farm hands. Even though professional requirements were minimal, they were required to produce "quality" education.

In the Red River Valley, there have been many teachers but there is one who is outstanding for she taught thirty-four years at various rural and consolidated schools in Kittson County. She is Mrs. Maribel Berg from Kennedy, Minnesota.

Mrs. Berg was graduated from Humboldt High School in 1923. She then entered Moorhead State College when she was only sixteen years old and after one year at college she taught her first school near Orleans, then she taught one year at Caribou, and then five years near Kennedy. All of these schools are in Kittson County. After these eight years of teaching in rural and consolidated schools, Mrs. Berg returned to Moorhead State College to graduate from the two year course which was the ultimate in education at that time. Then in 1964 she got her bachelor's degree at Moorhead State College, just forty-one years after first entering college. Her degree was in administration, and at the time of retiring she had completed sufficient work for a masters degree.

After graduating from the two year course at the college she taught five years in the seventh and eighth grades at Humboldt, Minnesota. On Christmas Day, 1937 she married Allen Berg. But this marriage posed a problem for the school board. The question was "Should a married woman be allowed to teach?" After much discussion, it was decided she could finish the school term.

Two years later, her son, William was born. When he was five years old, Mrs. Berg started to teach seventh and eighth grades in Kennedy, Minnesota. She held that position for five years.

The Berg family then bought the Kennedy Star, the Kennedy, Minnesota weekly newspaper, and Mrs. Berg became quite a competent "printer's devil." Noise, stress of deadlines, and shortage of help came to be just too much so she went back to teaching in 1957.

During the years of 1957 to her retirement in 1972, she taught grades five and six at first and later grade four and she was the District 352 elementary principal. She was in the St. Vincent School building until the fall of 1971 when grade four was moved to Humboldt, Minnesota.

Maribel Sylvester Berg was born to Mr. and Mrs. William Sylvester of Humboldt, Minnesota on October 24, 1906.

On that day, Mr. Harris, a doctor from Pembina, North Dakota, was a guest-in-waiting, at the William Sylvester farm home but the vigil was over early in the morning of October 24, 1906, when a very thin, very hungry, very red, and very homely baby girl made her debut into this still sparsely settled area: God had been kind to this little life as Dr. Harris observed.

Although her health did not seem the best, her determination was, and so she clung very firmly to life.

She had one sister three years old and in 1908 a brother arrived, and another brother in 1911.

This little girl and her sister and brothers lived on a farm east of the Red River. They later moved to a nice farm home near the Joe River.

Maribel Sylvester Berg started school at the age of 5 and she usually walked two miles to rural Grampean School near the Soo Railroad. When she was in grade six, the farm was incorporated into the Humboldt School District number ten. They rode to school with horse drawn vehicles. In the winter, they rode horse drawn sleds.

Her parents were William and Belle Sylvester.

William Sylvester comes from a large family. His father, Richard Sylvester, was born in 1847 in Wexford, Ontario, his mother, Mary Kirk Sylvester, was born in 1851 at Lincolnshire, England. Then in 1872 at Wexford, Ontario they were married. In 1872, the couple came to Kittson County and settled near the Joe River, incidentally, this is the site on which Harold Finney now has his farm home. The couple had ten children, William being the oldest.

Mrs. Berg's mother, Belle Ferguson Sylvester is the daughter of John and Martha Ferguson. John Ferguson was born in 1848 at Toronto, Ontario. While John was still young the family moved to Pennsylvania. Later when he was a teenager, they moved to Cambridge, Illinois. Martha Wilkey Ferguson was born in 1851 at Mercen, Pennsylvania, and later moved to Cambridge, Illinois. The couple was married at Cambridge, Illinois in 1872. They migrated north in 1882 and homesteaded where the University of Minnesota branch at Crookston, Minnesota is located. Later on they homesteaded near the Two Rivers, near Hallock, Minnesota. The couple had five children.

Mr. and Mrs. John Ferguson became one of the first pioneer families in Kittson County. Mr. Ferguson passed on in 1907 and Mrs. Ferguson in 1889.

Belle, their oldest daughter who was born August 20, 1873, met William Sylvester and they were married on March 12, 1899 in Hallock, Minnesota. They settled on a farm just one mile east of his father's farm near the Joe River. In those days the Joe River was a fast flowing stream and caused many problems for the settlers even though it provided many comforts for them, such as water and wood.

Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester had four children: Marjorie, Maribel, Warren and Arthur.

The family lived in this area until late in life, when they moved to Humboldt, Minnesota. During this time, Mr. Sylvester was custodian of the Humboldt School, at Humboldt, Minnesota. In fact, this is the same building in which Maribel Sylvester taught at the time of her retirement.

Presently, she is a Grandmother of two children, Carlee and Curtis Berg, chidren of her adopted son, Richard Allen.

Teaching has always been part of her family, her Grandmother and Mother were excellent teachers. Before her retirement, Mrs. Berg expressed her love for teaching in this way:

"I am happy to say that there nas never been one day that I haven't welcomed, knowing that there would be new experiences and learning for me as well as for the children. I've enjoyed every minute of the thirty-four years."

Mrs. Berg concluded her teaching career in May, 1972.



Berg, Maribel Mrs., Kennedy, Minnesota, correspondence

Material from the family Bible brought from Lincolnshire, England by Mrs. Berg's Grandmother, Mary Sylvester

Material from newspaper clippings saved by Mrs. Berg's mother, Belle Sylvester