Brown County NEGenWeb
Project © 2000-2011
No unauthorized commercial use may be made of this material
This is a free site. Copyright 2011
This story was compiled by Marilyn Calver, local historians who gave us permission to use it.
At the bottom of Marilyn's story is a story that was taped by Mrs. Elmer Holm about the difficulties encountered when starting to teach at this school.
What dedication these wonderful teachers had. They are to be commended!!!!
This page may not be copied or distributed or
accessed for profit without the written permission of the copyright holder
or the owner of this site. Please notify the
site owner if you have come across this site as a result of a paid subscription
to another site.
Picture contributed of RuthAnn Steele
Lakeland Sod High School
In Brown County there are folks who received a good high school education in a very special school.
This school was built just for them in the southern part of the county, twenty-five miles from any other high school.
It was built by their parents during the depression years when these parents could not afford to send their children to town or
felt the worth of having their young folks at home duing their high school years.
The distinctive part of this building was that is was made of the native sod.
Grade Schools have been built of sod, but perhaps no other high school was built of sod before or after this time.
The years it was used were from the fall of 1934 to the sping of 1941. The depression convinced people that the one requisite for making a
good liveing was a good education.
In 1934, the summer in whinch the school was built, the govenment provided money for the unemployed and needy under the W.P.A. projuect.
Some W.P.A. funds were used to pay for the labor, but the people of three districts, districts 12,14, and 49, met the costs by a levy of two mills.
Many people in these districts helped with the building. Almost everything that was used in the school was donated by people in the districts,
or funishied by other schools. Only a few people were not enthusiastic about the project.
The school was located in a valley in District 12. It was an Approved, Article 3, school.
Some of the pupils came from more than 5 miles to attend.
It was planned as a two teacher school but with only one classroom with a small back room doubling as a laboratory at times, and the living quarters for the teachers.
A pot-bellied stove warmed the class room and a little topsy stove was placed in the smaller room.
The school was not quite ready for the opening of school in September but one of the teachers, Mr. Holm, taught classes in the unfinished building.
A pitcher pump was installed for water. A shelter for ponies was built at the rear of the school yard, and the toilet facilities were outside, all built of sod.
Pupils came from all directions, mostly on horseback, over the hill and and down the valley. The valley was green in the spring to late in the fall.
A couple, Elmr Holm, who had formerly taught in Ainsworth, and his wife, Mary, were hired to teach. Both had Life Certificates
and were well qualified, experienced teachers. They agreed to teach for $450.00 between them supplimented by fuel, food, and living quartes in the small
back room. Mr. and Mrs. Holms must cetainly have been dedicated teachers to teach in such a remote place for so little. They had three children to send
to grade school but who stayed with them.
These first teachers found the expectations of the community higher then they could possible meet. The schedule would not provide for all the couses that the
parents wanted for their children and a teacher is seldom qualified to teach all classes. Some extension courses were offered.
The largest expenditures were for textbooks and science supplies, a sum of $35.00. The fule cost was only $15.00 since it was heated mostly by "cow chips"
or "Prairie coal" that the pupils gatherd and piled to the eaves of the building on one side.
A large gathering of people came for miles around even Ainsworth, Johnstown, and Brewster for the dedicaton. The girls had brought flowers
for the occasion, parents furnished refreshments. Charles Taylor, the State Superintendent was the speaker. He was a large man with a large heart.
He praised the people for building a high school that was free from debt and still served the purpose. With the building and expenses,
the cost to run the school the first year was $1102.60.
The subjects that first year were algebra, enlgish, science, business arithmetic, civics and geography. The parents thought that Latin should
be taught so the next year Latin was added along with world history and economics. There were twelve students the first year from the
Wales, Vanderlinde, Clapper, Fletcher, Williams, Wolcott, and Shaner Families. Three children from theVanerVeer family attended for a short time
which brought the highest attendance to fifteen. Robert Vanerline and Sterling Wales graduated from the twelfth grade in 1936.
The school had sixty library books but borrwed as high as 500 from the Nebraska Lobrary Commission in Lincoln one year.
The pupils made much use of this library. Mr. and Mrs. Holms taught for three years, years that were the coldest and dryest in the history of the rergion.
In 1937-1938, Russell Dybdahl from Scotland, South Dakota, taught the school by himself with the aid of extenison courses from the University of
Nebraska. Fred Wales , Francis Fletcher, and Faye Williams graduated in 1938. Mr. Dubdahl's salary was $615.00.
The next year when Mr. Dybdahl left, and Mr. Guy P. Grisell, who had a Permanent High School Certificate and Bachelor of Arts Degree, taught for $450.00.
There wer no graduating students that year, but the two girls and five boys attending were in the ninth, tenth , and eleventh grades.
The next two years, Mr. Dybdahl returned. The school by then was beginning to show wear. During the last two years, the building was rated as fair.
Two Einspahr girls, Pauline and Julia; two Homan girls, Mildred and Ruth Ellen; Robert Davis, Margaret Wales, Betty Wales, Harry Wales, Aubrey Smith
and Alvin Williams, made up the enrollment. Mildred Homan received a diploma. Since there was only Mr. Dybdahl teaching extension courses were necessary.
The State Department began to question the accreditation of the school.
Better times had alleviated the poverty level of living in the homes across America and in the ranch country. The children wanted to attend school
in town where there were athletic programs and wider variety of classes. The parents could afford to send them to town. Lakeland High School
had served its purpose and after seven years of use, the people let it go back to the sod from whence it sprung at the close of school in the spring of 1941.
In the summer of 1976 there was a reunion of the pupils and teachers. The Brown County Historical Society placed a commemorative marker at the spot at the
school site which is located on the Elsmere road at the Long Lake turnoff. Ther is to be another metal marker on Hiway 20 about 20 miles north of the school site.
As far as can be determined, this was the only sod school ever erected for the purpose of providing a high school education in the United States.
Following is a story that was taped by Mrs. Elmer Holm for the Brown County Historical Society.
High School In A Soddy
The peole of the area were very discouraged because of the cost of sending their high school children away to high school. It was during the depression.
This was not an individual project by any means, because everybody was interested and was willing to pitch in and do whatever they could do.
One family brought in a little pitcher pump and we found we could get water easily. I don't think the people had an agrrement that food products were
to be a part of our salary, but we soon found that everyone was generous. I never saw such beautiful raspberiries. People brought in beef,
vegetables and venison and everything you could buy for the table. People brought in canned things, fresh beef at buthering time, nothing definite,
just what people had. Never the less, these were pretty tough times for us and it was hard to meet our living expenses.
My husband had gone down ahead of time and then he was teaching while the community was still working on the building.
There was a back roof on the shool where the people had put cobs, but we did build bunks in this room for ourselves. We had a topsy stove
for warmth and a Coleman gasoline stove to cook on. We actually had water in the house from that pitcher pump. I was very apprehensive
about how we would get along because it looked very primitive to me. I had heard some pessimistic sentiments from other people. Some patrons at
a meeting were pessimistic about the whole project. Others , I can say , were exceptionally unrealistic about accomplishments
projected in the shool curriculum. I feel now that is was a sort of a dedicaton to tackle the project.
It was late fall when it was dedicated and I was apprehensive about the dishes getting there in time for the dedication. But the girls helped get
everything ready and I could see that everyone was proud of having something to work for. We weren't going to get crushed by the depression
or held down by adversities. Claude Wales was very helpful and he introduced the children of the school and their parents.
Some of the furnitue in the shool room was battered with time. We also had a library table and nice supply of books on the library shelves.
The children were especially nice kids and they wanted to learn. High School was near their homes and it wasn't too difficult for
the students to get there and I think they relly apprecatied the opportunity to learn. When a new set of books would come the children fairly ate them up.
My husband was the paid techer and I taught without pay.
Return to the Main Page