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"A Glimpse of the Past"

from the Merrill Courier of August 10, 2001

"First school in Jenny" by Miss Mary Jane Miller

In the early 1850s, 20 years before there were any regular religious services, there was already a village school in Jenny [Merrill] located in an old house.

Miss Mary Jane Miller was the second teacher ever to come here. She arrived in the spring of 1859 to fill the term of a friend, Miss Kate Goodrich, earning $20 per month and board at the home of the Z. Space family.

Miss Miller described the event as follows: She went over to the old house that was being fitted up for the school. Let me describe a room 15x18 feet whose walls of rough boards-three small windows without shades of any kind, three long benches with long desks in front of them, a homemade stool and table for the teacher, the floor of wide boards, showing great cracks, not a blackboard or a picture on the wall of any description. I found a dozen bright boys and girls waiting to greet me. The children were all so kind. One boy asked me if I liked to catch some frogs with him after school,to which I gladly assented.

Mr. Space made us a blackboard. I worked hard in and out of school, rambled in the woods with the children teaching them the name of birds, flowers, shrubs, trees, rocks and animals. They in turn taught me where to find them.

The brave boys taught me how to paddle a canoe, pole a float, ride a log and how to swim. We had to teach 22 days in a month, so on Saterday afternoon every two weeks, the girls would help scrub the floor with water which the boys brought from the river close by. We covered the walls with illustrated papers, the New York Leger and Harper's Weekly; made window curtins of papers and bedecked the homely places and niches with birch and princess pine and hemlock boughs until the old place looked like a picture gallery. Pat Smith brought a dust pan and a broom and Mr. Strowbridge a brand new dictionary. Mr. Norway brought a set of maps.

"I live it all over again and in my mind's eyes see the swings in high trees, the children jumping rope, playing, an'y high over, chase the squirrel, blind's man bluff and London Bridge.

We learned the Chippewa language and often visited the Indians in their wigwams, ate the maple suger out of their mococks, although we knew it had been strained through a blanket before sugering off. It was "eapnish she shin."

Miss Miller taught the next year, 1860, at Jenny also; after two years absent she returned in 1863, but a few nights after there was a ball at the Forest House and the alarm was given that the Indians were now surrounding the village and "every man to arms." She received such a terrible fright that she never entirely recovered from it, and the next day she departed on a stage to Ripon, Wisconsin, where she went to school daytimes and had nightmares nights all winter long. That was the fourth Indian scare in Miss Miller's time in Jenny.

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