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Cottonwood Grove School

Photo contributed by:
Jill Gondek 
Taken 2010

 Cottonwood Grove Schoolhouse - Little Suamico
Oconto County, Wisconsin
Contributed by Gerrie Foster
Please click on each photo for a larger view.
Photo Pages Below
From the Oconto County Reporter –History of Little Suamico 1969-70
I believe written by Alice Koehne 
The One-Room Schoolhouse
 Closely associated with St. John’s is the Cottonwood Schoolhouse, not only because many of the same persons were organizers of both, but also because the school building now serves the church as a parish hall.

 As with the church, the settlers organized a school before a building was available to house it.  The beginnings of the School District No. 4 goes back to 1892 under the leadership of Henry Koehne, director of the school board;  Obediah Ferdon, clerk and Alex Zoeller, treasurer.  For the first few years, the scholars met in Ferdon’s home on county trunk S to learn their three “R’s” under the tutelage of Gusta Jacques.  Ferdon received $4 a month rent for the use of his home and the school teacher was paid $30, out of which $10 went for room and board.  Until August of last year, when it was destroyed by fire the house was the oldest in the school district.  (It had been owned for the last years by the Vincent Larsons.)  Two of the Little Suamico youngsters who attended school there were Mrs. Ed Allen (Edna DeMaiffe) and the late Minnie Koehne Liebert.

 Early in the summer of 1894, John Virtues obtained 26 signatures on a petition to be presented to the town board requesting authorization for a school district to encompass a cited territory.  The petition notarized by then Justice of the Peace William W. Foster, was favorably considered by the board members Harry D. Whitcomb, Obediah Ferdon and Henry G. Bramschrieber, and school district No. 4 was born.

 A few days later, on June 9, the new district called its first meeting and again elected Henry Koehne as director of the board, John Gierke as treasurer, and August Aland as clerk.  So many people turned out for the meeting that the gathering had to move from the house to the barn to conduct the business at hand.
 The following summer, the school board contracted Gust Papenfus to build a schoolhouse on land leased from Asa Foster Sr., (grandfather of the present Asa Foster).  For the sum of $490 Papenfus furnished both material and labor, including seats and desks.  Grandfather Koehne donated the blackboards.

 By 1905 there were 48 students enrolled in grades one through eight in the one room schoolhouse.  Some of the boys, their education interrupted while helping their families become established in a new land, were as old as 18.  The task faced by the young school teachers in handling so many students of varying ages- in discipline as well as teaching- was formidable, and all for the compensation of $25 a month.  School was held for six months out of each year.

 During the 66 years of its existence, Cottonwood had 34 teachers all of women with the exception of Willard Allen who now serves as mail carrier for the village.  The roster reads as follows:
 Gusta Jacques, Rose Touchette, Vira McGinnis, Ester Minian, Pearl Trechette, Kathryn Herald, Laura (Johnson)Virtues, Ida (McDowell) Herbert, Clarice Roy, Lenore Kehl, Kathryn Noonan, Mrs. Gertrude Larson, Ethel Armstrong, Georgia LaVigne, Berna Berman, Mrs. Violet Laduron, Muriel (Coopman) Hicks, Willard Allen, Mae (Young) Koehne, Bernice (Krueger) Bergh, Mildred Murphy, Margaret Rabe, Mary (Whitcomb) Papenfus, Helen (Carey) Daul, Alice (Lorang) Koehne, Adella (Berth) Pagel, Patricia (Young) Mathey, Margaret (Jahnke) Sarvick, Anita (Ward) Kennin, Alice Thome, Nora Johnson, Caryl (Leigh) Hazen, Janet (Jensen) Reed, Mary Ann Otrodovec and Laurell LaCount.

 During the tenure of one of the early teachers, a tree planting was carried on around the new school, each student responsible for planting and caring for one cottonwood.  Not all the new trees made it, and the first sapling to die was the one planted by Margaret Virtues.  When Margaret herself died soon after, the students read into this an ominous significance and became keenly interested in the survival of their particular trees.

 Most of the trees grew and flourished, however, and in 1919, when the school board began searching for a name they decided on Cottonwood Grove School.

 Early in 1960 the last class met at Cottonwood school.  The following year District No. 4 became part of the Oconto Falls school system and  Cottonwood went the way of most of the one-room country schools which have been closed in the past decade.

 It was however, rescued from oblivion when the congregation of St. John’s church bought the building at a cost of $801 from the Oconto Falls school district.  The one-time school house was extensively remodeled inside and out and has become an attractive and serviceable parish hall.
  Souvenir - District Number Four
Little Suamico, Wisconsin
Vire McGinnis, Teacher
School Board.
August Brendemihl, Director 
John Foster Clerk; 
Peter Weber Treasurer.

 Names of Pupils
Lena Luebke, Jake Brendemihl, Tom Brendemihl, Fred Ruiter, Vivian Kohne, Ida Reiter, Viola Ingram, Mabel Hornbrook, Walter Hornbrook, Emma Luebke, Ella Bauman, Marnie Ferdon, Mary Brendemihl, Erwin Fredon, Obadiah Ferdon, Ella Durand, Grace Virtues, Oliver Zoeller, Helen Jankauski, Anna Jankauski, Mary Jankauski, Lillian Virtues, Klimer Jankauski, Alex Zoeller, Clyde Williams, Ross Williams, John Virtues, Chester Ferdon, Elmer Ferdon, John Weber, Will Ferdon, Joe Jankauski, Willard Hornibrook, Adeline Zoeller, Francis Zoeller, Louisa Virtues, Margaret Virtues, Edward Durand, Leona Ruiter, Floyd Ferdon, Arthur Ferdon, John Zoeller, Ormie Virtues, Otto Luebke.

Please click on each photo for a larger view.


Back Row—L to R: Elsie Ferdon, Vivian Koehne, Grace Virtues, Everal Papenfus, Margaret Virtues, Tillie Brendemuhl, Laura Johnston (Teacher), Russell Moore, Jake Brendemuhl. 2nd R: Ethel Richard, Dorothy Virtues, Mae Papenfus, Lucy Brendemuhl, Jack Brendemuhl, Gopher Moore, -- Lindsley, Alex Zoeller, Ruben Plouff, — Lindsley. 3rd R: Myrtle Plouff, lola Papenfus, Olive Virtues, Beatrice Papenfus, Beatrice Koehne, Myrtle Brendemuhl, Art Brendemuhl, Louis Ward, Frank Ferdon, Henry Koehne, Carl Ward, Art Richard.

Unidentified boys

Unidentified girls

Left to right-Back to Front: Betty Geano, Johnny Zoeller, Lucille Foster, Isobel Zoeller, 2nd Row: Lucille Geano, Arliss Foster, Spike Ferdon, Gerry Foster, Gloria Zoeller. 3rd Row: Hulda Friedman, unknown, Helen Foster, Bill Friedman, Elaine Foster, unknown. 4th Row: Gene Foster, Earl Koehne. Last Row: Dan Koehne, Gordon Papenfus, Elmer Lade, Helen Friedman, Erma Lade.
Teacher May Young

Front Row: Marvin Durand, Lucille Pleckman, Ruth Durand, Florence Peters, Gloria Zoeller, Ruben Pleckman, Lillian Stephenson, Gertrude Zoeller. Second Row: John Zoeller, David Donahue, Rudolph Retatty, Betty Geano, Lucille Geano, Lucille Foster.

Front Row: Norbert Lepinski, Billy Gokey, Donald Laabs, Lester Blan, Angeline Lepinski, Mona Matravers,  Second Row:  Robert Laabs, Elva Durand, Gertrude Zoeller, Bernard Lepinski, David Stephenson, Fred Foster, Phyllis Friedman. Third Row: Wesley Durand,
Marvin Durand, Neal Eichman, Lillian Stephenson, Ruth Durand, Velma Blan.

Lower Grades 1942-43
Patsy Gokey, Margaret Larsen, Bobby Laabs, Donald Laabs,Jim Virtues, Raymond Ostrenga, Roy Laab, Bobby Gzonka, Lowell Virtues, Celtus Laabs, Frank Gzonka.

Upper Grades 1942-43
Wesley Durand, Marvin Durand, Joan Grzonka, Neil Eichman, Phyliss Friedman, Eva Durand, Dorethy Grzonka, Teacher Adela Berth, Billy Gokey, Fred Foster and Jerome Pansier. 

Playing Outside 1942-43


Field Trip 1942-43

Eighth Grade Graduation
Adella Berth, Marvin Durand, Phyliss Friedman, Neil Eichman, Jerome Pansier, Wesley Durand and Fred Foster

  Left to Right: Ronnie Joachim, Nancy Barrett, Roy Laabs, Bernadine Ostrenga, Bill Koehne, Lowell Virtues, Marilyn Barrett,  Bob Grzonka, Glen Virtues, lone Durand, Frank Grzonka, Helen Eichman, Karen Joachim, Raymond Ostrenga, Eddie Eichman, Bob Laabs, Donald Laabs, Jack Koehne, Jim Virtues, Cletus Laabs.
Row: Lowell Virtues, Ione Durand, Ray Ostrenga, Marilyn Barrett, Cletus Laabs, Helen Eichman, Donald Laabs, Nancy Barrett; Mrs. Tuome. Second Row: Gerrie Foster, Mary Koehne, Bernadine Ostrenga, Audrey Larsen, Virginia Jankowski, Ruth Thome, Elaine Jankowski, Susan Vincent, Georgianna Pyrek, Marge Koehne, -- Vincent, Gerald Vincent. Front Row: Al Barrett, Bill Koehne, -- Vincent, Eddie Eichmann, Glen Virtues, Roy Laabs, Jim Ostrenga, Fred Koehne, Bill Walla.

Front Row: Marjorie Koehne, Bernadine Ostrenga, Mary Koehne, James Ostrenga, Virginia Jankowski, Audrey Larsen, Elaine Jankowski, Albert Barrett, Danny Koehne, Geraldine Foster. Back Row: Carol Plouff, Ruth Thome, lone Durand, Nancy Barrett, Marilyn Barrett, Sherry Plouff, Mrs. Thome, Roy Laabs, Glen Virtues, Edward Eichman William Koehne, William Walla, Fred Koehne.  Absent-Robert Grzonka
Christmas Program 
(right photo)
Dan Koehne, Al Barrett, Ken Krueger, Ted Schultz, Richard Grzonka, Ronnie Ostrenga, Bill Foster, Judy Koehne, Diana Wilbur, Laurie Krueger, Sharon Matuszewski, Jean Koehne, Anna Larsen, Pat Matuezewski


(Left photo) Back Row: Billy Walla, Mary Koehne, Billy Koehne, Bernadine Ostrenga, Carol Plouff, Elaine Jankowski. 3rd Row: Jim Ostenga, Fred Koehne, Kenneth Krueger, Billy Foster, Albert Barrctt, Audrey Larsen. 2nd Row: Judy Koehne,  Jean Koehne, Jackie Plouff, Sharon Laabs. Front Row: David Grzonka, Laurie Krueger, Patsy Matuszewski, Richard Grzonka, Anna Lee Larsen .

David Grzonka, Laurie Krueger, Ted Schultz, Diana Wilbur, Patsy Matuszewski, Sharon Matuszewski, Jim Ostrenga, Sharon Laabs, Ken Krueger, Dan Koehne, Ron Ostrenca, Mary Koehne, Elaine Jankowski, Richard Grzonka, Judy Koehne, Anna Larsen, Audrey Larsen, Billy Foster, Jean Koehne, Allie Barrett, Gerrie Foster, (Standing) Delia Wilbur, Miss Ward, Margie Koehne.

Front Row: Ronald Ostrenga, James Barrett, Gerald Matuszewski, Billy Gronka, David Grzonka, Sharon Matuszewski, Patsy Matuszewski, Second Row: Richard Grzonka, Jean Koehne, Anna Lee Larson, Judy Koehne, Billy Foster, AIbert Barrett, Danny Koehne, Dennis Deaton, Third Row: Mrs. Kennin, Diane Deaton, Marjorie Koehne, Sharon Laabs, Billy Zachow, Elaine Jankowski, Audry Larsen, Gerrie Foster.

Back Row:Bill Foster, Allie Barrett, Danny Koehne, Bill Zachow, Gerrie Foster, Sharon Laabs, Diane Deaton, Mary Frisque, Mrs. Hazen 2nd Row: David Grzonka, Raymond Frisque, Dennis Deaton, Richard Grzonka, Ruth Frisque, Jean and Judy Koehne, Anna Larsen. 1st Row: Ronnie Ostrenga, Gerald Matuszewski, Jim Barrett, Patsy and Sharon Matuszewski, Darlene McGraw, Christine Grzonka, Shirley Ostrenga.

8th Grade Class Trip 1956

Back Row: Laurell LaCount (Teacher), Jim Gatz, Shirley Ostrenga, Pat Matuszewski, Sharon Matuszewski, Christine Grzonka, Carol Mundt, Billy Grzonka, Jim Barrett. 2nd Row: Kim Kolberger, Robert Benedict, Gary Kaminski, Anthony Frisque, Chris Kolberger, Jean Ann Pagel, Cecila Frisque, Busier Matuszewski. Front Row: Paul Koehne, Gary Friedman, Roger Friedman, Jim Koehne. Nancy Friedman, Bonnie Mundt, Darrel Mundt, Randy Pagel, Cindy Mundt. 


Last Cottonwood Picnic 
May 31, 1961
Teacher Laurel LaCount
School Board:
O.G. Virtues
H. J. Koehne
William Page;

Cottonwood Grove Reunion Commitee 2002
Gerrie Foster, Judy Koehne Boyce, Sherry Plouff Kamps,
Audrey Larsen Hanes, Marge Koehne Sutrick,
Marilyn Barrett Bramschrieber,
Margaret Larsen Follett (absent)