Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, July 24, 2020

Sherburne County and Education

With the current discussions of disease and quarantine, the condition of schools and student attendance, I am encouraged to look back in the history of Sherburne County and explore the development of schools in the area.  It quickly becomes obvious; education played an important role in early Sherburne County.  

Elk River school, circa 1900
 As early as 1869, Elk River witnessed construction of a brick school, with multiple classrooms.  This was not simply the one-room schoolhouse similar to those scattered around the county.  This was a true school with several teachers and separate classes for students based on grade level. 

In 1876, the County Commission set aside specific township sections to benefit education in Sherburne County. The idea originates with federal law, mandating sections of land be set aside for education, the actions of the commission, however, reinforce the importance of teaching county children.

In 1883, every child in Elk River realized a dream come true: the school building burned to the ground.  Yet, in spite of this setback, education continued in Elk River and Sherburne County. A new, two story school replaced the burned-out facility, and education moved forward.  

In 1885, county educators reported 1,257 students in the schools.  This at a time when population in the county came in at about 5,000 people.  Elk River estimated a population of 600.  With a quarter of the population being students, the county administrators excitedly reported receiving state education funds of $477.66.   

Within five years, the county educators noted higher quality teachers arriving in the Sherburne County schools.  Some of these county educators suggested the local school boards slowly eliminating debt and finding the funds to pay teachers a higher wage. 

Although an unidentified photograph, children posed in
capes provides a unique image worth viewing.
Events leading up to 1900 show education as a significant priority in the families of Sherburne County.  In particular, the investment in Elk River education is noteworthy.

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