Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Story of a One Room School.

Life is a series of special events and happenings that mark our connections with the past and form links to our futures. Both of my parents came from farming backgrounds. Their grandparents came from different parts of the world(my dad's side came from the United States and Central Canada)and my mother's side came from England and Sweden. All four sets of great grandparents came to my home province of Alberta in the early 20th century. Their stories were all unique but the common bond they shared, was that they all desired the opportunity to start a new life. Life on the Canadian prairies was pretty difficult at that time. There were long journeys to travel before arriving at the place they would call home on the rustic prairies.

 Here was my Swedish great grandmother's journey. It took quite awhile to come by boat (my great grandmother with two small children came in 3rd class on the Empress of Britain ocean liner). She then got onto a 3 week train ride that she boarded at Quebec City. The journey was followed by a wagon ride for a day and a half to get to a piece of land that was covered by forest as far as the eye could see. Her new home was a one room shack where they would live until my great grandfather could build another. It was back breaking work to clear the land with an axe and a grubhoe.

My Swedish great grandfather Nils, married my great grandmother Frida on Boxing Day (December 26,1902) I would later marry on that same date in 1980. Here they are on their wedding day. They came from Northern Sweden( Malmberget) where my great grandfather Nils was a fire boss in an Iron Mine. Frida found the prairies somewhat frightening- she had no close neighbours and did not speak English. She had one other lady in the community who could speak Swedish. Nils often was away from home earning a grubstake so that his family had an income. There was no school there until 1912.
.My great grandfather Nils built the school in 1912 - Today there was a 100th Anniversary Dedication of the school. Here is an excerpt of a story that I wrote for our local teacher's magazine. I updated it for the dedication.
" The actual land title location of the New Hill School is SW 18-37-3-W5.The land had belonged to an Eric Bergstrom who donated the land to the school. My great grandfather, Nils Linneberg bid and won the contract to build the school for $600. He later discovered that his bid was too low and he so used some of the native tamarack hewn square with an axe, for the sills and the floor joints. The studs and rails were made of spruce and were also hewed by hand. The foundation was made of field stones. The school was originally located on the southwest corner of the quarter section. It was moved in 1952 to its present location on the north east corner of the same quarter section. It was placed on a full basement, which contained a wood and coal burning furnace. The school closed its doors in 1955 and all the children in the area were bussed to a larger consolidated school in Condor. In 1960, the school was purchased by the district for $250.00 and is used for a community centre. In 1980, the school furnace was changed to an oil furnace with forced air for $1000. Within the last ten years, they have put the school on a different foundation and the door now faces the east rather than north. It is still used as a place to gather for community events such as ball tournaments, picnics and district suppers. Many a social gathering was held in this building. People would bring pot luck suppers, their voices and other instruments and enjoy a family social evening together. The school has also been used for church services and Sunday school. Like most old school houses, it was and still is, used a multi-purpose building. "
 .  It looks pretty stark in the bottom photo . My mother and some of her siblings attended the school. Her youngest sister did not - instead she road a bus to the Consolidated school . 

Today they will have put a dedication on the school that recognized Nils contribution to his community.

My great grandfather, Nils Linneberg, wanted a place for his children to be educated. The fruit of his labor remains standing 100 years later- It is not a grand building but its walls could tell some wonderful stories of those who have gone before us. They would tell about a simpler time where teachers wrote on chalkboards, had very limited supplies, stokes fires and ran to use the outdoor toilets. The one room school house meant teachers had lots of grades and children to teach. The ways we teach and group children may be different today, but the desire for our children to have the best education experience so that they can be contributing members to our society, remains the same. While this little white building no longer houses children during the day, it remains part of the social fabric of the farming community know as New Hill ( Hespero).

Have you ever read the book " And the Ladies of the Club" by Helen Hooven Santmyer? This book is a story about ladies who gather socially to create and be together. It is a terrific story and well worth the read though it is a lengthy novel. The ladies often referred to themselves as Mrs. ( insert husband's name.) It is a reflections of a way of life that is now gone. 

My grandmother belonged to such a ladies women's club in her farming community. One of the things that they did was embroidered squares and created signature blocks for one another. This one is a living legacy of the pioneer ladies in the community. I don't believe that there are any of the ladies who have blocks on the quilt are still living. There are a couple of ladies who later moved into the community that would have been members of the ladies group. This bedspread was made with blocks that are dated from 1939- 1945. I know that the ladies group existed after that. I remember many of these women from my childhood visits to my grandparent's farm. 
Each block is made on feedsacks or muslin and  was embroidered by different ladies from the farming  community.Mars loves all quilts- she came to check this one out when I was taking pictures.

Here is a close up of a block done by my great aunt. She was married to Frida and Nils youngest son. I love the beautiful flowers she embroidered on it. Her block is dated 1939.
Below- Mrs. T. Linneberg( her first name was Nora) was married to Nil's and Frida's oldest son Ture. She did a lovely fan block- didn't she, with some more pretty flowers. She had lovely penmanship . It was interesting to see how they referred to their farming area- some called it Eckville , which was the closest little town and others called it New Hill or Hespero or even Stauffer which are all names for some parts of that farming community. The mailing address would have had Eckville in it . 
Below- My grandmother Grace's signature block  . This is the only complete coverlet that she ever made. Like all the other blocks she has embroidered her name and date. It was interesting to look at all the blocks and see the great variety of detail . It reflects the different talents of the contributors. The coverlet had a drop side and I believe that my Gran's intent was to make it as a bed spread. I should have pressed it with spray starch before taking photographs of it but did not want to use any fabric preservatives on it. I have it in my possession so that I can back it and stabilize it . I think I will probably stitch it in the ditch to fasten the layers. Anyone got any advice for keeping it in good shape?- the one person I showed it to felt that I should just leave it as it is but I would like to preserve the work. It is most valuable to the families who lived in the area.
Mrs. T Weninger obviously loved birds and flowers - her block is particularly lovely with gorgeous satin stitched flowers. 
My mom and I taken a couple of falls ago. My mother, Dolores, is the matriarch of her generation . She and her cousins all lived within a few mile radius of one another. They spent many happy hours together, in and out of the school house. Today they would have celebrated those  connections- ones that they have with one another, still. Their fathers, and some of their mothers, would have attended that one room school house that their Grandfather, Nils, built. The school house would have been a hub during the years that they were growing up. 

This is a photo of my beloved Gran with a quilt that I made especially for her to celebrate her 85th birthday. She passed away suddenly in the fall of 2003.

 I dedicate this post to my mother's family.
I am sorry that I was not able to join them for this event but, I was with them all in spirit.

Those One Room School Houses were important to their communities- the heart of the social network. Today I pause to remember one that was built by my great grandfather, Nils. Happy 100th Anniversary!

Warmest regards,

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