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Wanted: 'Country Kids' and teachers to restore Valley School

This is how the Valley School District No. 34 building looks now. The Denmark Historical Society is hoping to restore the schoolhouse. Submitted photo

Did you attend a rural school or teach in one? Do you know someone who did? If so, the Denmark Township Historical Society wants to get to know you. The nonprofit group is in the process of buying one of the oldest one-room schoolhouses in the state, Valley School District No. 34, built in 1852 and still on its original site on St. Croix Trail at the southern tip of Washington County.

Society members invite all to share their memories, pictures and stories as they work toward restoring and furnishing the historic school. Anyone who has any typical furnishings, such as school desks, books, maps, globes, Palmer Method charts and other items, is being asked to consider donating them.

Members of the Historical Society are working to raise $80,000 to buy the historic schoolhouse and $45,000 to restore it.

"We believe we can reach that goal," say campaign committee co-Chairs Jean Boyd and Sharon Lewandowski. "But we need a lot of community support to do it. Of course that support can be in dollars, but also in sharing of memories. "Suggestions from former students and teachers will guide us as we develop future programs and activities at the restored school," they added.

But first Society members have to raise funds to complete the purchase of the schoolhouse site. The first $40,000 is due May 1 and the second $40,000 is due by May 1, 2013. They have made a good start, with about $7,000 in hand and another $5,000 in pledges to date. Anyone who would like to help is encouraged to consider a donation in honor of someone who attended or taught in a rural school.

Valley School once was a vital part of community life in the village of Point Douglas, a thriving lumbering village that no longer exists. Like other rural schools, it was much more than a place to learn -- it was a center of community activities as well. Families came to the little schoolhouse for box suppers, holiday programs, songfests, school board meetings and more.

When the school closed in 1946, the Point Douglas Woman's Club continued the tradition, holding card parties, teas, meetings and other activities there until 1972, when they sold it to the Peterson family, who operate a flooring business and stored carpet in the building. They did not make any major changes. The tin ceiling and blackboards are intact. The building recently was approved for consideration on the National Register of Historic Places.

Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers--the only means of transportation in the early years--the schoolhouse is one of few buildings left in what was Point Douglas, a thriving lumbering village. The village was the main entrance and supply center for settlers venturing into the uncharted interior and was once called the "Gateway to Minnesota."

Historical Society members believe that, when restored, Valley School will once again be a rich resource for the community, where schoolchildren can experience classes in a pioneer school and where visitors of all ages can gain new appreciation of the tenacity and foresight of pioneers who built schools before roads.

For more information about the Denmark Township Historical Society and its campaign to Save Our School, contact Jean and Wayne Boyd, 651-436-8031 or Sharon Lewandowski 651-436-5664, or check the website at Donation checks should be made payable to the Denmark Township Historical Society and sent to Treasurer Lauren Cran, 7777 Quadrant Ave. S., Hastings MN 55033.