By the time 1872 rolled around in Sleepy Eye, kids were attending school that had pine seats, one chair and one table for the teacher, a rickety old wood stove to warm the room, and one and a half to two square yards of blackboards. There were possibly 20 pupils in the entire school. Much like the “Little House on the Prairie” version as we know it, two kids sat at a desk, youngest towards the front as the older ones sat towards the back.
One of the benefits to attending school during the late 1800s, was that classes were held during the summer only. Of course one would have to endure three months of the smothering heat of Minnesota summers. During the winter, it would often be difficult for students to attend school due to the harshness of the weather, so attending school during the summer was easier.
Oftentimes, not only was the early school building used as a school, it was also used as a church. Many times it would have been used for a place of lectures, debates and political meetings.
By 1874, a second school house was finally built, made into a two-story frame building to accompany the growing community. The school board issued bonds for $2,000 to help pay for the 24 by 50 foot building. By 1879, an addition had to be added to the school building and once again in 1886, to make room for the growing population of students.
On June 2, 1881, a call to organize an independent district was issued by Dr. J.W.B. Wellcome Sr., P. Bendixen, T. M. Mitchell, A.F. Gauerke, C. Salkowske, T.F. Talbot, A. Rinke, J.W. Kolbe, C. Anderson, J.M. Thompson, P. Majewski, J.C. Zieske, D.I. Russell, Dr. T.M. Marcellus, F. Ibberson, R.H. Bingham, M.C. Burnside, W.R. White, T.P. Kegan, J.W. Kegan, E.P. Illsley and J.P. Jensen.
Notices were posted in the three most public places, the U.S. Post Office and stores of A. Rinke and C.B. Blake. At a meeting on June 15, 1881, the district was organized and a school board was elected. On July 6, the board organized, with Dr. T.M. Marcellus as president, newspaper editor T.E. Bowen was secretary and merchant T.P. Kegan was treasurer. Other board members were Fritz Koehne, J.M. Thompson and W.A. Lyman. By 1890, voters yet again decided to build another school.
Our village of Sleepy Eye had its first students graduating by 1890. The first graduating class was not very large. In fact, it was made up of two students; Arthur Murfin and William F. Lee. The following year, 1891, produced three graduating students; Ida Dineen, Laura Kelly and Joseph Hill. The next year offered a slightly larger group, by one extra student with promising futures. The class of 1892 consisted of Alice Bingham, Anna Remmele, Frank Romberg (who was to become a state senator) and James Werring.
Page 2 of 2 - The graduating class of 1893, decreased back down to three students; Lillian Emerich, Lola Wright and Thomas Brownlee. In 1894, listed for graduation was Amy Barr, Mary Palmer, Petra Peterson and Sidney Gallagher, these students were the very last students to graduate from the third school that was built in 1891. Once again this caused a reason to rebuild.
By 1953, many changes and a completely new school once again had taken life. One thing for sure learning never stops growing, nor do the children within its walls.