600 11th St. SW
P.O. Box 312
Wells, MN  56097
A Short History of Education in Faribault County

In 1848 Congress adopted a policy for Northwest Territory granting two sections in each township, sections 16 and 36, for the support of public schools. In Minnesota Territory the sale of these lands began the permanent school fund. Territorial legislation made every township containing at least five families a school district. If there were 10 or more families in the township, the county commissioners could subdivide the township into smaller districts. In 1851 county commissioners were given the power to set up school districts without regard to township boundaries. Thus in Faribault County 137 school districts were created. The office of county superintendent was made mandatory in 1868.

At the second meeting of the Faribault County Commissioners in April 1857, a petition called for the formation of a school district in what was later Winnebago City Township. The Board of County Supervisors divided the county into 15 school districts in 1859. But the school districts arrangement did not satisfy local needs and petitions for formation of other districts prompted the Board to organize seven more before the 1859-60 legislature restored the office and authority of the Countv Commissioners. A proliferation of school districts ensued . . . 62 by 1866; 113 by 1886 and by 1900, 129 school districts. The highest number was recorded in 1917 at 137.


Hardly had the settlers built homes for themselves before they started to build structures for worship and education. Schools came first and were often used for church, town halls and social gatherings.

Many of the first schools were held in homes during the summer. Books were few, paper at a premium, but slates were used as they could be erased and reused. Younger children learned their alphabets, numbers, reading and writing. Many teachers were self-taught; there were no standards.

J. A. Kiester's records show these schools in the county in 1874:

BLUE EARTH -The first school was a subscription and contribution school taught in the winter of 1857-58 by W. W. Knapp. Since there were only a few students in the school, it was necessary to ask citizens who had no school children to contribute to its support. Until a building was built in 1861, Blue Earth City schools were held in hired rooms. The first school structure was 24-30 feet, one story high situated on the court house square. An addition later doubled its size before it was moved. In 1874 the district erected a two story brick school at the cost of $6,000. A "grade school" addition was added in 1882.

WINNEBAGO-A small frame school house was erected in Winnebago City in 1858, the first school district in the county. Miss A. D. Nichols was the teacher in the grade district.

ELMORE-In the spring of 1858 the Dobson school house was built of logs for the first district established but it was two years before it was fit for use. Later a frame building near the same site was known as the Shultz's school house.

SEELY-'I'he first school was built on the boundary of Seely and Brush Creek townships in 1858. Th one story log school was taught by Miss Parizade Pratt (Mrs. H. Raymond) during the summer,

PILOT GROVE-On the land of James Ogilvie a mail log structure erected in 1859 served as the choolhouse. Mrs. Jennette Silliman (then Miss More) taught the first school.

JO DAVIESS-The Belding schoolhouse, a small log house built in the fall of 1859, was superseded in 1867 by a frame structure. Another school built in the north part of the township was known as the Fezler schoolhouse. Miss Melisa Chute, the first teacher, served in 1859.

DELAVAN-The first school was kept in the upper room of John Alvey's home with Miss Lydia Snell as teacher. The first schoolhouse erected in District 11 was a one story frame building, 14 by 16 feet.

WALNUT LAKE-In section 27 the first school was erected in 1865. The first school in town was held in Jel Underwood's home on the lake in the summer of 1864. Miss Eliza Underwood was the teacher.

CLARK-A 20 by 24 foot building costing about $800 was erected in 1867 in the southwest quarter of section 27. The teacher, Miss Mary Thomas, began classes in a temporary building. Wells had graded school in the township in 1871.

KIESTER-In 1868 the first school, a frame building 18 by 28 feet was constructed. The Judd Schoolhouse, as it was known, had a good library of over 100 volumes.

BRUSH CREEK-Although schools were held in town as early as 1861, several years passed before a school house was erected. By 1879 there were three schools.

ROME-A frame school was built on the William Sherrett property in 1870. Miss Tolliver taught the first school.

EMERALD-In the summer of 1861 Mrs. C. M. Butler taught the free school at the Ellis house. A log building was erected in 1864 and became known as the Frandall school house. Mrs. S. Prating was the first teacher.

VERONA-The Forbes schoolhouse, a small frame building about 12 by 16 feet, was built by contributions. Situated on section 9, the building was erected in 1861.

FOSTER-In section 8 a log building was constructed for the first school house in May of 1865.

BARBER-In the spring of 1863 the first school house was built, a small log building.

PRESCOTT-The first school house was built in la63 and became known as the McDowell school.

DUNBAR -The first school was erected about 1864.

MINNESOTA LAKE-Mrs. Harrison taught the first school for a summer term in 1860. A frame schoolhouse was built in 1864.

LURA-Although a school was built of logs in 1864, school had been held earlier in John Chase's home at his expense. The first teacher was Mrs. C. G. Spaulding.

In 1935 there were 3,148 pupils in the school program in Faribault county.


Early teachers had no real qualifications. Many teachers of the early schools had training in schools in the locality they came from and with any common school training, they were hired to teach. Terms were short. Both men and women used their talents the best they could. Some girls started teaching at the age of 13 or 14 although 16 was recommended.

County commissioners appointed a county superintendent of schools in 1866. A. H. Pelsey, the first appointee, received an annual salary of $75. His duty was to visit and help raise the standards and see that the schools were properly run.

In 1868 the State Teachers Institute began where teachers were trained to do a better job. The first was attended by 32 teachers. Institutes presented new methods, introduced new subjects, and offered new teachers experience of older ones, thus harmonizing the system of instruction throughout the countv. These were held annually for many years. Sometimes roads prevented good attendance.

In 1877 the Mankato State Normal School's requirements for teacher certification were as follows:

1. Pupil must be 15 or over.

2. Pupil must pass a fair examination.

3. Pupil must pledge to teach two years in Minnesota or pay a tuition of $16 a year.

Also, to insure good instruction there were teacher examinations given annually beginning in 1881. They were held in three locations: Winnebago, Wells and Blue Earth.

By this time there were 110 districts plus three graded schools in the villages. There were 4,098 scholars and schools valued at $50,686. The average wages paid teachers were $33 per month for men and $22 for women. In 1885 the educational census showed 113 districts, 112 school houses and 3,747 enrolled.

In 1893 summer school of four weeks was held for teachers at Blue Earth. Instructors were paid by the state and classes were organized and conducted after the plan of a good school. The county superintendent said, 'The summer school is certainly the greatest assistance the teachers have ever secured from any source. It brings enthusiasm, knowledge and food for thought." Ninety teachers attended summer school in 1894.

In 1894 there were 38 male and 171 female teachers. Salaries were $35,000, making each teacher about $190 a year. Enrollment was 4,989 and schools began busing again. Huntley had the first horse drawn bus.


In the early 1930's many schools found it cheaper to send students to grade schools in town. It was felt that no one teacher had the time for all grades and that students would have more advantages in a larger school.

The state legislature passed the school reorganization act. A county wide committee was elected to outline boundaries for the districts including high schools. Some districts were to extend into adjacent counties. Referendums held for local approval. No more complete one room schools were operative; the buildings were transformed into houses, moved or torn down. The land reverted to the farm it once belonged to. Some stand almost forgotten, rotting; others serve as town halls. Close ties were formed in many districts. In district 40, "the pink school house" near Wells has been well-kept and reunions are held there.

Blue Earth and Winnebago first established high schools in 1884. Winnebago graduated one student in 1884; Blue Earth had two in 1886. The first classes were very basic. By 1896 a committee of education recommended the classical, the literary and the scientific courses. Geared to college entrance, common classes were algebra, geometry, English and physics. About the time of World War I, schools in the county added vocational instruction in home economics, agriculture, industrial arts and business subjects other than bookkeeping, which was introduced earlier. Teacher training departments were also added.

Wells had its first graduating class in 1889; Minnesota Lake had two graduates in 1910. Elmore had four members in its 1912 class. Delavan had two years of high school from 1914 to 1916; after consolidation in 1917 they had 16 enrolled in a four year course. Five graduated in 1918. Bricelyn had 26 students in its high school which was organized in 1916.

Easton had a two year high school for some time; then students went to Wells. Kiester established its high school in 1932 and had I I graduates in 1933. Frost established its high school in 1937. Walters is the only school that never had a high school.

Wells added a normal (teachers training) department in 1900, which was a one or two year training beginning in the senior year and sometimes one year of additional training. Students were accepted from the entire county. The time put in here was credited for the state normals. The Board of Education of Blue Earth hired a teacher for a teacher training department in 1903. This action was promoted when the legislature agreed to appropriate $750 to each high school that would establish and maintain such a department.

The Wells program continued until 1950. Blue Earth eliminated teacher training in 1948.


There were two colleges in this county at one time. The first was in Winnebago City. It was incorporated May 1887 and dedicated in September 1888 by the Free Baptist Church as Northwestern Free Baptist College. The name was changed in 1891 when L. D. Parker of Minneapolis donated property valued at $40,000 toward the endowment fund. The name was changed to Parker College which it held the length of its existence. In October 1911 the Baptists could no longer support the college financially. The Methodist Church continued support the college to 1924 when it closed.

Parsons Business University and Normal Institute was opened in Wells in 1901. It was a branch of Parsons Business College at Kalamazoo. Mich. and Duluth, Minn. At the opening there were 42 students in both day and evening sessions. Tuition was $75 a year, $50 for six months and $30 for three months. No record can be found of the length of its existence but it was brief.


1918 marked the beginning of consolidation. Huntley was the first consolidated school in the county. A brick two story building provided rooms for grade children and facilities for high school for 100; six bus routes, the longest being five miles. were established. This facility accommodated three Faribault County districts, one in Martin County, and two joint districts. At the end of May the same year Delavan completed its consolidated school and the first five high school graduates that year. There were eight bus routes and a staff of 12 teachers.

World War II brought an end to added construction and rural schools had very little change. Some closed and paid tuition for students in schools existing in the various towns. Parents usually were responsible for transportation.

It was not until 1947 that the Minnesota state legislature passed the "School District Reorganization Act." Faribault County was the second county in the state to reorganize districts. This began in November of 1947 when Howard Prescott, county superintendent of schools, called a meeting of the school officers to study the needed reorganization.

The following committee was elected: representatives of rural areas-Fred Fenske, Clarence Zupp, George Neve, Clarence Hart and Armin Grunzke. Representatives of the urban areas -Carl Lemke, Sidney Flo, Leenard Nelson and Harold Zupp. The executive secretary and nonvoting member of the group was the county superintendent.

This committee published a final report to the people in October, 1948. This report recommended 10 districts for the entire county, built around 10 high schools then in existence. Following public hearings, proposals were submitted to the vote of the people in May, 1951. Some were accepted.

Rural districts might petition the county board of commissioners to be dissolved and the area composing the district be attached to an existing school district with a high school.

In Faribault County the school census in 1976:

Blue Earth 1155
Bricelyn 637
Delavan 249
Elmore 304
Frost 199
Huntley 464
Kiester 440
Minnesota Lake 429
Wells 1002
Winnebago 754