Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Berthoud area country school education led by women

March 09, 2023 | Community News

By Mark French

The Surveyor


Author’s note: Since 1987 the United States has formally recognized March as the month to celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture and society. During March 2023 “Tales of the Little Thompson” will feature some of the women teachers who through their strength and determination helped in the development of Berthoud and the Little Thompson Valley.

This series of Women’s History Month articles will feature four Berthoud High School graduates: Anna Johnson Hanna (Class of 1909), Ina Cool Haworth (Class of 1911), Ivy Stockwell (Class of 1912) and Reva Graves Bradney (Class of 1920). Each was linked to the community’s country schools.

When the country schools surrounding Berthoud were still in operation, their teachers were generally young women. Many of them had graduated from the “town school” in Berthoud before securing their first teaching jobs at one of the community’s country schools. After they had proven themselves as competent teachers, some were hired to teach at the town school where the pay was better and living quarters were more readily available.

In the early years of Larimer County voters elected a county school superintendent to oversee the operation of all its school districts. The person who held that office might supervise more than 60 school districts. Berthoud area country schools located in Larimer County included Lone Tree (No. 20), Old Berthoud (No. 22), Red Rock (No. 23), Blore/Culver (No. 37-Joint) and Meadow Hollow (No. 61). Blore, later renamed the Culver, spanned the border of Larimer and Boulder counties and was therefore identified as a “joint” district.

Country schools located in Weld County that were related to Berthoud were Whipple (District No. 18) and Sunnyside (No. 36).

Country schools educated students through eighth grade.

The life of the country school teacher was demanding. Salaries were extremely low, seldom exceeding $60 per month. Many teachers boarded with families living near the school where they taught. In the 1930s the teacher at the Meadow Hollow School lived in a nearby private home where a curtain was drawn across the living room to provide her with a private bedroom. Meals were eaten with the family.

The original, one-room Meadow Hollow School building, relocated to the Little Thompson Valley Pioneer Museum in 2006, once sat at the south end of the valley now covered by Carter Lake.

Country school teachers answered directly to three-person school boards generally made up of students’ parents. For that reason, teachers were hired and fired at the whim of the school board.

It was also common for teachers, many of whom were teenage women, to be younger than some of their male students. Since many young men still living on family farms broke from their studies to help plant and harvest crops, they continued their schooling on an intermittent basis into their late teens or to the specified age limit of 21. In some cases, young teachers resorted to the corporal punishment of these young men to maintain control of their classrooms. Most parents supported that strict style of discipline.

Seldom did a country school teacher hold their position for more than one or two years, often quitting to get married or moving on to teach in another district.

Since several of the teachers to be profiled during Women’s History month had attended Berthoud area country schools as children, they were familiar with the intricacies involved in teaching in a one or sometimes two-room school house where children in grades one through eight were mingled together. Even so, their jobs were not for the faint of heart. Before school opened they got the coal stove burning, when the school day was underway they instructed first through eighth-grade students in five or six subjects, and after school ended they detained unruly individuals before closing down the building for the night.

Next week’s “Tale of the Little Thompson” will feature Anna Johnson Hanna.

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