Dakota Datebook

Stutsman County School House Moved Illegally

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


One-room school houses are an important part of educational history in prairie towns, but what happens when the school itself is moved illegally? On this date in North Dakota history, a community was dealing with the aftermath of a school house’s illegal relocation in western Stutsman County, in then Taft school district. The school house’s new location was discovered on an early October morning in 1909. It had been moved three miles in the night.


In 1909, it required two-thirds majority vote to move a school’s location, and moving a school without that approval was an illegal act – getting much attention in a rural community, given that three miles could make a big difference for the children in winter. The violators were warned that if they did not return the school they would face prosecution, and the building’s relocation would be charged to the district.


Early 20th century North Dakota educations generally took place in one room, with all grades and ages studying simultaneously. Teachers were responsible for instructing a community’s entire youth population all at once, while also maintaining the classroom’s order. Often teachers would rise early to get a fire going in order to heat the school and keep student lunches warm. Today, visitors can see an actual one-room school house exhibit at the Jamestown Frontier Village, which records what life for students and teachers might have been like in the early 1900s.


The relocation of this Stutsman County school house was an outright act of rebellion, but it recalls a time of pioneer spirit when sometimes it required seizing the moment to make a profound point on your community.


Dakota Datebook written by Hayley Burdett


Source: October 12, 1909 “School House Moved In Night.” The Fargo Forum


This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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