The history of the American rural education system has always been tied closely with the agriculture industry. Those rural folks making a living off the land the education of their children was usually subservient to the work required for a successful fall harvest. Children were often more useful to the family at home then at school, and most rural children never even bothered to attend regularly – much less finish. In the Copper Country rural education was looked upon in a much different manner – thanks mostly to the strong ethnic influence of its rural population. While most immigrants stayed close to the mines, those hailing from the Scandinavian countries – mostly Finnish – elected to make a living off the land instead and moved out into the countryside. These Finnish families put a high value on education, and helped construct many of the rural schools found throughout the Copper Country.
Just such as Finnish inspired school is still standing today at Salo. Salo is a rural Finnish community just north of Hancock, named I believe for a town in Finland. The first school here was a small log cabin built in the late 1800’s. This current structure was probably built around the turn of the century. Finnish immigrants from all across the countryside learned English at this school before moving on to the Hancock High School.
Another Finnish community – Liminga – erected this school some time near the turn of the century as well. Liminga was a farming community to the south-west of Houghton, near the mill town of Redridge. Today building is still used as a community center. Interestingly, this region still boasts its own operating school – the E.B. Holman Elementary school – just west of here. Those students later attend high school at Painesdale.
One last example of Finnish influence one room schools is this old example out near Obenhoff. This is the Onella school, which catered to rural students on farms between Atlantic Mine and Liminga. Just under a mile from here was yet another school – the Niemitle School – which is no longer standing.
Making our way out east of these south range communities we find a few more old rural schools near the community of Chassell. Here the immigrants were prominantly French Canadians, who grew a crop of root plants to take the most advantage of the regions short growing season. This oddly proportioned school building is the old Paradise School which sits along Paradise road about a mile north of Chassell. It was built around 1890.
Also near Chassell is this more traditionally shaped school building, what I believe is the old Pike River School, serving the small rural community of Pike River south of Chassell. It was built in 1910 and operated as a school up until the Depression.
Turning out attention back north, we find perhaps the second most famous one-room school in the Copper Country (behind the Copper Harbor school, which is still operating). This school was built around 1850 to serve the children of Eagle Harbor and the surrounding mine locations. It operated up until 1872 when it was replaced by a larger two-story building down along the waterfront. This building is more commonly known as the Rathbone School, named after one of its more famous teachers. Justus H. Rathbone was teaching in this school in the 1860’s when he developed the rituals and founding principals of the Knights of Pythias fraternal society.
To Be Continued….