By Tucker D. Henderson
School has started up again and many kids are riding the bus to New York Mills to continue their education. My brother is the last of my siblings to graduate and unlike the rest of us, he gets to graduate from New York Mills. He will be the fifth generation to do so. Did you know New York Mills education facilities have been around for a very long time?
School District 553 has not always been known by that number. Though technically a conglomeration of different rural schools that consolidated throughout the 1900s, District 553 can be traced back to the 1870s when District 47 operated in the area for local children. A one room school was built to teach the local youth and a teacher was installed for that express purpose. The first schoolhouse was outgrown by 1886 and moved to Central Park to be used as a fire hall (which ironically burned down).
The second school was a two-room frame building and was only used for fourteen years when a four-room brick building replaced it in 1900. Part of the frame from the second school was still being used in 1959 when the New York Mills 75 Years of Progress book was published. In 1917, a new brick building was built and a gymnasium was added in 1935. In the 50s, an elementary school was built and plans for a new high school were being entertained.
Rural districts preceded this centralized school as most school-age children lived in the country. They lived on farms and needed to help with farm chores before and after they made their way to and from school. Small school houses were built so that every child could make their way to school without having to walk more than two miles in any direction. This made it possible for anyone to go to school and have a reasonable walk to get there.
I remember my great grandma (who loved school so much she became a teacher) saying an old rhyme that went: “school days, school days, good old fashioned rule days. Reading, and Writing, and ‘Rithmetic, all to the beat of the hickory stick.” If that’s all I knew about school, I don’t think I’d want to go at all! Grandma didn’t seem phased by that rhyme though, as she couldn’t get enough of school. Here’s to wishing that all students can borrow some of that enthusiasm for their classes.