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"Eau Claire County History, 1949"
A History of the Russell Corners School District
The history of Russell Corners is a part of the early life and growth of Eau Claire County and especially the Town of Bridge Creek and Augusta.
We are located in the eastern half of the county, all of which at one time was known as Bridge Creek. According to a county history written by George Forester and published in 1891, the county was officially organized in October 1856. Histories differ on the exact date but it was 1856-1857. Augusta was settled in 1856 but the village was not organized until 1864 which was after the Russell Corners School was organized.
When Eau Claire County was organized, the section around Eau Claire was known as Half Moon Township. A section south and east of the Chippewa was called Brunswick and the balance of the county was called Bridge Creek. There were two polling places, one in Eau Claire and one at the home of Robert Scott in what is now known as Scott's Valley. It was in this vicinity that the first district school was organized -- east of what is now Hale's Corners -- in 1859, three years before Russell Corners.
The first farmer in Eau Claire County was a Rev. Thomas Barland who came from Illinois in 1849 and took up 200 acres two and one half miles southeast of the settlement of Eau Claire on what was known as the "Old Sparta Road." This was the main road through this section (Augusta - Bridge Creek) and went from Sparta to Eau Claire by way of Osseo. For that reason communities developed nearer Osseo than Augusta. The development in and around Augusta came with people starting a mill on Bridge Creek at Augusta and developing of lumber interests along Bridge Creek and Eau Claire River.
In 1854 Andrew Thompson had settled and built a house on what was later Henry Brown's pasture in Otter Creek, near Strader station and Bob Bremel's store. The name is still preserved as the name of the creek which runs through the valley by the same name Thompson Valley.
In 1856 enough settlers had come to the county to organize and by April 7, 1857 the first town meeting wa held and the officers were elected. William Young, whose descendants were numerous in and around Augusta to the present day, was elected chairman. We find Mr. Young took an active part all through the early history of Augusta and eastern Eau Claire County. The records show the amounts of $150 for schools and $150 for roads were voted. Among early laws adopted by the board (this included what is now Augusta) was one -- "Hogs should not be allowed to run at large."
It was a large township, sparsely settled. Supplies were hauled by ox team from Sparta, later from Neillsville. Ludington was a wilderness and north of Augusta was good timber which furnished trees for Eau Claire lumber companies who made use of the Eau Claire river to get logs to the mills.
The second town meeting showed an increase in amounts raised for expenses and more laws to regulate the animal population. A resolution this year prevented calves and geese from running at large. Calves under one year of age were penalized 50 cents for the first offense -- geese 25 cents. For the second offense the penalty was more drastic. Hogs were in a higher bracket, first offense being $5.00, second offense, $10.00. The city officials in the present day should be glad they live in the days of "dogs at large."
The first Fourth of July celebration was held on the Simon Randall farm (across from the old Fair Grounds) which he had purchased from William Young. An old fashioned time was held -- a dance of which Alfred Bolton played the fiddle. Allen Randall, the son of Simon, and who later lived in Augusta and served as assessor for many years, is claimed to be the first child born in the newly organized Town of Bridge Creek. This celebration on the 4th of July was one of the early and important social events.
The war period followed and shows the usual patriotic action. Instead of bonds, personal subscriptions were given to pay "bounties" to those who would volunteer for military service. Records report a total of $12,00 raised among a voting population of approximately 50 people.
After the war the population of Bridge Creek and throughout the county increased rapidly. Called here by the timber, good hunting, rich soils and the urge to move west, many people moved in from the east. They came by water to Milwaukee, then overland in covered wagons to Bridge Creek and vicinity. Some made their living by cutting timber and logging, some built private industries, such as flour mills to grind their own flour, thus saving long trips and hauling. Elk, deer and bear were plentiful. Some pioneers hunted and sold the meat. Others trapped the smaller fur-bearing animals. Otter was plentiful as were beaver, muskrat and mink. Not a few turned to tilling the soil which today is a rich resource.
It is hard to picture our county as a wild, unsettled section when we think of its importance today, agriculturally and industrially. It ranks high in both, but this is due in no small way to the early settlers who came here and braved hardships to develop resources. We have many people in our community who are direct descendants of these hardy pioneers.
the war period and before the organizing
of Augusta Village in 1864, a group of pioneers about two miles west of
Augusta, at what is now Russell Corners, held the first annual meeting
of School District No. 6, Town of Bridge Creek April 17th,
A second meeting was Oct. 1862. It was 86 (now 137) years ago
April 17th and was held at the house of John Roberts. The
officers were elected:
Director: John Hackett
Treasurer: William Arries
Clerk: E. L. Hull
The great-grandchildren of William Arries are attending Russell Corners at the present time (1949) (Elma, Elwin, Kathleen). A site was chosen for the school which is where the school now stands and the board instructed to purchase the same which they did for the sum of $25. They voted a "3 months summer school to be taught by a female teacher." The sum of $15 was raised for teachers wages and $25.00 for incidentals. A contract for teaching was issued to Louisa Victory for 3 months -- 22 days per month at $3.50 per week beginning May, 1863.
Thus Russell Corners School was born. It got the name of Russell Corners later because a man by the name of Russell at one time owned land on all four corners. The first annual report on record dated Aug. 31, 1863 shows a total of 41 children over 4 and under 20 in the district, 65 days of school were taught with 31 children attending. Wages were $14.00 per month. Value of the schoolhouse was $50.00. Text books consisted of McGuffy's Spellers and Readers. There were no blackboards and no maps. The valuation of the district was listed at $18,935.00. A list of taxpayers is also on file.
Soon after organization, the district was enlarged to include Lincoln Township which gave the Obediah Works family a school close at hand.
In September 1863 the school term was increased to 6 months, a female teacher hired and stove wood at a rate of ½ cord per scholar to be sent to the schoolhouse on or before December 1. In case this plan failed by December 15, ten cords were to be let to the lowest bidder. Seemingly it failed for Nicholas Shong, who lived on the old Newhouse farm was the lowest bidder and those who failed to deliver wood in the specified time paid him.
In 1864 the name was corrected to read Joint District No. 1, which it carries today. The schoolhouse was called a "shanty." We are indebted to William Brown of Augusta for a story of this first school for he is the only living scholar of that first term. Mr. Brown recently celebrated his 92nd birthday (1949). He lives in Augusta where he is still active. He came to Eau Claire county in 1860. In 1862 he moved from Scott's Valley to what is now the Mielke farm and attended school at Russell Corners. His father broke land in 1861, having purchased 160 acres at $4.00 per acre.
Each annual meeting found the length of the school term increased, a higher salary paid and more money voted for expenses. The district was again changed to include the Town of Otter Creek and by 1868 the people voted to build a new schoolhouse. In 1901 the present brick structure was erected to take the place of the wooden building which was sold. The present building was remodeled about 1920-25.
It is a credit to the early officers of the district, that we have the well-preserved records of these early days. The first attendance record, treasurer's record book and minute book are in possession of the present school board. The officers were:
Walter Luedtke, Clerk
The records through the years shows the school keeping step with the times. As was common in the early days, a man taught winter terms when the big boys went to school and when brawn was needed to keep them in line. Discipline was based on "spare the rod and spoil the child." Female teachers carried on during the summer terms. In 1894 all children were vaccinated and many of the descendants of this period can recall the need for it as during these early days whole families became victims of contagious disease.
At our picnic May 21, 1948 we were honored by the attendance of many former pupils of our school. Some came from La Crosse to be present, some from Colby, Wis., and others from Eau Claire. There were many from the district who all still are living on the farms of the people who organized the school. Much time was spent in talking over old times, reading old records and looking over the exhibits of old pictures and clippings which the children had collected.
After a bountiful picnic dinner, a short program was given by the children. Wisconsin, Community and School History were the themes. The history of the school was read, the pupils gave histories of their farms which were a part of the first district, and a list of teachers who had taught the school was also read and placed on file. The list is almost complete from 1863 - 1948. Pictures were taken of those present.
It was indeed a happy occasion and all expressed a desire to do it again and perhaps make a special effort to get former graduating classes to attend and also all former teachers. There were approximately 110 who enjoyed the picnic dinner.
The following is a list of those who attended and who either lived in the district years before or are interested in it at present.
ANNUAL PICNIC, RUSSELL CORNERS
School Children present - 33
OF SCHOLARS FROM THE FIRST TERM OF SCHOOL
FIRST TAXPAYERS LIABLE FOR SCHOOL TAX
(Present Russell Corners School-1949)
Bridge Creek Taxpayers
Lincoln Township Taxpayers
-- Dated this third day of December 1862, J. Curtis Fear, Clerk
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