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"Eau Claire County History, 1949"


History of Union Valley School Area

Tales of the early days of the Union Valley School, one of the oldest in Eau Claire county, were related at a celebration this month held as part of the Wisconsin Centennial observance.

History of the 94-year-old school house was traced back to 1854, when Robert Leland and Andrew Sutherland brought their families and homesteaded on the fertile valley West of Eau Claire.

Judge A. J. Sutherland told of the days his mother and father went to the community of Union to settle the land and begin farming.  Flora Sutherland Langdell, youngest sister of Judge Sutherland, gave interesting details and humorous readings she had learned while attending some of the first sessions held at the school.

Experiences of the pioneer days were related by Miss Ethel McVicar, whose father settled in Union Valley shortly after Leland and Sutherland had come there.  Mrs. Nellie Hanson, John Leland, and Mrs. Fred Rossow told of incidents they had remembered about the people and the community when it was first established.

Northwest Territory history, and how the French settlers, fur traders and missionaries had made Wisconsin legendary was told by Miss Laura Sutherland.  Roy Preston, present teacher of the Union Valley school, gave interesting highlights on the history of Eau Claire county.

Relics and antiques including dishes, pictures, quilts, old Bibles having family history connected with them, and a book dating back to 1749, were among interesting displays shown. Avenel Turner, a pupil of the school read a poem on the ABCs of Wisconsin, followed by group singing.

History Reviewed

In reviewing the history of the valley by the Sutherlands, Jane Hoyt and her sister, Sarah, married two brothers, Robert and George Leland, in Brunswick, Canada.  In 1855 George Leland and his wife came from Canada and settled in the town of Union.  Robert Leland came with his family, Hector, John, and Deloris the year following.

Andrew Sutherland, with his wife and children, Peter, George, Christine, John and Charles, who were neighbors of the Lelands in New Brunswick, also came to Wisconsin staying in Waukesha in the fall of 1854.  Andrew visited Eau Claire the next year as a land seeker.  He selected his farm, then went to Hudson, the location of the land office, to enter his land which he bought at $1.25 an acre.  There were no railroads, so the Hudson journey was made by stage and by foot.

In the spring of 1856, he moved his family in a prairie schooner, from Waukesha, the trip taking three weeks.  He lived in the new location for the rest of his life.  Among other pioneer families were the Quirks, Handlays, Ralphs, Mooneys, and Toners.  William and Patrick Ferregan, along with the Patrick McKean families, had come over from Ireland.  The Archie McViras family had come from New Brunswick.  Included in the group of settlers, most of whom came from the vicinity of Waukesha, were three brothers, William, John and Sam Cernahan.

First School Built

The first school house was built of logs in the winter of 1856-57.  The men cut the logs and hauled them out of the woods and erected the building in back of the Robert Leland house.  School was held in the building, just a half-mile north of the present structure.  Water was hauled from a spring in the summer, and snow was melted in the winter for drinking purposes.

The William Cernahan home served as school for six months while the present school was built.  Sunday school was taught in a small building that was built for a grainery on the Sutherland farm.  Later they met in the school house while the churches were being built in Eau Claire.

Most of the early settlers came to Union in covered wagons drawn by oxen.  Chickens, cattle, cats and dogs, and a few household goods, were brought along.  The covered wagons were built by blacksmiths for a cost of $80.

Indian Scares Frequent

After the pioneers were settled, there were several Indian scares.  One which was authentic, happened on the last Sunday in August, 1852.  A short time before, a terrible massacre had takn place at New Ulm, Minnesota.  The Indians had scalped and killed many men, women and children, and had tortured others.  No one felt safe during those times.  On that Sunday, a man on horseback went along the main road at a fast gallop, slowing up a little at each house and crying, "Run for your lives, the Indians are coming."

Everyone prepared for flight.  The livestock was let out of the stables, some buried their most valuable treasures, and one devout man hid his Bible and humn book in the straw stack, not thinking that it would be the first thing that would be burned.  Soon, there was a long procession making its way to Eau Claire. The women and children rode in the lumber wagons, the men were armed with a few guns they had, and others had oxen (axes?) and pitch forks.  People were pouring into the town from every direction.

There was no bridge at that time (the first stress bridge was built across the Chippewa River in 1871), so people had to cross the river in ferry boats.  Houses were opened for the women, but the men prepared to fight for their protection.  The Civil War called away all the young men, so the older men were the only ones left to prepare for the encounter.  A former soldier was given charge of the group.  They organized on the west side of the river and marched up and down the streets all night, awaiting the enemy.

During the night, a party was sent out and came back with the report that hundreds of enemy were camping west of Eau Claire, but when morning came they discovered that the cutover land and stumps had been mistaken for Indians.  There wasn't any more alarms and the nexgt day all went back to their homes, dug up their treasures, and settled down to a quiet life.  The Indian alarm was spread over all sections of the state, and even people in South Dakota had the scare.

Early settlers cured their own meat and shot wild prairie chickens, which were plentiful.  They made their own soap from ashes and grease, made candles, and of course, used the old fashioned spinning wheel to spin the yard for their homemade clothes.  They made mittens and stockings to wear during the cold winter.  Debates, spelling contests and sewing bees were their forms of amusement.  Various schools would compete against each other in activities.  The country school was the meeting place for the young and old, and many an eventful evening was spent dancing, playing games and visiting.

Ewell Allen and Barber wer ethe first teachers of the Union Valley School, according to the history of the school district, as reviewed by Judge Sutherland and his sister, Flora.  Allen later became county superintendent and a Methodist preacher.  He had nearly finished his college courses.

Diobie Dennison, Christine Sutherland, Jennie Sutcliff, and Martha Kiddar were among the first summer teachers.  Martha Kiddar's father was a pioneer of the city of Eau Claire, being the first minister to arrive with his family in the early (18)50s.  Later he founded the Congregational churches and became Eau Claire's first county superintendent of schools, 1865-67.

Ella Kribs taught for four months in 1888, according to one of the old record books still kept by the present clerk of the Union Valley Schools.  Teachers of the school have been:
 

Lida Richards, 1889 Charlotte McGough, 1920-21
Grace Penhuton, 1890 Margaret Zank, 1921-22
Myrtle Richards, 1891 Eva Anderson, Mrs. Ida Spink, 1922-23
Edith Wilcox, 1893-94 Katherine Vinapol, Bessie Babkock, 1923-24
Victoria James, spring 1894 Beatrice Rowan, 1924-26
Belle Cartwright, fall 1894 /spring 1895 May Lanz, 1926-27
Mary Conley, fall 1895 / spring 1896-99 Margaret Campbell, 1927-28
Ethel Brown, 1900-01 Ione Salter, 1928-29
Nora Roseth, spring 1902 Hazel Harms, 1929-30
Ella Looby, 1902-03 Josephine Iverson, Ruth Osborne, 1930-31
Belle Marble, 1904-05 Helen Hickey, 1931-32
True McMahan, 1905-06 Catherine Paul, 1932-33
Kate McFadden, 1906-08 Gladys Bagely, 1933-35
Minnie Christienson, 1908-09 Evelyn Smith, 1935-37
Mayme Craney, 1910-11 Hazel Harms, 1936-37
Margaret Sutherland, 1912-15 Myrle Steen, 1937-39
Emma Benson, 1915-16 Hubbard Robbins, 1939-42
Ethel Jacquish, 1916-17 Mrs. Gladys Olson, 1942-43
Marjory Mayo, 1917-18 Ruth Hoard, Teachers college campus school, 1943-46
Hazel Paulson, 1918-20 Roy Preston, 1946-48
  

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