Early Schools

By Iva M. Tipton, written about 1985.
Published in the Mackay Miner Newspaper.

The Bog Lost River Valley is a long narrow valley comprised mostly of cattle ranches and farms. As the land was taken into private ownership, communities sprang up. One of their first plans was for education for their children. Many one-room schools, were established, all within walking distance or a short ride on horseback.

Starting up at the head of Big Lost River there was the Riverside school, a log building which is still standing.

Across the river at the old stage station of Houston is a log building that served as a school for many years . It too was made into a home when it was no longer used as a school.

Down river from Houston, on the same side of the river, was the Alder Creek two-room school. Finally the extra room was made into living quarters for teacher and her family of small children. Local attendance had dwindled to below state requirements, and these extra children were needed to bring attendance up enough to hold school. After consolidation, the building was sawed into two parts and moved to a farm and moved to a farm, where one part was made into a nice farm dwelling.

There was also a school at Leslie, which sometimes had two teachers. They to, consolidated with the Mackay schools.

Farther south, on the county line, ws the Pass Creek school--a one room frame building. Upon consolidation this building was brought to the Mackay school grounds and used for an extra classroom. When it was not being used for a classroom it was used by college geology students as a summer camp.

Darlington too had a school; a two room little red school house.

On Antelope Creek, there were two joint districts because the creek was the county line with school property in both Butte and Custer counties.

The Bell school on lower Antelope served well until burned one night. The teacher had banked the fire that night and it got out of hand.

Up the creek about four miles was the Sunnyside School. The building still stands. One Halloween there was a costume dance at the school. The teacher, a young man, was dressed as a hobo. Under his arm he carried a burlap bag with a live red hen in it, with her head stuck out of the hole in the sack. The teacher never danced at all-- just circulated among the dancers, entertaining them with his red hen.

Eleven miles from the highway is the Grouse school. Is survived until just a few years ago. Now the bus brings all the Antelope school children to Arco.

Consolidation marked the end of the one-room schools. Buses bring the children from Dickey, Chilly, Barton to Mackay; they also come in from the Custer County line at Darlington to Mackay.

At Chilly stood a sturdy cement block building, which had a big bell to call the children to class. Most schools had only a little hand bell which made a pretty ting-a-ling sound. The teacher and students were startled one day to hear a commotion outside the building. A traveling circus was passing by, and a truck carrying two elephants had over turned right in front of the school house. Not much attention was paid to studies the remainder of the day. the building was later dismantled block by block, and the usable lumber in it was also salvaged. All the material was taken out of the valley to be used again.

A few miles down the river on Barton Flat was a two-room brick building. Only one teacher ws employed here. In bad weather, the second room was a play room. Community dances were held here with local musicians keeping feet flying with the Waltz, the Virginia Reel, and square dances.

South of Mackay was the Franklin District school. At first it ws a one-room log building with double desks. One well remembered day there was a great crash at the back of the building. Some pieces of the blackboards flew out among the pupils, some pieces of small boards lay on the desks. One eighth grade boy who irrigating boots leaped over the desks on his way to the door. No one was hurt. A team of horses pulling a wagon had run away and hit the building with the wagon tongue like a battering ram.

About 1920 a bond election was held to build a new school house. It was a tough fight with feelings running high. The vote was close, but favorable, and a new school house was built. The widows were all on the south side of the building --a new idea. The first eighth grade class graduated from the new building in the spring of 1922. School was held there for a number of years until the district was consolidated with the Mackay schools. The building sat idle for many years until it was remodeled into a farm house. This school house ws the meeting place of the Grange, a farmer's organization, for many years. Many good times were had here when the had box socials, plays with local talent, and the very enjoyable dances to local music.

About the author: Iva M. Tipon, presently historian for the South Custer Historical Society, Came to the Valley in 1913 as a four year old and grew up on the family farm in what is now the Leslie area off the Pass Creek road. She attended the Franklin School there.


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