Desktop history in WoodburyA recent donation to the Washington County Historical Society provided a reminder that Woodbury’s history stretches back a long way.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
A recent donation to the Washington County Historical Society provided a reminder that Woodbury’s history stretches back a long way.
The society received a school desk once used in the Gille School, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1869. The desk was donated by the Peck family, formerly of Woodbury.
Washington County Historical Society Executive Director Brent Peterson said the desk had been in the family’s possession for years. But during a recent move, they knew a decision had to be made regarding the artifact.
“They didn’t know what to do with it,” Peterson said. “They knew it was historic and wanted it preserved correctly.”
The Gille School, part of former School District 27, was located on Woodbury’s east side, where Courtly Road now runs, Peterson said.
According to historical society records, the school was open from 1873 to 1940. Enrollment ranged from as many as 62 students in 1899 to 24 in 1939.
The school, which housed grades K-8, had no water pump; water was carried over from a neighboring farm.
The original building was one room, but was rebuilt four years later with two rooms – a twist that gave the school an unusual distinction. It became the only school in the area with two teachers
Peterson said factoids like those transcend perceptions that Woodbury is just another east metro suburb.
“It really shows the deep roots of history in Washington County that Woodbury has,” he said. “Showing that there were students learning at that time … sometimes our heritage gets lost and having something like that school desk is just kind of there to show we’ve been around for quite a long time.”
Preserving artifacts like the desk is critical, Peterson said.
“It was a symbol of that time frame in history,” he said.
The desk will go on display at the Hay Lake School Museum in Scandia.
The Gille School was among several rural schools in Woodbury with roots dating back to the 1860s.
Fish Lake School, located on St. John Drive, was built in 1866. Middleton School, located at what is now the 11000 block of Bailey Road, opened in 1860 and closed in 1949.
Other Woodbury schools included Schilling School (7700 block of Bailey Road) and Sunnyhill/Union School (Military Road and Sunny Hill Drive).
An excerpt from “Woodbury: A Past to Remember” described a colorful event at Sunnhill/Union involving a notorious gangster: “John Dillinger created much excitement one day when he drove through the school road with the police in chase almost running into a farmer driving four horses abreast.”
To learn more about Washington county’s schools of the past, visit http://wchsmn.org/research/schools/