Nicollet County group saves historic 1-room schoolhouse

Inside a 1-room schoolhouse in rural Nicollet County, there are stories, and Garfield Eckberg knows a lot of them.

"What's most interesting is you'd have a social with the farm boys coming check out the new teacher," Garfield says through laughs.

His grandmother studied in the schoolhouse in the 1800s.

"My grandmother attended this school when a Native American came in during devotion," Garfield says. "When devotion was over, never saw him again."

For eight years, Garfield himself studied here too.

A decade ago, the schoolhouse was rundown -- unused and unwanted. But Garfield and many others formed a group and worked for years to raise money and restore it, because it's part of who people are in New Sweden Township.

As resident Richard Tostenson says, "If you haven't been here 100 years you're kind of a stranger around here because families have been here so many years."

At one time there were 68 of these 1-room schoolhouses across the county. Only a few have been saved, and the one in which Eckberg studied is the only one still on its original site.

The Nicollet County Historical Society's Bob Sandeen showed us boxes of records that tell the stories of the past. He even found Eckberg's 8th grade report card.

"He was a pretty smart kid," Sandeen says. "Yep -- a brilliant student."

A brilliant student with a brilliant sense of why this building is so necessary for the future.

"I think it's important to recognize the work done by previous generations," Eckberg says."This is a place where the country grew and where our country became great and the people who came out of little schoolhouses like this are the people you grew our country."

It's hard to imagine now, but 27 students spread across grades eight studied in the schoolhouse. The teacher had to teach all levels, teach music -- even do handiwork around the building itself.

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