By Barb Hauge
History of Blaine County Country Schools is a project Sara Baird (my sister-in-law) and I have been working on since July, 1995, when we held the Blaine County Rural Schools All-Class Reunion at Zurich Park. Thanks to work already done, Thunderstorms and Tumbleweeds, a history of eastern Blaine County, my portion of the book is now complete.
With great wisdom, our pioneer ancestors set aside school sections so children can be educated where the children are. Because of harsh Montana winters, children often attended school in summer and International Boundaries were ignored enabling Canadians and Americans to attend the nearby school.
My mother was a natural-born teacher and she could make learning real fun. She graduated from River Falls Normal College in Wisconsin after having already taught one year in Wilton, Wis., to finance her graduation. From there she taught in Minot, North Dakota, and then, since her parents, Charles and Maude Harlen and her sister, Floy, were coming to homestead in Montana, Mother took a job teaching LaFrantz (Peoples Creek) School in the Bear Paw Mountains. She later homesteaded near her parents and taught Wood Coulee School which was held during summers in a neighbors granary. Because it had no windows, most classes were held outside.
I recorded Mothers adventure Teaching In The Bear Paws as follows:
My freedom lies there in the Bear Paws; my future lies in those mountains so free. I go to teach school in Montana; Montanas where I want to be. They warn me about White Slave Traders; they tell me its dangerous alone, but I love to read books and teach children. Montana will by my new home.
Always before, the poor woman had to marry the first man who came by or settle for household spinster, serving others until she die. So Im going to teach school in Montana, Im going to be independent and free. I refuse to marry the first man just because hes the one who asked me.
I arrived at Chinook in the morning on Great Northern Railroad, so fine. It was a noisy and grimy journey but Im here so Im not going to whine. I inquired at the Livery Stable and the Bear Paws are miles away. They sobered up an old sheep herder who had to leave at noon today. I endured a wild ride in that wagon. On the rutty road he wasted no time. I safely arrived at my schoolhouse where the Bear Paws are truly sublime!
Rules governing female teachers were extremely strict: You will not marry during the term of your contract. You are not to keep company with men. You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have permission of Chairman of the Board. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother. You may not smoke cigarettes. You may not dress in bright colors. You may under no circumstances dye your hair. You must wear at least two petticoats. Your dresses must not be shorter than two inches above the ankle. To keep the school room neat you must etc.
So much for freedom and independence!
According to pictures in Moms old album, young teachers rebelled by dressing up in mens clothing and pretending to smoke cigars. Except for cleaning the school, men teachers faced none of the above restrictions.