Pioneers Created School

in Northern Town of Worden During 1880’s

From the Thorp Courier's Monthly Series on Area Country Schools--1991

Transcribed by Pat Phillips


This picture of the Pioneer School building was taken on June 29, 1942, and submitted by Sister Alice Henke of Ladysmith.  Her sister, Ruth, is the one standing on the steps.  The building was destroyed by fire in the early 1960's, several years after it was no longer a school.

On March 20, 1882, land was purchased for the construction of a school in the Town of Worden.  Actually, it was before the Town of Worden was formed, because according to the records in the Register of Deeds office, the school was built as “School District Number 4, Town of Thorp.”

The cost for the land that the district purchased was $20.  The one acre was part of a plat sold by D. Lloyd and Addie E. Jones of Stevens Point to Ole Anderson of Thorp.  Sometime before 1893, the 80 acre section was sold to S. Gorman.  In addition, the Town of Worden had come into being by that time.  In 1906, William Kinney owned that piece of property, and somewhat later, it was purchased by Leo Fischer.  The Fischer family still owns the property.

Because the Fischer’s owned the land with the school building sitting in the middle of it, the school was often known as the Fischer School as well as the Pioneer School.  Also, when the Town of Worden formed, the District became known as Joint District number 2.  Because of the location of school house, in the middle of the south half of section one in the Town of Worden, the district was capable of serving students from the Towns of Worden, Thorp, Reseburg and Withee.


Early Days

Jennie Clerf, of the Town of Worden reports the story of how the school was named.  Sometime in 1882,  the residents got together and made up names for the school.  Then all of the names were placed into a shoebox, and the winner was drawn out.

Pioneer School was a name suggested by Henry Kolpien, who was related to Clerf, because he was married to her sister.  Clerf also said that two other members of the  Kolpien family, Vera and Leo, also attended the school.


School Board

Information is sparse on those early years of the Pioneer School, but we can pick up the records again in 1923 and show the school board up to the closing of the school.

Unlike many of the schools in the area, the Board of the Pioneer School remained in place for long stretches, for the most part.

The best example of this is the treasurer’s office.  According to the Clark County Directory of Schools and the microfiche copies of  the school census records from 1923-1959, there were only four treasurers who served.  From at least 1923 until 1936,  Frank H. Schmidt served as the Treasurer.  Then in 1936-1945, Walter Verkuilen took over.

Verkuilen was followed by Leo P. Fischer, who owned the 80 acre surrounding farm at the time he served as treasurer, from 1945-1954.  The fourth and final treasurer was listed as Art Mattes, who served until the consolidation of 1959.

 There was even less turnover in the Director’s office. George Haas was the director in 1923, and maybe even earlier.  He served in that capacity until 1946, when Joseph Benzschawel took over and served until the school consolidated in 1959.


The Clerks

Benzschawel also served for a number of years as clerk, from 1925,  until 1935.  He took over from Hattie Verkuilen, who was serving in the post from at least 1923 until 1925.


After Benzschawel another familiar name took over.  Leo P. Fischer served from 1935 until 1944,  when M. L. Kaminski took over.  Fischer returned to the board a year later as treasurer.

In 1946, Martin Oberle took on the task of clerk for three years, and in 1949, Mrs. Chris Price took over from  Oberle.  Price served for an extended period, finally giving way to Mrs. Ruby Verkuilen in 1956, until consolidation in 1959.  (Her husband was Walter, who was mentioned earlier as having served extensively on the Pioneer School Board.)


The Teachers

Again we don’t have much information on the early teachers, but in a letter from Sister Alice M. Henke, Order of the Servants of Mary, (OSM) she named two of the teachers from the early days.  One was Harry Landry, who taught about 1914 for several years and Anna Baldeschwiler (Henke), who taught from 1918-1920.

For more information and memories of Pioneer School by Sister Henke, please see the text of her letter to us, which is reprinted as part of this feature.

Other information is available on the teachers of the ‘teens and ‘twenties.  The treasurer’s books, on file at the Thorp Elementary School list the teachers from 1913 on.  Harry Landry taught there from at least the start of 1913 until the end of 1916.

Then Cecil Tormey, the man whom the Thorp American Legion Hall is named after, taught there the year before he went off to World War I.  Landry filled in during the next year, 1917-1918, followed by Baldeschwiler.

Phoena Burss taught for a year from 1920-1921, and Anna Beller had the next year.  Marie Millus put together a good streak after that, beginning as the teacher in 1922, and continuing to the end of 1925.


This picture taken in 1922 at Pioneer School was provided by Ruby Verkuilen and identified, in part, by Elsie Hoffman. Pictured are:[1], [2]Leona Verkuilen, [3]Monica Baldeschwiler (Oberle), [4]Elsie Baldeschwiler (Hoffman), [5]Teacher Marie Millus, [6]Wilas Haas, [7]? , and [8]Inez Cook (Broeren) [9], [10], [12], [13], [14], [15], [16], [17]Floyd Cook, [18], [19], [20], [21] Mary Wink, [22](Bertha ?) Wink, [23]Joyce Haas, [24]Dorothy Ramberg (Mattes), [25], [26](Vera Kolpien) [27], [28], [29], [30], [31], [32], [33], [34], [35],[36]Kolpien?, [37]Deforth?, and [38]Bernard Haas

.--from the Courier darkroom (Contact us if you can identify additional students).

Linda Galsdorf and Susan Verkuilen followed with one year stints, followed by Olive Garland, who taught from 1927 until 1930.  Mrs. Harold Huus, and Esther Soderburg each taught for a year.



Can you help us identify the students?



These students attended Pioneer in the 1930’s. They are

in back from left to right, Truman Fischer, Mike Krysanski,

Wendell Kubera, and [?].

In front are Elaine Daye, Lorraine Kubara, and [?]

Mrs. Elizabeth Connor, who taught in 1932, was the first teacher who we have listed in the Clark County Schools Directory.  Connor was there for a number of years serving from at least 1932 until 1937, when Miss Ruby Coates, (in the future to be Mrs. Walter Verkuilen) taught until 1940.


Class of 1938

These students of the Class of 1938 are identified by Ruby Verkuilen as; in back from left to right; Dick Verkuilen, Robert Smith, Eugene Oberle, and Gerald Quelle. In the front row are Alvin Benzschawel, Harriet Smith, Albert Wink,

and Louis Fischer.--from the Courier darkroom


Verkuilen told us of what it was like for her as a teacher at Pioneer.  She said that during her entire three year tenure, she taught 42 students at the school and received the sum of $75 a month doing it.

She also said that janitorial duties were often handled by students, who were paid 25˘ a day for cleaning up.  She also told of carrying water into the building from outside to place in the gravity operated water cooler.  The cooler had to be kept inside to keep the water from freezing in the winter.

Miss Hilda Haugen took over in 1940 until 1942.  She was followed by a single year teacher, Mrs. Sadie Edwards.


Most of the rest of the teachers worked at the school for multiple year terms.   Then included Miss Felicia Franckiewicz, from 1942-1945.   Miss Margaret Baker taught from 1945-47, and Mrs. Grace Brown Wiles, who taught from 1947-1950.


Margaret Baker

This picture from Ruby Verkuilen is of Margaret Baker,

who was a teacher at Worden’s Pioneer (also known as Fischer) School from 1945-47. A good number of teachers worked at the school for more than one year.

--from the Courier darkroom


Then in ’53-’54  the  teacher was Marjorie Morgan Follingstad (Palmer), who we covered intensively in out initial feature in March 8, 1990 on Butlerville school.

Also accidentally appearing as part of that feature was a picture of the Pioneer School from the 1953-54 year, which was incorrectly identified as the Butlerville School.

Another teacher there was Patricia Golden Lee, who taught from 1954-56, and the final teacher at the Pioneer School was Mrs. Nathale Frese, who taught from 1956 until the school consolidated in 1959.


The Last Days


Shortly after the school closed, it was purchased by Mike Kryzanski, and turned into the Pioneer Oil Company.  A few years after moving in, a fire started in the building after an explosion which was possibly a result of fumes, according to Kryzanski’s wife, Kate who still lives in Thorp.

The fire department was called, but because the building housed petroleum products, it couldn’t be saved.  Later, a new Pioneer Oil Company was built on the site of the old one, and it is being used as a shop.

Next Feature

The Pioneer School concludes our tour of the schools of the Town of Worden.  Next, we move into the Town of Thorpe, where we pick
up our tour of the schools with Eidsvold, which is located in the south west quarter of the south east quarter of section 28 in the Town of Thorp. As always, if you have memories, stories, or pictures of the Eidsvold School that you would  like to share with our readers, please let us know here at the Courier.

Memories Of Pioneer School

This series of articles would not be possible without generous contributions of memories and pictures from our readers.   One such contribution has recently come in regarding our school this month, the Pioneer School in Worden.


Looking at the past is not just a pleasant hobby to Sister Alice M. Henke, Order of the Servants of Mary, (OSM), a former student at Pioneer.  Henke is an archivist for the Sisters, Servants of Mary, located in Ladysmith. 


We would like to take this opportunity to print large portions of that letter, dated February 8, so that you can share in her reminiscences as well:
__”My memories of Pioneer School or “Fisher School,” as we usually called it, center around my years spent there in grades one through five, 1929-1934.  The only teacher’s name that I can remember is a Miss Connor.   I do remember the recitation bench for classes and the large stove or heater that stood in the back of the room which was enclosed with a steel cover that had a door in the front.


We used to dry our mittens by hanging them on the top rim of this stove on a chilly winter day and read story  books from the library shelves near there at the back wall when my lessons were finished.  I also recall practicing for the annual Christmas program and then watching the erection of the make-shift stage as planks were placed on wooden saw horses in the front of the classroom with a line stretched across and above the front of the stage for the curtain.  Those were exciting days.  During the singing of “Jingle Bells” some of the boys sang, “Shingle Nails” instead of “Jingle Bells.”  


To the west of the property there was a large building used as a woodshed and we had a merry-go-round as well as swings.  There was a pump at the front of the school for our water and a bucket with a dipper for our drinks stood in the cloakroom which was just inside the front door, the  length of the front of the building which had a door at either corner leading into the classroom.  It was a one-room classroom, and I thing that at the time I attended there were some forty pupils.  Just naming the families that I recall in attendance in the 1930’s I get almost forty children:  The Jenkes, Robert  and George Haas families, the Benzschawels, two Ramberg families, DeForths, Klicks, Powszukiewicz, Schmidts, and others.   At the time all grades were represented.  There was an advantage to this type of schooling.  One could learn math tables, poetry, and other materials even before reaching the next grade level.  We also studied our math and poetry together in our long walks home.  Our farm was exactly two miles from school.  In the winter, of course we were driven to school with the horses and sleigh.  


At recess we played the usual playground games, but one I remember because of the skill it entailed was “Anty, Anty, Over.”  The building was quite high for throwing a ball over to the opposite team on the other side.


I called my cousin, Mary Henke Weix to get more information.  I knew that my mother, Anna Baldeschwiler, taught there before she married my father, Emil Henke in June of 1920.  Mary told me that my mother taught at Pioneer School from 1918-1920.  Mary also remembered that Harry Landry taught there around 1914 for several years.



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