Montana July 18, 2018
Montana Schools In The Early 1900s Were Nothing Like They Are Today
Going back to school is likely the last thing young Montanans want to think about in the middle of summer. But the schools they’ll return to this fall are a lot different than they used to be, and these old photos we found prove it.
One-room schoolhouses once played a major role in Montana's rural communities.
In fact, if you're (ahem) of a certain age and you grew up in a tiny Treasure State town, you may have gone to school in one, such as the Old Sunnyside Schoolhouse north of Circle.
Not only did most classrooms look like this in the early 1900s, but there were a lot of cultural differences as well.
According to the Montana Women's history website, in the early 1900s, an aspiring teacher could obtain a two-year rural teaching certificate as long as she was a high school graduate, unmarried, and had passed competency exams in various subjects. Rural district trustees assumed students would become miners, wives, or farmers like their parents and therefore needed only a rudimentary education.
Here's what remains of an old schoolhouse on Highway 39 between Forsyth and Colstrip.
Around the year 1917, a female teacher in a rural school could earn $60 - $80 per month. Male teachers were paid about 20% more.
In addition to teaching a variety of age groups, the teachers were responsible for cleaning and maintaining the schoolhouse.
Many rural schools lacked indoor plumbing back then and were heated by wood stoves, so teachers carried water and chopped the firewood.
It was also far more common for children to go to Sunday school.
This photo shows a teacher marking attendance at a Sunday school in Wisdom.
Remarkably, there are still some one-room schoolhouses in use in rural Montana.
As of 2014, around 60 were still in use, the most in the United States. Of course, that's not saying much considering the number was once closer to 2,600.
Tiny schools could once be found all over Montana, where over 30 million acres -- more than in any other state -- were given to homesteaders.
And while they're quickly becoming a thing of the past, you'll still find abandoned one-room schoolhouses all over the state.
Did you know tiny schools were such an essential part of Montana’s history? Here are some
other Treasure State facts you may not be aware of.