Center School, Hoard Township
Contact: Helen Vater Blaha
----Sources: Transcribed from a 21-page booklet entitled MEMORY TRAILS, printed and bound by John Isaacs Printing, Withee, WI. Mrs. Vieno (Nieminen) Keskimaki collected and edited the articles, 1962. No copyright indicated. On the contents page thanks are given to the Owen-Withee PTA.; page 11
HOARD CENTER SCHOOL DISTRICT, by Lily (Cass) Laakso
Abstracts show that the first record of any land in the present Hoard Center School District was bought from the United States government by Franklin Drury and Gardner Drury on May 10, 1856. These men and several others later cut off the timber.
On December 13, 1904, Madison Wilhite bought 160 acres from Niran Haskell Withee and started a farm approximately across the road (a Little east) from the Hoard Center Cheese factory. This land now belongs to Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Wilksman. The original house is still in existence but has been moved about a half mile west and is the present home of Mr. and Mrs. Russel Doberstein. It is the oldest building in the district now.
The second oldest entry of abstracts goes back to July 9, 1873, when the United States government sold land to the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company. This land was bought by Charlie Schultz in 1893 and is the present property of Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Looker.
The Bert Walkers, who came in 1908, lived at the end of the only road from Owen to this area. Everything had to be carried in beyond them. There was a road from the east to Wilhites from Curtiss. The Paul Cleland arrived in 1909 settling on a half section of land that was mostly swamp. They built a catwalk to higher ground for easier walking. Later, after their first house was destroyed by fire, they moved to higher ground.
Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Barrett came in 1910 to their present farm three miles north of Owen. The John Watsons who came in 1911 recently celebrated their sixty-first wedding anniversary. Nearby lived the Walter Fritzes who last Christmas celebrated their fiftieth "tree" in Wisconsin. Mr. Fritz served on the Owen School Board for 25 years.
In 1912 the Nestor Makis, the Hjalmer Heikkinens, the John Rauhas, and the Solomon Laaksos moved from the city to the farm. They were among the first of the many Finnish people to settle in this area. Most of the newcomers had bought their land through John Pelto or Matt Williams, land agents.
To supplement their farm income the men worked at the Owen Box Factory, some of them walking six miles to word as John Rosenquist did. The working day was ten hours long then, and the wages were 15 cents an hour. Others, who had been miners, returned to their old jobs in the Michigan mines while their wives and children farmed. Some of the children attended school in Owen while others went to the Green School which was a mile east of Elmhurst.
Mrs. Rauha, now 85, remembers those first difficult years without roads and very little clearing anywhere. They had a couple of cows for milk and butter and some chickens also. Some times pigs were raised for meat and lard. Once a week she walked five miles to Owen where she sold the extra butter and eggs at Sherett's General Store which is the present drugstore. Eggs were 25 cents a dozen and butter was 25 cents a pound. Flour and sugar were the chief staples bought calling upon ingenuity of the homemaker to prepare tasty meals from their own products plus the meat of rabbits and berries from the woods which were very plentiful.
Solomon Laakso recalls that it was an overnight trip with a team to Colby to have his wheat ground into flour.
One of the first buildings put up by the Finnish people was the "sauna", or bathouse. Every Saturday afternoon it was a common sight to see the smoke rising from these saunas the buildings and water were being warmed for the weekly bath.
By 1915 there were enough children of school age to build a new school. On October 2, 1915, $3,000.00 was borrowed from the Owen State Bank and $500 from Gotthold Martin plus $49.00 for an acre of land for the building site. The members of the first school board were Paul Cleland, Bert Walker, and Richard Maki. Joseph Johnson was the first teacher when the school opened in January, 1916. He walked from Owen daily with a knapsack on his back, following a logging road for there were no roads. His monthly salary was $49.50.
The need for a cheese factory arose and a cooperative was built a mile and a quarter east of the school. Since both buildings were near the center of the town, they were both called Hoard Center. Mrs. Means was one of the first teachers and still resides in the district. The schoolhouse was the center of social activity and many school programs, basket socials, and dances were held.
The total receipts for first years of school were $4508.29 and the expenses were $4035.15. School board members were paid $10.00 each. Wood by the cord cost $1.50, and $3.00 was paid for cleaning the school.
The students who lived west and south of the school will remember the old corduroy logging road better known as "The Swamp Road", which was flooded by fall rains and spring thaws. Everyone then wore high rubber boots. During the Roosevelt Administration in 1933-34 with W.P.A. labor the road was first made passable for automobiles.
Hoard Center was often called "The Finn School", for most of the pupils enrolled were of Finnish descent. In 1923 and 1924 there were 58 pupils enrolled of whom 42 were Finnish. By 1942 the school enrollment dropped so low that school was closed until 1950 when it was reopened.
In 1951 the Hoard Center cheese factory ceased operations.
When the State Legislature passed a law requiring all school districts to be a part of a high school district, the voters of Hoard Center chose to become a part of the Owen-Withee district in 1960.
Time has brought a change in the old school from the old kerosene lights to the present day electric lights, the piles of cord wood in the basement have been replaced by an oil furnace, the old wooden desks have been replaced by modern pale green formica topped ones. Her graduates are scattered from Maryland to Florida to California and Arizona although at least a dozen families are now living on their home farms.
Today Hoard Center is a modern rural school with bus transportation and hot lunches, but like the country cheese factory, it must yield to progress and become a part of a bigger system.
(Transcriber's note: On the 1926 plat map of the Town of Hoard the Hoard Center School in Section 20, along what is now called Center Road.)
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