After 8 years of fundraising and fixing, consider this 1-room schoolhouse preserved

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The schoolchildren in Nicollet County's New Salem Township must have learned the three R's, but judging from Garfield Eckberg they were also taught persistence, patience and preservation.

For eight years, Eckberg was a student at the one-room schoolhouse, which closed in 1958. More recently, he spent eight years at the forefront of the effort to save and restore the old building about 12 miles from St. Peter.

Mission accomplished.

FOX 9 visited the schoolhouse this week and spoke with Eckberg, who says his grandmother also went to school there back in the 1800's.

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“These old one-room schoolhouses represented a community’s roots and should remain a part of that community,” Eckberg told the St. Peter Herald last fall.

In New Sweden Township, reconstruction of the school's basement cost $40,000, the Herald reports, with a new furnace, roof, and porch among the other big-ticket items in the preservation.

While they're scarce these days, there was a time when one room schools populated Minnesota like wildflowers on the prairie.

Both FOX and the Herald note that records show Nicollet County alone was once home to 68 such schools.

That was not unusual. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, in the 1930s there were 8,000 school districts in the state. Not until the the '50s and '60s did transportation changes allow for consolidation of country schools into the 400 or so districts we have today, MHS says.

Doug Ohman photographed surviving schoolhouses around the state in a book the MHS Press published in 2006. The One Room Schoolhouse Center has a collection of links devoted to such schools broken down by state, including 11 in Minnesota.

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