From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 24 - 2/8/01
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

School on Silver Creek

Take the highway leading east from the Boulder Store heading toward the mountains. Just past the Air Force Station, on the opposite side of the road, stands a remnant of the early day education system of this area. Alone in a sagebrush pasture in the shadow of a butte, the little one room log schoolhouse seems to defy the modernization going on all around it.

The first settlers of Silver Creek and East Fork ran mostly to bachelors, so schools were not a pressing problem. I think the first school was in the bunkhouse of the Steele Ranch when Ed Steele hired a ranch hand to put a little knowledge of the three R's into the heads of his children during the slack season of winter.

In the first years of the new century, families began trickling in. Came the Kings with six children, the Links, the Meyers, the George Lovatts, the Hittles. The little log schoolhouse must have been built by the middle of the first decade of the nineteen hundreds to accommodate the settlers.

Winters were long and cold and the snow was deep, but that did not stop even the very small children from arriving on foot, by sled or horseback for their shot of learning. When the ice was good, skating was the favored way of getting to school. Seepage from irrigated meadows had not yet made the ice on the streams treacherous. Noon and recess gave added time for this sport. No doubt teachers were a bit slow sometimes to call the children in from their fun on the ice. One time the fun was so great that Bill Steele stamped his prized watch to bits to give them the excuse they didn't know how late it was.

When snow covered the ice, there were snow forts to be built and furious snowball battles. Then games like Fox and Geese played on the trails packed down by kid feet running in a line following a leader who laid out the pattern of the paths. With just a few pupils, to make a good game, all hands had to join in. Since there were assorted sizes, big kids helped little kids, and bullying was not a problem. Big brothers and sisters were on hand to keep law and order.

School terms were short so there was not a lot of time to play without benefit of snow. When the ground bared up, baseball was a favored game. For a time the balls were whatever the kids could contrive which made for a slow game. Finally, they pooled their pennies and sent away for a real leather covered baseball. A batter (who could well have been Florence King Bertram) felt the satisfying thunk of leather meeting wood and flew toward first on a ground ball. The cheers soon turned to tears. The ball bounced merrily through the sagebrush and sank out of sight in a deep badger hole. It was never retrieved.

It might seem that finding teachers for those isolated little schools would be hard. The terms were short and the pay not the greatest. There were some homegrown. The oldest King girl (Ruth McLaughlin) was soon old enough to take over the school for a time. There always seemed to be adventurous people who took this opportunity to move west. Most were quite well educated for their time and brought new life and culture to the community. The flaw in the system was that the girls seldom lasted more than one year. Some lonesome cowboy offered them a better deal.

The last few years the Silver Creek School operated as a summer school from mid-April to mid-November. Then at last the pupils dwindled to two with no new prospects in sight. In 1942 it closed forever. <

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