Several county departments, and the Department of Natural Resources, fought the Saturday blaze. Carleton chief Chris Crowell said it was believed the fire was started by a nearby brush fire. Winds were strong at the time, he said. Although the building itself was destroyed, Crowell said fortunately crews were able to prevent it from spreading.
For local area resident Eldon White, the former one-room schoolhouse wasn’t one he had given much thought to in recent years, even though his family had historical ties to it. White’s mother Evelyn was the last teacher to have taught students at the schoolhouse. She and the students left their one-room classroom in 1958 when Carleton Consolidated School opened and one-room schoolhouses like this one closed throughout the county.
White was in Grade 5 when he, his mother and the students made the move to the new school.
“My mother taught all the grades from Grade Primary right up and she walked four miles to get there, carrying a book bag, rain or shine,” he recalled about the one-room building.
Asked if he used to walk to school with his mother, he said no.
“When I first started, I went on a farm tractor and then shortly after that a guy by the name of Jimmy Wells got a panel van,” he said. “I don’t think it had any shocks onto it. The roads weren’t paved, they were rutty and rough and you braced your feet and hung on and crashed and banged up the road until you got to school.”
He laughs as it’s suggested to him that maybe that’s why his mother preferred to walk.
White remembers the old wood stove inside the schoolhouse. In the wintertime, he said, students would put their cans of soup – their lunch for the day – on and around the stove to heat them up. He also remembers the big woodshed that existed. He said they’d go inside and make caves by moving wood pieces around. They’d also use the wood to conceal their hiding place.
“Nobody could find us,” he said. “Sometimes we’d be late for class.”
Although moving to the new elementary school in Carleton was a huge step up, he remembers at first it was very muddy on and the construction was still ongoing. Sometimes, he said, it was so loud you couldn’t hear what was happening in class.
The Forest Glen schoolhouse was originally located across the road from where the community hall is. It was eventually sold and relocated down the road, where it became a family dwelling. Later on a new house was built to replace it and the former schoolhouse building was moved again, this time uphill.
“Me and a few other guys, we jacked it up off the ground and got a big bulldozer and put skids on it and pulled it up the hill, on the other side of the lake, still in sight of the main road,” White said.
And then like many old buildings, this one, now empty and used only for storage in recent years, faded from memory – until this past weekend when flames engulfed the structure.
“We called other departments, like Kempt and Pleasant Valley and also DNR, just in case it got out of control because it looked like it might. The wind was blowing pretty hard,” said fire chief Chris Crowell. “We had our pumper up in there and our tanker. It just started to go up the trees a little bit but it never got of control. It could have, I suppose.”
Crowell was thankful that didn’t happen, Given that it was Easter weekend, and with other events happening like a canoe rally and a four-wheeler rally, people were spread out all over.”
The road leading up the structure was also very soft and rutty, making it difficult to get trucks close to the fire scene.
Despite these challenges Crowell said they had enough manpower, and a lot of hose, to put out the blaze.
No more schoolhouse.
Just the cleanup remained.