Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In search of genuine pearls in Sciota Township April 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:25 AM
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IT IS THE ROAD less traveled that often leads to the best discoveries even, if at first, the journey doesn’t appear all that promising.

Recently, my husband and I followed back gravel roads from Randolph to Northfield. We were expecting bucolic farm sites complete with grand red barns and white wood-frame farmhouses wrapped in inviting country porches. Instead, we found mostly ramblers and split levels and other modern homes that, if clumped along a cul-de-sac, could have been in suburbia.

It was disappointing to find all these houses strung, like so many imitation pearls, along the smooth neckline of a wide gravel road. I wanted the real thing—pearls spilling across grandma’s bosom.

But then, when I’d nearly given up hope of finding anything genuine, we came across the old Sciota Town Hall at the corner of Alta Avenue and Sciota Trail/310th Street East in the southeastern hem of Dakota County.

The former Sciota Town Hall and, before, that, the Lewiston School, built in 1860

I couldn’t tumble from the van fast enough to photograph this former hall, originally the Lewiston School District 69 schoolhouse built in 1860. It is one of Dakota County’s oldest remaining schoolhouses and originally sat on the north side of the Cannon River in Lewiston, a town long gone (not to be confused with the still-existing Lewiston in Winona County).

In the fall of 1879—and I don’t know the reason—the 18-foot by 30-foot school building was moved to the south side of the Cannon, to its current site atop a hill at the intersection of two gravel roads.

Two stout block outhouses still buffet the school as does an aged water pump minus its handle.

A water pump behind the old schoolhouse.

One of two outhouses on the property. Over the barbed wire fence, in the distance, a farm site, not all that common anymore in Sciota Township.

It’s easy to imagine this place once teeming with children from neighboring farms as they pushed out the schoolhouse doors, legs flailing, into the schoolyard.

It’s easy to imagine, too, the rhythmic thrust of the pump gushing cold well water into their cupped hands, droplets splashing upon their worn leather shoes.

Had the doors of this former schoolhouse been unlocked, I could have imagined more, much more.

FYI: The Sciota Town Hall is no longer housed in the historic building, but in a modern pole shed style structure. Click here to see a photo of the 2005 town hall and to learn more about Sciota Township. Does anyone know whether the former town hall/school ever is opened for any type of historic celebrations or other events?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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