Early settlers of our area were most concerned about furnishing their children with some education and put a great deal of import-ance on schooling.
As soon as they were able, they built one-room schools with residents donating the lumber and the labor. Constructing a small building was the easy part. The real challenging job was not just finding, but keeping teachers.
Teaching was one of the few paying jobs available to a woman in those days, therefore many teachers were young, single girls just out of school. Very often they didn’t stay long in their teaching jobs, leaving to get married.
Besides, there wasn’t much incentive for a teacher to come to this remote area. Once a teacher was secured, living quarters had to be found for them. It was common for the teachers to live with a family who had extra space in their home, a situation that didn’t always work out perfectly.
The early teachers were very respected and held in high esteem by the communities they served, even though most of them were quite young.
From 1890 to the early 1920s the Englewood area was served by three one-room schools before a burst of growth in the 1920s finally brought a sizable school to town.
The area’s first school was built in 1890 by the first pioneer family, the Goffs. It was located a little north of where Tiffany Square is today on State Road 776. William Goff’s large parcel of land was nearby. The region around his property and farm had taken on the name of Vineland, so the school was named Vineland.
L.A. Ainger, who attended the Vineland School for four years, remembered: “I started to school in 1921. I was six years old. My dad was a trustee at the school. The school had one room. I would say there were 20 or 30 kids there, all ages. There was one teacher. Some of the seats were double, so you sat with somebody, and some of the seats were single. There was a little stage up front. That’s where the school teacher’s desk was and the potbellied stove. We had tablets and pencils. But the school didn’t even have a few extra books. If you wanted a book to read, well, some neighbor or someone, would have to give it to you. You didn’t dog-ear ‘em or throw ‘em around. You read ‘em and then they was passed on to someone else.
“So far as the teachers went they were very nice to us, yes, they were. I think all our teachers had some college training. The subjects were pretty simple — reading, writing and arithmetic.
(In later years, after being a prominent businessman and serving 24 years on the School Board, L.A. Ainger was honored by having one of our schools named after him.)
The Biorseths were also early Englewood pioneers. One of Carl Biorseth’s first contributions to the area was the construction of not one but two schools. He also took on the the difficult task of securing teachers. Between the years of 1898 and 1900 he was the moving force in getting one school built in the town area of Englewood with help from the Heacock family who owned a sawmill. The one-room school was located at the corner of Old Englewood Road and Harvard Street and was called The Englewood School.
The second school was built at the north end of Englewood in 1900 on an acre of land the Biorseths donated. It was located near where, today, S. R. 776 crosses Forked Creek. That area was known as Pinedale so it was called the Pinedale School.
Grace Biorseth Platt, Mr. Biorseth’s daughter, remembered attending both schools: “From 1900 to 1909, the school was held in whichever community that had the largest number of school-age children for that term. We had classes in 1900 through 1902 in our school at Pinedale, near where we lived, and the Englewood children walked to our school. I know from notes I kept that there was a school in Englewood in 1903 and 1904, and we walked the three miles from Pinedale to Englewood.”
Isabelle Johanson Hanlon also remembered attending the Harvard Street School. The Johanson family lived on Manasota Key. Their homestead was named The Hermitage.
“Going to school was a big adventure,” said Mrs. Hanlon, “my sister Ruth and I would row across the bay with Papa every morning when classes were held in the school near the sawmill, but when school was held in Pinedale we boarded with Mrs. Kelly near the school and came home for the weekends.”
(Grace Biorseth in later years attended a female college, and became one of Englewood’s early school teachers.)
The Harvard Street school burned in 1921 and was not rebuilt. By 1922 the new modern Englewood School on West Dearborn Street had been built. The Pinedale School ceased to be used. Some children on the north end of town went to the school at the Woodmere sawmill which was located about where Waste Management is today on S.R. 776. The Vineland one-room school built on a second room and added a second teacher. It stayed in use the longest, probably into the 1930s.
Diana Harris is a Sun columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.