From recollections of Miss Amanda Johnson and Mrs. Louise Conover
The first school in Independence Township which was District No. 81 was taught by Norman Shook in 1858. It was held in a house vacated by the William Lewis family near where the Armstrong station was later located. Later a log school house was built, and soon a frame building 14 by 18 feet, was built nearby. This was the center for educational, political and township affairs and also religious services. Edward Alien taught the first term in this building. In the summer of 1878 a frame building twenty-six by forty-four feet was erected. Other schools in the area were Perkinsville, District No. 56 in Medina built in 1858, which was a log building, and Jackson School on the Jackson farm.
The Perkinsville school district was in the territory near Lake Independence and was located on Maple Hill farm. Charles Cox of Maple Plain attended school there, also Mrs. Stanley Hill's father, George Pagenkopf. In April, 1865, a meeting was held to build a new school house on the William Jackson farm. Those present were William and Henry Jackson, E. Sutherland, Mr. Brownell, and Gustavus Johnson. Spelling bees and debates were part of the winters activities. George and Earl Hoisington and William Mills conducted singing schools. George Hoisington played the cello. Lyceums were begun by Fletcher Ingerson who had been valedictorian of his class at Yale University in 1859. He surveyed much of the land here. A small paper was circulated containing articles of wit, humor and matters of general interest. Later roller skating was enjoyed at Lovern's Hall at Maple Hill farm. After the railroad was built in 1868 the mail came through daily and for the first time weekly newspapers were generally available.
Two of the teachers at the Armstrong school were Bayard T. Shaver, who later was assistant County Superintendent of Schools, and Doctor George Mecklenberg, a farm boy from Anoka County, who later was pastor for many years at the Wesley Methodist Church in Minneapolis.
According to the abstract records, property for the first Maple Plain School, District No. 61 was purchased from G. W. and H. A. Smith on May 15, 1877. This property was one block long on Marsh Street, just north of the old Maple Plain bank building, including land where the mortuary and the Meryl Budd home now stand. A small one-room building was erected. Some years later a room was added. This school burned in 1893. School was then held in the Presbyterian Church, one block away, until the new building was ready. This was a two-story white frame structure. The two rooms on the first floor took care of grades one through five. The upstairs was one big room that served the village as a hall for entertainment and general gatherings, as well as schoolrooms for grades six, seven and eight. These rooms were not modern in any way. Each was heated by a large jacketed stove in one corner. The teachers were responsible for tending these throughout the day. There was a fire escape running from the belfry at the front of the building. Grown boys attended school a few months in the winter when farm work was slack.
The primary grades were dismissed at 11 :30 A.M. Big boys brought wood in from the wood shed and sometimes teachers did their own janitor work. Each classroom had its water pail and long handled dipper. If the lunches were kept in the ante-room the sandwiches sometimes were frozen. In District No. 61 the hot lunch program was begun by Miss Louise Styner (Mrs. E. Conover), Belle and Blanche Offerman, 8th grade students, in 1915. Vegetables and milk were brought in by farm children and those who could not bring food paid five cents a week to pay for other needs. Soups, stews, hot chocolate and other foods were cooked on top of the heater in room one. About sixty pupils were enrolled during the winter. During the years of World War I the district had no money, so the teachers were given orders which were cashed at the local bank. Beginning teachers received a starting salary of forty-five dollars a month and a five dollar raise per month was usual each year they stayed.
This building was outgrown and sold at auction in 1924 and a new brick building was completed with four rooms upstairs and an assembly room downstairs. Originally there were three classrooms and a convenient lunch room. Later as the population increased, the lunch room had to be used as a class room, the redecorated coal and utility room became the lunch room, and a classroom was made of the stage downstairs. Still there was too little space.