HILLSBORO – Bloomfield No. 1, one of Traill County’s oldest schools, is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
The rural school in Hillsboro’s Heritage Park, originally located on the southeast quadrant of Bloomfield Township Section No. 8, was built in 1920 and opened its doors to students on Sept. 27 that year. The school house, which was considered modern because it had a coal furnace and indoor chemical restroom, cost $4,000 to build.
Bloomfield School No. 1 held classes for grades one through eight for 38 years, before closing its doors in 1958 and was used as a township hall from 1961 until the 1990s. The Traill County Historical Society acquired the school in 2003.
The historical society bought the school because it was one of only a handful of country schools remaining in the township, most of which had been repurposed for other uses, said Dallas Boeddeker, a member of the Traill County Historical Society.
Meanwhile, Heritage Park already had a log cabin and church on the grounds that represented what life was like in the early days of Traill County, said John Wright, Traill County Historical Society president.
“We were missing that third leg of the stool, which was the school,” Wright said. “We wanted to get a little, rural school, one that was in good condition. The Bloomfield School fit that need.”
The school’s proximity, 6 miles west of Hillsboro, also meant that moving it wouldn’t be cost prohibitive, Wright said.
Bloomfield School No. 1, which now sits on the corner of Fifth Street West and Second Avenue in Hillsboro, has its original backboard and contains items, including desks, books and pictures of former teachers. The inside of the school is arranged according to the memories of students who went to Bloomfield in the 1930s.
Then, as now, the students’ desks faced west, toward the blackboard, with large east windows at their backs allowing light to fall over their shoulders onto the desk. The large windows were removed when the school was converted to a township hall, but one frame is installed in the school and used as a showcase for the photos of women who taught there over the years.
Wright recalls his mother, the late Bertha Wright, who taught at the school from 1933 to 1939, telling stories about her days of educating students there. Though the school boasted a coal furnace, it was in the basement, and not much heat wafted up through the grates on the main floor, Wright said.
“It was considered warm compared to the ones with pot-bellied stoves, but the floors were drafty," he said. “She’d talk about how cold the school was.
“The first year she wore her plain, black dress shoes, and she froze her feet to where they blistered,” Wright said. After that, his mother bought boots to wear when she was teaching.
Despite the cold, Bertha Wright enjoyed her years at the school and appreciated the support it got from the community members, who took pride in it.
“It was their little hub, that school,” John Wright said.
The Traill County Historical Society had hoped to have a centennial open house for the school this fall, but plans changed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We hope in the fall of 2021, when the school is 101, we can do something special,” Wright said.
In the meantime, Bloomberg School No. 1 will be open, by appointment to visitors through September. The historical society can be reached at (701) 636-5571.