History of Mountain Brook School

 

 - The Beginning -

 

The Mountain Brook School was officially started in December of 1908.  It was a log building made from donated materials.  Much of the work was donated by  bachelors who also built the road we now call Bachelor's Grade.

 

The school was across the road from the present building.  There were nine pupils that first year and the school term was four months.  The first teacher was Frances Leary. 
 
 
One of the students recall the furnishings of the log schoolhouse as, "some slates, and a homemade blackboard."
 
The picture on the left is the original school building as it was in 1914.
 
Below is a souvenir given by the teacher to students from 1911.
 

 

 - A New Schoolhouse -

 
In June of 1927, the Brown family donated an acre of land to the community to be used for a school as long as the school was maintained.  A building program was started that was to continue for fifty years.  There is a long history of community get-togethers, with everyone donating time and talent to get the job of the moment done.  The new building consisted of one large room (what is now the south side of the schoolhouse).  Later a teacherage was added to the back of the building. 

 

This is what one Mountain Brook student remembers about the school.
 
"It was the middle of February 1927 when I got my first glimpse of the Mountain Brook community.  My mother, Beulah Strand, was hired to teach the Mountain Brook School.  Two of the trustees were Curtis Shoemaker and Mrs. Ruckdashal.  The clerk was Willis Clinton.  My mother had been warned by the Kalispell townspeople that it was a tough school.  Three or four teachers had been chased out that year.  After teaching a week with extremely strict discipline she had no trouble with the pupils.  They were normal, intelligent and a joy to teach.  There were 14 pupils.  I was five years old and my brother, Milfred, was three.  Being unable to find a babysitter, Milfred "attended school" too.  We lived at the teacherage during the week
 
There was no telephone at the school so every Sunday evening my mother walked over to Abe Brown's with the clock.  There she called Central to get the correct time.  Even so, when pupils were tardy they argued that the time was wrong.  Some children picked flowers on the way to school and presented bouquets to her.  It was difficult to count them tardy.
 
Absentism was no problem.  Many times children came to school when they should have stayed home with a cold, etc.  One spring every child had the whooping cough except Milfred and I.  We had already had it.  They continued to come to school.  One child would start whooping then they would all join in and there would be a regular chorus.  Classes stopped until the whooping was over.  The whooping cough siege started about March and many were still coughing when school was out.
 
The first boys to arrive at school in the morning had the privilege of carrying water from Brown Creek to fill the water fountain.  One year two dead decayed dogs were found in the creek above where we got water.  Everyone survived the pollution.
 
In cold weather when the bell rang in the morning, at recess and at noon, each boy raced to the woodpile to carry in a stick of wood.  If a boy wished to impress a girl with his manliness, he carried a big load.  They seemed to enjoy these chores.  It must have taken a lot of wood for the schoolhouse.  Still there were times we were cold.  We would huddle around the heater, burning on one side, freezing on the other."
 
"Recollections of life in the Mountain Brook Community"
 1927-1933
Magdalyn Brosten
Mountain Brook Babblings
 
Shirley Turner Brown recalls the school this way.
 
"My first day of school at the Mountain Brook School was one day I always remembered.  My brothers and I walked to school as usual and I felt so big and proud, but when the teacher found out that I wouldn't be six until December, that ended my first week of my first grade.  I cried the rest of that day and for a week afterwards.  After a fresh start the following year, I made it through all eight grades with no bad marks on my report cards.  Worked hard for those pieces of paper that said I had perfect attendance for each year.  Wonder what ever happened to them?
 
The one room school sure was a noisy place.  The seats were either too big or too small.  The tin shield around the big wood stove always got a lot of dents from us kids playing tag around it.  We either cooked or froze, depending on who put wood on the stove.  We all brought in our share of mud and wet clothes from sliding down the hill that is not there anymore.  Big-hearted me couldn't say no when someone wanted to borrow my sled, so I usually didn't have a workable sled.  [I] used cardboard or the seat of my pants.  Used to slide down the Brown's Gulch Road, with someone posted at the county road to yell for cars because we had to cross it before we could get stopped.  One day I was look-out.  I yelled but the kid didn't get stopped and went between the front and back wheels of a farmer's truck.  I forgot what kid it was, but he's around yet.  We didn't tell the teacher about that.  One morning the first sled rider down the road forgot to open Mr. Mathwig's gate (he had the stopping place).  That youngster had a sore nose for awhile.  And the outhouse was a great place to hide from the boys."
 
"Back when fun was work"
Shirley Turner Brown
Mountain Brook Babblings
 
In 1937, stumps were pulled by teams of horses to improve the playground.  At one time dirt was hauled in "to a depth of four inches" as the Clerk's minutes read.  Mountain Brook has always had lumpy top soil. 

 

In the 1940's plumbing was installed and the school bus route was started.  The school was wired for electricity in 1946.  A new teacher's desk and piano for the school were bought and paid for by basket socials.  In 1948 a garage was built behind the building for the teacher's use.  A retaining wall was put up along the front of the property in 1950.
 
During the 1952-1953 school year there were 30 pupils in all eight grades and the teacher, Mrs. Dorothy Krause, did the janitoring and maintained the wood stove.  
 
 

 - Expansion -  

 

In 1954, the school faced a serious problem.  They had more students than ever and the building was not large enough.  The teacherage was converted to a small classroom but even this was not enough.  Meeting after meeting was held trying to find a solution.  Their problem was inadequate funds.  In the end, the district raised $2,000 dollars with the agreement that the money would be used to buy the supplies to expand the school and the community would provide the labor.  

 

The building project began that summer.  Every Saturday the men of the neighborhood worked - each doing what he could.  The trustees worked extra evenings getting projects - cement works for example - started.  The women brought bountiful dinners at noon with extra goodies for four 0'clock coffee.  Everyone enjoyed the food and fellowship.  Sometimes if there were enough left-overs and the men could work late, supper was held at the school, too.  Children picked up boards and nails and some of the ladies took a turn with the hammer.  In spite of hard work and sometimes lack of know-how, it was a happy summer. 
 
One hot afternoon when things weren't going too well, Mr. Rheinhold Mathwiz, a retired carpenter, was a bit miffed at the way something was boing done.  One word led to another and just when tempers might have flared, Lee Hanson, Board Chairman and the closest to a "boss" of the job said, "Now, Mr. Mathwig, if you insist on being this way we have to cut your wages."  The humer of cutting a volunteer's wages brought a good laugh from all the men.  The tension was broken and good feelings prevailed and the work continued.
 
The building project was completed in time for school in the fall.  The new school appearance was as the building stands today except for some modifications of the front porch in later years.  Oil burners took the place of the old wood stove.  The new burners caused a lot of trouble but a new chimney soon solved the problem.  The two large rooms were divided by a removable partition that could be taken down in the event of a large event.  Several platforms were constructed to form a stage and a wire for curtains was put up.  Many wonderful Christmas programs, spring plays, operettas, draduation exercises, plays by Ladies Club and 4-H variety programs were presented from that makeshift stage.
 
The first teachers in the "new school" were Miss Rosella Kauffman and Mrs. Krause.
 
 

 - Events at School -

 
The next year, 1955, Mrs. Rebecca Trablik and Mr. Joe Kauffman (brother of Rosella) were the teachers.  These two teachers started a number of new extra curricular programs.  In the five years Mr. Kauffman taught, softball was continued and boys basketball was started.  The girls organized a cheerleader group.  There was no gym so the boys prcticed their basketball in an old barn.  Dodging puddles that formed from leaks in the roof and keeping the ball out of them increased their skill and they held their own against Bigfork and Evergreen teams.
 
Mrs. Trablik started an orchestra, chorus, choir, and various other musical groups in the 15 years she taught.  the orchestra played for rural eighth grade graduation, the annual R.E.A. meetings and went on tours to other rural schools.  The choir and the quartet sang on T.V. as part of the station's Christmas presentations. 
 

In the spring of 1960, the mothers of the six graduating boys put together a year book for graduates.  The practice continued for several years after.  These books contained a history of the class from the first grade on along with a Will and a Prophecy.  They also contain many pictures of the class from year to year. 

 

The Mountain Brook Community Library has in their posession twelve of these scrapbooks, donated to us by former teacher at Mountain Brook, Mrs. Rebecca Trablik.  They are always on display during our pie socials to be looked through. 

 

In 1962, the new teacher, Mr. Duane Oesch, continued the athletic program as well as constructing some excellent stage props for the programs and operettas.  With Mrs. Trablik's music, some of these performances were very professional.  Some of them were: Tom Sawyer, Hansel and Gretel, and Rumplestilkins.  The Mountain Brook Costumers, LTD. (Mrs. Trablik's name for the mothers of students) made costumes from old clothes or sheets.  Many of these costumes were created by Linda Williams, who could make a piece of cloth into a queen's dress.  One king had a royal purple velvet robe with white real fur collar and cuffs.  Shoes that were used as elf slippers one year were minstrel shoes the next.  The use of leotards seemed endless.  Some of the boys objected strongly to wearing "girl's clothes" but they wore them anyway if their role called for refalds, jesters, elves or the like.

 
A girls' basketball team was organized in 1967.  Since neither Mountain Brook or Echo School had enough girls or boys for one team, they formed joint teams.  Miss Lora Lee King from Mountain Brook coached the boys and Miss Clara Frank from Echo School coached the girls.  Their team took second in the country rural tournament.
 
 

 - Building the Gymnasium -

 

 By 1968, the need for a gymnasium was apparent and that project was started.  Loyal Murer, a building contractor,
was chairman of the Board of Trustees.  He took it upon himself to design a building and donated countless hours of his time for its construction.  Many others volunteered also and Saturdays found many men working and the women bringing lunch down to them as they had during the construction of the school.
 
The picture on the right was taken in 1969.  The newly completed gymnasium makes an interesting background.
 
The class of 1969 held their graduation exercises in the "gym".  The following year enrollment was so large that another classroom was needed and the gym became the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classrooms.  
 
The following year, bathrooms and a library were added to the gym.
 
 
1971 was a big year for basketball and the Mountain Brook boys won the rural tournament.  Monty Benson, John Murer, Tim Morgan, Thomas Frank, and Peter Prison won all ten games during the season. They played four games in the tournament with each game a loser out.  Such excitement and such a thrill for so small a team to be the winners.
 
 
In 1974 a kitchen and additional library space was added to the gym buildilng.  

 

 

 - 1980's -


We currently have very little information about the school during the '80s.  If you have any interesting stories or pictures about time spent at the school we would very much like to hear from you.  Just email us and we will see about filling in this slight gap in the story.

The pictures below are from Halloween in 1985. 




 - Closing of the school - 

 

By the 90's, Mountain Brook School was falling into disrepair and in need of serious updates if it were to continue being used as a school.   The astronomical funds needed to continue its use were not available and in 1995 the decision was made to transfer all classes to Cayuse Prairie School.  For the first time in nine decades, Mountain Brook School fell silent. 

 

Because of the original deed given by the Brown family, once the school was no longer in use the land was to revert back to the family.  The area along Foothill Road had changed a great deal and the land was now desirable as a home site.  It seemed likely the old schoolhouse would be torn down.  

 

 

 - Mountain Brook Homestead Foundation -

 

Years slipped by without anything being done by the Cayuse Prairie school board either to make any repairs to the campus or turn the property back over to the Browns. 

 

In 2001, members of the Mountain Brook community who had memories of the school's better days and did not want to see it destroyed began to hold meetings on the campus to try to find a way to save the historic site.  The original deed from the Browns stated that the land only had to be used in a way that promoted education for the school's right to it to stand.  After much discussion, the idea to form a community library on campus was latched upon.  Permission was sought from the Cayuse Prairie School board to lease the campus from them.  They agreed. 

 

In 2002, the Mountain Brook Homestead Foundation, was formed.  That August, the doors opened on the new Mountain Brook Community Library housed in the gym with its scant collection of books and empty walls.  The very first fundraiser was a pie and ice cream social.  It was a humble beginning but the community turned out.  The volunteers of the foundation worked hard for the next five years providing educational events as well as constantly improving the selection of resources available to the public.  Trying to keep the library afloat, the original purpose of the foundation, the restoration of the original school, fell by the wayside due to lack of funds.  The building continued to deteriorate. 

 

In 2007, having weathered through the first few years of starting the library and feeling it take root, the foundation finally began to feel they were in a position to begin thinking about the old schoolhouse.  After years of sitting empty without proper care, the inside of the building was in terrible shape and in need of being completely stripped and redone. With the skilled advice of some committed volunteers, the planning began to find a way to finance the restoration of the school into a community building.  Attempts at grants were made but without success.  Finally, in the early spring of 2008, the idea to follow the history of the campus resurfaced: provide the money for the supplies and ask the community to provide the labor. 

 

On July 11th, with the support of Cayuse Prairie, the Mountain Brook Homestead Foundation sent forth their appeal for help and work began.  Unfortunately, the turnout was not as it had been in the past.  A few dedicated volunteers showed and accomplished astonishing progress removing sheetrock, plaster, ceiling tiles, carpet, and sawdust insulation.  In August, the foundation hired Ray Mallory & Sons to replace the leaking metal roof with brand new galvanized steel.  A support beam donated by Western Building Center of Columbia Falls was installed to fix sways in the roof.  Two steel supports donated by Pacific Steel were put in the arch that divides the two main rooms to repair structural issues.   The dream was on its way...

 

 

 - Today -

 

Work on stripping the interior is still continuing at the school every Wednesday from 6:30pm-8pm.  The two main rooms are stripped down to the studs.  New windows have been purchased and are on their way to being installed.

 

Still to come will be the replacing of the wiring, plumbing, and doors as well as deciding on a cost effective way to heat the building.  There is much work to be done.  We anticipate the project to take us at least two years to complete.  And yet, the history of this building through the years proves that anything can be accomplished if the community stands together with the intention to succeed. 
 
 

 - Not the End -

 
Thank you for joining us on this short journey through the life of the Mountain Brook Campus.  We hope you enjoyed the experience. 
 
Remember that this is not the end!  Visit the Renovating the Schoolhouse page for continued updates about the project of keeping this beautiful piece of history just as it has always been: a place where community and education have always met and shook hands.