Rosenhoff Mennonite Education testimonies

THE EARLY DAYS OF THE ROSENHOFF SCHOOL SYSTEM

The reflections below and on the continuing pages took place at the reunion of the Rosenhoff schoolchildren in the late 1980's.

"As goes our school, so goes our church" was the motto of the Kleine Gemeinde pioneers who settled along the Scratching River in 1874.

Exactly when the first classes began we do not know, but as soon as the first permanent homes were built and ready, a village school system was put into operation, Each family in turn gave up the so-called "Sommer Stube" (summer room) of their home for the school year; which then served the community as a school building on week days, and as church building on Sundays. The school desks, as well as the room, served a dual purpose. Instead of the double or single desks of today, they had the long desks, which could accommodate all the girls and/or all the boys of an entire grade, and on Sundays these desks served as pews.

Some teachers made it a point to seat their students according to their class standing which was "great" for the top students, but what about the slow learners. At the beginning the textbooks in use were the "Fiebel" (primer) for the beginners, the Bible stories for the second and third year students, the New Testament and Catechism for the juniors, and the Old Testament and church hymnbook for the seniors. As more funds and textbooks became available, such subjects as geography, history, language study, etc, were added. Arithmetic was taught from blackboard assignments, and slates were used by the students instead of paper until about 1925.

We still have some senior citizens with us who attended the Rosenhoff School before the turn of the century, and from them we learn that the actual school term was somewhat short of six months per year because the teacher was usually farming too and had to get his seed in and the crop off, This timing also suited the parents well who needed the older children's help during the busy season. During the first three years of school attendance, the language was mostly German, but after grade three English became an important part of the learning process. One year, however, English nearly dropped out because the teacher, otherwise well qualified, was a new immigrant and had to learn the new language first!

During the pioneer years the ministerial was responsible for the curriculum and for the spiritual oversight of the school, but the village council was in charge of collecting the school money, providing the building and the equipment, hiring and paying the teacher, and the mandatory attendance of all able-bodied students between the ages of seven to twelve years for the girls and seven to fourteen years for the boys. Around 1905 the village system of living broke up and the village council ceased to exist, so the ministers and deacons had to serve as school board until further changes were made. The highlights of the school year were visits from important people such as the school inspector, the trustees, ministers, visitors from "Yantzied" (meaning East Reserve), parents, and occasionally Professor Ewert from Gretna in later years. Important also were Christmas and New Year's when so-called "wunsche" -(lengthy 'well wishing' poems) were copied into fancy folders, memorized, and then recited to parents, grandparents and their friends. Some poems were quite solemn while others in somewhat lighter vein. Examples are: "Bin ich hungrig will ich essen, Bin ich mude schlaff ich ein; Und wie oft hab 'ich's vergessen, Dass ich sollte artig sein!" Another important occasion was "Prufung" and school closing which often coincided with Easter, It was a time when excitement ran high for all students (maybe teachers too) because any student could be singled out by a guest and questioned on any subject that he or she had been studying already. With a room full of people listening, the answers did not come easy even if you had been studying diligently during the year, included also were demonstrations in penmanship, reading from the Old or New Testaments, reciting poems, telling Bible stories, some hearty singing, and answering Catechism questions.

The summer room arrangement lasted from 1875 to 1889 when a brand new Church-school was built in the center of the Village of Rosenhoff (SE4 of Sec.20-5-lE) about 250 meters south of the present Henry K. Dueck (now son Greg's) residence or about 350 meters north-west of the Pastor Johnny Loewen (now son Bryan's) residence. The government was quite impressed with the Scratching River School System and gave its official recognition by assigning numbers to them -- Rosenort being #60 and Rosenhoff # 61. This qualified them for a small grant and the annual visit of the School Inspector. About six years after the RM of Morris was formed, the minutes show that a letter was received from Abraham B. Klassen, son of delegate David Klassen, which reads as follows: (the) Secretary of the Rosenhoff School Division in 1886, requesting that a district tax levied for Rosenhoff School Division be removed, as they do not want to raise any tax for their school at all,"(From Furrows in the Valley). The fear was that by accepting tax money, they would also be accepting government control,

Respectfully submitted, Dick B, Eidse

P.S. Furrows in the Valley, pages 368-371 gives a good report on education in Rosenhoff after the pioneering years.

FROM WORLD WAR 1 TILL CONSOLIDATION

During the first world war (1914-18) the Mennonite schools including Rosenhoff, ran into difficulties with the new law (1916), which required that-the English language be the only one used in the school curriculum. The school inspector was the dread of the teachers then. Sometimes teachers were forewarned, but at other times his appearance caused a great flurry of activity because German books had to be hidden quickly. These conditions persisted for many years.

Attendance was poorest in the spring when roads were muddy and farmers needed help at home. Extreme weather conditions in winter also caused a drop in attendance. But for many pupils it meant a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.

The changeover from private schools to a district school came in 1926, and Mr. Peter K. Dueck continued in his role as teacher. Because there were some sixty students in seven grades, the older students took turns assisting Mr. Dueck with the younger classes.

The district wanted to build a new school just south of the cemetery (near P. J. K. Loewens) but because of the large enrollment, two separate schools were built in 1927, known as Rosenhoff North and Rosenhoff South school. Mr. Abram Suderman was the first teacher in the south school, and he continued in that position almost till the time of his death in the fall of 1933. Mr. George Goossen began teaching there that year and continued on for 20 years. Another family man who taught there for several years was Mr. Frank Sawatsky.

The North School had a great variety of teachers and they will be listed elsewhere. However, those with a lengthy tenure of service include Mr. Sebastian Rieger, Mr. Jacob H. Janzen, Mr. Peter J. Remple, and Miss Nettie Cornelson. A two-room school building was ready for the start of the 1945-46 season, with Mr. Janzen and Miss Pankratz teaching. Integration of the two schools began in 1962 and three years later, the south school building was moved one mile north and attached the existing structure there to form a three-room school. This was a short-lived arrangement however, for consolidation of the small village schools came about in 1968, when the present consolidated school district took effect.

Levi Dueck


Links to School Reminiscings

Rosenhoff Village School 1889-1927

Rosenhoff North School 1927-1968

Rosenhoff South School 1927-1962

Copyright 2001 Lorilee Scharfenberg.