Old Country Schoolhouse

Kittson County is slowly losing the little schoolhouses that were spread around the townships. A few are still maintained and used as meeting halls. The rest are ignored, paint peeling, boards rotting and roofs sagging. Some were moved and used for storage buildings but the rest have been knocked down or burned.

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North Star School

This particular little old school house is located on the northern border of section 27 of Richardville township.  It is unusual because it is more than twice the size of a regular school and had a tower.

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The building sits out on the flat prairie and is believed to be more than a hundred years old.
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At one time a interior ladder provided access to the top of the tower.

While I have examined the building and the tower I have not be able to determine why the tower was built on the school house and what it was used for. If you have any knowledge on the history of this school please comment.

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Main classroom – east wing.

The leaking roof has damaged the ceiling and the building will not last much longer.  Note that the blackboards are still hanging on the walls and the old oil burner is still in place.

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Note the three blackboards on the north wall.                    
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Some interesting graffiti                                            

The Murray farm was right across the road to the north. It appears the grandson visited the school a hundred years after it opened.

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This is the interior of the western section of the school with another oil burner and possibly and original wood stove.  Note the student lockers along the back wall. The photo was taken while standing of what appeared to be a small stage. 

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This shows the western half of the school, while  looking eastward.

If you have any information regarding this old country school house please comment on this blog or email me at gbrowne@wiktel.com.  I know there are many people who would enjoy hearing more about this school.




Close-up Photography

I bought a new digital camera not too long ago and I have been very pleased with the results. It has a number of improvements over my previous digital cameras but I have neglected to get familiar with some of the finer points. It has a zoom lens and I have taken advantage of it to improve normal photos but I have not tested it to the maximum. This post shows the results of pushing the zoom/telephoto to the maximum.

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Note the grey grain elevator at the far end of the street.

This first shot was taken in Lancaster looking north towards the railway tracks and the most westerly grain elevator which is more than a block away. If you look closely you can see the top of the elevator in the center of the photo in the distance. It is very difficult to see any windows in the top section of the elevator.

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Windows in the upper floors of the elevator.

This second shot shows not only the windows but the damage to the glass and the frames. This picture was taken in exactly the same location the first one was taken.  It was not until I got home and displayed it on my computer that  I was amazed with the detail.

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

The next shot was taken looking east, towards the town park and the main street clock. The reddish building is the Lancaster Liquor store. In the distance you can see a red vehicle parked on the right hand side of the street. The Town Park and the clock is behind the car but too far away to be easily seen.

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Town Clock by the Town Park

This photo was taken while standing in the same location as the last one. A small piece of the red car can been seen in the lower left hand corner of the photo. Christmas decorations can be seen along the bottom of the picture. The new wooden fence on the back of the park is obvious. Above it is the metal roof of the Town Shop. The time of day is easily read.

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Lancaster water tower.

This last example is of the town water tower that sits behind the community center. Some of the lettering can be read.

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The final shot fills the photo with the letters STE and the hand railing. It is obviously blurred but that is because I failed to hold the camera steady while shooting up in the air.  By using a tripod this problem is eliminated.

I am very please with the telephoto shots and need to take more advantage of this feature. Without the examples I have shown it is very difficult to know when a photo was shot close up or a considerable distance away.  I am looking forward to checking out more of the camera’s features.

A Typsy Red Barn

This old barn has been sitting out  in the open prairie all its life and the accumulated north winds have finally had an effect. The farmer is long gone as are all the horses, cows, and other livestock that sought shelter during the long winter months.

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The effects of life on the northern plains.

Notice how the upper track of the main door has come to rest on the top of the door. This in turn has jammed and prevented the building from leaning any further and ultimately falling over.

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The wall of the barn is badly stressed and most of the window trim has fallen off. Amazingly none of the panes of glass have broken.
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The side view shows the wall is starting to bow out and this in turn will cause the roof to sag until it fails and collapses the whole barn.
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Interior view of the old stalls.

The wooden interior is still in good condition as is the cement floor. A skillful carpenter could jack the building back into place but there is little use for this building as a barn. Without some special attention it has a short life span at this stage.

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This shot taken from the rear of the barn once again shows another jammed barn door which help contribute to its support. The windswept prairie is very close at hand.
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This view of a corner of the cedar shingled roof, along with the faded red barn paint, reflects its long years of service.
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The rear of the barn and the outlying buildings show they were all well maintained during their service, but nothing lasts for ever.


Winter takes hold.

During the night we got about six inches of fresh light snow and our woods have transformed. The ground reminds me of a new canvass, waiting for mother nature to record her activities.

More snow is expected, along with strong winds, so our local school was cancelled. I’ve taken my scoop and opened the driveway to the gravel road. In the next day or two I will widen the trail and push the snow back. While the main highways have already been plowed it will take more time for the gravel secondary roads to be cleaned off.

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The grey overcast is blocking the sun but the snow fall is lessening.

Our county highway departments is very efficient at removing snow and it takes a major storm to prevent us from getting into town. This snowfall has not closed any roads but serious winds can change that fast.

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Rarely does the mail fail to get through so one of my first snow day tasks is to clear the snow from around the mail box.
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Other than our neighbors across the road, no one else lives within a mile in any direction. If you go off the road or get stuck you better be ready to walk.
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Most of the farm land in this county is very flat so I like to head to the local river to get some interesting photos. It has not been too cold so we still have open water where ever there are rapids.
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This shot might make a good Christmas Card.
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All it lacks is a deer having a drink.

We are already two months into winter but only received a little more than a foot of snow. One year, 1997, we had ten blizzards and a hundred inches of snowfall. It was even worse in the 1940’s. It’s rather boring now.



Recycled life history

I came across this old building this fall, after being drawn near it by the sight of a very large old willow tree. The building was obviously an old store, and at some time in its life it resided in a town.

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Old buildings are of particular interest to me, as like people, they also have a history. Regrettably the store front lacks a sign of any kind and the interior has been stripped of all clues as to its origin or occupation.

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Sad to say, its last use was as a cattle shed. It sits far out of sight on the edge of a field far from a road, where is slowly sinks into oblivion. It seems it has been here for at least the last twenty years ago, protecting cattle from the cold winds of a northern Minnesota winter. If you look closely you will notice the faded front where a store sign originally proclaimed its identity.

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It appears some attempt was made to board up the door and windows to keep out the snow and the cattle in. A large hole was ripped in the side to allow entry for the cattle, but this in turn has weakened the side wall and hastened the collapse of the structure.

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

A feeble effort was made to close up windows that were swollen open by countless rains. Most of the panes of glass gave up from the weather and the winds of time. This is a structure that is giving up,  inch by inch.

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The side view of the cattle entrance shows where it has separated from the top wall plate and suffers from the effect of gravity. The original cedar shakes roofing was up graded to asphalt shingles at some point in its long life.

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This is an interior window view of the large pasture and big old willow tree, as enjoyed by many a cow.  It is also a window that countless customers  looked out at a different view in some small unknown town.

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An examination of the field around the store showed that a large corral once controlled animals in a restricted space, but all but a few sections remain, struggling to hold their heads above the tall grass.

My enquires to date have suggested this building originally came from the town of Lake Bronson. Other avenues of search suggest it once was a restaurant in Lancaster. The search for facts continues. I have purposely not revealed where the building sits as the present owners are reluctant to have people on the property.


Two Rivers – middle branch

Normally in late November we find our local rivers frozen over and covered in six inches to a foot in fluffy white snow.  This year is an exception.

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Two Rivers – middle branch

The temperature has been hovering in the thirties and a considerable quantity of water is on the move in the river. This has prevented the river from freezing over completely so the ice is thin and limited to  along the banks.

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

This scene is unusual because of the flowing and open water and the limited amount of snow. These photos were taken south of Hwy #175 and west of Hwy #5, other wise referred to as Hawkyard’s Corner.

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Fox tracks

The pleasant conditions have affected the wildlife so animal tracks are numerous on the ice along the edge of the running water and through out the woods on either side.

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A bend in the river.

It is hard to believe that this peaceful scene is within sight of a busy highway, but hidden away.

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Burbling rapids

The water flowing over the rapids can be heard long before it comes into view. The shallow water makes a great location for the deer and other wildlife to drink or ford the river.

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At the edge of the little rapids.

As the water level drops along with the temperature, this spot will soon be frozen over and covered deeply in snow. This is the last view until spring.


Turn here! Turn here!

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Yesterday as the snow storm was winding down I jumped in my little truck, camera in hand, and took off to look for things to photograph.  I try real hard to go in new directions or places. I have learned good photos can appear in the strangest places.

The highway was icy  and the wind was cold and it would not be wise to stop on the road under these conditions.  I took a few photos through the windshield and they show the driving conditions at the time but they were not what I call a “keeper” photo.

Eventually I turned around and headed for home a little disappointed by the lack of keepers.  Then suddenly a little voice in my head said, Turn here! Turn here!

I slowed on the icy highway and carefully turned down an old gravel road that sees little traffic during the course of the day. After a short drive nothing interesting was in view so I decided to turn around and head back to the highway.  I stopped in a driveway to make the turn and suddenly saw the mail box.  It was perfect, so I jumped out and faced the driving wind and snapped the above photo.

The mail box is weathered and rusted from countless years in the prairie weather.  it is tired and leaning and has been braced and propped in an effort to extend it’s life.

The old license plates are the reflective kind and were nailed up to help the motorists avoid the mailbox hanging over the edge of the road in the dark.

I do not know what you think, but I like it.  Its a keeper. I find it pays to listen to the little voices that say “turn here!”



Waiting for the snow.

It’s almost the main topic of discussion. When is it going to snow? Most of my life it snowed Halloween night or a day or two later. This is a very usual. I’ve experienced big snow storms before this date!


We are seeing some frost during the night and that results in a white coating on small trees and things close to the ground where it is colder.


The frost can become quite creative on dried weeds, but it does not last long.


A few tough leaves appear very colorful amongst the dead grass and weeds


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Could this be the calm be for the storm?  A big fat snowstorm!


Serious storms deprive us of power, followed by transportation, (no school, no mail, no food, and peace of mind.  Let us enjoy our present peace and tranquility. A late winter provides us with a longer fall and a  shorter winter.  Definitely a win/win situation.   Stay tuned for…………


Tattered curtains – poignant

I recently (Oct 23rd) created a post called “Tattered curtains” and posted it on my blog twilight73.wordpress.com. It was well accepted and almost a hundred individuals read it. One reader left a comment and called it poignant. Thanks Ann htt://annofgg.wordpress.com

Now poignant was in my word vocabulary but I had not used it in some time, so I Googled it to refresh my memory. This is what I found.

Poignant – Adjective.  “Evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret.”

“A poignant reminder of the passing of time.”

Synonyms – touching, moving, sad, affecting, pitiful, piteous, pathetic, sorrowful, mournful, wretched, miserable, distressing, heart rendering, tear jerking, plaintive, tragic.

I now appreciate that poignant was the perfect word to express what I was attempting to create when I wrote “Tattered curtains.”  It is a great word and I plan to express it in a couple of more posts in the near future.


The Silence in the Fog.

The fog has returned again this morning and the temperature is 31 F. but the snow has not appeared….yet.

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The world seems to disappear at the end of my driveway.

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As the sun rises it slowly burns off the fog and our distant vision grows.


It is a magic time of day that city folk never get to experience. The silence is absolute.


The dark night clouds are moving off and the pond reflects the blue sky and the beginning of sunrise.


The sun is now above the horizon and a brand new day lies before us.