July 23, 2009

Miller family gives schoolhouse a second chance

By Brenda L. Shelkey

On the vast prairies of North Dakota, the one room schoolhouse once stood as a beacon for families who left extended family and friends in countries far removed from here. The one room schoolhouse represented hope that children who grew up speaking one language, would soon learn to embrace the language of their new home in America. As a former one-room schoolteacher, Jane Miller, Underwood, was determined to keep the dream alive. She and her three daughters, Sandra LaDuke, Mary Reim, and Carol Williams, rescued the one room school building that once belonged to Buffalo Lake School District #69. Miller taught at the Buffalo Lake Schoolhouse for two school years in 1948-49 and 1949-50, when it was located where the main Falkirk Mine office is now built. In the fifty-plus years since then, she held fond memories of that time and decided that some day she wanted to restore a one room school house to its original state. When the Falkirk Mine began building their offices, the Buffalo Lake schoolhouse was moved to Erma Carlson’s place near Birka Church. Miller said, "They put two garage doors in the front wall and were using it as a shop or a boat house of sorts. There were oil stains all over the floor." The mine was expanding and wanted to move or demolish the old building. Miller said, "They were going to throw it into a hole or burn it, and that’s when I rescued it." In 2002 she bought the school and in 2003 she and husband Mike had the school moved to the Miller farmstead where it now stands. Their daughters decided they wanted to be part of the project even though the sight of the dilapidated building was a bit intimidating. Reim said, "We weren’t even sure where to start." There were holes in the ceiling and in the floor and a multitude of difficulties to surmount.

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