When this charming two-room brick school was built in the 1930s for District No. 76 in the southwest corner of Section 30 in Scandia Valley Township, Lincoln was already well established as a small but thriving village along Highway 10 (now County State Aid Highway 20). Largely settled by Scandinavian immigrant farmers, Lincoln served as a post office and trading place for most township residents for many decades. The township can boast of a landscape filled with wooded hills, rolling countryside and many beautiful bodies of water, including Fish Trap Lake which is just east of Lincoln and not far from the school. The township’s rich natural features continue to attract a healthy supply of tourists and summer residents from across the state and nation. When the Northern Pacific Railway Company built a line to Lincoln in 1889, it was partly to take advantage of the high number of vacationers traveling to the Lincoln Lakes area. The rail line also served local residents, hauled farm produce and supported the local logging and lumbering industry.
The abundant greenery and lush vine-covered wall in the photograph reflects the school’s beautiful surroundings and connection to the local landscape. The school’s community-centered emphasis suggests the intent of the Land Ordinance of 1785 which set aside Section 16 in each township for school purposes. Section 36 was later added in western states. The intended effect of the ordinance was to guarantee an income for local schools and to ensure that school facilities would be centrally located for all children. Today’s concern with increasing obesity rates has caused school districts and departments of education across the country to renew the focus on community-centered schools and the importance of school location. By avoiding the “school sprawl” that has dominated for more than half a century, educational facilities can be centrally located, allowing more students and staff to walk or bike to school. This improves health, decreases the likelihood of obesity and improves air quality by reducing pollution from fewer vehicles on the road. The children in the photograph of Lincoln School look healthy, happy and full of energy. It’s hard not to wonder if any got to school that day by canoe or boat or if they were able to ski or skate across Fish Trap Lake in the winter. Wouldn’t that be a neat way to get to school!
Lincoln School continued operating until 1971 when it merged with the Motley school district (Nelson, Sigfred and Ella Hoover Topp. A Chosen Place: Land of Lake, Pine and Prairie – Lincoln, Scandia Valley, Rail Prairie. Staples, MN: Nordell Graphic Communications, Inc., 1993. Print.). The building was later purchased by Herb and Irene Sheldon, who moved to the Lincoln Lakes area in 1983. According to an article published in the St. Cloud Daily Times, Herb and Irene lived in one of the two school rooms and sold crafts in the other. (Dubois, John. “Highway takes tourists past Lincoln.” undated clipping.) Herb died at home in 2009. Irene continues to live in the former school.