District 6 School in New Sweden
The District 6 school in New Sweden Township stands in a field surrounded by tall stalks of corn in the summer and drifts of white snow in the winter. This pretty, white clapboard building with a porch and full basement was constructed in 1929. It is the third school to stand on this site—the first was built in the 1860s and the second in 1891. Nicollet County was once home to 68 one-room school houses spread across 13 townships. Now only two remain. The District 6 school closed in 1958, and the district split three ways—students were sent to either St. Peter, Gaylord, or Nicollet schools.
After the district dissolved in 1962, the land the school sits on reverted to the landowner, who then donated it to the township. It was used as the town hall and meeting space for many years until the township could no longer afford to maintain the building. It reverted to the landowner again. A new nonprofit group called the Friends of District 6 expressed interest in restoring the schoolhouse, so the landowner signed the property over to the group. The Friends of District 6 have worked diligently since 2011 to raise money and complete renovations on the 88-year-old school.
Memories from District 6 teachers and students can be found at the Nicollet County Historical Society. Vivian Harvey Johnson taught at District 6 from 1927 to 1933. She wrote: “I think of the little white frame schoolhouse by the side of the road. There’s a wood and coal shed on one side and two outhouses, one on each side, behind the school house. There’s a porch in front and inside the cloak room where coats and caps are hung. Here also were the lunch pails, mostly gallon pail on a shelf or on the floor. Then the school room proper with rows of desks of different sizes. In the front, the teacher’s desk and chair, the roll-down maps of the world and the blackboards. Above the blackboards the U.S. flag and pictures of Washington and Lincoln. It was a cozy place where the jacketed stove could keep it warm and the carrying of wood and coal from the outside shed.”
The District 6 schoolhouse is located on Highway 22 near the junction of Highway 111. If you stop by the school, be sure to also pay a visit to Swenson's General Store in Norseland--about 5 miles east of New Sweden.