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Unit 3: Schools for Aberdeen Children


Children in Aberdeen began school in late August 1881; just one month after the town was founded. The first teacher was Mrs. Elenora Pleasants who opened a school is a nine-foot by 12-foot shanty located on First Street near the Milwaukee Depot in the Original Plat of Aberdeen. Mrs. Pleasants had 23 students of all ages who attended that school until November 1881. In those days, a school term lasted only two months, and two or three terms were held each year.

Original Lincoln SchoolThe first school building in Aberdeen (pictured at left) was built in 1883. It was located where the old Central High School building is today. This school was a two-story brick building with four rooms, and it was named Lincoln after President Abraham Lincoln. The elementary classes were held in the two rooms on the first floor and the high school classes were held in the two rooms on the second floor. Almost 150 students went to this school the first year it was open. Aberdeen grew so quickly that this school was too small for all the town’s students after only three years. An addition was built to enlarge the school so more students could go there. The new addition and the original school were renamed Washington after President George Washington.

In 1898, a second Lincoln School was built near Washington School. In 1891, the first school north of the Chicago Milwaukee railroad tracks was built and named Jefferson after President Thomas Jefferson (pictured below). During the next ten years as the town continued to grow, three more schools were built and named after presidents. In 1904, McKinley School was built on North Lloyd Street, and Garfield School was build on South Arch Street. Adams School was built on South Second Street in 1907. None of these schools remain standing today.Jefferson School

Other schools in Aberdeen, probably including yours, are more modern and named for community leader. To find out about your school, look at theWho Was My School Named Afterpage of this lesson.

The first Catholic school in Aberdeen opened in 1886. Classes were held in the original Sacred Heart Church building where a curtain was hung to seclude the sanctuary when school was in session. Teachers in this school were Presentation Sisters. These Sisters began raising money for a school building, and held a fair on Thanksgiving Day in 1887, which raised about $1,900 for the new school.

St. Mary's SchoolConstruction on a school building started in the winter of 1888, and the new school opened for classes that fall. This school was named the Presentation Academy. It was large enough for 100 students and had a dormitory big enough for 60 students. When the school opened, 91 students were enrolled. There were two elementary rooms--one for girls and one for boys. There were also rooms for junior high students.

The Saint Mary’s parish built its own school in 1911 (pictured at left). The teachers at this school were Sisters from the Benedictine Order in Yankton, South Dakota. Sacred Heart built a school in 1914 (pictured at right).Sacred Heart School

Roncalli High School was built in 1964 to serve students from both Sacred Heart and Saint Mary’s parishes. In 1980, Sacred Heart Elementary became Roncalli Middle School and Saint Mary’s Elementary became Roncalli Elementary. New buildings replaced these schools in 2003 and 2004.

To see what Presentation Academy, Jefferson School, and Washington School looked like, see the What Some Schools Looked Like page.