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10th Book Excerpt: The New Schoolmaster Arrives at Pahquahwong

The following is the tenth of several book excerpts the LCO News will feature from local author, John Dettloff. The excerpts will be from his  new book.


Detloff has lived on the Chippewa Flowage, near New Post, for over 50 years.  His family has had a small resort just east of New Post for 56 seasons and for 40 years he has been writing historical articles about the flowage, tribal history (especially Old Post), old guides, old resorts, and fishing.


His new book called Whispers of the Past, A History of the Chippewa Flowage, released on November 1st, gives a comprehensive history of the flowage going back to the fur trade era. 

According to Detloff, the book profiles in great detail the people of the "Chippewa Basin" (the area that became flooded by the flowage) and talks about the 300 plus people who were affected by and displaced by the flowage.  There were probably 250 plus tribal members and nearly 100 non-tribal members that were affected. 


From the Book:


Built in 1885, this Government Day School in the village of Pahquahwong is a fine example of a quality, European style, log building. The workmanship and precision of the dovetail joints in the corners of this schoolhouse is unsurpassed.

     The Government Day School at Pahquahwong, constructed in 1885, was a two-story, hand-hewn log structure that – other than Thad Thayer’s hotel – was probably the most striking building in the village.  The succession of schoolmasters who taught at this school between 1885 and 1894 were Louis Manypenny, Emma Banty, James Dobie, and Andrew Geraghty.  Geraghty had been teaching at Vermillion Lake, Minnesota before coming to The Post.  The new instructor who was assigned to switch posts with Geraghty by the fall term of 1894 was thirty-three-year-old Charles K. Dunster.

     Charles Kimball Dunster was born on March 23, 1861, in Cohasset, Massachusetts to Samuel K. Dunster, a shoemaker, and Elizabeth J. Wallace.  On September 1, 1888, Dunster, who was already working as a schoolteacher, married Janette F. Winslow in Des Moines, Iowa.  Their first child, Corlie Frances, was born on November 14, 1888, in Adair, Iowa.  A son named Winslow Kimball followed on August 18, 1890, and another daughter, Elsie Janett, was born on February 16, 1892.  Shortly after this, C. K. Dunster moved his family to Minnesota where he worked as a teacher for the Indian Service at the Vermillion Lake Indian School, located on the Bois Forte Reservation.

Pictured are Charles Kimball Dunster and his wife Janette, along with their daughter Corlie (standing) and their son Winslow (seated on his mother’s lap). ( circa 1891)

     It was during the first week of September of 1894 when the recently appointed schoolmaster, C. K. Dunster, arrived in Hayward from Minnesota with his family to make the journey to his new home near the school at The Post.  Unfortunately, the Dunsters arrived just as the last conflagration of a deadly wave of summer fires had reignited, literally engulfing the path on which the Dunsters had to travel.  As they were traveling on the Chippewa Road from Hayward to The Post they got caught in a forest fire near Crane Creek.

     Dunster and his family managed to make it safely to Pahquahwong (The Post) and soon settled into their new home – located near the Government Day School building – which the Indian service had furnished them.  The Dunster’s house at The Post had a front room, pantry, and a dining room kitchen.  The medicine shelves of their pantry (or buttery) were well stocked by the Indian Service with various medicines for dispensing to the Indians, such as: cod liver oil, castor oil, Epsom salts, Rochelle salts, senna leaves, camphor gum, argyrol, and calomel.  Later, Charles Dunster added a large woodshed outside, attached to the kitchen, and a platform with a railing at the head of the steps that led into the kitchen.

     Sometime before the Dunsters took over, the schoolhouse’s huge, squared off pine logs that made the building’s character so unique had been covered with siding… perhaps in an effort to “modernize” it.  Inside the schoolhouse building, there were two windows in the front, two windows on its south side, and two windows in the back.  There was one window in the front upstairs.  The furnishings were a desk and chair for the teacher, a blackboard on a standard (not the wall), a long box stove, a large hanging lamp with a shade in the center of the room, and both single desks and double desks of different sizes for the pupils.  There was a shelf in the northeast corner of the room, near the door, for a water pail and wash basin.  There was a chart for the chart class (beginners).  Textbooks were furnished by the government.  At that time, schoolbook companies sent sample copies of all new textbooks to the teachers that were on their mailing list.  My father used these books in his teaching there at the school.

     The noon lunches were served upstairs on long, wooden tables on the second level of the school.  The stairs were in the southeast corner of the front of the schoolhouse.  The storeroom for books and other supplies was under the stairs.  There was ample room around the schoolhouse for play.

     To the right of the schoolhouse was a woodshed.  The schoolhouse dining area for the children was on the second floor, where the Dunsters served the finest noonday lunches of any known school of the Indian Service.  The government paid Charles a salary of $600 a year for teaching and maintaining the school, and his wife Janette received a salary of $300 a year for teaching the older girls domestic skills and taking charge of preparing meals for the Indian children.  The school term was ten months, beginning in September and ending in June.  Charles Dunster served as the schoolmaster there until the school was permanently closed on July 1, 1901.

     Thayer’s hotel, a short distance to the northwest, was right across the road from the Dunster home and schoolhouse.  By that time, Thayer’s home was said to have had dormer windows on its second floor, a well house, and a big woodshed, all painted white, with the house having green trim.  Near Thayer’s house to the south was a flower garden that was enclosed with a white picket fence.  Striped grass and Iman were growing near the gate, and the fragrance of a balm of Gilead tree filled the air every spring.

     While living at “The Post” for those seven years (1894 to 1901), the Dunster family became an integral part of the community which, by that time, had become a blend of cultures where everyone worked together in order to survive those, still potentially, hard times.  In addition to the Ojibwe residents of the village, there were German, Swiss, Norwegian, Irish, Scottish, and English men who had married into the Tribe and made families for themselves.  This blend of citizens who lived at The Post all benefited from each other, because there existed a shared knowledge of each other’s recipes, home remedies, crafts, skills, and beliefs.  Pahquahwong was not solely an Indian village, it was a cosmopolitan society for the benefit of all.

     Charles and Janette Dunster cared for all of the school children of the village as if they were their own, providing them with good meals, a fine education, and fellowship.  Their children Corlie, Winslow, Elsie, and Anna Elizabeth (who was born at The Post in October of 1897) befriended many of the village’s children with whom they enjoyed the usual childhood adventures.  Following in her father’s footsteps, Corlie made a lifelong career as a teacher, living to the ripe old age of eighty-nine.  In 1965, Corlie chronicled her memoirs, detailing what it was like living in the village of The Post during the 1890s, giving it to her nephew’s family as a Christmas gift.  Her more than seventy-year-old recollections at the time reveal a most telling portrait of life in the village of Pahquahwong, as witnessed through the eyes of a child, but remembered through the heart of an elder.  

     The chapter which features Corlie Dunster’s detailed story of what it was like to live in the Trading Post village during the 1890s is too lengthy to include in this article; however, it is featured in its entirety in my book.

(To order a copy of John Dettloff's new book, send a check or money order for $29.95, plus $6 shipping and 5 1/2% sales tax, made out to Trails End Publishing and send it to: Trails End Publishing, 7431 N Flowage Rd., Couderay, Wi 54828.)

1 Comment


Near Thayer’s house to the south was a flower garden that was enclosed with a white picket fence.   doodle games

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