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Perry Historical Center (Wis.) / The historic Perry Norwegian settlement

Chapter 5: The Forward School District,   pp. 91-106 PDF (6.7 MB)

Page 91

Chapter 5: The Forward School District
There is only one place in the historic Perry
Norwegian Settlement where true prairie extended
across a major valley -- from high land to high land --
and it was there, down in a mile-wide section of
valley, that the community of Forward grew.
Sometime between 1850 and 1856, probably in 1853,
54 or 55, the families in the neighborhood -- the Lars
Nelsons at farm 7, the Johannes Gunderson Fjelstads
and the Knud Aslaksons at the two farms which came
to make up 8, the Kittle 0. Tvedtens at 10, the Ole
Torgersons at 15, the Ole Kittleson Tvedtens at 17,
the Christian Evansons at 25, the Ouver Halvorsons
at 26, the Gullick Ryrs at 43, and the Olsons at 34 --
banded together to build a school, 16, at the west
edge of the half-mile-wide, two-and-a-half-mile long
tongue of prairie. Within 500 feet of both the Ole
Torgersons and Ole Kittleson Tvedtens cabins, the
Torgerson School was in the margin between
creekside timber and open prairie.
Proessr  nertusRoetly 's sre-steen
Torgerson School grew oeoh  et  0yas
Totgerson School, the Ole Torgersons home, the Ole
Halvorsons home, and the Christian Evansons home.
Map created from University of Wisconsin-Madison
Professor Eneritus Robert Finley's pre-settlement
vegetation map which was based on G. W Stephenson's
October 1, 1833, survey notes and the topographical
information on the Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society's
c. 1856 plat map of the Town of Peny
Although the population in the area served by the
Torgerson School grew over the next 20 years,
nothing even remotely resembling a village had
emerged by 1871. The residents' family homesteads
remained dispersed through the broad valley where
the two northernmost arms of the Pleasant Valley
Branch of the Pecatonica River merge. That year,
however, when the federal government established a
regular semi-weekly mail route through the Town of
Perry and moved the Perry Post Office from Anders
Sanderson's house to O.B. Dahle's store (see The
Village of Daleyville), Christian Evanson, whose
house (25) abutted the eastern edge of the prairie
tongue, was appointed as the second postmaster for
the township. Establishing his post office in his farm
house, he exercised that special right of postmasters,
and named the area it served Forward.
Unlike O.B. Dahle, Christian Evanson was not
primarily an entrepreneur. Christian had owned this
farm since before 1856. He was a farmer for over 25
years before he went into business. Although one
can't be sure which came first, the post office or the
sale of merchandise, Christian and his wife, Ragnild,
did not open the first official Forward Store on their
farm until 1874.
By the next year, Forward was prosperous enough to
need a new one-room limestone schoolhouse.
Students outside the c. 1875-1910 Forward School
With the Torgerson School no longer in use, on April
4, 1876, at the Annual Town Meeting, the Electors of
the Town of Perry voted to lease the site from Ole
Torgerson and buy the old school building for $20.00
for a Town Hall.
In  1884, Forward   got its second   business
establishment, the Perry Center Cheese Factory.
Kennell Helgeson of farm 8 recalls that the cheese
factory was usually run by cheesemakers from
Switzerland who made brick, Limburger, and Swiss
cheese. In the early years, the farmers would bring
their milk to the factory mornings and evenings.

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