Judy Spooner Viewpoint: On way to Sunny Hill School, I discovered Dillinger and a candy makerTwo interesting items emerged on my way to Sunny Hill School recently.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
The City of Cottage Grove is building a new park in the Pinecliff addition northwest of 65th Street and it will be called Sunny Hill Park, after a school founded in 1855.
The park is next to Tower Drive and will have the city’s only bocce ball court.
In researching the school, I got help from John Burbank, the senior city planner, and Bev Gross, a local historian from Old Cottage Grove.
If you drive toward Old Cottage Grove on 70th Street, turn left on Inwood Avenue, the street where a water tower is located. Stay on Inwood until you come to a gravel road at the border. The school was located on the right just over the border with Woodbury near Military Road.
When settlers came to Cottage Grove Township, and everywhere else in the country, they started schools in their homes and later built schools.
Many Washington County schools were built in the same time period but Sunny Hill was among the oldest.
Much of the information is in the local history section of Washington County public libraries.
District 29 was also known as Union District, later known as Number Five. It included southeast Woodbury and northeast Cottage Grove.
Women were among the voters at the Leyde home who elected three trustees and E. Ayers as clerk. Ayers later became superintendent of schools for Woodbury and served 11 years as that township’s clerk.
School was held in an old home on the Ayers farm and for two terms in an old house on the Hartley Mars farm.
In 1860, with the threat of secession by southern states looming in the nation, residents of District 29 voted to levy a tax to build a school for $250, somewhat less than what other communities were spending for school buildings.
In 1883, times were better and voters built a new school, for $1,000, on the same Mars farm site.
Schools of that time, for grades K-8, were one-size-fits-all rectangles with windows on the sides and a door and window at the front.
A universal law was passed at the turn of the century guaranteeing children free text books but as far as I can determine, Washington County students never had to buy books.
There was no water well at the school and students carried buckets of water from a nearby farm. Electricity, which was in Langdon School in 1914, didn’t come to the school until the 1940s.
In 1950, students were transferred to Old Cottage Grove School and later to St. Paul Park.
Local residents Roger Bothe, who owns the farm at Tower Drive and Sunny Hill Road, and Ralph McHattie, a former Cottage Grove city council member, went to Sunny Hill.
Sunny Hill School was destroyed by fire in 1974.
Two interesting items emerged on my way to Sunny Hill School recently.
During the Great Depression, John Dillinger, being chased by police, raced up Sunny Hill Road toward 70th Street.
Also, Hartley Mars, who is buried in Old Cottage Grove Cemetery, is related to Frank Mars, founder of the Mars candy company. There is a monument to the Mars family in the Atkinson Cemetery next to McDonald’s in Cottage Grove, but no family members are buried there. I’m researching the rest of that story so stay tuned.