Wisconsin - Old Time Schoolhouses

Nerison School

This is the Nerison School close to where CH B meets CH KK in Vernon County, south southeast of Coon Valley and northwest of Esofea. The Vernon County History talks of schools in the mid-19th century, saying there were six in the coon Valley area, five of which were in good condition. It notes that a few of the schools were of brick and stone.

The Vernon County Part of the WIGenWeb identifies the Nerison school as belonging to the town of Esofea. It is an unincorporated community that once was “a stopping point for travelers on horse going between Viroqua and La  Crosse. The community had a creamery, general store, school house, and post office. Most were destroyed in the early 1990s to make way for road construction along County Road B. “

Vernon S. Quatch wrote a fascinating article entitled, “Get Lost! In Vernon County: Esofea,” published on August 13, 2021 by the Vernon County Times. He wrote,

“It all started with a human named Michael Rentz. He met a woman named Agetha on the boat that came over to America from Norway and well, they seemed to get along and eight human kids later—Esofea was born! I mean if you have that many kids you pretty much already have a good start on a town anyways.

“At one time Esofea rivaled Coon Valley as a thriving place of commerce. It had blacksmith, a general store, a shoe shop, a creamery, a school, post office, the works.”

The Find a Grave website has an article about Michael Rentz, “Pioneer Gone to Rest,” published by the Vernon County Censor on May 3, 1922. It says Rentz “was one of the first organizers of the Esofea School District.”

Hartwell Allen was the first county school superintendent. The history notes,

“Coon has a very neat brick building in the striving village of Coon valley, standing near the beautiful brick church edifice of the Lutheran faith. Our Norwegian friends show great zeal in the cause of education. All these public school buildings are a credit to them. Of the six school houses in this town, every one is neat and well kept.”

This is not an exact reference to the Nerison School; it does reflect it as one of the six schools in the Coon area.

The Vernon County website notes “Esofea/Rentz Memorial Park is Vernon County’s oldest and most historic park. “

William Clarke Whitford was the Wisconsin State Superintendent of Schools from 1878-1882. In his report of 1880-1881, he noted the census for school students rose, and “Vernon County people are steadily awakening to the necessity of giving their children all the benefits of our common schools.”

Whitford also attached great importance to the compulsory law requiring youngsters to attend school.