On the way home from Viroqua, I came upon the old Portland Center School in extreme southwest Monroe County. I was on a typical “get lost ride” on Hwy 33 and CH X northwest of Cashton.
I spotted this school, which is now a private residence, stopped, and chatted with a man, the owner, who was outside. I asked him if this was the Portland Center School, and he assured me it was.
The History of Monroe County, presented by the Wisconsin Historical Society, notes, "The first German settlers of the southwestern part of Monroe County, known as Portland Center, came from Jefferson County and were members of the Lutheran Church.” This occurred in about 1862. Rev. Fred. Wm. Haas, a pioneer preacher, came to the area in 1865 after walking 24 miles on foot. Some people in the area knew him from Pomerania, Germany, and were happy to have him preach to them.
The history notes that Rev. Henry C. Dagefoerde was the next pastor. He preached to “a small band of Lutherans … in the Portland Center schoolhouse.” I believe he did this in about 1873. That infers the Portland Center School was built in the 1860s-1870s.
Most schools at the time were very small, wooden, or log structures. Therefore I do not think this school was built until sometime in the 20th century.
I should have talked to the owner longer to get more background on the school.
The school is located at 28049 CH X, officially now in the town of Cashton. The Zillow real estate website says it is a “remodeled brick school house located on the edge of the small village of Portland.”