The Homestead Act of 1862 drew settlers to the Bitterroot Valley and by the end of the decade, the newly settled community of Etna had established one of the first local school districts. A two-room log schoolhouse was built near this site in 1871. The school term was only three months long and children arrived, tucked snugly in straw and buffalo robes, in sleighs or wagons. That school burned in 1880 and a larger wood-frame building replaced it. Josephius and Callie Million at that time deeded this land to the school district. By 1890, there were forty students. At the turn of the century, the Bitter Root Valley Irrigation Project attracted investors and new residents. Etna thrived with the “apple boom.” Agricultural expectations dwindled after World War I but the Etna School still had plenty of students. Builders John Peterson and Adam Horning constructed this larger, more up-to-date facility in the summer of 1918. Financed with $6,000 in bonds, the building is noteworthy for its quality craftsmanship and Prairie styling, unusual in school architecture of western Montana. The school hosted many community activities over the years and served a many as 60 students before it closed in 1957. The building sat empty for a decade before new owners carefully converted it to a private residence. Now a bed and breakfast inn, landscaping and outbuildings have softened the once-stark panorama, and its demeanor has changed slightly, but the original function of the important valley landmark is readily apparent. It is an outstanding example of preservation and adaptive reuse.

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2853 Eastside Highway, Stevensville, Montana ~ Private