Montana Avenue was a wagon trail when the first students trekked across treeless pastures to class in 1888. The bell rang out over the valley promptly at 8:40 AM, letting children know that they had better not dawdle and were expected at their desks by 9:00. The teacher taught all grades and was also the building custodian. From 1888 to 1920, students pulled their desks close to the center stove in winter and celebrated spring in the schoolyard. Silver Creek’s name changed to College Place School in the 1890s when the Wesleyan College campus, and later the Deaconess School, operated down the road. The Little Red Schoolhouse, as it came to be known, was the heart of the surrounding agricultural community. For three decades it served the educational and social needs of farming families far removed from the town life of Helena, three miles distant. In 1921, Helena District #1 began busing students from the valley into town, ending the school’s original function, but its role as a critical social link continued. The Sunshine Home Demonstration Club added an east wing and kitchen in the 1920s, and the schoolhouse served as a polling place, picnic center, and meeting place for clubs and 4-H groups through the 1950s. Time took its toll, and the school deteriorated and was finally abandoned in the mid-1960s. A fifteen-couple committee rallied to purchase the property from the school district in 1980. They restored and furnished the building and reinstalled the original bell, assuring the red brick schoolhouse a permanent niche in the valley’s history.

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1635 Sierra Road East, Helena, Montana ~ Public