Lower Bridger School
Homesteaders followed miners on the heels of the 1860s gold rush as Gallatin County became Montana’s first extensive agricultural area. By the late 1880s one-room schoolhouses dotted the countryside, sometimes no more than five miles apart. School District #48, organized in 1896, established the Lower Bridger School. That year Kate Ferris taught sixteen Lower Bridger pupils in the Murray family farmhouse. The next year George Washington Sparr donated the land and this one-room school was built in 1900. Laura Silverton taught all eight grades during the short four-month term. Lower Bridger’s enrollment averaged about eight students until 1918 when the deadly Spanish flu epidemic swept across Montana. Classes were suspended. For three years local children attended school in Bozeman, returning to Lower Bridger in 1922. Improvements to the building during this period visually document the evolution of one-room schools in the West. In the 1920s two east windows were moved to the west side in response to concerns that cross lighting caused eyestrain. A vestibule addition offered protection against harsh weather, and shingles were applied over the original clapboard. With the exception of a few years, classes met at Lower Bridger until 1958 when Districts #48 and #39 (Upper Bridger) then consolidated with Bozeman School District #7. In August 1996, more than 250 former students of Upper and Lower Bridger schools gathered for a nostalgic centennial celebration. In May 2000, District #7 gave Lower Bridger School to the community for public use.