Back to School, Back in Time

School District #25 was established on March 19, 1878 by a petition signed by John Casey and eighteen other Clontarf residents.  The first teacher was Kate Shinnick, daughter of William Shinnick, and classes were held in the Catholic Church until a schoolhouse was built in 1880.

By the 1914-15 school year the two-story frame school building was showing its age.  Timothy P. Foley, the school board member who completed the District #25 Record of Application for Special State Aid on June 8, 1915, reported that the building was in “very poor” condition.

Enrollment for the 1914-15 school year was 74, with on average 55 students attending class each day.  The school had one twelve-inch globe, and the library contained 304 volumes, forty of which were purchase from St. Paul Book and Stationery, Co. on January 13, 1915.

The students received instructed from two teachers.  The principal teacher was Loretta Fogarty and the assistant was Mary McMahon.  The principal was rated a “very poor teacher” by Mr. Foley while Miss McMahon did “excellent work”.  I can imagine that Mary McMahon was a fine teacher.  After all, she was my great-grandfather’s younger sister and my mother remembers her as having a great sense of humor.  I suspect, however, that Timothy Foley’s report is not without bias; he was married to Mary’s sister Bridget.

The 1978 Clontarf anniversary booklet indicates this picture is from about 1915.  The old schoolhouse is pictured behind the Clontarf students.  The school was located on the site of the Anna Shinnick home on Armagh Street.

1915 Clontarf School District #25

A brick building replaced the old schoolhouse in 1917 at a cost of $60.000.  It served the  Clontarf community until 1972 when the Clontarf school district merged with Benson.

I am sure many readers of this blog have memories of that schoolhouse.  Please share them…

1917 Clontarf School District #25


Filed under Clontarf

12 responses to “Back to School, Back in Time

  1. Keith

    Thanks for including the Casey name in your searches. I am still reading your blog, just a bit more infrequently, as I’m back to school too. Teaching 6th graders. Keep it coming.

  2. Margo McGeary Ascheman

    Hi Can anyone tell me who this Mary McMahon ;s parents are === who she married or what relitives she belongs to….

    Patrick Ignatius McGeary B June 2 l873 His father was James Edward McGeary Married Bridget Margaret McMahon –McMahan Bridget B about l837 Ireland Parents James McMahon and Margaret Carrol Bridget came to USA in l866 .,

    This is the Great Grandmother I know nothing about her family….

    Thank you. Margo

    • Hi Margo,

      This Mary McMahon was the youngest daughter of Francis McMahon and Catherine McAndrew McMahon who settled in Tara in 1876, and then moved to Clontarf 1903. Mary was born February 12, 1888 in Tara, married William Herr of South Dakota, and died in Bristol, South Dakota in the 1950s (I believe.)

      Francis McMahon was born in about 1844 in County Fermanagh, Ireland and his parents were Thomas and Rose (McCaffrey) McMahon. He married Catherine McAndrew in 1876 at St. Marys Church, Salem, Pierce County, Wisconsin.

      I checked and Monches, WI where your McMahon was married is on the east side of Wisconsin and Salem is on the west side. There is always a chance that Francis and Bridget could be cousins, but I think we need to find out more information. Have you ever seen the church records for your great-grandparents? Sometimes they tell you where someone was born…


  3. Phoebe Landfried


    Just discovered your website, and quite excited to see your Clontarf School pictures. My grandmother attended the “new” school, and I have, from her collection, an almost identical pic to yours, as well as a pic from the other side of the building (without the slides/fire escapes). My grandmother was one of the younger of 11 kids, so I have to believe that some of her brothers and sisters are in your 1915 photo. Do you have any listing of names of the kids in the picture?

    The family I’m researching is the Russell’s, the parents were Roy Louis and Mary “Addie” (Hinds) Russell. My grandmother was Beryl “Honey” Russell. They lived on a farm in Clontarf, and Roy worked as a carpenter on the grain elevators.

    I’m actually in MN right now to do genealogical research, and planning to visit Clontarf this week. Will be here until about 5 August, so if you’d like to get together, please email me! Thank you!!

    Phoebe Landfried

    • HI Phoebe,

      So glad you found the blog. I forwarded your cousin LIsa’s email to Anne Schirmer, the resident historian of Clontarf. She has books of many family histories and knows a lot about the area. I hope you can meet up with her.

      Do you have plat maps of Clontarf from the time your grandparents lived there? Visit the Swift County Museum in Benson before you drive out to Clontarf. They might be able to help with other questions, too.

      When was your grandmother born? I will check on the names of the students in the photo, but I am not sure I have a list.

      Keep in touch, and let me know if you/Lisa hear from Anne. When will you be there?

      Good luck!

      Aine McCormack

      • Hello, again!

        Yes, Lisa got your message, and we’re looking forward to hearing from Anne. We’re planning to drive out to Benson Friday morning, and stay thru Saturday, but we’re coming from 3 hours away. We have no plat maps of the area. Grandma was born in 1915. Going back over my info, I see the family moved to Clontarf sometime after 1915, but stayed there until Roy and Addie passed away. Can’t wait to see what we can dig up out there!! 🙂


  4. Anne Schirmer

    Roy Russell…was he an agent for the Monarch Elevator at Clontarf?
    Was “Honey” his daughter? Were there other children? Were Roy & Addie buried at Clontarf? Is there an obit from a newspaper on any of these names? Did Roy or Addie have siblings? Were any of THEM residents of the area (aka Benson, Hancock, township residents, etc)…Are there ANY pictures of Roy, Addie, or Beryl “Honey”.? or of their home (inside or outside).?

    • Howdy!

      I just spent quite a while composing a long, informative reply, answering all your questions, and when I was done, it wanted me to log in. Of course, I’d forgotten my wordpress password, and after resetting my password, everything was gone!

      So, here goes again!

      I don’t know what an agent would have done, so far as I know Roy Russell was a carpenter for the grain elevator. Roy and Addie (properly Louis LeRoy and Mary Adeline Hinds Russell) had 11 children: Newton Albert, Charlotte Gladys, Loyal Lawrence, Evelyn Bernice (died young), Lisa’s grandfather James “Jim” Richard Earnest Russell, Beatrice Mildred, Bertress Maude, Louis LeRoy Jr, my grandmother Millicent Beryl “Honey”, Milton LeHugh, and Ralph Eugene. The children were born between 1897-1921.

      The home is still there in Clontarf, at the corner of E. Cretin and Dublin, alongside the railroad tracks. I can’t remember the year they purchased this home, and can’t lay my hands on the paperwork for it just this minute. They are buried in the Benson City Cemetery, and I don’t think I have obits for either of them.

      To my knowledge, neither Roy nor Addie had any family in the immediate area. We learned last summer that Roy was adopted by the Russell’s, his birth name was Plews, and he had three biological brothers. He had one adoptive sister. Addie had one half sister and several step-siblings.

      One story we heard last summer is that Addie had a crow which she taught to speak. Another is that apparently Addie sometimes drove neighborhood kids to/from school in a wagon when the weather was particularly bad. Also heard that there was a berry patch somewhere in Clontarf, and it seemed to have been a pretty big deal for everyone to gather and pick berries as soon as they were ripe.

      I do have some pictures I can share, but I can’t seem to paste them here. If you’ll email me directly, I’ll be happy to send several pictures. My email is A few with family members in the yard or working the farm, a bunch of kids in a field with my grandmother as a girl, three of the Russell boys with the general store in the background (now the apartment next to the grill in Clontarf), and one that we believe is Roy working on construction of the RR bridge near the park coming out of Benson. I also have one unidentified photo of a family in front of a house. The people are too distant to make out, but maybe someone will recognize the house if it’s in the area.

      Thank you!

      • Thanks, Phoebe! Have you heard back from Anne (posted the original comment)? Hope you enjoyed speaking with Helen this summer – she has a great memory and tells a good story!


    • Anne,

      Did you see the reply to your comment about the Russells?


      • Phoebe Landfried

        No, I haven’t heard from Anne, but will be happy to share the photos anytime you guys want them!

  5. Anne Schirmer

    I’m sorry I don’t have any knowledge to add to this, but I hope to find someone who does. Marge Reardon Klucas mentioned this couple, I think. I’ll ask her daughter Donna Klucas Ascheman is she has anything to contribute. Her brother, Bob Klucas, may also recall something… Marge has passed away…

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