#Lookback: Borner’s School

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Most of the historic structures surrounding the Pioneer Museum in Lander are from the Lander Valley.  The structures were moved to the grounds to preserve them. This is part two of a series of histories about the various buildings.

Borner’s School was built as a one room schoolhouse on Hornecker Creek along an Old Indian Trail in 1881 or 82.  It is one of very few schoolhouses left in the state that date back to Territorial days.  It remained a functional school house until 1948.  It served children from first grade to eighth grade.  It also served as a meeting hall, dance hall and polling place for the local community. Sam Fairfield’s sawmill probably supplies the lodgepole pine logs for the one room schoolhouse.  An adze was used to flatten the logs in the interior and the logs were chinked with mortar. Originally, square nails were used as fasteners. 

The schoolhouse was built on land donated by John Borner, one of the early pioneers in the valley.  He was the brother -in-law of Martha Jane Canary, the infamous “Calamity Jane.”  Calamity Jane visited her sister, Lena frequently, and it is said Jane slept in the schoolhouse because John was afraid his sister-in-law with her wild ways would be a bad influence on the Borner children.  

John and Lena’s eldest daughter, Rebecca was one of the first students in the new school. The first teacher was Miss Fannie Alden, and there were 20 children in attendance when the school first opened. There were two outhouses behind the little school. The Schoolhouse only had 374 square feet of space, so it must have been quite crowded and hectic with multiple grades in one small classsroom.

According to the Fremont Clipper, the county newspaper, Borner Garden School was given $395.86 to operate out of the school fund in 1887. 

The school teacher was required to arrive early to start a fire in the wood stove with wood provided by the families of the students.  

One account from the early days of the school reads, “My brothers all went to school three miles away in a one-room schoolhouse. There were eight grades and one teacher. Two children sat at a desk and each had a book and a slate.  The school had a big wood burning stove in the middle of the room and each family was required to supply wood for the stove.  When I was six I started school there too.”

The Borner Schoolhouse was donated to the Museum of the West in 2005 by Mike and Mary Young and restoration was done.  Today it is furnished with 16 student desks, a teacher’s desk, a blackboard and a wood stove.  In the summer, the Pioneer Association conducts week-long Pioneer School, a Living History Project where children can experience what it was like to get your education in a one room school.  Children dress in clothes like pioneer children would have worn for the week and share desks and learn lessons without computers and video material.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

April 22, 11am at the Riverton Museum, “A 70’s Time Capsule” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

April 22, 9-3 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Garden-Expo: Planting Historic Vegetables for Kids” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

April 29, 1-3pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Sheep Shearing Day” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

May 12, 10am at the Dubois Museum, “Kids Corner: Aquatic Insects” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

May 13, 9-1 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Lander Area Petroglyph Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

May 17, 7 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Gold Fever in the Atomic Age: Wyoming’s Uranium Boom” by Zach Larsen, Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

December 2022-October 2023 at the Pioneer Museum, “Wind River Memories: Artists of the Lander Valley and Beyond” art exhibition

Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

The Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation has been created to specifically benefit The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum.  The WRCCF will help deliver the long term financial support our museums need to flourish.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation at PO Box 1863 Lander, WY 82520 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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