#Lookback: Teaching in Dubois

    The job of teaching in the Upper Wind River Valley was not an easy one in the early 20th century.  The pay was not good, the winters were brutal, and there were only a few months each year that students could be taught—sometimes as few as three months for a school year.

    Qualifications for teachers varied widely.  In the 1910s certification could be granted for a teacher with as little as a high school education, although higher grades of teaching were attained with more university training and more experience.  Eloise Williams, having completed the eighth grade and some high school subjects, taught for a year after passing a teacher’s exam.  By the 1920s several of the area’s teachers had completed some years of college education before coming to Dubois.

    Teachers in those early days would frequently come and go.  Many only stayed on for a school term, leaving as soon as classes were completed for the year.  Several were drawn in by the remoteness of the setting, including Kathrine Johnson and Elsie Stalnaker.  Part of this may have been due to the ephemeral nature of remote schoolhouses serving ranch children until their education was deemed complete.  Alternatively, lodging could be difficult to come by, and the town in those days was a two-day journey from Lander and the railroad.  Most of the teachers who ended up staying in Dubois longer-term married one of the area’s residents, keeping them here.  This included Alice Latta, Alo Jones Fossey and Elsie Stalnaker.

    Teaching was not without its challenges.  Elsie Stalnaker recalled that while there were few problems during her year of teaching, the infrequent attendance of her students was a constant battle.  Neither parents nor students thought that school was of paramount importance, and there were other things that needed to be done.  Materials for teaching varied widely.  When teaching at the Green School, Eloise Williams found it well-supplied because of its longer existence.  Teachers were expected to tend the wood stoves inside of the schoolrooms and ensure water was available using a pail and a dipper.  Students would bring their own cold lunches.  Almost always, the restroom was an outhouse beyond the schoolroom.

    Eventually, the larger schools in Dubois and buses meant that most of the teachers in the area were consolidated there, as more modern standards of teaching and schoolrooms became available.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    September 16, 9-2pm at the Riverton Museum, “Gas Hills Uranium Adventure Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    September 20, 6pm at the Riverton Museum, “The Heart Mountain Incarceration Camp”Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    September 21, 7pm at the Pioneer Museum, “DNA Testing for Genealogy” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    September 23, 1-2:30pm at the Pioneer Museum, “The Historic Ed Young Apple Orchard and Ranch Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    September 30, 9-2pm at the Riverton Museum, “J.B. Okie Manor Adventure Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series; This trek has been rescheduled for September 23rd.

    August 30, 7pm at the Dubois Museum, “Music at the Museum: Packin’ The Mail

    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.  

    Photo caption: Alice Latta (left) and Alo Fossey (right) around 1927, when both taught at Dubois’ first high school, in front of the Dubois Post Office.

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