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Centennial brings family and friends back to Larsmont

(1) Vi Hill-Hedvall was presented with a cake in honor of her upcoming 100-year birthday. Photo by Ken Vogel.

(2) Vi Hill-Hedvall reconnected with many family members at the Larsmont Schoolhouse centennial celebration. Here, she is in the front and pictured with Rockie Odberg, June Hall, Odell Odberg, Sue Kreager, Karin Hall-Kush, Maclaren Hall and Bob Hill. Photo by Ken Vogel.

Ken Vogel

Showing their dedication to historical accuracy, many of the attendees of the Larsmont Schoolhouse centennial celebration chose to ride in a horse drawn carriage from the former Larsmont Train Depot to the historic one room schoolhouse.

The two-day birthday bash Saturday brought together family, friends and spectators of all ages to reminisce of days gone by and to honor both the era and the only living student of the school.

"I am really excited to be here. It has been a long time," said Vi Hill-Hedvall, who attended the school more than eight decades ago.

Hedvall turns 100 in January. She said although she is the only remaining student of the school, some memories remain vivid about her education on the frontier community.

"The teachers were very strict," she recalled. "I remember my nephew getting his hands rapped with a big ruler."

The school was built by John Strom of Hill and Strom construction in 1914 and it hosted classes until its closure in 1934. Strom also built schools near Winton, Finland and the historic Green Door in Beaver Bay started out as a Hill and Strom school house.

According to Hedvall, the pioneer school's focus was education, not comfort -- especially during cold winters.

"When we got to school, the teacher had a fire going already. It was comfortable as long as you kept your heavy coats on," she said.

She said many of the families that settled in Larsmont came from the same region in the country of Finland. Many other Scandinavian transplants settled there, too.

"It seemed everyone was related in some way, and in my time most parents spoke English," Hedvall said. She said she was impressed with how well the school had been preserved and maintained by the Larsmont Community Club.

Over the years, the school house served a variety of functions and became a mecca for community activities. Bob Hill recalled going to Sunday school while the school was being used as the community church for local Swedes.

"Church (services were) in Swedish and the Sunday school books were in Swedish on one page and English on the opposite page," he said.

Religious services became the focal point of the building in 1934 when the building was sold to the community to be used as a full-time church. In the 1940s, the building became the home of the Larsmont Gospel Mission, training students in the practice of ministry.

The Larsmont Community Club continues to take great pride in preserving the historic integrity and maintenance of the building. In July, the club held an annual project day which included painting, cleaning and landscaping to ensure the historic site remain in good condition.

"It was wonderful and we had a great turnout," said centennial celebration Chair Marlys Wisch.

As for the centennial celebration, she said both days were busy and that it turned into more than just a gathering.

"It was a family reunion," she said. "All these folks that are related coming together was priceless."