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The Bonner School appears to have contributed much to bringing together the distinct, local communities.  There all people of all nationalities mixed, and even though many spoke various languages, they soon learned English and could communicate with one another.  There were two sections of first grade: one for those who could not speak English, and a second that children for children who had a command of English.

In 1905 Bonner trustees formed a committee " look up a means of transportation for the children from Finntown." At least during cold weather, the Anaconda Company supplied a horse and wagon. When W. F. Aiken became principal, he decided to hold the annual school pageant in both in Milltown (at Finn Hall) and at the Bonner School, instead of only in Bonner as had previously been the case. This also helped bring the communities together.

A Bonner School class from the 1920s.A Bonner School class from the 1920s. The first school was built in 1889 on land leased from Anaconda in the building that was known both as Masonic Hall and Bonner Hall.  Many community activities were held there including card parties, dances, and Chautauquas.  Girl Reserves and Boy Scouts met there and early on it was a polling place as well as where the Union Sunday School was held.

Around 1925 the meat market which had previously been adjacent to the mill cookhouse moved into Bonner Hall.  The building’s last function before being torn down in 1942 was the office of the Blackfoot Forest Protective Association (BFPA), the firefighting group organized by Anaconda.

A new school on land donated to the School District by Anaconda was built on its present location in 1907.  It was a two story structure with four rooms, that was to be doubled in size in 1912 in anticipation of the increased school population due to the new Western mill.  The school lasted 50 years before it was replaced by the present brick building in 1957.

The new building, with 10 classrooms, was attached to a gymnasium that was built in 1948.  Four more classrooms were added in 1969, and another addition was made just year before Champion sold the mill to Stimson, in 1992.  About 38 students attended in 1890, and in 1976, when the Champion mill was having record plywood sales, there were 375 students.  Aside from the bell out of the 1907 school, one of the school’s prized possessions is a 30-foot mural donated in 1959 by Bonner resident and artist Walter Hook.  A small copy of this wonderful depiction of the lumber industry hangs in the exhibit.


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