The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

History: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Mary Wingerd

Second Advisor

Robert Galler

Third Advisor

John Hoover

Keywords and Subject Headings

History, Education, Open Enrollment, Minnesota, Small Communities


Highway 83 Revisited is an examination of how small town citizens relate to their local schools and to what extent a local school matters to the vitality of a community. To serve as a case study, I focus on the town of Pemberton, Minnesota and its school. Pemberton was founded in 1907 a railroad stop south east of Mankato and today has a population of 247. Pemberton's school began with planning by town's residents in the early twentieth century, and in subsequent decades the school district went through two consolidations, and ended in 1995 with the school's closing. I place the school and community in the context of national, state, and local education policies that had unintended consequences which in turn reshaped the town and eventually helped to ensure the closure of its school. I show that educational polices affect all schools and not simply an intended target such as the case of desegregation of urban schools. Beyond national desegregation laws and federal court rulings other policy changes include local and state funding mechanisms and open enrollment policies. Minnesota's open enrollment policy, which became mandatory for all public school districts to abide by in 1989, allowed students to enroll in another public school district without seeking approval from the school district in which they resided. The open enrollment policy created an environment of completion where school districts contend for each student and the subsequent state funds based on the number of students enrolled. The result of such competition produced school districts who did well and others that were hurt. I inspect social pressures upon a community as rural America shifts from small family farms to large farms with many one-time farmers moving to urban centers. I chronicle the school board's decisions to consolidate Pemberton's school district with other communities and the subsequent affects to the life of the town. I address the consequences for Pemberton lacking the school as a community hub for more than a decade as the school building. Lastly, I provide a history of how Pemberton reclaimed the school building and began the struggle of restructuring a community identity while lacking a public school.


Highway 83 Revisited would not have happened without the help of many people and my good fortune of being raised in Pemberton, Minnesota. Any appreciation has to begin with my wife Angie and our children Elijah, Ellie, Eva, and Elisha who sacrificed time with their husband and father as I traveled to interviews and spent time writing this paper. Next, I especially am grateful to Susan Kipp who provided research materials and guided me through the Janesville-WaldorfPemberton school district archive. Thank you to the dozens of people that shared their memories and lent me local materials to use in the project. Next, Dr. Mary Wingerd, my advisor, was essential to the project's overall shape. Her advice, time, encouragement, and help in putting the project in a historical context were invaluable. I am fortunate to be a recipient of her wisdom and her guidance is a treasure that will surely serve me into the future. Similarly, I appreciate my other two committee members Dr. Robert Galler and Dr. John Hoover as they provided additional sources, ideas, context and helped shape the final draft. Lastly, I want to recognize the assistance of Clarice Anderson. Her passion for public education inspired me to explore the relationship of schools and small towns. In addition, her connections with people in the Highway 83 area were crucial for gaining access to the people I interviewed. Beyond her passion and connections, she helped in the editing process, researching archives, as well as transcribing all of my interviews. I am proud to be her son and a son of Pemberton.

Included in

History Commons



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