Pioneer School Girls'
Gertrude M. Cairns Papers (1845-1958): River Falls Mss I
Pioneer Girls' Club, founded in 1915, was comprised of women who
either attended or taught at the old brick academy in Ellsworth,
Wisconsin. The Pioneer Girls held
a reunion every year on the last Thursday of June. Reunions continued
until at least 1956.
"Old Brick Academy," Ellsworth,
Cairns (1872-1959 ) was the club secretary and treasurer for many years.
Her mother, Mrs. Abbie
S. (Leavitt) Cairns, taught at the academy after moving to the area
from Maine in 1857. At age 84, Abbie Cairns presided over the first
reunion (and several thereafter) of the Pioneer Girls which was held
in June of 1915 at the home of Mrs. Will Endress. She called the meeting
to order by ringing the same small handheld school bell as she once
had at the old academy, then read off a roll call to which many of her
former pupils answered. Thirty five women were present, 65 absent, and
34 deceased. Click
see an invitation and read
an article about the first reunion.
The Pioneer Girls' School portion of the Cairns' papers include meeting
minutes; membership and attendance records; reunion invitations and
correspondence between club members; elaborate scrapbooks containing
reminiscences; poetry; newspaper clippings (1928;
1941); photographs and
tintypes of club members, family,
friends, and the city of Ellsworth; and crafts
made by members such as jewlery, wreaths and garlands, needlework, and
River Falls Mss I also contains a wealth of materials on the Cairns
family including correspondence, personal diaries, and materials related
to the various municipal offices held by Gertrude's father, Geroge Washington
Cairns (1826-1900). For more details on these items, enter "Gertrude
M. Cairns" into the UW-River Falls Voyager
library catalog to view a holding record.
Pioneer School Girls' Reunion, 1915; (Abbie Cairns: front/center
in dark dress with hand near waist)
RSVP for the 1915 Pioneer School Girls' Reunion
of my school days!
What visions throng my brain,
When back to early childhood
I turn my thoughts again.
I see the fence and gateway,
The steps by small feet worn,
Where Teacher rang the school bell
that summoned us each morn.
From Memories of My
Scrapbook: June 26, 1915-June 26, 1924