Denfeld History

Oneota School

The first school in West Duluth -- and all of northeastern Minnesota for that matter -- was Oneota School. It opened in 1857, housed in a one-room frame building on 42nd Avenue West.

At the time, the area was not part of West Duluth. It was the Oneota Village. Oneota is an American Indian name that means “the rock from which the people sprang.”

Oneota's teacher, Jerome Merritt, had conducted classes in a private home prior to the opening of the school. He was paid by parents in proportion to the number of their progeny attended classes.

At Oneota, Merritt was not only the teacher, but the school's administrator, custodian, maintenance man, office clerk and nurse. His salary was $20 to $25 per month.

In 1858, seven Presbyterians formed Duluth's first church -- First Presbyterian Church of Oneota -- and held their first official services at the school. The church continued there until 1873, when the Rice’s Point Presbyterian Church opened. The bell from Oneota School's tower was moved to the new church.

The original Oneota School was replaced in 1888 with a brick building designed in the Romanesque style by Duluth's most renowned architect, Oliver Traphagen. The new building, located at 4420 W. First St., also served as the Oneota Village Council Chambers before the village became part of Duluth.

Oneota School closed in 1946. The building was used as storage until it was demolished in 1973 to make way for construction of an industrial park.

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