The University of Jamestown, known back then as Jamestown College, was one of three private schools training teachers in North Dakota at the time of statehood in 1889.

It is the only one that still survives.

Jamestown College, Arvilla Academy and the Milnor Normal School were all partially funded by the Dakota Territory to provide teacher training in the early days of the region.

Arvilla Academy was a Presbyterian school in the Grand Forks County town of Arvilla. The school existed from 1886 until its building burned down in 1893, and it was not rebuilt. During that time, it was the only school of higher education to have a music department that was taught by the daughter of the local Presbyterian minister and also a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music.

The Milnor Normal School was a project of Sargent County. Organizers at the county hoped the Milnor Normal School would be adopted by the state of North Dakota when it created a slate of teacher colleges. The school existed from about 1887 to 1890.

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The North Dakota Constitution did include normal schools, teachers colleges, at Valley City, Mayville and Dickinson.

There was a demand for teachers in North Dakota in those early days.

According to a report by the North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1890, there were 1,583 schools around the state offering desk space for more than 48,000 students.

Some of those schools were rather primitive with some operated in sod, log and native stone buildings although the vast majority were wooden frame structures. Many would have been similar in design as the one-room houses that still stand vacant in some areas.

The report from the Superintendent of Public Instruction included a census tally indicating there were 37,472 children of school age in the state. The same report indicated just 30,821 of those children actually attended school.

And the average daily school attendance showed attendance was usually just over half of the enrolled students with 17,546 attending on any given day.

There were nearly 1,900 teachers employed in North Dakota in 1890 with nearly two-thirds of those teachers women.

The third of the teachers who were men did better than the women when it came to salaries.

The men at the front of those one-room schools made a few cents under $40 per month in 1890. Adjusted for inflation, that was about $1,130 in today’s money.

The women working as teachers had an average salary of $34.50 per month. Adjusted for inflation that would be about $1,000 per month.

And while the ladies in the classrooms earned more than 10% less than the men, it was one of the few professions available to the women in that era.

And it probably meant that about two-thirds of the folks attending those early teacher training programs were women.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at