(NOTE: Much of the research on Brainerd schools and a good deal of the writing of articles on this subject were done by Mrs. Helene HoIm of Brainerd.)
Some time around July 1882, people were beginning to realize the great need for higher education. Elementary schooling was not enough. They needed a high school so the young people of Brainerd could obtain a high school diploma and take advantage of the still higher education being offered in St. Cloud and other larger communities.
These matters take quite a lot of discussion and planning, so it was not until Feb. 4,1884, that a meeting was held to vote on the purchase of a site and the erection of a high school building. According to the Feb. 7, 1884, issue of the Brainerd Dispatch, 106 votes were cast for the expenditure of $40,000 for the site and building. Three votes were cast against it.
At the July, 1884, meeting 01 the School Board, Professor J. A. Wilson of Ohio was elected the first principal of the new Brainerd High school. It was also decided that school would start Sept. 1, 1884.
The building, which was finally accepted by the School Board Jan. 12, 1885, cost $45,000, including the $5,200 for the block on which it was built.
In 1887, there were 35 students in the school. One of the two graduates in that year was Henry White, who lived for many years at Gull lake.
Principal Wilson, in November of 1887, recommended the purchase of seven diplomas and the preparation of Commencement exercises. The graduates were to be Mary Gleason, Amy Lowey, Emily A. Murphy (Mrs. Henry Linneman), Genevieve L. Paine, Mary Geneva Welch, Emily Walters and W. A. Steel.
During Easter vacation in March, 1928, at 12:46 am., the high school burned. All of the records were lost except those saved through the heroic efforts of Miss Mary Tornstrom, principal, and W. C. Cobb, superintendent. A bewildered school board met shortly afterward to arrange for schools and halls to house the students.
The Methodist church was used for classes until other arrangements could be made. Classes were then transferred to the City hall and the old Court house. Chemistry was taught in the old jail next door to the Courthouse.
Naturally, a high school had to be built as soon as possible, and Washington High school was completed in 1929.
In 1938, the Brainerd Junior college was instituted with classes in the Washington High school building. The offices of the superintendent of schools were also in this building. More space was needed so an addition was built in 1938.
In the fall of 1942, bus service was made available to rural students. At first, a charge was made, but after 1946, the fare was paid by the State of Minnesota, making a high school education readily accessible to all.
A steady growth in attendance required another addition to the high school building in 1960.
Even though the Brainerd Junior college had moved into its own building in 1964 and the Superintendent of Schools' offices had been moved into the basement of the Lincoln Elementary school, the Washington High school was again feeling the strains of increasing numbers of students. Conditions were overcrowded and the facilities were very inadequate.
On March 1, 1966, the voters in School District No. 181 voted in favor of a bond issue of $3.5 million to build a new Senior High school. Construction began in 1967 and the first classes were held in September, 1968.
The Brainerd Senior High school is located on South Fifth Street between Oak and Quince Streets. It is a four-building complex with connecting links serving the traffic flow from one building to another. The buildings are designated as the A building, academic unit; B building, the Art unit; C building, physical education and music unit; and the D building, the library-cafeteria unit. Don Adamson is principal; Bob Gross, assistant principal.
Principals serving the Brainerd High school through the years have been: J. A. Wilson, Frank Hanft, Mr. McCarthy, R. R. Dennison, M. B. Sherich, Miss Mary Tornstrom, C. B. Blackford and Don Adamson.
Nineteen Head Local Schools
SUPERINTENDENTS 1872 to present. L. B. Perry -- 1872-73. George W. Holland -- 1873-76. H. D. Follett -- 1876-79. C. B. Sleeper -- 1879-82. Rev. R. A. Beard -- 1882-83. G. S. Fernald -- 1883-?. J. A. Wilson -- ?-1890. E. K. Cheadle -- 1890-93. B. F. Hathaway -- 1893-96. T. B. Hartley -- 1898-1900. A. J. Wilson (Acting) 1896-96. M. H. Carleton (Acting) -- 1~96-98. J. L. Torrens -- 1900-02. T. B. Hartley -- 1902-09. W. C. Cobb -- 1909-38. G. B. Ferrell -- 1938-48. H. C. Nordgaard -- 1948-57. J.A.Sater--1957-63. E. Whoolery -- 1963-present.
"DEDICATION -- To our advisor and principal, Miss Mary Tornstrom, who has helped us to derive the most benefit from our course and who made our four years at Brainerd High a period in life that each of us shall always cherish in our memories, we, the Senior Class of 1922, do affectionately dedicate this, our first Commencement issue of the Brainonian."
Reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971).