SAUK RAPIDS (WJON News) -- The very first school bus in the history of the Sauk Rapids school district dates back to 1890 and it still exists today.

Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby says it was a horse-drawn bus that could transition from wheels to a sled depending on the season.

The first driver of the bus Herb Steltenheim decided to install a little wood stove.  So you have a horse-drawn school bus that could be pulled by two horses or four horses with 20 to 24 kids inside, with a little wood stove to keep them warm in the wintertime.

Sauk Rapids' First School Bus Driver, photo courtesy of Benton County Historical Society
Sauk Rapids' First School Bus Driver, photo courtesy of Benton County Historical Society
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Because there was a stove inside the school bus, the kids got to have a snack every day on their way home from school.

So one little girl said something about "it's so warm we should make popcorn in here", and Herb said, "you bring the corn and I'll bring the popper".

At that time the school district owned the bus and it rented horses from local farmers to pull it.

Benton County Historical Society
Benton County Historical Society
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It cost students five cents a month to ride the bus.

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Benton County Historical Society
Benton County Historical Society
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By 1910 the school district bought its first motorized bus, but it could only go on the main roads like Old Highway 10, so the horse-drawn bus continued to work the rural routes until 1935. In 1928 Larson Bus Service took over transportation for the district, and they donated the horse-drawn school bus to the Benton County Historical Society in 1993.

Once a month, Ostby is on the News @ Noon Show on WJON to talk about the forgotten history of Benton County.

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