Just east of Twin Falls and off I-84 sits an old, abandoned schoolhouse, crumbling. Once upon a time, the building was named after legendary Idaho writer Annie Pike Greenwood. People came for Sunday school and civic meetings.
The surrounding farmland was known colloquially as Greenwood. It was part of the local lore.
Joan Davies, the owner of the property now, who went to that school as a child, lives in Hailey. She was featured in Idaho Public TV producer Marcia Franklin’s documentary on Greenwood.
“One of my big hopes is that somehow doing this documentary would also raise the profile of the school and the need to rehabilitate it,” Franklin said.
Franklin will speak about Greenwood’s life and seminal work, “We Sagebrush Folks,” in a Zoom meeting hosted by Hailey Public Library on Nov. 4 at 5:30 p.m. Library programs and engagement manager Kristin Fletcher helped bring Franklin from Boise.
“Annie Pike Greenwood’s story is remarkable,” Fletcher said. “She was a woman ahead of her time, writing with wit and honesty about social and political topics, including those that personally affected women in her community.”
Franklin came across “We Sagebrush Folks” in the 1990s after it got reissued in paperback. She was enthralled by the brutal account of farm life in south central Idaho through the early 20th century.
“She really captured the incredible loneliness that occurred in that generation of settlers to Idaho,” Franklin said.
Greenwood touched on topics considered taboo for the time, like postpartum depression, abuse and child labor. It offered a rare glimpse into the era.
“These are stories that didn’t make it into the history books,” Franklin said. “But that doesn’t mean those stories aren’t critical to our understanding of our history. It’s always relevant when we can bring these other voices forward and give them their due.”
Greenwood grew up educated in a relatively wealthy family. In Utah, she worked as a reporter for a newspaper until she fell in love with a man who wanted to move to Idaho.
“It wasn’t the first wave of settlers that came through, the ones we always hear about,” Franklin said. “These were the generation of white settlers who were lured to Idaho through the promise of irrigated land.”
“We Sagebrush Folks” has been out of print for years. Thanks to Franklin’s documentary, a publisher in Caldwell will begin redistributing copies.
“People will soon be able to purchase ‘We Sagebrush Folks’ for the first time in a long time,” Franklin said.
Franklin started a relationship with Greenwood’s grandson. He showed her old manuscripts, correspondences and journals not yet donated to archives.
Furthermore, after the documentary, several people put in the necessary work to place the old Greenwood schoolhouse in the national historic register, designating it as an important place.
Visit haileypubliclibrary.org for more information.
The HPL Book Club will also host a discussion of “We Sagebrush Folks” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 5:30 p.m.
“The virtual discussion will explore this intimate record of an acute mind and sensitive spirit to the joys and sorrows, poverty, and personalities describes the author’s 15 years as a farm woman on the last American frontier,” Fletcher said. ￼