by Katy Tahja, Kelley House Museum volunteer
Why is it a mystery? Because if you check in “What Became of the Little Red Schoolhouse” Volume 1-Mendocino Area, there is no school pictured that looks like this one. Behind the schoolhouse, it looks like the coastline, but it could be a bluff top inland. And, of course, if I have five of the six volumes that make up the set of Little Red Schoolhouse books in my personal library I was missing the South Coast Volume 5 I needed to double check locations.
First, I checked the Little River School section and found a photo of a building that structurally looks like this school, with the addition of another window, but that school had a long flight of about 10 steps the full width of the building.
The first Albion School only has one record about it. A woman born in 1895 stated that, in 1902, “. . . our first schoolhouse was between Albion and Salmon Creek . . . a field down next to the ocean . . . then they built a new school on Michigan Hill.” Could this image be that first school?
In 1905, a new Albion School was built, 28 feet by 60 feet in size, which included an outbuilding with horse stalls, a fuel room and storage. It was located just east of the north end of the present Albion River Bridge. The school was a two-room building for older grades, with first and second grades in the church across the street.
By 1923, the Albion Lumber Company was helping build a larger schoolhouse on the same side of the road as the old Albion School. That’s the school you see today on the north bank of the Albion River. It was closed after 1966 and the alternative Whale School was the only school in town until a new one was built up on Albion Ridge.
Spring Grove School was located seven miles east of Highway 1 on Albion Ridge Road. It was operated from 1883 to 1936 in a forested location. The schoolhouse burned and the land later became a commune.
In 1872, Prairie Camp School was somewhere near the intersection of Little River Airport Road and the Albion Road, perhaps near the sign for Pygmy Forest parking at Van Damme State Park. Another school was the McKay School three miles up the Albion River. In 1891, there were fifteen boys and eleven girls attending. Later the school was relocated to six miles east of Highway 1 on the south side of the road. The school continued until 1940. Ellison School was located at the intersection of the Little River Airport Road and the Comptche-Ukiah Road. It was constructed in 1903 on the west side of Albion Road and also continued until 1940. It is now a private residence.
Any school that ever existed in Mendocino County is included in the six volumes of “What Became of the Little Red Schoolhouse.” Any interested person can stop by the Kelley House Museum’s Research Office, take a volume from the library shelf, sit down and read. (By the way, I checked Volume 5 and didn’t find this image.) Every listing has the name of the school, its location on a map, who built it, why, when, trustees, teachers, pupils, attendance figures, why it closed, and photos, if available. Generations of researchers will bless Alice Holmes and the Mendocino Coast Genealogical Society for the work they did on this in the 1980s. The volumes are dedicated to Nannie Escola, who taught at the Ellison School and was instrumental in starting the Kelley House Museum.
For more information or to research our local schools, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (707) 937-5791. We’d love to help.