Schools with an Ocean View

At the Kelley House we were given a photograph with no caption, showing a teacher standing in front of a one-room schoolhouse with her students. But where is this place? The background was open clear sky which led us to believe it was a coastal school on a bluff, but which one? And how many coastal view schools were there? Turns out there were close to 30 of them on our county coastline, and here they are, north to south.

The presence of shipping points for lumber products, and sawmills, caused families to gather around workplaces. Parents didn’t want kids to have to walk more than a mile or two to school, so lots of little one-room schoolhouses were erected. Fireplaces or wood stoves provided the heat, windows gave light, drinking water was a bucket with a dipper, and sanitary facilities were out-houses.

Needle Rock, four miles south of the Humboldt County line, had a school from 1898 through 1903. Bear Harbor’s school ran from 1893 to 1908, closed, then re-opened in 1923 and lasted until the late 1930s. Usal’s school opened in 1881 and existed until 1915.

Rockport/Cottoneva’s school were tucked inland but a school at Hardy Creek was operating from 1901 until 1916. Wages Creek’s school lasted longer from 1887 to 1940. Rowena School at Union Landing educated kids from 1911until 1923. De Haven school, two miles north of Westport, housed children from 1891-1933.

Westport had schools in various locations from 1876 to the mid-1960s. Kibesillah, three miles north of Ten-Mile River, had a school from the 1890s to the 1920s and at the Ten-Mile bridge was Pacific School from 1885 until1927. The photo in question couldn’t have been Ocean School, now the Inglenook Grange, because it’s too big. Virgin Creek had a school from 1882 to1927.

Fort Bragg’s schools were all inland and even the Noyo School on the north bluff over Noyo Harbor was, again, too big to match our photo. Mitchell Creek School, now a private home, is on an old length of Highway One west of the current road. It was open from 1886 until 1935, but is now tucked into trees, not on a bluff. Caspar School was also too big. Mendocino’s schools, operating since the 1860s, are all set back from the headlands.

Little River School was on the aptly named Schoolhouse Creek’s north side from 1865 until 1941. Albion’s student body from 1866-1966 tended to be large. Amy Thompson (born 1895) recounted in Mendocino County Remembered Oral History, “We went to school when I was six or seven (1902). Our first schoolhouse when I went there was between Albion and Salmon Creek. A field down next to the ocean, Ralph Greenough was the teacher. Then they build a new school on Michigan Hill.”

Cuffey’s Cove School started in 1872 on the bluffs behind the cemetery and closed in 1913 when everyone moved to Elk. Greenwood/Elk had a school from 1898 forward.

Bridgeport/Mal Paso offered schooling from 1867 through1946. Manchester started small, but their big 1910 schoolhouse sits by the side of the highway awaiting restoration. At the mouth of the Garcia River, history books report that the cabin of a shipwrecked sailing bark was being used as a classroom in 1866. Point Arena always had big schools.

I like to think our mystery photo was someplace like the still standing 1874 Galloway School at Schooner Gulch. Fish Rock/Anchor Bay had a school 1866-1925 as did Sail Rock, 10 miles south of Point Arena, from 1883 to 1920. Gualala has had schools since 1863.

Unused schools were usually torn down and their materials recycled into new structures. In photos where there are no identifying features in the background, they are hard to place. The Kelley House was lucky…with some research comparing photos it was decided the photo was the first Albion School.

This list of schools with ocean views came from reading three of the five volumes of “What Became of the Little Red Schoolhouse,” a comprehensive effort of the Mendocino Coast Genealogical Society and the Mendocino County Museum from the late 1980s.

And darn it – the photo in question did not look like any schools photographed in those books. When the volumes were written the authors did not have access to the photo collection we have today. Success! Identified!