Thompson School

Elevated view of buildings nestled in a forest
Boyle’s Camp on Big River, 1912 – 1930. (Gift of Ronnie James)

August 13, 1917 – The Thompson School opened with Miss Hazel Bowman as the first teacher. This school was named for Henry Thompson and was located on his ranch on Little Lake Road, east of the Mendocino Woodlands. Mr. Thompson built the original schoolhouse near his home to provide a school for his own children and others living in the area, and Mendocino County provided the teacher.

Later, the Thompson School was located at Boyle’s Camp, in a one-room building where the first eight grades were taught. In “Big River was Dammed,” Francis Jackson wrote that Boyle’s Camp “was one of the largest camps on Big River and was made up of many families, as well as the usual single men, so a school house was needed and built nearby. The camp became the center of railroad activities, with railroad tracks branching out in many directions. A speeder was used to get the men to the woods, thereby eliminating many smaller camps. This same means of transportation was also used to get children to school.”

According to “What Became of the Little Red Schoolhouse,” early school trustees were: John Hurley, Henry Thompson, Ed McDonald, C. A. Bever, Chas Escola, and Ed Boyle. The teacher in 1921 was Mrs. Minnie Hayter with a salary of $1,080. In 1922, the teacher was Myrtle Wainwright Hansen, whose husband, Walter Hansen, was employed on the train. Miss Gertrude Fraser taught for several years. The teacher in 1930-31 with seven students was Mrs. Catherine Cummings, who continued until the school closed in 1935. In 1935, the CCC work project, headquartered at Russian Gulch, demolished the remains of Boyle’s Camp and developed the site into the Mendocino Woodlands recreation area.

Tomorrow! Two events in one day! Sunday, August 14. The “Stump to Ship” walking tour to learn about Mendocino’s logging history at 11 am. At 3:30 pm, Katy Tahja leads a “Sunday Afternoon with the Illustrators” discussion about cartoonists of the 70’s and 80’s on the coast. Call 707-937-5791 for more info.