Information about the schools in Gunnison County has been compiled by Ruth Dolezal and Laura Easeley, former members of the Gunnison County Historic Preservation Commission.
We are indebted to the Pioneer Museum for many historical photos, and to all of the local historians, scholars, residents and authors whose sources make up this work. Most of all, we appreciate the work of all the students and professors of history at Western State Colorado University (formerly Western State College, and before that, Colorado State Normal School) in accumulating interviews and theses about the history, schools and teachers of Gunnison County, many of whom were graduates of the College. Our thanks also to the Gunnison Public Library and the Leslie Savage Library’s Helen A. Jensen Room at WSC for the preservation of these locally important theses and histories.
Any information, corrections, or photos would be most welcome, as this work can only be as accurate as the sources we can find. Let’s keep the memories alive for future generations.
|GUNNISON COUNTY SCHOOLS - From 1876 to 2008|
|1||Gunnison City Schools (including 8th Street, Pine Street, Colorado Street, 12th & Ohio, O'Leary and Blackstock, Richardson Hall, Lake School, and Grant Ruland High Schools.|
|4||Marble (including Gothic, Crystal, Camp Gentry, Ragged Mountain, and Spring Creek)|
|5||Pitkin (including Bowerman and Hall's Gulch)|
|8||Crested Butte (and Smith-Anthracite)|
|13||Ohio City (and Sparta School)|
|26||Hillside (and Cooper Ranch School)|
|28||Gateview (DuBois and Taliafaro)|
|Other||District 6 - Tincup. District 19 - Vulcan, Chance and Iris, Crookton, Aberdeen, Irwin and Floresta, Cathedral, Peanut, Cebolla, Sargents, Cement Creek, Sillsville, and Cochetopa Creek.|
District 1 - Gunnison
The first school classes from 1876 to 1880 were taught in private homes, a drug store, and a church. In 1879, the first school board was selected. The first real schoolhouse was a brick building on the corner of Eighth and Tomichi in West Gunnison, which is still standing. The wooden plaque over the door says “1881,” perhaps for the year the school district was formed. In April 2008, the 8th Street School was added to the Gunnison County Historic Register.
School was later discontinued in this building and moved into the new one on Pine Street. In 1881, the District began a two story stone building on the Pine Street site; during the spring thaw of 1882, the building collapsed and work began again, in brick, and a two story building was completed in the fall.
Two more brick buildings were constructed, one in East Town at Colorado and Georgia, the other in West Town at 12th and Ohio. They served the town well into the 20th century. In school board minutes of July 16, 1921, it was noted that the West End school was sold to the County of Gunnison. It had not been used in several years and had fallen into disrepair. The last notation found in the board minutes regarding the Colorado East End School was in 1926. WSCU’s Chipeta Hall is on the site where the Colorado School was located. For the 1923/24 school year, District 1 had to rent additional space from the Masons.
In 1926, a bond proposal was passed to build the central section of a new school, adjacent to the Pine Street School. According to records, it was added onto five times! In 1954, the old Pine Street School building was demolished and a new elementary school was built on the same site. The O’Leary school was dedicated May 13, 1955. The yellow brick building west of Gunnison’s Post Office was known as the Joseph Blackstock School. In 1997, the Gunnison Community School was built and all classes from K - 8 moved into that complex. Blackstock’s and O’Leary buildings were sold to the County of Gunnison and remodeled to house county offices.
O’Leary History: Named for Margaret White O’Leary, the wife of Timothy O’Leary, early day Gunnison druggist, who took an exceptional interest in local education and culture. Mrs. O’Leary was the organizer and president of the PTA during WWI, a leader in Red Cross, and AAUW Colorado Federation of Women’s Clubs, an author of note, and founder of scholarship funds for students at WSCU.
Blackstock’s History: Joseph Blackstock came to Gunnison in May 1880 at the age of 27 and freighted supplies before becoming the town marshal and entering the leather and mercantile business here. He served unnumbered terms on the local school board of old District No. 1, and became the first president of Gunnison County’s High School Board when it was organized in 1902.
Back to Top
In the spring of 1961, the school board realized emergency measures must be taken to provide classrooms for over 100 new elementary students who would be entering the Pine Street School’s (O’Leary) already overcrowded facilities in September. There was no time to prepare for a bond election, so, taking some $60,000 which had been accumulating in the building fund, the board contracted for a steel building which would have “non-load-bearing walls” so that the emergency classroom building could later be converted inexpensively into a cafeteria, warehouse, and administrative offices. Known as Richardson Hall, it was completed by September of 1961. It was in use until 1997, when it was sold and converted into senior citizen units. The administration offices were moved to the Lake School site on North Boulevard.
History of the name: Sylvester L. Richardson led the first colony from Denver to found Gunnison on this site in 1874 and advocated its educational, cultural and industrial development. He was a surgeon, pharmacist, and founder of the Richardson coal mine at Mt. Carbon. He was a leader in local literary and debate circles prior to his death on May 8, 1902.
Back to Top
Lake School at 800 N. Boulevard was dedicated on April 7, 1963, as part of the bond issue creating the Gunnison High School and Richardson Hall. In 1987/88, four classrooms were added to the south end of the school. This school housed the lower grades, including kindergarten. In 1997, students were moved to the new Community School, and Lake now houses the school administration offices and the preschool.
History of the name: Henry F. Lake Jr. was a civic leader in Gunnison and editor and publisher of the News Champion for half a century. He was born in Michigan and educated as an engineer in that state, but taught school in Lake City, Cebolla, Parlin and Gunnison before entering the printing business here. He was active in the promotion of better education here and served as a member of the first Gunnison Normal School Board (now Western State College). He was also well remembered for championing Western Slope water rights, better highways, and many other civic projects.
Back to Top
Junior High School
In 1880, school board members were responsible for building the school on Pine Street, which housed the Junior High School until 1939. The Junior High then moved into the south end of the High School. The School Board minutes of Dec. 1962 state, “the present Gunnison H.S. building will become a junior high school building at Gunnison’s eastern city limits and will be named after Grant Ruland.” Its location was north of Tomichi between Loveland and Adams. The last year for classes in Ruland Junior High School was 1997, when it was closed and later demolished. The site is now an open space athletic field and park. The present 7th & 8th grades are now at the Gunnison Community School on 11th Street.
History of the name: Grant Ruland’s entire life was devoted to education and teacher training. He was superintendent of Gunnison Public Schools 1910-1925, directed teacher training and placement at WSCU 1925-28, and was called back from retirement in that capacity during WWII. He served as president of Colorado Education Association, its western division president, and a member of the board for 19 years.
Back to Top
Gunnison High School
District 1 had its own public high school as early as 1882. Classes were held in the Pine Street and East Town buildings. The first student graduated in 1885, and became a teacher in Gunnison the next year. Sometime during that early period, the high school moved into the West Town School (which refers to the 12th and Ohio building). In 1902, a County High School District was organized. Representatives of all the school districts recommended that the high school be called “Gunnison High School” and later when the current high school was built, the RE1J board concurred that the name should be perpetuated.
In 1911, when the Colorado State Normal School, a two-year post-secondary school for educating teachers, opened its doors, the County High School moved with it, into the new three-story building that is now the northern third of Taylor Hall at WSCU. During this combined period, the teachers and professors who taught both college and high school classes were paid by both the County and the College. As the Normal School grew, this arrangement was not practical, and a county bond issue for a new high school passed in 1918. Originally, the county planned to build on 2 blocks of land bought from the American Legion. However, the college offered some of their land just south of the Normal School building. Due to the War, construction was delayed until 1920, with an additional $100,000 in bonds necessary due to rising costs. That four-story brick high school building is the southern third of Taylor Hall, now one continuous structure after the central portion was added later. After another bond issue in 1938, a new high school was built between Tomichi and Adams on the east and Loveland on the west (which was renamed Grant Ruland Junior High in 1962). The entrance was on the west facing Legion Park. Bob & Alice Fulton recall a line of students forming a “book brigade” to move the books from the old high school to the new one. It served the county until the present high school on 11th and Ohio was built and dedicated on April 17, 1965.
History of the name: Captain John William Gunnison led a survey team through the Cochetopa Valley in 1853 in search of a railroad route to the Pacific. They camped in this vicinity and charted the narrow-gauge route down the river which bears his name. He was ambushed – supposedly by Indians – near what is now Sevier, Utah, in October 1853, and his remains are interred at the site of another town named after him, Gunnison, Utah.
Sources: Rockwell, Vandenbusche, Bob & Alice Fulton, Class of 1934, School Board records.
Back to Top
District 2 - Parlin
Parlin, a small community twelve miles east of Gunnison, was named for pioneer rancher John T. Parlin. Organized in 1881, the district served the children from the neighboring ranches on Tomichi and Quartz Creeks. The original schoolhouse was built on Quartz Creek with logs. However, there was a disagreement about where it should be located to best serve the population. Somebody decided it should be 2 ½ miles east, and moved the building in the dark of night. Later, the school was returned to its original site. The second schoolhouse was completed in January 1919. Classes have not been held there since 1953, and the building was used for a short time as a community center and later converted into a residence. The owners were Matt and Marian Deering, who then sold to Earl and Lulu Glaze. As of 2008, it is still in the Glaze family.
Sources: Rockwell, Wallace, School Board Minutes
Back to Top
District 3 - Doyleville
The Doyleville School District was organized in 1881. The first school was a one-room white frame building built in 1881on Doyle Lane near Tomichi Creek. The term ran from April to September, but the teacher rang a cowbell to call students to class as they had no regular school bell. Mostly the pupils walked or rode on horseback to classes. The old school building was sold to a William Johnson who tore it down and used the lumber to build a three-room house. The new school was built about 1920, with a room partitioned off for the teacher’s residence. On June 16, 1966, the Doyleville School was closed, per school board records. It was used for community functions until 2003, when the school was donated and moved to the Pioneer Museum grounds in Gunnison, where it has undergone restoration.
Sources: Rockwell, Wallace, School Board Minutes
Back to Top
District 4 - Marble
District 4 was in the extreme northwestern corner of Gunnison County. From the report by Superintendent Williams in 1900, we know there were schools at Gothic, one at Crystal, and several buildings remain at Marble from the schools there. Other small mining towns in the District were Camp Genter (1894), Ragged Mountain (1929-1950) and Spring Creek (1926 -1950).
The Gothic school was made of fine lumber. It was about 20 x 24 feet in size, and had a well-built cupola. In 1900, the County Superintendent Mary E. Williams noted in her annual report that since there were no permanent residents of Gothic, the school was no longer in use. When the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory was started in 1928 by Dr. John C. Johnson, the school was still standing. But when Dr. Johnson returned to Gothic in 1929, the nails had rusted out, and the lower boards had deteriorated, so that the schoolhouse’s lower story had collapsed due to the heavy snows. Usable boards from the building were taken to patch other buildings, but Dr. Johnson marked the original location of the school (75 feet south of the old Vera Adams Johnson Research Lab) with iron corner pegs.
The 1900 Report stated: “Marble and Crystal schools are both active.” The school at Crystal had classes from 1887 until 1905. The town built a new schoolhouse in 1891 on the east side of town. Roger Neal in Crystal …What Really Happened describes the construction of the one-room school as “built of 6 by12 inch timbers laid edgewise, one on top of the other. Then 1 by 6 inch rough furring strips were nailed vertically every two feet. The outside was covered with shiplap siding, and the inside was completely covered with pine-beaded ceiling… typical construction…where lumber was plentiful and cheap.” The Crystal newspapers of the day and Frank Edgerton’s daily journal chronicled the arrival of teachers through the years, and the number of students varied from six to fourteen before 1900. The schoolhouse is still standing, but the owners have renovated it to be a private residence.
In 1893, the town of Marble had grown enough to need a school. The first classes were held in a building which is now owned by the Beaver Lake Lodge. Soon after, a little red schoolhouse was built on West Main Street. Within a few years, this schoolhouse was too small and was replaced about 1908 by a four-classroom building on the same site. This building was torn down in 1942. In 1910, a high school building was constructed, containing six classrooms, an office, and a library. When it became impractical to hold classes for only 3 or 4 pupils, the school board bought a residence at West 1st and Park Streets. Later this building was moved to the site of the old grade school building which had been torn down in 1942/43. After 1950, the pupils were bused to school in Carbondale. In 1980, this house was used as the town hall and, in 1985, the school district transferred ownership to the town of Marble. The high school building was boarded up in 1947 and not used again until 1960, when the Marble Community Church needed a building. In 1973, the town government began to use the high school building for their meetings –later moving across the street to the smaller building. When the Marble Historical Society was formed in 1977, they too began to use the old high school as a museum. After protracted negotiations, the Gunnison school board gave the building to the Historical Society, which then made many repairs to the structure retaining its school building character. The building is now on the National Register of Historic Places, while housing both the Museum and a charter school.
Sources: Dr. John C. Johnson, Jr.; McCollum; Neal; Rockwell; “White Pine Cone” newspaper, School Board Meeting Minutes
Back to Top
District 5 - Pitkin
In 1880, Pitkin had twice the population of Gunnison, and was the twelfth largest city in all of Colorado. On January 28, 1880, a motion was passed by the town council to sell 100 lots for $2 each with the proceeds to be used in building a schoolhouse. After the organization of School District 5, in July 1881 the council was asked permission to use the new Town Hall as a schoolhouse. In May 1882, the council sold the Town Hall to the School District for $1000. This building was the “old” schoolhouse located on the same site as the present school. The “old” school was two-story, with one room on each floor.
The original school building was razed and the new building constructed in the summer of 1924. The new one-story building contained two rooms, a vestibule, and a basement. It opened in September 1924 for the school year.
At the August 26, 1963, school board meeting, it was decided that students at Pitkin would be transported to Gunnison and the school would be closed. The last Pitkin teacher, Adelina Taylor, would teach Spanish at Gunnison High School. On September 16, 1963, the Pitkin School was officially closed. On December 12, 1963, the building was leased to the Pitkin Community Association for $1 a year for two years. The PCA was responsible for insuring the building. In 1968, the Pitkin School was leased for three more years to the Pitkin Historical Society.
The PHS bought the Pitkin School in 1992, and it has been placed on the Colorado State Historical Register. A museum inside the building is open as needed in summer. A slide and other playground equipment and an old log cabin are on the property as well.
In 1903/04, the Pitkin school was so full that another school was started at Bowerman, four miles away. Twenty pupils were enrolled there, with Miss Edith Welch and Miss Cooper mentioned as teachers. When the population dropped by 1907, the school was closed.
In 1926, there was a large timber camp in Hall’s Gulch, 6 miles north of Pitkin, and that fall there were enough students to warrant a school in that area. A schoolhouse was constructed in November of that year. School was probably in session until 1928. The lumber business was hurt by the railroad disconnecting the Pitkin-Parlin line from the main line.
Sources: Rockwell; Wallace; Dillow; Thurman; School Board Minutes
Back to Top
District 8 – Crested Butte
Crested Butte’s school district was organized in 1881. Its first school was a small frame building erected in 1880-81 on the hill just south of town. Parents complained of the distance the children had to go, so a new frame building was put up north of the town plaza (the 4-way stop is the west corner of that diamond-shaped plaza), and in 1883 a stone building (known as the Old Rock Schoolhouse) was constructed for the upper grades. In 1896, the school children raised money to buy a bell for the school. A new brick grade school was completed in 1910-11, with the old frame school sawn in half and partly removed to make way for the new building which was the “Red Brick” School. In 1916, the 9th and 10th grades were added and in 1922, the system was expanded to include the 11th and 12th grades. In 1927, the yellow brick building was built for the higher grades. This building is presently in use as the Crested Butte Town Hall.
In 1952, with school enrollment declining, all 12 grades were moved into the yellow brick high school. The red brick schoolhouse was demolished after the winter of 1965, when a bad winter storm partially collapsed the building. The Rock School was closed in 1927. Later, the bell tower was hit by lightning and badly damaged. Until the late 60’s, the Rock building was used for storage and occasionally as a gym (the first floor). Afterwards, the Crested Butte Society for the Arts used the old school as a museum. The RE1J Board discussed remodeling or restoration of the building. In 1993, the building was designated as a library.
Students in Jr. High and Sr. High were bused into Gunnison until 1997, when the new Crested Butte Community School was built by RE1J for all grades, kindergarten thru 12th.
A school at Smith Hill and Anthracite for the miners’ children was part of the Crested Butte District. School is mentioned there in 1919, and 1923-1926. Because of the severe winter weather, families sometimes moved to Crested Butte for the duration, so the children also attended school in Crested Butte. Sources: Rockwell, Wallace, Various News Articles, School Board Minutes
Back to Top
District 9 – White Pine
The first school in this area noted in written records is one which a German lady conducted as a subscription school in her home in the fall of 1885. During the early years, school was conducted in one of the three camps, White Pine, Tomichi, or North Star, which were all within a two mile radius. According to Wallace, the first money raised for a community building to house the school, church, and public meetings was $53.80. The three-room building, which was next to the old boarding house, had the primary grades in one room, a gymnasium, and the 5-8th graders holding classes on the stage. During the long winters Saturday night dances were common entertainment. The White Pine School was in use intermittently until 1952, when it was closed and the students went by bus to Gunnison. After the school closed, it was vandalized, the books destroyed, the bell stolen. It is no longer standing.
George Means in the White Pine Cone Newsletter related that by the end of the 1920’s, there was no school in District 9. In 1932, three families lived on the Means ranch. An old bunkhouse at the lower ranch was converted into a school with two rooms for the teacher’s quarters and one small room for a class. This schoolhouse was in use until 1943. The building is no longer standing.
Sources: Rockwell; Wallace; Wolle; Lois Goolsby White; White Pine Cone Newsletter; Anne Steinbeck
Back to Top
District 10 - Fairview
School District Number Ten was located in the valley of Ohio Creek and organized in 1881. Some of the early settlers in the valley at that time were instrumental in the organization of the Fairview School. They banded together and engaged in a general “log-raising” on land donated by William Gillaspey. The result was a sturdy well-built log schoolhouse with a stoop on the front, a cloakroom, a stage and an upstairs which was later used as a library. The view of the Anthracite Mountains and Mt. Carbon prompted the name “Fairview” School. The old log school building was moved to the Easterly ranch when the new school was built, and is still there on the east side of CR 730.
T.W. Lightly donated the land for the present building, which was erected in 1906. Bob McMaster was the carpenter. Early superintendents of schools noted that Fairview School in District 10, nine miles north of Gunnison, was a highly approved school and included primary and grammar grades and two years of high school work and music.
Soon after WWI, the Fairview School became so crowded that it was necessary to also have a school in another part of the district. This was on Antelope Creek with about 20 students enrolled. Interestingly, Louis Easterly was a member of the school board of District 10 from its organization in 1882 continuously for 52 years. Fairview School was closed in 1948. The Boots to Bridles 4-H Club meetings were held at the schoolhouse as well as community meetings. In September of 1999, the building was placed on the Gunnison Historical Register.
Sources: Rockwell, Sammons, GCHPC Application
Back to Top
District 11 - Castleton
The town of Castleton was incorporated in May of 1882, about 10 miles up CR 730 in the Ohio Creek Valley. A schoolhouse was erected before the end of that year. In August 1883, the Denver and South Park Railroad branch line reached Castleton, serving the coal mines and carrying cattle and hay from the ranches. For a very short time, the town was known as Baldwin before it reverted to Castleton.
According to Jean Lang who attended the school, 42 students went to school at one time, 26 from families at the OC Coal Mine. Miners contracted with the Staples boys to run sleds in winter and wagons in summer to shuttle the students to school. Mabel Walker taught at the Castleton School about 1910, living at the Redden’s place. An article on Meryle Mikkelson’s retirement noted that she had taught at Castleton in 1922/23.
References in school board minutes say that February 18, 1963, Allan Stratman paid $1,170 for the Castleton School, the teacherage, and one acre of land. The Stokermatic coal space heater was bought by Tom Redden for $152.50. The building was sold and remodeled into a residence, which looks very different now. The teacherage is still there behind the house.
Sources: Vandenbusche, Wallace, School Board Minutes, Jean Lang
Back to Top
District 12 – Lake Fork
Rockwell’s thesis quotes the County Superintendant’s report that “on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison a six month school is held in the summer. A neat little frame school house has been built which adds greatly in holding a good school.” The Pioneer Museum has a photo identified as Riverside School, which fits this description. There is also a historical marker about the Carr Ranch on the Lake Fork Canyon-Pine Creek Mesa road (BLM Rt. 3009), which states that the Carr children went to the Riverside school, a mile away.
Nothing else has been found about the Lake Fork District with the exception of a notation in the DuBois-Talifero district petition, referring to Gateview School. Other settlements on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison were Barnum and Allen.
Sources: Rockwell, Ashwood
Back to Top
District 13 – Ohio City
This school district was organized on May 8, 1882. During the early years of Ohio City, school was held for three months during the summer and three months during the winter. The children living up the gulch of Ohio (Gold) Creek could attend only the summer months, for the deep snows of winter made travel impossible. The first school was held in a log house owned by John W. Long in 1894. In 1895/6 school was held in the railroad section house at Ohio City.
The present schoolhouse was built in 1897, and was in continuous use until 1961. After consolidation of the rural schools, the students were bused into Gunnison. Mrs. Margaret Flick, who had been the schoolteacher for many years at the Ohio City School and others in the area, obtained the lease on the Ohio City Schoolhouse, using it as a museum. In April of 1988, the School Board sold the building and land to the Quartz Creek Improvement Association, and it has been used for winter and spring meetings of the QCIA. In May of 2004, the school building was placed on the Gunnison County Historical Register.
The school at Ohio City became overcrowded about 1903. District 13 therefore decided to build another school to care for its pupils. The building, which was erected in 1904 on land owned by Pete Field, was named Sparta by John M. Flick. The school operated until 1945 with Ernie Nesbit and his cousin, Tommy Dice, as the last two students. It was bought by Paul Vader and moved to his property where it is used as a tool shed.
Sources: Rockwell, Anne Steinbeck, Ernie Nesbit
Back to Top
District 14 - Powderhorn
Before the school districts in Gunnison County were organized, it was common practice for local parents to fund a teacher for their children by subscription, rather than all the residents paying. At Powderhorn from 1877 until 1880, a subscription school was provided for several months each year. The first classes were held in a log building on the C. P. Foster ranch. It later became a blacksmith shop. In 1881, the people in the area organized a school district – establishing District 10 of Saguache County (the county borders are only 5 miles east). This first actual school built for the district was still made of logs, while “improvements” financed by the board included blackboards and a floor for $25. In May of 1884 District 14 - of Gunnison County - was formed. In 1889 a new hand-hewn log school building was constructed by local residents at a “school-raising” and dance, on land donated by the Youmans family. A teacherage was added in 1933. In 1953, a new school building was constructed and the old log school was retired. In 1963, the school board minutes noted that the Powderhorn junior high students would attend the Gunnison school, but in 1966, those grades were reinstated at Powderhorn. The school was finally closed in 1973, but continues to be used as the Powderhorn Community Center.
Sources: Rockwell, Sammons, Wallace
Back to Top
District 15 - Spencer
In September of 1894, the citizens of Spencer petitioned for the formation of a school district. The petition was granted and School District 15 was soon organized. The first school was held in January 1895 in a rented log cabin. After two years, the booming mining town of Spencer decided that they could afford their own school building, and in 1897, they bought a lot with a stable on it and converted the stable into a school building. By 1902, the Spencer citizens decided they needed a more substantial school in a more suitable location. They tore down the old schoolhouse and built a new school at a convenient point near the center of town, reusing some of the lumber and using new as needed. This structure served Spencer and the surrounding area as a schoolhouse and social center for many decades, coming to an end after the abandonment of the Rio Grande Railroad and the development of better roads and school busses. The schoolhouse was finally abandoned after the 1945/46 school year. It is one of the few remaining buildings left in the ghost town of Spencer. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, the building was used sporadically as a cow camp and hunting camp base. The Spencer schoolhouse is on the Gunnison County Register of historic buildings.
Sources: Wallace, HPC Application
Back to Top
District 16 - Glacier
Glacier was a Denver & Rio Grande Railroad spur near the mouth of Cement Creek, named for a glacier formation east above Cement Creek. The first school was a small log structure built by neighboring ranchers near the banks of the East River. The Overstegs lived about 2 miles south of Glacier, and in Mary William’s report of 1900 we find “At Cement Creek, the family of Mr. Imobersteg (is) being educated. The little people are very quiet and gentle in their manners; for this reason, it is an ideal school for a young teacher.”
It is not known exactly when this School District was formed, or how long it was in use, but it likely began sometime between 1882 and 1894. We do not know if the first log school is still standing. Later, a new school was built a mile to the north along the railroad tracks, and can still be seen on the west side of Highway 135 as the Red Mountain Logworks.
Reference: Vandenbusche, Williams in Rockwell.
Back to Top
District 17 - Iola
School District 17 was organized in 1882. At Iola, there was a little log schoolhouse where children from nearby farms attended. When District 17 decided to build a new schoolhouse, the old log cabin was sold and torn down with the lumber used for another building up on Nine-Mile Hill. In 1911, the Endner Lumber Company contracted to build and finish a one-story frame school house at Iola for a cost of $1,647. The land that the new schoolhouse was built on was next to the Sunderlin ranch, and the school was in use until 1955. In 1963, when Blue Mesa Dam was being built, the Sunderlin family relocated the building to their property where it was remodeled into a private residence. The bell from the Iola schoolhouse was donated to the National Park Service and, when the new Community School was built in Gunnison in 1997, the bell was then donated to that school. Few of the 24 original bells on our rural schoolhouses remain in Gunnison County.
Sources: Rockwell, Wallace, Bill Sunderlin, Rikki Santarelli
Back to Top
District 18 – Jack’s Cabin
District 18 was organized in 1882. Sometime between that year and 1885, a small schoolhouse was constructed on the north side of the Jack’s Cabin cutoff, close to the main road from Gunnison. The school included the first eight grades and ran from April until November, taking advantage of the good weather. Anywhere from 12 to 20 pupils were annually in attendance. Many of the school children from Almont came to school in the winter by teams of horses pulling a canvas-topped bobsled filled with heated rocks and quilts covering the children. The trip took about two hours each way. Jack’s Cabin school was closed in 1948 when remaining students were bused to Gunnison, and the school is no longer standing.
Due to overcrowding at the Jack’s Cabin school from 1924-1926, it was necessary to open another school at Almont. Classes were held at the Silver Doctor log cabin, part of the Taylor River Resort (now Three Rivers Resort). Newly- graduated Mary (Tezak) Yelenick taught her first term there, before moving on to the Crested Butte school district.
Luella Johnson, County Superintendent of Schools, mentions “Bogan’s Camp on Spring Creek, which is for the people employed by the Doctor Mine”, in her 1916 report.
Sources: Nelson, Rockwell, Vandenbusche, Zielke
Back to Top
District 20 - Sapinero
The first school of District 20 began in August 1890. School was held only during the spring, summer, and autumn months, for the heavy snows of winter were too deep for the children to travel. A one-room log cabin was rented from K. Montgomery at a rate of $2.50 per month. The ceiling and the walls were covered with canvas; a new window was added and a blackboard put up for a cost of $45.53. Although improvements had been made in the little cabin, it was still far from being an ideal school. Each winter the rats and mice invaded the building. The residents of the district voted to build a new schoolhouse, and chose W. H. Endner as the contractor. The new school was completed in the spring of 1899. In 1905 the board voted to purchase a bell for $10.15. The first nine-month school term began September of 1907. The school closed in 1955 with the students being bused into Gunnison. During the building of Blue Mesa Dam, the schoolhouse was moved and is part of the Sapinero Trading Post.
Sources: Rikki Santarelli, Rockwell
Back to Top
District 21 - Cunningham
According to the County Superintendant’s report in Rockwell, “District 21 and 22 are located side by side and make use of the proximity. In the summer, the children from both schools attend school in District 21 and in winter, they attend school in District 22.” A photo of the Cunningham school from the Pioneer Museum has been identified as a building now converted to a garage, part of a ranch about 4 miles north of Gunnison on Highway 135.
Sources: Rockwell, Wallace
Back to Top
District 22 - Paragon
In 1889, the legal voters and board members of District 22 met for the purpose of building and furnishing a schoolhouse. The contract for the building was given to J. H. Philips who agreed to construct it for $307.50. This first log school opened in 1890. In 1900 the school board decided to engage someone to draw up plans for a new schoolhouse. John B. Outcalt presented some rough sketches and contracted to have the new school built. At a board meeting in October of 1905, the voters of the region decided to proceed with plans to build the new school, which would not be an ordinary one, but “a school that was a paragon” of education. The unique and stylish new Paragon School building opened in 1906 (?) and was in use until 1948. At that time, students were sent by bus to Gunnison. From 1948 until 1967, the building was used by the Hoof and Horn 4-H Club as a meeting place. In 1967, the school board of Gunnison RE1J, who had been discussing the possibility of selling the school and property, voted to give the school to the Gunnison County Pioneer and Historical Society. It was then moved from 6 miles northeast of Gunnison near Colorado Highway 135 to the Pioneer Museum, at the east entrance to Gunnison on Highway 50.
The old log building, when it was no longer needed for a schoolhouse, was sold to Mr. Trampe for fifty dollars. It was moved to his ranch and used as a home until his own home was built. A photo of the log school house appears in Sammons’ book on page 23.
Sources: Various articles, School Board Minutes
Back to Top
District 23 - Baldwin
“At Baldwin about 40 children attend each summer. Some students came several miles over the hills, but they were a jolly and as active a set of boys and girls that exist anywhere in the county. They work under many disadvantages, but they work faithfully for the teacher who loves and understands them.” This was related in Mary Williams’1900 County Superintendant’s report and refers to the first named town of Baldwin, near Carbon Creek and the South Park Mine.
“Old” Baldwin’s peak population was about 100. When the mine closed down, the people moved either to the Kubler mine, a mile up Carbon Creek, or across the hill to Mount Carbon to work at the Alpine mine. In 1910 the town of Alpine or Mount Carbon was renamed Baldwin. A photo of the log schoolhouse and its pupils from 1912 appears in both Vandenbusche and Sammons. The new town of Baldwin “died” in 1946.
Sources: Rockwell, Vandenbusche
Back to Top
District 26 - Hillside
The first school in this district was started in 1893, in a log cabin under the hill on the R. M. Cooper home site. In the summer of 1895, Mr. Cooper and W. H. Wilt decided to build a new log schoolhouse. It was located four miles west in the lower Gunnison Valley, one half mile north and east of the Cooper ranch on the north side of the Wagon Road. It was named the Hillside School but was often referred to as the Cooper School. This school was furnished with a blackboard, globe of the world, a school bell, and a small library. As with most of the early schools in Gunnison County, a fire had to be built in the stove to heat the schoolhouse every morning. A photo of this school and early pupils is at the Pioneer Museum. After using the schoolhouse for 35 years, the ranchmen of the valley built and furnished a new school building in 1930.
According to the 1964 school board records, the Hillside school site was sold to Bill Knox and the Spann ranches for $500. The Spanns had originally given the land for the school. The 1930 school building was moved to just south of Highway 135 off McCabe’s Lane (County Road 32), and is still there today.
Sources: Rockwell, Lee Spann
Back to Top
District 27 - Vader
According to a superintendent’s report, “District number 27 is rejoicing in the possession of a new dictionary, globe and an encyclopedia in several volumes. There, great interest is taken in the workings of the school by the parents of the children.” Named for the Vader family, it is believed that this school was located 7 ½ miles east of Gunnison, on the north side of the road (the gulch just west of the Hwy 114 intersection). The building is not standing, but some remains have been located.
Sources: Rockwell, Jean Lang, Dave McLain
Back to Top
District 28 - Gateview
Around 1896, DuBois and Taliafaro grew into mining communities. They wanted their own school, but found they were under the jurisdiction of Powderhorn School District Number 14. These two communities were about five miles northeast of Powderhorn and seven miles from the school. The deep snows and severe winters made transportation to the Powderhorn School impossible. It was proposed, instead of attending school in District 14, and being equally distant from Lake Fork District 12, that they petition the county for their own district, which would be District 27. After authorizing the district, the county superintendent then revoked it - mainly because of a protesting petition and suit from Spencer (District 15), and it was also determined that the original petition contained signatures from residents outside the area of Dubois and Taliafaro.
The citizens then got together and revised the legal description of their proposed district so it would not infringe upon Spencer District 15, and their petition was granted to establish District 28, which also included Gateview, which had been established in 1893. DuBois was abandoned in 1903 and school was moved to the Lake Fork. Early settlements in the Gateview area included Allen and Barnum, and Riverside was another school name. It is not clear if “Gateway” is the same as Gateview, which was ceded to Montrose School District in 1958, along with Rimrock School.
Sources: Rockwell, Sammons, Wallace, School Board Minutes, Marian Ashwood
Back to Top
District 29 - Rimrock
In 1917, Rufus Berry donated land for a school at the foot of Fitzpatrick Mesa in western Gunnison County, approximately five miles east of Cimarron. A log school building was apparently built shortly after the land donation. It was called the Temporary school, but it acquired the nickname of “Tipperary,” due to the popular song of World War I. The existing wood frame building was erected circa 1920 replacing the log structure.
On a site overlooking meadows, fenced to keep cattle out, this schoolhouse included a stage (now gone), an entry porch, a cloakroom, a merry-go-round, and two outhouses. Built with a hip roof, double-hung windows, shiplap siding and reflecting a kinship to the residential style of the day, this school represents the pride the community had in this building. Locals say it was also called the Red Top School.
This schoolhouse was used from approximately 1922 until 1946. In 1958, Gunnison ceded the Rimrock School District to Montrose County. It then continued to be used as a community center until about 1997. In 2000, the Montrose County School District sold the Rimrock School to John and Eileen Kaser. In that same year, the Rimrock School was placed on the Colorado State Historic Register. The Kasers have obtained grants to restore this schoolhouse.
Sources: Rockwell, School Board minutes, Wallace
Back to Top
District 30 - Somerset
Somerset is a coal mining town in the northwestern corner of the county. In the fall of 1904 the first school board election was held with 93 ballots cast. A Mr. W. Blake is the first mentioned teacher or principal. Miss Luella Johnson, County Superintendent of Schools in 1916, noted that it was “a question of what to do with the foreign child, though the percent of foreign children is not so great as at Crested Butte. The 9th and 10th grades were being taught and they had an orchestra and did some work in singing. The Utah Fuel Company was generous in aiding the school…it was heated with steam, supplied with bubbling fountains, and sanitary toilets. They have a splendidly equipped playground, located in the center of town, adjoining the school house and it is surrounded by an iron fence.” The company was also providing a teacher’s cottage. When the Gunnison County school superintendent visited Marble and Somerset, her route by railroad took her through eight counties, a round trip of six hundred ten miles which lasted nearly two weeks. Because of the distance from Gunnison, the county would pay for Somerset high school students to attend Paonia HS. Somerset is still a community and education has been under the jurisdiction of Delta County since 1958, but while the schoolhouse is gone, the community has refurbished the playground.
Sources: Nelson, Rockwell, Wallace
Back to Top
District 6 & 19 -
DISTRICT 6 - TINCUP
When the town of Virginia City (Tincup) was growing into a reality in the summer of 1879, many families moved into the region. Plans soon materialized for a school and a substantial frame building was erected on lots 11-12 Block 12. The building was donated by the citizens of the town; many men worked on the building a few hours or days as may have been convenient. School District 6 was soon organized, but the schoolhouse, built by the community in 1879, never became a part of the county system as did other school properties. In 1882, another schoolhouse was constructed.
During the winter of 1916/17 Mrs. Emma Gill taught the last school session. By 1924, the Tincup School District was merged with the Pitkin District 5. The schoolhouse, being unused public property, suffered from vandalism. In 1935 Herman Clark bought the schoolhouse from the Pitkin School Board for a small consideration and immediately razed it to use the lumber elsewhere. Only the flag pole remained for some time to point to one of the county’s early day educational institutions, but it also is now long gone.
Sources: Mumey; Rockwell
DISTRICT 19 - VULCAN
The Vulcan School District was the poorest in the county with the property there valued at less than half of the next poorest school district in the county. It was known as a third-class school district. The Vulcan school in 1899 was financed by private funds. The school was held at various times during the year, usually for three months. School was generally held in any vacant room that was available. All of the teachers who taught at Vulcan were young ladies. In July of 1900, there was a dance held in honor of teacher Kate McCracken, whose term of school had just expired.
In 1906, Vulcan still had enough people to retain their school district although it was still the poorest in the county. District 19 was assessed for the last time in 1918, and it appears that the camp became deserted in 1919.
Back to Top
Class of 1934, Gunnison CO. A History of Gunnison County High School, Gunnison Colorado, 1883- 1934. Gunnison, CO: privately published, 1934.
Dillow, Myron D. Pitkin Public School District #5. West Conshohocken, PA: Infinity Publishing.com, 2005.
Johnson, John C. Jr. “Recollections of W. S. C. and R. M. B. L.” Unpublished paper. WSC.
McCollum, Oscar Jr. Marble: A Town Built on Dreams, Vol. 1. Denver: Sundance, 1992.
McGraw, L. R. “Mac”. Mountain Tales, Faded Tracks and Hi-Jinks. Gunnison, CO: 1991.
Mumey, Nolie. History of Tincup, Colorado (Virginia City): An Alpine Mining Camp Which Refused to Become a Ghost Town. Boulder, CO: Johnson Publishing Co., 1963.
Neal, Roger A. Crystal…What Really Happened. Elkhart, IN: Crystal Tale Books, c. 2002.
Nelson, A. P. Gunnison County, Colorado. Pitkin, CO: A. P. Nelson Mining, 1916.
Rockwell, Noraetta P. “The Early History of Gunnison County, Colorado, Schools”. Unpublished thesis, WSC, 1953.
Sammons, Judy Buffington. Tall Grass and Good Cattle: A Century of Ranching in the Gunnison Country. Gunnison, CO: Dove Graphics, 2003.
Thurman, Harold C. “History of Pitkin, Colorado: 1879-1930”. Unpublished thesis, WSC, 1964.
Vandenbusche, Duane. Early Days in the Gunnison Country. Gunnison, CO: B & B Printers, 1974.
Vandenbusche, Duane. The Gunnison Country. Gunnison, CO: B & B Printers, 1980.
Vandenbusche, Duane and Myers, Rex. Marble, Colorado, City of Stone. Denver: Golden Bell Press, 1970.
Vandenbusche, Duane, Gunnison Pioneer Museum, and Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum. Images of America: Around Gunnison and Crested Butte. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2008.
Wallace, Betty. Gunnison, a Short Illustrated History. Denver: Sage Books, 1964.
Wallace, Betty. The Gunnison Country. Denver: Sage Books, 1960.
Wallace, Betty. History with the Hide Off. Denver: Sage Books, 1964.
Wise, Earle. “Vulcan, Iris and Chance”. Unpublished paper, WSC, 1966?
Wolle, Muriel S. Stampede to Timberline. Boulder, CO: The University of Colorado, 1949.
Zielke, Patricia Ann. “A One Horse Town: the History of Almont, Colorado”. Unpublished paper, WSC History, 1979.
All photos and images courtesy of Historic Preservation Commission.
School Board Minutes of Cathedral, Crested Butte, Doyleville, DuBois/Talifero, Fairview, Marble, Paragon, Parlin, Pitkin, Rimrock, and Sargents
Williams, Mary, Superintendent of Schools, 1900 Report.
Johnson, Luella, Superintendent of Schools, 1916 Report.
GCHPC Application (Fairview, Spencer)
Colorado Historic Preservation Application (Sargents)
Various newspaper articles and articles about Paragon School
White Pine Cone Newsletter, George Means
Marian Youmans Ashwood (DuBois/Taliafaro)
Bob and Alice Fulton (Gunnison, Sapinero)
Harold and Velma Kreuger (Sillsville/Cochetopa)
Jean Lang (Castleton, Vader)
Dave McLain (Vader)
Ernie Nesbit (Ohio City, Sparta School)
Rikki Santarelli (Iola, Sapinero)
Lee Spann (Hillside)
Anne Steinbeck (White Pine, Ohio City)
Bill Sunderlin (Iola)
Lois Goolsby White (White Pine)