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Skagit River Journal

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First schools in Whatcom and Skagit County

Introduction to
Skagit, below

Whatcom County school
districts 1871-1883

Skagit County school
districts post-1883

Updated June 2009 to include data from Early Schools of Washington Territory,
by Angie Burt Bowden, 1935.

      While preparing the series of stories from Otto Klement's memoirs for an Issue 42 feature, we found this observation from his early years on the river:
      What constituted the first school in Skagit County was in progress in 1873 in a log stable on the homestead of the late David E. Kimble, a short distance below the present site of Mount Vernon. A half-dozen pupils were in attendance. Miss Ida Lanning, a popular little lass of sixteen, presided over this educational institution.
(Ida Lanning)
Ida Lanning. Photo courtesy of Chechacos All, which is still for sale at the Skagit County Historical Museum in LaConner.

      Once again we have a "first" claim and once again it is based on a myth. Klement likely heard the story told by the settlers who came up the Skagit River in 1870-71 from Whidbey Island. One of the settler children left a note with the records of the Territorial Daughters, Chapter 1: "To whom it may concern . . . this is to say that I came to what is now Skagit county on April 14, 1870, and that I went to school to Miss Ida Lanning and that she was the first school teacher in this county. Signed: Clara Drown." That claim could have been made by many in ignorance of the actual historical record. Or it could have been one more example of regional rivalry, the river settlers versus those of Fidalgo Island. Both areas would be included in the future Skagit County.
      The first actual school — in the area that became Skagit County in December 1883— is profiled below in a transcription of the diary of early Anacortes resident and historian Carrie White. In 1868-69, Whatcom County formed School District 2 for children of families living on Fidalgo and Guemes Islands. Then, in 1870, settlers built a small roughly built school house on ground donated by settler William Munks. Previous to the erection of that building; school was conducted in the private home across the road, where the first teacher was Almira Richard Griffin who was also the first white woman on Fidalgo island, coming from Sehome with her husband, John T. Griffin, in 1866, where she had earlier taught the children of Bellingham Bay pioneers.

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      According to the 1906 book, Illustrated History of Skagit & Snohomish Counties, The next school was taught by Samuel Tingley's sister, Zena Tingley. That was a subscription school and she taught at William Sartwell's original log cabin on the south fork, near the future town of Fir, in 1872. She taught seven pupils and the book notes that there were apparently no other schools on the mainland of the Skagit Valley before that time.
      The school board consisted of William Sartwell, Orrin Kincaid and "Little" Johnson. That school was held in Sartwell's original log cabin, a building so low that even the children could hardly get in without stooping. There were seven pupils and the teacher was Zena Tingley, who afterward became Mrs. H.H. Moores. The length of time at that time was but three months. This school was housed for two years thereafter in an old cabin on John Kelley's homestead, now occupied by Peter Egtvet. Subsequently, by the efforts of Mrs. C.C. Villeneuve, who went around to the lumber camps with a Siwash pilot, lumber was procured and a new building erected upon an acre of land donated for the purpose by Mr. Kelley. By reason of a difference between the people of the north and south sides of the river, this acre of land with the school building passed into the hands of Peter Egtvet and the pioneers erected a new schoolhouse at the delta on John Wilbur's place. This was used for a number of years, until a separate district was established on the south side of the river. Among the teachers in the old Wilbur school were G.E. Hartson and Mrs. Kate Washburn.
      At this Journal site from our original domain, we quoted early LaConner pioneer Carroll Anderson, who found in the 1904 LaConner school district files that there were four schools in LaConner or the surrounding area between 1873-76. [2009: this site is being updated and replaced; look for it next year[.] Joseph F. Dwelley taught at a private school in his LaConner home (still standing on the hill near the County Museum), starting in 1873. That was followed by an 1875 subscription school taught by Dwelley's wife and another by David Culver], with J.D. Lowman as teacher before he became more famous in Seattle. In January 1876, Miss Ida Leamer (later Mrs. Edgar A. Sisson) taught at the first public school within the city limits of LaConner, in a small building at the site of McGlinn's Hotel, but she soon resigned. The Grangers built a public school nearby in 1876. In the fall of 1876, Dr. J.S. Church opened the first public school in the vicinity of LaConner, in the old house belonging to Isaac Jennings, northeast of town near Peth's Corner. That was the first of a series of Jennings schools.
      when we researched old schools with author Tom Robinson in 2003, he made these observations during his research for his upcoming book about western Skagit County history:

      I now see that there is no problem with the La Conner public school system: Certainly, it dates from 1873, though the school was that of what later became the Calhoun district and then (under Skagit county) the Cedar Grove district ("the Jennings school"). The La Conner district did not hold any classes in La Conner until 1876, for a couple of years, then, classes alternated between the two places.
      In 1878 the Calhoun district was carved out of the original La Conner district. (It may have been carved out earlier, but it did not function until 1878.) I should add that the "two places" were (of course) La Conner (a little north of Commercial St. at first) and what later became Peth's Corner. The Jennings school stood about where the Puget Sound Energy transformer now stands.

      In the Samish Flats area, a school was started at Blanchard in 1873, with one of the Stevens girls teaching seven pupils, including her own siblings, in the Lyman Cutler home. At that time, any boy or girl who completed the eight grade was qualified to teach. George E. Hartson, who taught at the Jennings School, taught at Mount Vernon when he was just 17 and became Whatcom County Superintendent of Schools in his 20s. Re: the school that Klement mentioned, Ida Lanning taught in the Kimble barn near Britt's Slough and the lower log jam, the same school where Harrison Clothier taught three years later. He earlier taught his Mount Vernon founding partner, Ed English, back in Wisconsin.


1. David Culver school
      We are in the process of updating our profile of the Wallace-Cornelius-Rudene family. When we researched in Christopher Barnes's books, My Ruthinda and Bessie, we found these items about LaConner-area schools. When it was time for Will Cornelius to attend school in 1871, the family paddled with him down Sullivan slough to David Culver's private school in a LaConner log cabin. That was just a temporary answer, so Bessie insisted that John should promote a Pleasant Ridge school just as William Wallace had done for her and her siblings on Whidbey island. As a result, John became a member of the first Pleasant Ridge school district board, which opened a school in July 1872 at the Albert Leamer home and the teacher was Albert's daughter Ida who was only 15. The 1906 Illustrated History book recorded that Miss Leamer was granted the first teacher's certificate in the present boundaries of Skagit county by Dr. W.T. Deere, who was then the Whatcom county superintendent schools and lived near present Anacortes. Miss Leamer also taught the next term, this time at the James Harrison residence. The first pupils were Fanny, Mary and Edward Chilberg; William and Arthur Cornelius; and Edgar Stacey. According to the History, Deere was a federal-government employee in charge of teaching the Swinomish tribe farming methods on the reservation. Deere was not a physician; his honorific title was given him on account of having at one time served as a hospital steward.
      Correction November 2009: a very alert reader, Portia N. Stacey, wrote and clarified this section. "Ida Leamer (later Mrs. E.A. Sisson) was the school teacher at Albert Leamer's home on Pleasant Ridge, and later taught at the James Harrison residence. But she was the sister, not the daughter, of Albert Leamer. Albert (1851-1886), David Milton (1853-?) and Ida Leamer (1857-1939) came to Whatcom County in 1871 with their widowed Mother - Eliza J. (Campbell) Leamer (1818-1901) and settled on Pleasant Ridge where both Albert and Eliza took out Land Patents in the vicinity. Eliza's eldest daughter Mary (Leamer) (Stacey) Wallace (1839-1920) and her two Stacey children had come in 1870 with her second husband Harvey K. Wallace and had settled on the Beaver Marsh. By 1871, Harvey's brother, John Scott Wallace, and family and his sister, Sarah L. Wallace, had also arrived, and had taken out their Land Patents on adjacent property on the Beaver Marsh." Thank you for the correction.[Return]

First school district in the Skagit County portion of Whatcom
Diary of Carrie May White, via Marguerite White Young, her niece
      In 1868 or '69, school district #2 of Whatcom county was formed including within its boundaries Fidalgo and Guemes islands. In 1870 a small roughly built school house was erected on the southwest corner of the present Fidalgo school ground, which was donated by William Munks conditionally, as long as it was used for school purposes. If not so used, it was to revert to the estate.
      Previous to building the schoolhouse, school was held in the private house across the road from the site of the building. The first teacher was Almira Richard Griffin who was also the first white woman on Fidalgo island, coming from Sehome in 1866. Tom Robinson comment: "This may have begun as a public school. I've seen no year date for its founding, but what I have seen suggests the school probably dated from 1869; it might possibly have started in 1868."
      In the early days of the gold rush, Almira Richards came around the horn in a sailing vessel from New England. She was a fine and well educated woman. She married the first mate of the sailing vessel, Mr. John Griffin. After several years in California, they came to Sehome, later [to] Whatcom — now Bellingham, where she had charge of the school following Edward Eldridge. She taught that school two years, then came to Fidalgo island, where she was the first school teacher in what was to become the first school district in Skagit county.
      In November 1877, Reverend E.O. Tade and family arrived in what is now Anacortes. Soon after his arrival, he opened an academy on the site where the present home of Mrs. Kate Whitney now stands. This school was at one time in a very successful condition and attended by pupils form different parts of the county and the Sound country. The academy was under the management of Professor A.T. Burnell, formerly of Oberlin, Ohio.

Whatcom County school districts 1871-1883
(As found in Record A "School Boundaries" pages 1-93)
      Back in 2001, Jeanie Bond, a volunteer researcher at the Washington State Regional Archives in Bellingham compiled this list of the earliest schools in Whatcom County, which included the present Skagit County until November 1883. Jeanie's notes are in quotes. Further Journal research follows.
      According to Bowden, "In 1855 Cap[tain Eldridge left the employ of Roeder mill to become miner and school-teacher at Sehome." That is probably the night school for adults that Isabella Eldridge Edens described for Lottie Roeder Roth. She recalled that it stood where the Bellingham Bay Machine Shops stood in 1935 and was built of rough lumber, serving mostly coal miners at the Sehome Mine. That first school lasted for three months per year and usually had eight to ten students, . After that,
      "We walked two miles to school over a narrow trail, the branches of the forest trees meeting over our heads."

DistOrig. NameEventualDetails
1WhatcomWhatcom"indefinite, originally comprising the county (This would be all of present-day Whatcom and Skagit counties)"
(Sehome School)
Sehome School, Ca. 1870, Isabelle Eldridge in the doorway

    Journal: This school was originally located in the town of Sehome, on the flank of the school near where Western Washington University is today. As Lelah Jackson Edson explains in her book, Fourth Corner (1951), the first public schoolhouse was erected in 1861 on the bluff near the Sehome School Mine, near present Cornwall Avenue, and almost in the middle of what is now Maple Street.
      John H. Fravel, who strung the first telegraph wires in the Territory, built it with William Utter and John Plaster, using rough lumber from the Roeder-Peabody Mill. It was 16 by 24 feet, with a roof of split cedar shakes. Small streams flowed on both sides towards Bellingham Bay and a ditch flowed behind it, carrying water from Whatcom Creek Falls to the Sehome or Bellingham Bay Coal Co. mine.
      The first teacher was George Hall Richardson (eventually Fravel's father-in-law), who originally jumped ship from British service and, as researcher Donna Sand recently discovered, died in 1871 in a hunting accident. Bowden wrote:

      He . . . made a success of the three months' term of school which was all the community could afford to keep it open for those first years. This schoolhouse was the center of all social civic and political life of the community for nearly twenty years. Here were held the social meetings, the debates, the political orations and the religious services. It represented all that was best in the community and was almost the only antidtoe to the saloon and the rough wilderness of the times.
      Until Isabelle Eldridge started teaching there at age 16 in 1868, there was no desk for the teacher but she got a desk and usually taught at least 40 students, as many as 60. As Lottie Roeder Roth recalled, "Our schools were always held three months of the summer , when the roads were passable." Congressman Selucius Garfielde delivered a famous speech there in 1868. See the Journal profile of the John Fravel family. Journalist Mary B. Haight recalled:
      This little school was built near where Maple and Dock (now Cornwall Avenue) streets now cross, not very far from the [Milwaukee Road] station. It was put up on a natural grassy knoll, a little bluff on the edge of the Bay, and the deep forest growth receded from this little sunshiny spot on three sides. Before it, at the foot of the bluff, the clear waters of the Bay broke upon a beautiful beach, and one of the favorite playgrounds of the children was the huge flat boulder which lay in front of the schoolhouse, where they could keep dry in the high tide as well as the low. It never had a coat of paint in all its long years of service . . . It was rough, of course, and built of boards in 'box' fashion, with a window on each side that would slide both ways. Roofed with shakes, it kept the scholars dry in wet weather, and a stove in the middle kept them warm in cold weather. Rough, homemade desks lined both walls . . . [and when Isabella Eldridge taught] a dunce's stool and cap ornamented one corner of the room.
      Until 1874, that was the only public school for the small population of Sehome and Whatcom and children sent from families in other towns in Whatcom and Skagit counties. W.H. Fouts, an Iowa native, taught in Thurston County when he first arrived in Washington Territory in 1871. He petitioned Whatcom Superintendent of Schools F.F. Lane to form a second district and when it was approved, directors purchased a building on Division Street and moved it to the corner of D and 16th (now Clinton) streets next to the old stockade for the 1874 school session. Edson goes on to describe the Whatcom district as number 15, but that number is allocated below to Calhoun, so we will have to research further. [Also see Bowden notes below].
      When the Territory of Washington was formed in March 1853, the Organic Act of that same year decreed that two sections in each township be devoted to providing funding for schools. When Whatcom County was formed in 1854, voters immediately authorized a two-mill school tax. There were only a few children in the villages, however, so the first school was for adult illiterate miners working at Sehome coal mines. Edward Eldridge was the first teacher and he drew some criticism because he was competing for time with the Sehome saloon.
      During the short-lived Fraser River gold rush, the Northern Light newspaper reported on July 17, 1858, that subscriptions were being solicited for a school at an unknown location. The first schoolteacher was a Mrs. Smith, who took over the Northern Light building in 1859 (the brick courthouse that is still standing) that was previously used by Alonzo Poe for his unsuccessful real estate office following his survey during the golf rush. She apparently taught at that private school for a year before moving to California. Then the Sehome School opened. Bowden: Whatcom School 1 had 34 pupils when it opened a new term in April 1874.

2FidalgoSkagit"part of Fidalgo Island lying east of Fidalgo Bay" Journal: see the Carrie White story below.
3SkagitSkagit"All that part of Township 33 lying east of the Dry Slough."
      Journal: Likely based on the original Sartwell cabin school and Skagit City and The Forks. But Tom Robinson found some other information:
      "I was up at the archives last week, looking at the microfilm of the proceedings of the county commissioners, and found out Orrin Kincaid was a functioning county commissioner until his term ended at the beginning of 1873. In courtroom testimony years later he gave the impression that he had resigned and gone off traveling at the end of 1871. Since he said that he had been instrumental in getting the "Skagit" district created, I had thought that maybe he had gotten the school started in 1871. But now I know that he was at Whatcom for a commissioners meeting as late as November 1872, it makes sense that he should have gotten the district created and that he should have been placed on the school board in 1872. The numbering at least makes it clear that it became a public school no later than 1873, but there is no good reason to doubt that it was established as a public school in 1872, maybe after a few months as a subscription school."

4LaConnerSkagit"From mouth of Sullivan's Slough, south."
      This was a public school from 1873: Until 1876 classes were held at the old Jenning's place on White's slough (slightly north of modern Peter Downey Road, which is the western extension of the McLean Road). From 1876 to 1878 classes rotated between the Jenning's place and La Conner; in 1878 the "Jennings school" seceded from the La Conner district, becoming Calhoun (later Grovedale) district 15 (but always really called "the Jennings school"). Incidentally, note the reference below to "Calhoun/Pleasant Ridge:" these were two quite different districts, the former eventually located at Peth's Corner and the latter on the Valentine Road on the north end of Pleasant Ridge.
5SemiahmooWhatcom "Twp 40"
6FerndaleWhatcom"Twp 39" Bowden: This district opened in June 1874, the only school at that time on the Nooksack River and the first teacher, Alice Eldridge Gilligan, christened the district Ferndale, which also became the name of the nearby town. She taught 15 the first year. Directors: J.H. Plaster, M.T. Tawes and R. Bizer.
7Samish Skagit"North half North tier of sections in Twp 35" Bowden: "The settlers of Samish . . . started their first school in 1873, in a house belonging to Mr. Cutler (the man who killed the British pig on San Juan Island) on his old claim east of the Wood place, afterward occupied by a Mr. Samson . . . .Two years later a regular district was established, No. 8, with Messrs. Wood, Legg and Emery the first directors and Mr. Stevens the first clerk.Tom Robinson comment: This was where Edison school now stands. There is little doubt that this is the school to which the Jefferson note below refers. The grant of the land dates from 1874.
8JeffersonSkagit"That part of Twp 35 not included in Dist. 7" Journal: This district became Mount Baker after the county change and that district became part of Edison, number 308, in July 1922. First school erected in 1874 (according to book, Chechacos All).
      Bowden: "Charles Setzer was Edison's first school teacher, coming from Orcas Island about 1874. The site for the first school was donated by John Morgan and the building materials were contributed by William Dean, Edward McTaggart and Daniel Dingwall. Among other pioneer teachers may be mentioned, E. D. Davis and Miss May B. Pickett, both of Mount Vernon, and Mrs. Amelia Watt." Tom Robinson comment: I gather that this was a now forgotten school at the tiny hamlet of Mount Baker, located at the mouth of Joe Larey's slough on Padilla, not Samish bay.
9WashingtonSkagit"Twp 36 nor of Range 3 East exclusion of the south tier of sections." Journal: no details. Tom Robinson suggested this could have been in the Fravel/Blanchard area.
10LincolnSkagit"Twp 34N R4E exclusion of the part contained in No. 3 (Skagit)" Journal: included future Mount Vernon. Tom Robinson dates this in 1874.
11FranklinSkagit"Fir Island area." Journal: this was also a settlement on the hill east of Milltown. But Tom Robinson interprets the school to have included students from western Fir Island and Beaver Marsh and dates it in 1874. Bradley Aug. 2, 1884 Skagit report also confirms.
12CampbellSkagitJournal: presumably near Campbell Lake on Fidalgo Island in Skagit County.
13Bay ViewSkagit"North of Leary's Slough, East by Skagit River, South by Higgins slough, and West by Swinomish slough." Journal: In Edson's book, she referred to District 13 as being located in Marietta, about 1873, and taught by W.H. Fouts. Tom Robinson: "This district had its school at Padilla and stretched all the way across the Olympia Marsh to the river. Began in 1874." Bowden: "Padilla Bay school opened in 1877 in a building erected by Richard Ball."
14Pleasant RidgeSkagit"East of LaConner Area."
      Journal: notes from Tom Robinson: "The numbering of Pleasant Ridge suggests to me that the school taught there by Ida Leamer (see above) in 1872 did not become a public school district until the same time as the Calhoun district 15, which was in May 1878. It must have been private (by public subscription of families) up to then. This is what the transfer of land from one of the Chilberg family for a school building strongly hints at. District likely began public school in 1874."
Earlier Whatcom 15(Bellingham Bay)SkagitBowden: Created along with districts 16 and 17 in 1874 by County Superintendent F.F. Lane. This district was between R.V. Peabody's donation land claim and the claim of John Bennett, "much to the disgust of many." Directors: Henry Roeder, William Utter, H. Hofercamp; clerk George A. Kellogg.
15Calhoun/Pleasant RidgeSkagit"Adjacent to Sullivan Slough, east of LaConner." This is also listed as Jennings School, held in Isaac Jennings home beginning in 1876, Laurin L. Andrews teacher, followed by Robert White. Building erected at west end of McLean Road 1880.
      Journal: Thus far, a dozen of the first 15 Whatcom County districts are south of what became the border of Skagit County in 1883. That reflects the fact that more settlement occurred south of the line in the 1870s. Settlement on Bellingham Bay stalled as the Roeder-Peabody mill burned and the Sehome Coal mines closed. The tide turned a bit by March 1882, the point at which settlers began flooding into Whatcom County, according to Lottie Roeder Roth in her 1929 book, History of Whatcom County. Note that the Skagit-area schools were all in the western part of the county. The log jams at and south of present Mount Vernon restricted upriver settlement until the 1878-79 period.
      1906 Illustrated History: The year 1871 brought a number of settlers, among them Isaac Jennings and family. Those settlers Mr. Jennings was able to recall as living on the flats at that time in addition to the ones already mentioned, were the following: the Manchester family, south of LaConner; William Woodward, a bachelor north of LaConner; Edward Bellou, a bachelor in the same locality; a bachelor known as "Pink Man;" the Terrace family, Michael Hintz, James O'Laughlin [O'Loughlin], Charles Miller, C.A. D'Arcy, G.W.L. Allen, Isaac Chilberg, a minister named Thompson, who used to preach occasionally at the McCormick farm; Laurin L. Andrews, a young merchant on the reservation; and Thomas Calhoun. In addition to these there were Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Wallace on Beaver marsh, near Pleasant Ridge, Albert and Milton Leamer, brothers of Mrs. Wallace, and John Wallace. Mrs. David Leamer, mother of Albert and Milton and of Mrs. Wallace, settled near Pleasant Ridge in October 1871 and still resides there. Frederick Eyre was also in the country, though not a settler at that time. David Culver came to the flats about 1872; James Gilliland was in charge of the telegraph station at LaConner in 1872 and for many years afterward.

      Journal: The four communities on early Bellingham Bay did not consolidate under the name Bellingham until 1903. This district could have been at Unionville, the small village located on the Pattle/Morrison claims at what is now called Boulevard Park, on the west flank of Sehome Hill. In 1882, Edward Eldridge and Erastus Bartlett bought much of that Unionville land for a mill site and community that they platted as Bellingham on April 24, 1883. Or else this district could have been named for the Bay itself and could have been located north of the Whatcom town settlement, adjacent to Lummi. More research is needed.
17LyndenWhatcom"Twp 40 N R2E and Twp 40 N R3E except the two tiers of sections on the east of Twp 40N R3E" Journal: from Tom Robinson: established July 1874.
18WootenSkagit"All that part of Fidalgo Island lying west of Fidalgo Bay"
      Journal: Shadrach and Richard Wooten moved from the Carolinas to the March's Point area. In John Conrad's 1963 obituary notes, he wrote that Shadrach "came to Fidalgo Island in 1863, exactly 100 years ago. He first settled at Fidalgo, married a native, then homesteaded at Secret Harbor on Cypress Island. He spent a big part of his life on Guemes Island. His wife was a member of the Samish tribe and they have many descendants." A 1931 Anacortes School Board reports notes that the first Wooten school house, from 1875-78, was actually an abandoned shack with half a window and a door, located at 31st and T avenues. Seven pupils began, including the Wooten children, and Mrs. Jennie Howard was the teacher. In 1878, the school was moved into the "old Tom Lamb building," which had two windows. It was replaced by an unknown school in 1885.
19NooksackWhatcomJournal: for students of families near "The Crossing," the ford of the Nooksack river near the towns of Nooksack, Everson and Tuxedo.
20HarmonySkagit"Riverside" Journal: we now think of Riverside as the area east of the bend of the Skagit River north of downtown Mount Vernon, but this was the area north of the North Fork of the Skagit and west of the main channel.
21GuemesSkagit"That part of Whatcom county known as Guemes, St. Clair, and Cypress Islands." Journal: generally north of Anacortes and Ship Harbor.
22Mountain ViewWhatcom"Northeast of Ferndale."
      Journal: From the Blaine Journal, Oct. 31, 1889 — "Mountain View is mostly situated on a gentle slope towards the Nooksack river and Bellingham bay. Lake Terrell is located just to the northwest of the Mountain View neighborhood and only a little over a mile from the beach of the Gulf of Georgia. There is a large school at Mountain View which is only three miles west of Ferndale and about fourteen miles southeast of Blaine."
      Journal: Tom Robinson and I were both a mystified that this school shows up too early for the Swinomish Reservation day school, which dated only from the 1890s. Robinson notes: "Swinomish precinct" was created in 1867, well before the Conners arrived and just after the Dodges and the Corneliuses settled in. I had thought before that the precinct must have been created in the spring of 1870." He also has another possibility for the Swinomish name for the district: "I do not rule out the possibility that the Swinomish school was at Fredonia. After all, the Fredonia mill was known as the Swinomish Lumber Company. (But early enough to fit 23?)
24IslandSkagit"Samish Island"
25OrillaWhatcomJournal: West of Clear Lake along Nookachamps Creek.
26ErieSkagit"Commencing at Similk Bay." Journal: Fidalgo Island west and south of Anacortes and Ship Harbor.
27RiversideSkagit"East of Bay view north of Harmony. Organization Forfeited" Journal: see 31 below
27EnterpriseWhatcomJournal: this was located about two miles north of Ferndale on the way to Custer.
28AnatoleWhatcom"East half of Twp 39N R2E (East Ferndale)"
29LymanSkagit"Embracing all that part of the valley of the Skagit River extending from the point where the section line between section 26 and 27 in TWP 35N R5E on the west to the mouth of the Baker River on the east. Established May term 1881"
30FirSkagitJournal: This is probably based on the school at the Sartwell cabin from 1872. Robinson found that the Fir public school itself dated from about 1881.
31RiversideSkagitAll of sections 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 in Twp 34 R3E (west of river) and sections 5, 6, 7, 8 in Twp 34 R4E (east of river)
32GarfieldWhatcom"Between Blaine and Semiahmoo"
33CarlyleWhatcom"Near Canadian Border"
34MinklerSkagitBirdsview area not later Minkler Lake and Post Office
      Journal: this first upriver school formed on the south side of the river from the future town of Birdsview. The nucleus was Birdsey Minkler's water-powered sawmill on Mill Creek . The students were mainly the children of the 1878-era settlers: Birdsey Minkler, August Kemmerich, and (maybe) John Grandy — who all three moved here from the Olympia Peninsula in 1878, and George Savage and L.A. Boyd. Boyd was a very colorful character who had run away from his family home on Staten Island as a boy and sailed around the world, arriving in America at the end of the Civil War and riding a horse across country. He wound up on a homestead in Nebraska and moved to Washington with his young family to join his in-laws, the Savage family. Educated both at sea and in France, he taught back in the Mid-West and became the first upriver schoolmaster. Dan Royal is a Boyd descendant and publishes the Stump Ranch online website.
35EatonWhatcom"Near Canadian Border"
36EmersonWhatcomJournal: We have never located this district. Could it be a typo for Everson?
37CooperWhatcom"Conway then south to county line" Journal: Bowden: a school started here in 1873 and the wife of settler Charles Villeneuve was the first teacher. We hope a reader will know who the Cooper namesake was.
38ExcelsiorWhatcom"Dakota Creek area" Journal: this was at the southern end of Drayton Harbor, near Blaine.
39SterlingSkagit"All of Twp 35N R4E and all of T35 N R5E, except the two tiers of section on the east." Journal: "Established in November 1883, just before Skagit County was formed. Eva Wallace was the first teacher. See the Skagit County list below.
      These are some very helpful notes from Tom Robinson: "I now can be reasonably safe in saying that every district from 5 (La Conner) to 20 (Harmony) was created between 1873 and the middle of 1875 and that every one from 5 to 23 ("Swinomish") was created between 1873 and 1878. It is very significant, I think, that public schools mostly preceded church buildings. In LaConner the Catholic church apparently did precede the public school, but only by a few months."

Hard times at Whatcom
      According to Edson, in the spring of 1876, three schools operated in the Bellingham Bay area: Fouts taught at Whatcom; Mrs. W.H. Griffin taught at Sehome; and Alice Eldridge Gilligan taught at Bellingham (district 16?). But the districts could not all afford schools, so they re-consolidated in February 1878 under John A. Tennant, county superintendent. She also noted that in June 1879, after the Sehome mines closed, so many people had moved away that only 16 pupils were enrolled in the Whatcom district.
      Then during the hard times, schools closed completely. Whatcom pioneers either kept their children out of school or sent them to graded and high schools in Port Townsend, Tacoma and Seattle and some went to the Territorial University in Seattle, which was actually still just a glorified high school. Some girls attended a convent in Victoria. When good times returned, a special election in 1883 was staged for school. Almost totally ignored, the school house lost 2-6. But Pierre B. Cornwall offered a site on the line between Sehome and Whatcom. Because Skagit County split off from the south, Nellie S. Coupe, Whatcom County Superintendent of Schools, reorganized the Whatcom districts on Dec. 27, 1883. The Whatcom School District 1 was at the corner of I and 17th (Dupont) streets where Roeder school is today.

(Kimble school)
      This photo was taken sometime around the turn of the 20th century by an unknown photographer. It shows the Kimble outbuilding that was originally used as the first school in the future-Mount Vernon area, near the lower log jam that choked off the river.

Skagit County school districts formed after 1883
Districts formed through 1885
      The first County Superintendent was Miss Josie M. Bradley, a Democrat, after Skagit split off from Whatcom County in December 1883, followed by George Hartson, Richard O. Welts and Susan Lord Currier Ornes. Preceding that vote, Mrs. Nellie Coupe was superintendent for all of Whatcom County., and she continued in that office after the Skagit split. In June 1883, Hartson reported that 24 Whatcom County districts contained 1,051 pupils and the school fund stood at $2.85 per capita. By August the total students rose to 1,264, with Nooksack having the largest district at 113.
      Teachers then in the county included: Miss Luella Whitten, Mr. Myer, Alice Foster, Eva Wallace (began teaching at Sterling), Carrie Graham, E.J. Hagadorn, S.R. Bradley, Alice Rogers, Pauline Polson, Nellie Graham, Mary Umbarger, Leila J. Turner, Mrs. Nellie C. Coupe (daughter-in-law of Thomas, wife of his son, William T.), Maggie J. Chilberg, C.T. Kriter, W.W. Gardner, Grace O'Neill, ada M. Pyeatt, Arminda Van Valkenberg (first wife of William Munks), John Hayton, William Cain, Henry Bride (LaConner, Washington Governor from 1901-05), Ed. Davidson, Thomas Wynn. Journal ed. note: An alert reader caught an error we had transcribed in the original story, that Mary Umbarger was the namesake of the present Burlington school. Georganne Wilkinson Robertson pointed out that the teacher namesake's name was Lucille Umbarger. Thank you, Georganne. We hope that other readers will alert us to any other necessary corrections.

1Swinomish-RosarioBradley Aug. 2, 1884 report: District began as Swinomish in February 1885, then became Rosario in 1889
      Rosario is located due north of 1935 Deception Pass bridge, south of Lake Erie and west of Lake Campbell, Section 14, Twp 34N, Range 1E. Schoolhouse still standing in 2008, owned by the Skagit County Historical Society and erected 1891. Although the district formed soon after the county split from Whatcom, school was conducted in private homes. In 1889 the Robert Sharpe home was used for 3-month term. Thomas Sharpe owned much of the nearby land. Rosario and Fidalgo independent of Anacortes District until 1957 (Skagit Settlers).
2FidalgoSec. 33, T35N R2E. South of modern refinery on land donated by pioneer William Munks, near east end of railroad trestle, just west of Summit Park addition. Bradley Aug. 2, 1884 report: First class at this location Jan. 27, 1885.
3MeadowWe are working with researcher Solveig Lee to determine where this school(s) originally stood. The original notes Jeannie Bond discovered read: "All that part of T33 . . . east of Dry Slough, T33N, R3E." Bradley Aug. 2, 1884 report: First class at this location Jan. 27, 1885. When we researched the Skagit City School, we found notes that, after the floodwaters of 1887 damaged the old school on the R.L. Kelly farm, the new Skagit County created School District 3 on the east side of the river and a school was erected on the Ole N. Lee property near the present Stackpole Road. Sec. 5, T33N, R4E. The Meadow School was later located, however, about 2 to 3 miles north. [Journal update 2009: See Issue 51 for the memories of Eloise Stendal (wife of Bill Stendal of Sedro-Woolley) about attending Meadow School.] And the school to the south was usually referred to as the Lee School, so we hope to straighten this out in the future.
4LaConnerBecame District 305 on May 21, 1920, consolidated with Dist. 15
5Samish IslandDissolved June 25, 1920, became part of Dist. 8
6Erie-DeweyDistrict originally called Erie for nearby lake. First recorded public school class was in 1888. Rosario Dist. formed with both schools in 1889, then evolved into Gibralter Dist. 37 in 1889. Back to combined Dist. 6 in 1894. Gibralter was Legh Freeman's short-lived town east of Fidalgo City.
      The town of Dewey was located at the southern end of Fidalgo Island. Frank Benn and Joseph Dwelley originally named it Deception in 1878 when they opened a mill there. After Benn was killed by Samuel Thompson on the Fourth of July, 1887, his widow, Mary, sold the mill and the optimistic business owners there changed the town name to Fidalgo City, adding the "City" to differentiate with Munks's town at the northern end of the island. After the Spanish-American War of 1898, the name changed again to Dewey to honor Admiral George Dewey's naval victory in the Philippines. The school was built about two miles north, between Lake Erie and Campbell Lake, in Sec. 12, T34N, Range 1E, maybe as an evolution of the early Campbell Lake school. The Klondike Gold Rush brought a boom in 1898 but then the town died and the hotel was used as a coop for Leghorn hens.
7Edison-SamishFirst class was in January 1885. Became Dist. 304 on August 1, 1919, consolidated with Dist. 92. Land donated by John Morgan and William Dean. Dan Dingwall and Edward McTaggart supplied materials for 1-room school. Ida Gilkey Conn taught at 16 after training at Concordia, Kansas. Woodman Granny Mathews taught for many years; 7-mile walk from Dingledell-Hickson. (Chechacos All)
8Jefferson-Mount BakerIf you have stood on the north shore of Samish Island, you have seen the beautiful view of Mount Baker to the northeast, thus inspiring the name for the district. This school became part of Dist. 308 after consolidating in 1919 and then Dist. 309 after Dist. 93 joined on Aug. 6, 1926.
9Washington-BlanchardLocated at the corner of Legg and Colony roads at the corner of Sec.22, T36N, R3E. This was the school that Egbert "Edward" R. Murrow attended, along with Frank Pratt and Florence Smith Lowe. Frank still lives in Blanchard and Florence lives in California and both are in their mid-90s. First class on Jan. 27, 1885.
10Lincoln-Mount VernonThe original school appears to have been located south of Sec. Street in Sec. 30, T34N, R4E. Became Dist. 306 on June 22, 1920, by consolidation with Dist. 83 in the Cedardale area. According to the 1906 Illustrated History, the first school census was taken in June 1884, netting 45 students in the district. E.D. Davis was the first teacher that year. No location of school given.
11Franklin-RexvilleSec. 10, T33N, R3E, at the north end of the old North Fork bridge.
12HamiltonSec. 14, T35N, R6E, on land donated by William Hamilton, first class in 1884. The high school there closed in 1943 and students were bused from then on to Sedro-Woolley
13PadillaSec. 32, T35N, R3E. This location was actually on the hill east of the town of Bayview.
14Pleasant RidgeBecame part of LaConner Dist. 311 on June 14, 1931, consolidated with District 307. This school building still stands, in a deplorable condition, on Pleasant Ridge, west of Chilberg Road
15JenningsBecame part of LaConner Dist. 305, consolidated with Dist. 4 on May 21, 1920. Proper name was Grovedale District but often referred to as Cedargrove
16FirFirst class Jan. 27, 1885.
17SterlingSec. 27, T35N, R4E. Closed 1940, now part of School Dist. 101
18AnacortesSec. 24, T35N, R1E. Classes began Jan. 30, 1885, in an unknown schoolhouse that replaced the Lamb School (see Wooten district above). Nelson Grade School opened at 29th and Commercial on Sept. 5, 1891. Columbia School opened in 1892 in the spirit of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage.
19AvonSec. 14, T34N, R3E. SW Corner of Avon-Allen Road and what is now Bennett Road. First class Jan. 27, 1885.
20HarmonySec. 35, T34N, R3E.
21GuemesOn the island north of Anacortes, Sec. 1, T35N, R1E
22BirdsviewSec. 15, T34N, R7E. At some point the school was built north of the river, just west of the Fish Hatchery. The building still stands. First class 1885 session.
23Warner's PrairieBecame part of Prairie Dist. 78 on Feb. 27, 1905, consolidated with districts 23 and 44.
24Cooper-ConwayFirst class Jan. 27, 1885.
25Orilla-Baker HeightsSec. 14, T34N, R4E, between Big Lake and Clear Lake and between forks of the Nookachamps. The schoolhouse was torn down in the 1990s. First class May 9, 1887.
26LymanSec. 17, T35N, R6E. The original school was nearer the bluff overlooking the river. It was replaced in the 1930s by the school in the present location on the north side of the old upriver highway.
27SedroAfter Skagit County was formed, schools moved from the Batey homestead to the Van Fleet homestead to Township Road and finally had a permanent home in 1892 at the Franklin School, where Central School now stands. Our original story about schools in the Sedro-Woolley area is outdated and is no longer available; we plan to replace it in 2010. Meanwhile, you can see the Sterling School here. You can see the Franklin School, which preceded Central School on Talcott Street, here. You can see the Irving School, which opened in 1901 and served both as the first high school and also housed the overflow from Franklin, here.
      Bowden: "In the annual report of 1885 of the county superintendent of schools, George E. Hartson, it is noted that he had only 20 schools to visit. Three were erected during his administration. The sum of $5, 689.69, which was raised for school purposes, was considered so colossal that these figures were quoted in other counties to demonstrate the high interest Skagit County took in furthering education.
      Territorial Institutes were held as follows: 1st Institute, August 7, 8, 9,1884 at La Conner; 2nd Institute, June 10, 11, 12, 1885, at Mount Vernon; 3rd Institute, June 23, 24, 25, 1886, at Mount Vernon; 4th Institute, August 3, 4, 5, 1887, at La Conner; 5th Institute, Third Judicial District, June 4, 1888. Teachers came from Olympia, Seattle and Ellensburg, and 6th Institute, August 7, 1889, at La Conner."

Districts formed after 1885
28SinclairOn the island, north of Cypress and Guemes islands. Section 9, T36N, R1E, west of the main town, Urban. Through Sept. 21, 1907.
29RidgewaySec. 21, T34N, R3E. On the McLean Road, west of West Mount Vernon.
30BellevilleOriginally named Centerville, this very small town on the Great Northern rail route became Belleville for namesake Sam Bell. Sec. 19, T35N, R4E.
31Bay ViewFirst class Nov. 7, 1888
32Day CreekSec. 23, T35N, R7E. A fire hall stands on the spot today east of Clear Lake. First class 1888.
33Clear LakeSec. 1, T34N, R4E. The present building stands north of town, the third incarnation. First class 1889.
34SaukBecame Dist. 79 on Jan. 27, 1905, consolidating with Dist. 56, Moran
35FredoniaSouth of Bay View and east of Padilla. First class in 1889.
36CedardaleSouth of Mount Vernon. First class Feb. 14, 1890. Later called Lincoln School, Sec. 8, T33N, R4E.
37GibralterThis is the short-lived town that publisher Legh Freeman founded east of Fidalgo City at the southern tip of Fidalgo Island. Consolidated with the Fidalgo City Dist. 6 in 1893.
37GrasmereNumber reassigned to Grasmere, west of Concrete, from 1894-1917. Became part of Grasmere Dist. 91 on Sept. 1, 1917.
38RiversideSec. 17, T34N, R4E, south of river. This Riverside is where we now think of it, the district north, over the hill, from Mount Vernon.
39SkiyouSec. 21, T35N, R5E, on north bend of the slough. Originally called the Wilson District for Joseph Wilson, nearby landowner and of the team who helped clear the Mount Vernon log jams in 1877-80. Became part of Utopia Dist. 310 on Jan. 29, 1931, consolidated with Utopia Dist. 69. The schoolhouse became the Skitopia Grange and is now a private residence.
40Van HornEast of Concrete.
41MontborneOn the east side of Big Lake, Nelson Bennett and the Fairhaven Land Co. platted this town on the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern railroad route, on land owned by Hyacinth Montborne, the first doctor in Mount Vernon.
42McMurraySec. 25, T33N, R4E, just north of Snohomish County line, east of Conway and Milltown. On the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern railroad route. First class on March 28, 1891.
43ConnNear Edison. Became part of Dist. 92 on June 27, 1919, consolidating with Dist. 76.
44WickershamNear the Whatcom County Line on the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern railroad route. Became part of Dist. 78 on Feb. 27, 1905, consolidated with Warner's Prairie Dist. 23.
45WoolleyOn north side of Seattle & Northern tracks, corner of Reed Street in old Woolley town. Became part of Sedro-Woolley Dist. 70 (now 101) on April 29, 1899, consolidating with Sedro Dist. 27, four months after the towns merged.
      Bowden: "Mrs. P. A. Woolley is entitled to the distinction of having taught the first school in Woolley. It was held at the rear of the commissary house belonging to the mill. She had twenty-two pupils at one time and some walked two miles through the heavy timber to go to school. There was yet no district incorporated and Mrs. Woolley donated her services to the public good."
46CypressOn the island north of Anacortes. Became part of Dist. 28 on Sept. 21, 1907, by transfer.
47BurlingtonSec. 32, T35N, R4E. According to pioneers George Cressey and Mrs. Lloyd Hartman, the first ungraded school was conducted in the original Maccabees Hall on the south side of Orange Street between the Great Northern railroad tracks and Anacortes Street. Clara V. Garl, the daughter of Abraham Garl who later married B.R. Morrison of Seattle, was the first teacher. The building was subsequently moved to the corner of Fairhaven and Anacortes streets. The first actual schoolhouse was built in 1892.
48AlgerSec. 7, T36N, R4E. Town originally called Lookout, school just north of town.
49BowSec. 35, T36N, R3E. School originally near cemetery.
50JenningsDistrict dissolved Nov. 20, 1906. Property transferred to districts 39 and 69, Skiyou and Utopia.
51BelfastSec. 6, T35N, R4E. On the Great Northern rail route, just south of Bow Hill Road and Prairie Road.
52Rocky CreekSec. 22, T35N, R10E. Between Rockport and Marblemount, west of Clark's Cabins Resort.
53MarblemountTransferred to Rocky Creek Dist. 52 on July 25, 1896. Otto Pressentin was an early teacher here, says he still taught there 1897, so this 1896 year could be suspect.
54MansfordSec. 33, T33N, R10E. Near the Snohomish County Line, east of the Sauk River, south of junction with the Suiattle River.
55Olympia MarshSec. 35, T35N, R3E. SW corner Josh Wilson and Avon-Allen roads.
56MoranBecame part of Sauk Dist. 49 on Jan. 27, 1906, consolidated with Sauk Dist. 34.
57Skagit CitySeveral schools in the area. Distict appears to start in 1888.
(SkagitCity School)
Skagit City School, ca. 1907

      Before the Skagit City school was erected, students had walked to the school in the Fir district to the south or to the Wilbur School on the farm of John Wilbur (and later owned by Joseph M. Gunderson), or they crossed the river to the Kelly School, named for the pioneer R.L. Kelly and located on the Peter Egtvet farm, upslope from the eastern shore of the river. That crossing was especially dangerous in the rainy, stormy months and the flood seasons. After the floodwaters of 1887 damaged the Kelly school, the new Skagit County created School District 3 on the east side of the river. We have not placed exactly where the new Skagit City District 57 School was erected in 1888, compared to the business buildings of the town as shown in the photo above, but we know that it was close enough to the water that it was undermined by floodwaters in 1901. In 1902, a new school building was erected moved to present site at 1552 Moore Road (T33N, R3E) on 1/2-acre on the Knute Lange farm (later known as the Vernal Lee farm) on higher ground west of the South Fork. The school closed in 1940 and students transferred to the Conway District. The building still stands and an annual picnic is staged there in the summer. See this Journal site.
58Jarman PrairieUnknown location east of Belfast School, somewhere near the Prairie Road, on Blanket Bill Jarman's original claim. Dissolved in 1903 and became part of Equality District 68.
59MilltownSouth of Conway.
60NooksackDissolved July 11, 1904, became parts of 69 and 26, Utopia and Lyman. A real head-scratcher as to where it was. the south fork of the Nooksack River is separated from Lyman by hills and the historic Williamson Pass.
61CavanaughSec. 27, T33N, R5E. Logging district, 3-4 miles east of Ehrlich and Lake McMurray.
62LauerdaleUnknown location near Rockport. Dissolved May 11, 1916, became part of Rocky Creek Dist. 52 on same date.
63WhitneyStop on Seattle & Northern railroad route. Became part of LaConner Dist. 307 by consolidation with Dist. 305 on July 31, 1920.
64MarblemountSec. 18, T35N, R11E. Easternmost school in county in foothills of North Cascades.
65ElectronSec. 35, T35N, R5E. On the south side of the river, opposite Skiyou and Utopia.
66No known name East of Big Lake, dissolved July 11, 1904, became parts of districts 61 and 67, Cavanaugh and Ehrlich.
67EhrlichSouth of Big Lake. Sec. 17, T33N, R5E.
68EqualityEquality Colony, Bow Hill. Dissolved on April 2, 1914, eight years after the colony went bankrupt.
69/310UtopiaSec. 23, T35N, R5E. On north side of the Skagit River, just above the bench. This and Skiyou districts eventually consolidated with Sedro-Woolley. Utopia also briefly had high school classes.
70Sedro-WoolleyConsolidated district, now 101.
71AllenSec. 14, T35N, R3E. On south side of south fork of Samish River.
72McRaeSec. 15, T35N, R4E. Northwest of Sedro-Woolley and south of F&S Grade Road. After the school consolidated with Sedro-Woolley, the schoolhouse later became the headquarters for the Rodeo Grounds Riding Club.
73/318Big LakeSec. 25, T34N, R4E. Just north of the lake. A newer school still stands there today.
74/315ConcreteSec. 10, T35N, R4E. The newer building, just west of downtown, still stands as a derelict today.
75RockportSec. 26, T35N, R9E.
76SpringvaleUnknown location. Became part of Consolidated Dist 92, Edison, in June 1919, consolidated with Conn Dist. 43.
77SunnysideUnknown location. Dissolved June 8, 1914, went into Dist. 64, Marblemount.
78PrairieBecame Dist. 88 on June 3, 1913, consolidated with districts 81 and 84, Valley and Thornwood
79SaukNorth side of river.
80MidwayUnknown location
81ValleyConsolidated with Prairie June 3, 1913
82FieldSection 11, T35N, R3E. North of Allen, on north fork of Samish.
83Upper CedardaleBecame part of Mount Vernon Dist. 306 on June 26, 1920.
84ThornwoodSec. 24, T36N, R4E. Now is Samish School.
85GrasmereAll Grasmere schools consolidated and are now part of Concrete District.
86HicksonOriginally called Dingledell. Sec. 33, T36N, R4E. On Prairie Road and Samish River. School established 1911. Woodman "Granny" Mathews the most famous teacher there.
87GrasmereAll Grasmere schools consolidated and are now part of Concrete District.
88PrairieSee 78 above.
89Skagit HeightsBow Hill School. Sec. 36, T36N, R3E.
90HoogdalSec. 35, T36N, R4E. School established 1914. After Swedish immigrants moved to area north of Duke's Hill in 1909, students first walked 7 miles round-trip to Belfast School, then from 191-on to new Hickson School.
91GrasmereAll Grasmere schools consolidated and are now part of Concrete District.
92EdisonConsolidated, evolved into Dist. 309
93Mount BakerOn Samish Island became part of 390 on Aug. 6, 1926.
94Bennett SchoolNear Snohomish County Line. Became part of Darrington Joint Consolidated Dist 400 on Feb. 8, 1932.

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Story posted on April 1, 2008, last updated Sept. 12, 2009
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