The Calaveras Schoolhouse Project

Visitors to the San Joaquin County Historical Museum will recognize the image below as a photograph of the Calaveras Schoolhouse, a genuine nineteenth-century structure moved to and currently located at the Museum. The San Joaquin County Historical Society is pleased to announce a grant from Walmart for a new interpretive panel that discusses the school's history, and it invites donations of photographs that deal with the structure, its students, and its teachers not only for inclusion in the panel, but also for preservation in the Museum's archives.

Public education has been important in San Joaquin County since the Gold Rush. In 1850, two years before the State of California provided for public schools, a free public school was started in Stockton. The first rural or country school, Henderson School, was built in 1852 less than three miles northwest of the Museum. By 1878, there were sixty-two schools in the County: one had three rooms, four had two rooms, and fifty-seven were one-room schoolhouses.

In 1866, the county superintendent of schools approved the new Calaveras School District. Volunteers built the schoolhouse near the Calaveras River, on land donated by Jonathan Dodge. Due to flooding at the original site, the school was later moved north of the river on Highway 88.

The number of students at Calaveras School varied from year to year. In 1878, it had twelve girls and eight boys in grades one through seven. There were twelve students in 1884 and twenty-nine ten years later. Like most early country schools, it also served as a meeting place for local organizations and churches.

Calaveras School closed in 1959 after ninety-three years of service. It was one of the last one-room country schools in San Joaquin County. The building was moved to the Museum in 1976. It was restored by Museum docents, led by Ken Norton and Mel Davison, and is now used by schoolchildren reliving the 1880s in the Valley Day and Pioneer School Day programs.

To donate photographs of Calaveras School for this project, send me a message at davidstuart@sanjoaquinhistory.org.

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