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The Strawberry School House, located in Gila County, Arizona is a treasure!

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

The year was 1884. The families living in the Strawberry Valley, Yavapai County, in Arizona Territory petitioned the County School Superintendent to establish a school. The petition was granted and District #33 in the Strawberry Valley was established.

A local dispute over the site for the school building was solved by cowboys using a calf rope and counting the number of lengths between the Hicks-Duncan cabin on the west end of the valley and the Peach cabin on the east end. They retraced their steps to the mid-point. There the one-room log school was built and still stands.

Fine pine logs were cut and dragged to the site, squared with a broad axe and adze, then hoisted into position. Shingles were split for the shake roof and glass windows were installed, two on the east side and two on the west. They were double-hung and could be raised and lowered. A bell hung over the door on the south side and a wood-burning stove sat in the middle of the room.

Friendship between local resident LaFayette Nash and Yavapai School Superintendent, Buckey O'Neill, resulted more elegant interior finish than was "average." Wainscoting reached from the floor to a height of four feet. Cloth was stretched and nailed above that and wallpaper was glued to the cloth. The ceiling was originally cloth but was later replaced with wood. The floor was made of 1" x 12" sawn boards. Sections of stone slate extended across the north wall for a blackboard. The usual wooden benches and tables were by-passed in favor of factory-made desks seating two children each. Other furnishings included a teacher's desk and chair, a world globe, dictionary and clock. The school, also, would serve as meeting place, social center and church. An organ was included in the furnishings.

The school was under Yavapai jurisdiction until a change in the county boundary in 1889. As part of Gila County, it became District #11 and remained until it was permanently closed in June of 1916. With school furniture removed, the building was used as a temporary residence by many newcomers to the valley. Moveable parts were "borrowed" and it slowly became uninhabitable. By 1961, nothing remained of the structure but the log frame and it was FOR SALE.

Fred Eldean, an official in the Page Land and Cattle Company, bought the building and site and gave the deed to the Payson-Pine Chamber of Commerce. By 1967, local residents had restored the old structure to a point where it was secure and weather-proof. So it stood awaiting the next step in its restoration. By this time, it belonged to the Arizona Historical Society. In 1979 and 1980, the newly formed Pine/Strawberry Archaeological and Historical Society decided to restore the interior and open the school to the public. Thanks to old-timers who had either taught in or attended the school, their descendants, and hundreds of interested, helpful residents, the Strawberry School was formally dedicated as a Historical Monument on August 15, 1981.

The school is located on Fossil Creek Road in Strawberry, Arizona and is open to the public from May through mid-October on weekends and holidays. Group tours can be arranged at other times by writing to the Pine-Strawberry Archaeological and Historical Society, Inc., at P. O. Box 564, Pine, AZ 85544.

For more info on amazing museums in Gila County, click here:

Source: Pine-Strawberry Archaeological And Historical Society

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