One room schoolhouse in Oregon
Victor Point School, Silverton Oregon
The one room school house constructed in October 1889, and occupied for the exclusive use as Victor Point School District #112, is situated in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range, overlooking the Drift Creek Canyon, in Marion County. Located between the towns of Silverton and Sublimity the old school house still sits in its original location on its fieldstone foundation. Vacant for fifty years the building has been maintained and used for storage until the winter of 1995-96 by the larger Victor Point District 42C who still own the building and property.
Located east of Salem, between Sublimity and Silverton is the small rural unincorporated community known as Victor Point. In the late 1800's area settler's recognized the need to educate their children, many traveled great distances to reach the nearest school, this resulted in the establishment of the Victor Point District #112. Past history tells how the Victor Point School House established in March of 1889 served as the local community center. In addition, this small community was served by a store, gas pump with automotive services, and a bandstand. Years of south wind and rain have caused some leaning of the building and some settling of the fieldstones. The floor has a pronounced crown, and the school leans seven inches to the north.
In 1920 the store closed, fell into disrepair and was eventually torn down, the gas station also closed. In 1946 the school house was closed and replaced with a newer and larger school across the street. Eventually, both the old school house and the bandstand began to show signs of age and neglect. In the late 1950's with the roof in a sad shape and the bell tower rotting, some improvements were made, the roof was replaced and the tower removed. Shortly afterwards the bell was stolen from the ante room of the school house and the tower has yet to be replaced.
The school perhaps was one of the most significant buildings for the community. It served as a Sunday School, community gathering area for meetings and speakers. It also provided the livelihood for young educators who usually boarded with nearby residents. There is controversy as to the establishment of the very first school in the rural area east of Salem. Some say it was the location known as Lebanon (not to be confused with the existing town in Linn County) located on the Hunt Donation Land Claim adjoining the present Warren (Mt. Hope) cemetery on the south, near the intersection of East State Street and 119th. Or was it a school taught by Ralph Geer? It is well documented that Daniel Waldo held a subscription school in his home in a more south-westerly direction. By 1855 schools were beginning to spring up in the rural areas of the foothills east of Salem. Silver Cliff and Willard Schools were organized in 1855, McAlpin and Union Hill in 1856. (Union Hill reorganized in 1865.) Even with these added schools, children were required to walk long distances to attend the nearest school. The information is not clear as to how the movement to form another district began. The only source of taxation available from agriculture and timber land possessing a low value. The entire valuation from the area was not enough to sustain the schools already in operation and it appears they were confronted with much opposition. However the original Victor Point District #112 was formed in October 1889, although originally organized on March 9,1889, carved out of portions from the Silver Cliff, McAlpin and Union Hill districts. In addition the question was asked as to how Victor Point received it's name, the story tells of Mrs. Mary Darby, a local mother is credited with the naming of the district. Out of a rather heated meeting of interested people of the entire settlement, it was her rationalization and suggestion that the decision was a victory, and the local people had won their point, hence the name Victor Point evolved.
There is a great deal of confusion over where the one acre of ground that the school is built on originated. Most of the local people state that J.J. Krenz donated one acre for the purpose of building the school. In the publication "School Days II" Bernita Jones Sharp wrote a history of Victor: Point stated that J.J. Krenz donated the land. Also in "History of Early Schools in Silverton Country" written by Minnie Engeman she also stated that one acre of land was donated by J.J. Krenz from his land claim. In a 1989 Silverton Appeal newspaper article, commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the old school, it stated " the acre of ground on which the school house was built was purchased from Al Coolidge and his wife S.F. McClaine-Coolidge. The deed is dated October 18, 1889, and $25 was paid for the property.
In reviewing a copy of the actual deed it states that Al Coolidge and S.F. McClaine his wife and F. McClaine and S.E. McClaine his wife were the grantors of the property. One explanation was offered by Richard Krenz, he thought the Krenzes had bought the property from Coolidge and McClaine but the title hadn't been transferred. It appears that maybe Coolidge and McClaine held the mortgage on the property and were able to sell it. There is no mention of the Krenzes in the original deed, although the property was part of the Krenz farm at one time.
The first school in the newly formed district was held in October 1889, taught by Linnie Lewis with an enrollment of 21 students ranging in ages 5 to 18 years of age. The fall term was approximately three months long, followed by another three month term in the spring. The teachers in the early years of Victor Point were paid $35.00 per month as their salary. There appear to have been a great number of teachers hired, most only staying for one term. Some may not have measured up to the expectations of the district or may have chosen not to return because of their inability to cope with the difficulties of rural life. Many of the teachers were not much older than the students they taught, and many of them were also away from their families for the first time, living under primitive and trying conditions. Usually road conditions were so bad, as there were no improved roads at that time. Still they might have a long walk to the school through the woods, often in the rain, mud, or snow.
Sometimes the tax money would not cover the expenses of the school, at which time special taxes were levied. It appears that the largest expense with the exception of salaries was glass for the windows, which were frequently broken by children playing baseball a favorite sport of the times, chalk, as the children did much of their work on the blackboard, and many cords wood for the wood stoves which were the only source of heat.
Instructional aids in the classroom were almost nonexistent. There was no evidence of even a dictionary in the school until 1900. In the late 1920s the library consisted of a homemade cupboard with fewer than 50 books all having been read and reread many times over. That same library cupboard still sits in the schoolhouse today. For several years the children furnished many of their own books.
Between the years 1891 and 1894 there was a growth in the school population of the Victor Point School. In 1893 the census listed thirty children between the ages of 4 and 20. Many of the students who attended Victor Point in the early years returned years later as teachers.
Victor Point School as well as many other district schools served as a social center for the area residents. Christmas programs were always quite elaborate as was the preparation for them. A huge Christmas tree always stood beside the stage, decorated with garlands of cranberries and popcorn, homemade ornaments, and real lighted candles. Every child had some part in the program. They also had box suppers, benefit chicken dinners, pie socials, year-end picnics, with races and games, as well as community gatherings such as 4th of July, community dances, etc. The school was also used as a meeting hall and for Sunday school classes.
Victor Point was never considered a large school, it always remained a one room, one teacher, school house. Over the years attendance seems to have dwindled in all of the surrounding districts as well as Victor Point. For many years the earliest families stayed in the community as home owners, generation after generation.
Exactly when the change in the composition of the community actually occurred or began is difficult to surmise. Clearly during the years of World War II changes seemed very obvious. Some moved away when they grew up, many young men went off to war which disrupted their operation of the home farms, older residents died, while yet others pursued careers and ventured into things other than agriculture. Many new families moved into the area, bought land, and built homes, and families were not quite as big as they use to be.
In the 1940's districts in the area talked about school consolidation, rather than continue with so many small schools of dwindling population, transporting students to one centrally located school was more cost effective than maintaining and hiring teachers for the seven area schools. So in 1947 joining consolidation were Valley View, Silver cliff, Union Hill, Oak Grove, McAlpin, Center View, and Victor Point. Victor Point was selected as the sight for a new and modern school and the new district was named Victor Point Consolidated District #42C. School was held for two terms at the McAlpin school location while the new schoolhouse was being constructed.