The First Hundred Years

The Congress Street School 1870 - 1880 - Part 2

This building contained one long room intended for and furnished as the contemplated school room. There were two long rows of homemade desks, forming each one piece, together with its respective bench. Between the rows a space of about six feet was left unoccupied throughout the whole length, in order to allow passageway to and from the seats and the one blackboard which, being constructed of masonry with a cement finish painted over in dull black oil paint, was firmly imbedded in the south wall,” Spring wrote.

There was a desk for Spring. His only real criticism of the school’s equipment at the time was lodged against the benches many of which “manifest propensity for shedding splinters.” Spring’s inventory of equipment also included two brooms and a sprinkling pot for care of the floor, which consisted, he said, “of that useful material known as mother earth.”

Scott delivered a number of school books to Spring, telling him to sell them to the pupils at the original wholesale cost. Books were to be distributed free to children of poor parents.

School opened on the second Monday of April, 1872, according to Spring, but Cosulich sets the date at March 4.

In January of 1872, the Board of Supervisors had announced that its share of the new Territorial School Fund was $695.23 for the 503 children of school age in the county, indicating that school money was allotted then on an “Average Daily Membership” basis, rather than the “Average Daily Attendance” basis that is the present rule for distributing state funds for school operation. Repeated attempts to enact legislation through the State Legislature which would provide allotment of funds on an average daily membership have failed as up to the date of this publication.

The school district tax, permitted by the Safford bill, produced an additional $739.40, indicating that the history of the school district bearing the major burden of school costs--rather than the state--reaches back to the era of 1871.

Spring found he had a difficult job on his hands. Enrollment was limited to males between the ages of six and twenty-one, some so small they could barely manage to climb upon the benches and some showing beards.

Spanish was their primary language and few knew many English words, other than of barroom flavor. Spring taught by first using instructions in Spanish and then beginning to instruct in English.

Average daily attendance was about ninety-eight with a maximum enrollment of 138. Safford’s gift of books was in the form of two dozen Ollendorf’s Spanish-English books. Appleton’s First and Second Readers were also employed. Spring, an artist himself, gave the boys drawing lessons and instructions in mathematics.

Discipline was stern and Spring wrote that parents approved of applying ash rods to rears. He said that a great many parents believed the measure of a teacher’s instructing ability could be found in his ability to administer severe corporal punishment.

School was taught between the hours of 9 a.m. and 12 noon and from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. with the younger boys being permitted to leave at 3 p.m.

Safford evinced an interest in the Tucson school. According to Francis Cummins Lockwood, in Arizona Characters, “There was not a waking moment that the subject of public schools did not occupy his mind or inflame his zeal. He considered education the very bedrock of American democracy.”

Spring, in an address to a Teacher’s Institute in Tucson on December 31, 1897, coined the expression seen often in writings about Safford that he was “The father of our public schools.”

Bonillas reported that while he was attending the public school, he was forced to be absent a week or ten days to work buy his books. “The governor used to visit the school once or twice a week and when he noticed that I was away for eight or ten days, he asked Mr. Spring why I was absent and Mr. Spring told him I was a poor boy and had to work; then the Governor told Mr. Spring that he would be very glad to furnish my books and paper and everything I needed if I would go to school regularly. I told my father and mother (my father was a blacksmith; Tucson was a small village at that time) and they gave me permission provided I would give something in return, and the Governor told me I could come over in the morning and feed his mules, black his boots and sweep his office if I wanted to . . . It was not only myself that the Governor helped, it was scores of people, young boys and girls that he helped in educational matters; it was his whole heart.”

After the close of the first session of Spring’s school on May 21, 1872, John Wasson, owner of the Arizona Citizen, wrote on June 1:

“The progress the scholars have made is remarkable and great credit is due the teacher, John Spring, for his zeal and efficiency... Governor Safford gave $20 which he distributed in prizes on recommendation of the teacher . . . An election was held on the 20th ultimo (May 20) to vote for or against levying a district tax for school purposes and the vote was unanimously in favor of the tax. . . the Governor said that at the end of the next quarter prizes would again be distributed, and the largest would be given for prompt regular attendance.”

On August 10, 1872, the Pima County Board of Supervisors levied taxes including the 10 cents per $100 ad valorem property tax for the Territorial School Fund and a similar 20 cent tax for the County School Fund.

There is a vacuum of information on Tucson School District 1 activities in the fall of 1872, but we do know that Spring taught a fall term. Spring received word of his father’s death in Switzerland and on October 1, he wrote to the Board of Trustees noting the death. He said, “I doubt not that the Hon. Board will appreciate my feelings of sorrow and excuse my nonattendance for this day.”

Apparently the classes were all male. On December 21, 1872, the Arizona Citizen announced that, “Another free public school will soon open in Tucson.” On February 8, 1873, the paper stated:

“Mrs. L. C. Hughes has this week commenced a free public school for girls in Tucson, we believe in a room in the old Pioneer Brewery building. We understand Mrs. Hughes is an experienced teacher and it is fortunate that the trustees have been able to get her services.”

She was the wife of L. C. Hughes, the editor of the Arizona Star and had arrived in Tucson in 1872. Her husband was the brother of Sam Hughes.

Mrs. Hughes, who later was to help found the W.C.T.U. chapter in Tucson, started with three girl pupils and by the end of the first month, the enrollment totaled about thirty.

Carter points out that the daughter of Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Gertrude Hughes Woodward, 21 years later “enjoyed the distinction of being the first woman appointed to the faculty of the University of Arizona.” On May 3, 1873, the Arizona Citizen reported that Mrs. Hughes was forced to discontinue the school at the end of three months because of bad health.

Earlier that year, 1873, the Legislature met in Tucson on January 6. Gov. Safford noted that the Territorial Treasury owed no bills and had a surplus of $17,620.37. He asked the Legislators to divide $5,000 among the five counties for erecting, furnishing or improving school houses, on condition that the districts receiving the money raise double the amount proposed to be appropriated to them.

The Legislature increased the 10-cent levy of the Territorial School Fund to 25 cents, and apparently provided some of the building funds that Safford requested. An entry in the Pima County Board of Supervisors minutes, dated April 7, 1873, notes:

“It is recommended by the County Superintendent of Public Schools and approved by the Board of Supervisors of Pima County that the $1,000 ordered donated by the last Legislature from the Territorial Fund to each County for the building of school houses said amount now deposited with the County Treasurer that the same be and remain there subject to the order of the Trustees of each School District.” (In modern times, the State of Arizona does not make outright appropriations for capital outlay for elementary and secondary public schools.)

The mental strain of teaching the large class of boys of all ages from six to 21 began to tell on Spring in the spring months of 1873, according to his account.

He said he visited Gov. Safford and told him that the task was too much for one person to bear. “I proposed one of these two alternatives: Either the Board of Trustees should rent a small room for the youngest children and hire an assistant teacher to attend to their tuition, or to raise my salary from $125 to $150 per month, in which case I would employ an assistant at my own expense.”

Safford said that he thought either of the solutions was reasonable and told Spring to lay the proposals before the Board of Trustees. Spring did and was summoned before the Board.

“The trustees expressed themselves in very complimentary terms with regard to my work, but said that the school funds did not permit any additional expense; that the American population was steadily increasing, and that they had been requested by many parents to employ female teachers--’school ma’ms,’ they called them--regularly trained for the purpose and that they could procure the services of two ladies as described for the amount of my salary.”

Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Spring resigned, started a private school at 212 N. Court St. and also served as interpreter and translator of the U. S. Court and District Court of the First Judicial District of Arizona.

Spring wrote that the two young ladies hired to teach began their duties in September, 1873, but since Spanish was the predominate language, they were forced to take the language in lessons from him in order to teach.

Surveyor-General John Wasson, editor of the Arizona Citizen, wrote somewhat prophetically on May 24, 1873:

“A thorough and complete organization of the school system is being perfected and it is expected that on the first Monday of next October a free school will be opened in every district of the Territory and continued for nine months of the year. We want more good school mams, and must have them. Good wages will be paid and when they get tired of teaching we will find them all good husbands.”

Wasson was true to his word. He married one of the two hired that fall, Miss Harriet Bolton, before the school year was completed.

Safford was in communication at about the time of Wasson’s newspaper editorial, with Miss Maria Wakefield--after whom one of the District’s junior high schools is named--who was then teaching in Stockton, California, as was Miss Bolton. Miss Wakefield brought Miss Bolton with her via San Diego by stage coach and school was opened November 5, 1873.

A campaign, conducted by the Arizona Citizen, had been underway to build a new school house, but it failed.

The new school was then located in rented buildings owned by Sam Hughes and fitted out by him for classroom purposes. The buildings were on the east side of the Court House Plaza, the little park west of the present courthouse. Hughes received $50 a month rent for the buildings.

One building had a main room 39 by 15 feet with a room on each end 15 by 16 feet. The other building had a room 41 by 151/2 feet. The structures were connected and had porches along the front and back.

The space in the rear of the multi-room building was used by the two young ladies as living quarters.

In the spring, Harriett Bolton married Wasson and Maria Wakefield became the wife of E. N. Fish on March 12.

According to Clara Fish, a daughter of Mrs. Fish, (in a letter written February 2, 1902 and cited by McCrea) not all Tucsonians were happy with the two women school teachers after their arrival.

There were 50 boys and 25 girls attending the school, which obviously was in competition with the non-public school for girls operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Miss Fish wrote that “The Priests were bitter in their denunciation, and were formidable antagonists, even going so far as to threaten parents if they allowed their children to attend public schools.”

Miss Fish was graduated from the University of Arizona in 1897 and became a teacher in Tucson public schools in 1902.

Apparently the women teachers abandoned the school after their marriages and history seems mute on the conduct of the school in the fall of 1874.

According to reports in the Arizona Citizen, the people in the school year 1874-75 began to feel the need of a new school building and the Board of Trustees decided to erect one.

According to McCrea, the Board of Trustees at that time consisted of Estevan Ochoa, R. N. Leatherwood and Samuel Hughes. Leatherwood owned a well-known stable in Tucson.

Some confusion lies in the actual membership of the Board at that time, citing minutes of the Board going back only to 1884.

Minutes of the Board of Supervisors list School Board members for the school year 1874-75 as “Theo. Welisch, C. T. Etchells and Estevan Ochoa.” So does the Arizona Citizen, dated January 16, 1875.

“For a nominal sum,” the school trustees purchased from Ochoa the property on the northwest corner of what is now Congress and Sixth Street. Dave Bloom & Sons clothing store is now located at the site.

The women of Tucson decided to raise money to help build the school.

The Eighth Territorial Legislature was in session at the time and upon hearing that the ladies planned to stage a ball, S. R. DeLong, a member of the Council, offered the following resolution which was adopted on January 15, 1875:

“Resolved that the use of this hall is hereby offered to the ladies of Tucson, who propose a social party on Thursday evening next, 21st inst., for the purpose of raising funds to be appropriated to the building of a public school house.” The hall was located at Stone Avenue and Ochoa Street.

The ball produced $1,361. A Mrs. H. B. Smith, wife of a saloon keeper, contributed a large cake which was sold and resold until it produced $137. It was purchased first for $50 and finally for $37&--perhaps slightly used--by Leatherwood, who ordered it distributed among the school children.

A second party was held, bringing in $812 and a third was more successful with total receipts of $1,575. The latter receipts were from sale of tickets, contributions and from a goat, decorated and labeled “This is Mary’s Little Lamb.” It sold at auction for $323.

The two former school teachers, who married, were active in the fund drives.

All the monies raised by these activities were turned over to the School Board.

On May 15, 1875, the Arizona Citizen reported that the School Board of Ochoa, Etchells and Theodore Welisch visited the school under construction. The immediate supervisor of the construction itself was Mayor Ochoa.

The paper reported: “The walls are nearly ready for the vigas . . . All the vigas and a portion of the sahuaro (ribs) for the roof are on hand... The bids for the woodwork (doors and windows) were opened by the trustees....

“Not a cent of the public money has been expended in the erection of this building, and we owe it to the ladies of Tucson for most of the money which has been paid out so far, and to Mr. Ochoa for the zeal displayed in husbanding the funds placed at his disposal, and though the fund is now all exhausted, the work goes on, as he has faith that our liberal spirited citizens will in some manner realize a sufficient sum to pay him for money now being paid by him in order that the work may not stop.”

Among other receipts of funds toward the building of the school, the Citizen mentioned, “from Tucson Social Club, $15.75; from Capt. T. J. Jeffords, $30; from Warner Buck, $25....”

Cosulich reports that in the fall of 1875, as the new public “Congress Street School” neared completion, a Catholic school for boys opened in September. The Citizen reported that October 1 was the date set for the dedication of the finished school with much ceremony. It was the first building built expressly for a public school in Tucson.

McCrea reports that the school cost a total of $9,782. When the ladies’ funds were exhausted, Ochoa advanced the money to continue the work, and in August, the School Trustees secured a loan of $2,000 to complete the building.

The Congress Street School had three rooms, one occupied by the girls, one by the primary boys and the other by boys doing advanced lessons. The boys in the primary room were taught Spanish and English, but in the other rooms no Spanish was taught.

Principal of the school was Professor W. B. Horton, who was a Scotsman and a graduate of a college in Edinburgh. He was supplied with two teachers, one for the girls and one for the boys and Horton taught one of the boys’ rooms.

During Horton’s administration of five years, Miss Packeral first had charge of the girls’ department and was followed successively by Miss Nesmith, Mrs. Aguerra, Miss Nora Smith and Miss Sallie Wood.

The boys’ teacher was Ygnacio Bonillas, at a salary of $15 per month.

The school term during 1877-78 had an enrollment of 196 with 130 boys and 66 girls. It continued 10 months, and no explanation of the longer term is given in historical references. The curriculum was expanded for the advanced classes which studied reading, arithmetic, algebra, geography, spelling, English grammar, United States history and English and Spanish translations.

In 1879, an additional method of school financing was enacted by the Tenth Territorial Legislature by providing for the licensing of gambling halls with half the license fees to go to the public schools. By 1884, the schools, territory-wide, received about $15,000 from this source.

According to the best information available, the following School Boards served in the 1870-80 decade. It will be remembered that Safford’s school law directed that members were to be elected, but election tallies are not known.

1870-71 - No available record.

1871-72 - Samuel Hughes, W. F. Scott, W. C. Davis.

1872-73 - Francisco S. Leon, W. F. Scott, Samuel Hughes.

1873-74 - L. C. Hughes, W. C. Davis and W. F. Scott.

1874-75 - Theodore Welisch, C. F. Etchells, Estevan Ochoa.

1875-76 - Theodore Welisch, C. F. Etchells and Estevan Ochoa.

1876-77 - No available record.

1877-78 - E. N. Fish, John Wasson and unknown.

1878-79 - Estevan Ochoa, C. F. Etchells and Charles Hudson.

1879-80 - No available record.

First Hundred Years, By James F. Cooper, Edited by John H. Fahr, Tucson, Arizona, 1967