Anyone living in Anderson Valley or on the coast has driven by this location a gazillion times and probably noticed a small sturdy stucco building on the north side of Highway 128 two miles before you get to Mountain House Road. You’d look at it and think “I wonder what its story is?”
Here’s the answer.
There used to be a place called Hermitage, settled in 1858 by S.W. Knowles, that later became the Glen Johnson Ranch. This headwaters area of Dry Creek had stock raising and hops growing, a post office, hotel and other local ranches. Silas Gaskill, a settler, decided the little community needed a school.
In 1860 the first school was built about a mile away, not the abandoned schoolhouse you see now. The county paid $15 for a school site with one and a half acres and stock fencing midway between Hermitage and the foot of Haehl Hill. The little school we see now came along later. Records are vague over the 150 intervening years… but we know the teachers there in 1902 were earning $60 a month.
Kids with a note from home were allowed to go swimming… there was no bussing… there was no Phys Ed… There were long winter vacations and a piano. By 1948, though the school had functioned almost 90 years, it lacked one thing the county school system demanded: a flush toilet. Since that could not be provided and parents were interested in graded schools, not a one room school, the school closed and kids attended the Anderson Valley Schools in distant Boonville.
The old school was offered to the county as a museum in 1978 and the Board of Supervisors approved plans to move it and place it next to the old Anderson Valley School (now the Veterans Memorial Building) but there was a problem: CALTRANS said it was too wide to be moved on the road, and it would cost too much to dismantle and reassemble… So it just sits.
And Mr. Silas Gaskill had a bad end. A man considered at the time “one of our best citizens” in 1865 killed his neighbor with a blast from a double barreled shotgun. Let out of jail on $1,000 bail he promptly fled the county and was never heard of again.
Take a little look at the schoolhouse when next you pass it. It has six big windows on the far side of the building. I wondered if those windows faced away from the road to keep the kids from watching the road and daydreaming instead of studying.