Brush College Elementary School


By Raymond Burleigh

An accurate history of Brush College School is limited due to the lack of documentary evidence Fire swept the Polk Court House in the latter part of the nineteenth century, destroying virtually all original transcripts and records. Very few of these papers were restored or re-established. The greater part of this information to fol-low is the result of an attempt in 1923 by public spirited members of the community to record the Brush College history while some of the “Old Timers” were still alive. Their manuscript has disappeared and hence credit must also be given to R. J. Hendricks; Oregon Statesman, “Bits for Breakfast”, August 23 and 24, 1939 for printing many excerpts from that history.

Brush College is a pioneer school. Many of the original settlers bore the names most closely connected with its founding and operation. Jess Harritt (or Harriett) and James Marshall came by covered wagon over the long Oregon Trail in 1844. 1. 38 Other “firsts”, established by Donation Land Claims in 1849, are: O. C. Hosford, A. S. Hosford, R. W. Hamilton, A. S. Hamilton, John Martin, Francis Moffitt, and Lewis Parkhurst. The 1850 Land Claims listed for this area: Horace Rice, Robert Godfrey, E. V. Gohlson, and J. C. Chitwood. A pioneer society was composed of a vast cross’-section of interests and personal goals. However, wherever the proximity of families was such that it might be called a. community, the citizens sought to give their children the advantage of education; a privilege which to many of the adults, circumstance had denied.

James Emmett, an early resident of Brush College, was a well educated man. With children of his own to educate, he saw a real need to establish some situation wherein the children of the area could receive the rudiments of learning. He opened a. school in his own log cabin in the Fall of 1852. It is described as being located near a good spring above the Fred Myer home on Gibson Road (Eagle Crest Road). The James Emmett school was in session only one winter. In the Spring of 1853, I residents of the area opened the first public school on the Lee Gibson place about one and one-half miles from its present location. No information is available regarding financial or census statistics. It is stated in the footnote reference that Malinda Hosford was the teacher. The one and only text was the Bible.

School District 31 was organized in 1860. At this time residents erected a one- room 25′ by 30! school on the present site. Lumber was brought from nearby Eola Hills and the construction is credited to “B reeze” Gibson, John W. Harritt and Daniel Emmett. The land, donated by either David Prettyman or A. S. Hamilton, is from the O. C. Hosford Donation Land Claim. I The first (1860) school board directors were: Jesse Harritt, Daniel Emmett and 1 Robert Hamilton with Adam Hamilton the Clerk. Among the first students were: “Breeze” Gibson, John W. Harritt and Alice Harritt (Emmett). Their teacher is remembered only as Mr. Williams.

The unusual name of Brush College is often a matter of debate in reference to its origin. An amusing tale is related by Alfred Apsler; Oregon Journal, “This ‘College’ ; Really Isn’t”, February 13, 1955, Portland, Oregon, which recounts a conversation in which the name first appeared. The principals of the narrative are John and Byron . Harritt, “Breeze”, Darr, and Cass Gibson. The account which follows, based on the R. J. Hendricks article is judged the most reasonable by this writer. The school was called “College” in deference to the fact that it was the center of I the highest learning available to the pioneer children in the area. “Brush” is characteristic of the ground cover surrounding the adjacent area. Indians were accustomed to annually burning the brush to facilitate hunting. The pioneers, mainly interest- ed in farming, had allowed to brush to grow. It was, then truly, a school out in the brush. Brush College was a nick-name for many years. When later residents wished to establish an official name, community sentiment remained with the title “Brush College”. The first available comm cation referring to the official title “Brush College” is dated November 3, 1893. The legal boundaries were established or re-established December 7, 1889. What they were before this date is not available. The following is taken from the Clerks Book of Records, 1889.
Beginning at the quarter Mile post … at the center of the northern line of Sec 7 T7S. R3W thence South to the northern boundary of the E. M. Barnum donation Land claim thence East to the Eastern boundary Of Said Claim thence South to the northern boundary of Sec. 19 T7. S. R. 3. W. thence East to the N. E. corner of Sec. 20 T7S. R 3W thence north 1/4 mile thence East to the Willamette River thence down Said River to where the township line between T6 and 7 Crosses Said River. thence West along Said line to the Eastern boundary of W. M. Walkers donation land Claim thence South with Said Land claim to the S E Corner of Said Claim thence west to the Center of Sec 6 TTS R3W thence South to the Place of beginning A second boundary description appears in the 1911 Clerks Book.

An attempt by some Brush College residents to partition Districts 31 and 32 (We Salem) in 1893 and establish a separate district was not successful. District 32 path protested and some petition signers in District 31 withdrew their names. Feelings were ameliorated by a District 31 board decision to move the school to a more central location. To date, 1957, this move has not been accomplished. An additional acre was purchased in 1899 from Ed Loose on the North for $100. 00. The 1860 school was razed to be replaced by a new school. Voters authorization was given March 20, 1909. The contract was let June 21, 1909 to McFarland and Wintermute for $1155. 00. This is the South room of the present structure. In characterizing the old school, K. W. Harritt said, “lt had a lot of knot holes and when the wind blew the folks on the wind side had to huddle around the old stove. ” On June 19, 1911 the directors agreed to cement the basement and pipe water to the school from the Harritt spring. (This spring is in the Community Club park. A December 11, 1929 water right allows . 02 cubic foot per second use. )

The North room of the present school was added in the Summer of 1912. The fold-doors which still separate the two original rooms were added in 1914 after a visit to inspect West Salem’s doors. The year 1916 saw the completion of cementing in the basement. This was accomplished by volunteers of the Parent Teachers Association. The marvel of electric lighting came to Brush College in 1923. In the year 1939, Work Projects Ad! ministration labor enabled the district to build a play shed at a total cost of approximately $300. 00. By the Fall of 1956 student enrollment made necessary the construction of a third classroom. It was planned as a possible beginning of a third school on the present site. Its only physical connection with the old plant is electrical plus an air circulation duct. Brush College has always been the center of community activity. An early (1908) I organization was the Brush College Literary Society. The year 1910 saw the organization of the Brush College Sunday school. (85 persons present the first meeting. )

Other organizations using the school as a focal point have been: The Brush College Grange, 4H, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and a short lived theater group. The Parent Teachers Association was organized March 4, 1914 with the following officers: President: Mrs. A. R. Ewing; Vice-President, Mrs. Ed. Loose; Secretary, Mrs. Helen Cook; Treasurer, Mrs. N. L. Miner. This organ served the function of ministering effectively to school needs until 1925. Cornelia B. Harritt bequeathed to the community of Brush College a six acre area to be developed into a park. Since no corporate body existed Which could hold title, a community club was organized in the year 1925. It was felt that two parent organizations were superfluous and therefore the Parent Teacher Organization was discontinued.

The major function of the Brush College Community Club was to administer. and improve the park which lies on the East side of the road fronting Brush College School. However, acting in the spirit and letter of its stated purpose, the club has ably served as a school organization. These stated purposes are: “To contribute to the development of the physical, mental, moral and spiritual life of the community embraced in and surrounding Brush College School District 31. To promote and give expression to all forces and agencies working for the welfare of democracy and good citizenship. ” Incorporators of the Brush College Community Club were Al. H. Steiner, U. L. Lehman, T. C. Ewing, John Schindler and Emma McCarter. R. J. Hendricks reports these previous teachers as having risen to a more prominent position. .Toe Bell (1911) was in 1939 a prominent physician in St. Louis, Missouri.

Grace Hendrickson, a 1923 primary teacher, became a supervisor in the Salem city schools. Minnie Fulkerson became the Marion County Superintendent. The residential fingers of Salem stretched out, leaped her original confines and suburban living for city workers grew to the position of commonplace. By 1955 the Brush College area, though still retaining a strong rural flavor due to much of the land being under the plow, had developed into a definite Salem Suburb. Schools all over the state and specifically those on the fringe of Salem had developed a trend of consolidation. For various reasons the majority of Brush College voters who exercised their franchise chose to cast the lot of District 31 with that of District 24CJ, Salem Public Schools. Salem Schools administration has attempted in all consolidations to retain the identity of these small elementary schools. Hence, Raymond E. Burleigh, previously of Englewood School (Salem), was designated Teaching Principal under the direction of Suburban Schools Director, Arthur V. Myers, and the physical plant and identity of Brush College has been retained. James Marshall remained only a short time. He and two others, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Staat were the discoverers of gold at Sutter’s Mill, California, January 24, 1848. All these men were from in or near Salem, Oregon. Personal information regarding James Emmett, from Mrs. K. W. Harritt, descendant, a resident of Brush College. Maxwell, Ben; Capitol Journal, June 5, 1947, Salem, Oregon The confusion of names results from a recorded land grant dated February 6, 1867; grantor, A. S. Hamilton, and the memory of “an early resident” in the 1923 community history project from an untitled book of records in the Polk County School Supt. Office.

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