Prospect Elementary School

By: George Forgard
The first record of school in this area was a class taught by Mrs. John P. Gaines, wife of one of the first territorial governors of Oregon. This was around 1857, before Oregon became a state. The Gaines place was on the present Cartwright Farms. e. Later, the children of the area went to Liberty School. Prospect School was built in 1885 on Skyline Road which, even in those days, led from Liberty to the Willamette River. The school could always be located by a grove of trees on the summit of a hill nearby with an immense fir tree right in the center. This group of trees was known as the “capitol dome” from its resemblance to the old capitol building, and could be seen for miles in every direction. . Skyline Road was a red mud road in wintertime. It took all day to make the round trip to Salem in horse and carriage, the horses never going faster than a walk through the mud.

This was wheat farming country in those early days. Mabel Robertson of Salem recalls that their farm was just across the road from the school and that the teacher boarded at their place. She was paid $25 besides her board. School was held for two three-month periods during the year. The Oregon Land Company began buying up the large wheat farms, clearing the land of “grub oak” with Chinese labor gangs, and planting much of the area in fruit orchards, mostly prunes.

The farms were split up and more people began to come in, At one time all the hills and valleys as f at as one could see were covered with orchards and were a beautiful sight in spring. A vestibule was built on the front of the school in 1890. Enrollment varied from as five in the early years to the point when ,a second room was added in recent times. The school was the center of the social life of the community. Church services were held there on Sunday, and social gatherings of all kinds Were held at the school. The teachers were always part of this social life.

Sometimes the teachers were quartered in the old Gaines farmhouse in Cartwright Farms. From 1907-1947 Ralph Cartwright played a great part in molding the unity of the community and contributing to its welfare. During the most part of those forty, years he served as chairman of the school board. He had a great feeling for community relationships, oneness, and security. He fostered and kept the community together. In 1927 the school still had oil lamps. Electricity was brought in 1930. In January of 1952 Prospect was consolidated with the Salem schools along with Ankeny and Rosedale, and a was built at Rosedale for the pupils of the three districts. The old school building is now being used for church services.

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