Historic photos submitted
Children of early settlers in Eckert, as in other parts of the country were taught at home until enough families moved into the area to start schools, usually one room buildings with a teacher for children of all ages and abilities. This was usually adequate for several years.
As more settlers moved into areas, the number of pupils increased and additional rooms were added to meet the needs.
Eckert’s schools conformed to this pattern. Noted in Hazel Austin’s “Surface Creek Country,” 1884 - school was held in a cabin on the Scullen Place. 1885 - classes were held in a log house near Eckert.
It was in 1885 a one room school was built on the east side of the highway, south of town. Named Central School, the building was centrally located between the upper Surface Creek crossing to the north, the Gunnison River to the south, Rogers Mesa to the east and the Doughspoons to the west. Lower grades were taught here.
In the late 1800s, Delta County had a policy that when there were 17 prospective pupils in an area, a new school would be built to shorten the distances required to get to school. As a result, other schools were built: 1886 - Mound School, north of Cory, now a residence; 1900 - Trickle School, about a quarter mile south of the Trickle Bridge; 1902 - Fairview School, about half way between Cory and Austin, no longer in existence. 1903 - Tongue Creek School, west of Eckert. As these schools closed, pupils were given a choice of transferring to Delta or Eckert.
In 1902 a room was added to the south east of Central School to accomlmodate more pupils and in 1907 a room was added to the southwest.
When Velda (Holder) Doughty attended Central School in the early ‘30s, she recalls three classrooms with two grades taught in each room, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 with the seventh and eighth graders attending nearby Eckert High School. When high school students were transferred to Cedaredge and Delta in 1943, grades 1-8 used the high school building. Velda remembers “outdoor privies” at Central though the high school had indoor facilities. Velda and Ralph Davis (he attended Fairview School) remember competing in a baseball game between the two schools.
When Central School was closed, the building was divided into apartments. The 125-year-old building has become a private home.
Eckert High School
In 1910, the ﬁrst two high school classes, maintained by tuition, were held at Central School
A year later, in 1911, tuition was dropped and classes moved to the second ﬂoor above a blacksmith shop, in an early IOOF Hall at the present location of Concept Auto Body and Repair Shop. Reverend J.A. Hunsicker was the teacher, adding third year classes.
The brick high school building was constructed in 1912 with four classrooms and a multi-use room in the basement.
Shirley (Holder) Hollett’s and Wilma (Holder) Watson’s mother Cora Holder played basketball while attending Eckert High School, graduating in 1923. She was basketball coach for three years, 1925-’27, later teaching at Central School for 26 years.
The last class to graduate was in 1942. Teachers were unavailable; students were transferred to Cedaredge and Delta, transported by busses.
Mildred (Burritt) Hamilton lived on the western edge of Redlands Mesa. The “bus” she rode was a pickup truck with a cover on the back driven by Archie Turner. She would be picked up and dropped at the corner where the road divides east of Fruitgrowers Reservoir and walked the rest of the way.
She was in that last graduating class. She recalls plays by the Thespian Club being presented at the building where Rebekah’s met (IOOF Hall). She said, “There was no cafeteria; we took sack lunches until my last two years when hot lunches were prepared in the Rebekah’s kitchen.”
Woodworking classes took place in the basement of the IOOF Hall.
Quoting Velda Doughty again, “We played basketball in the Presbyterian Church basement on 1/3 of a court. The thought of girls playing on a full court was “unthinkable” at the time (early 1930s). Junior and senior plays were given on a stage in the church basement.”
The nearly 100-year-old building continues in use. It has served as a Police Academy, Thunder Mountain Christian Academy, a foster home and at present is occupied by Firethorn Trading Post.
Anyone who has ever attended an Eckert school is encouraged to attend the annual school reunion, the next to be held Sept. 15, 2010.
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