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In 1884, families living in the Strawberry Valley in Yavapai County petitioned the county School Superintendent to establish a school. With their petition granted, District #33 was established. However, there was a dispute over where to put it. In order to solve this, cowboys used calf rope and counted the number of lengths between the Hicks-Duncan cabin in the west of the valley, and the Peach Cabin on the east end of the valley. They then retraced their steps and met in the middle where they built the schoolhouse. High quality pine logs were cut and moved to the site, squared with a broad axe and adze, and then hoisted into position. Glass windows, two on the east side and two on the west side, were installed, and shingles were made for the roof. The schoolhouse was complete with a wood burning stove in the middle of the room and a bell hanging over the door.
A friendship between local resident LaFayette Nash and Buckey O’Neill, the Yavapai School Superintendent, resulted in the elegant interior furnishings and design. This was better than normal and included wainscoting from the floor to a height of about four feet, cloth stretched and used above the wainscoting as wallpaper, and the ceiling was replaced with wood. The floor panels were made of 1”x12” sawn wooden boards and the north wall contained stone slate in sections used as a blackboard. Factory made benches that sat two children were used in place of wooden benches and tables. Also in the schoolhouse was a teacher’s desk, glove, dictionary and clock. Strawberry Schoolhouse also served as a meeting place, social center, and a church.
In 1889, the county boundary changed causing Strawberry Schoolhouse to become part of District #11which was in Gila County. It remained here until it closed for good in June of 1916. All of the furniture was then removed and the building was used to welcome newcomers to Strawberry Valley. In 1961, nothing remained and the schoolhouse displayed, ‘For Sale’.
An official in the Page Land and Cattle Company, Fred Eldean, bought the building and gave the deed to the Payson-Pine Chamber of Commerce. Local residents worked to restore the structure and in 1967, it was finally weather-proofed. The schoolhouse’s next restoration came in 1979 and 1980 by the Pine/Strawberry Archeological and Historical Society which was newly formed. They restored the inside of the schoolhouse and opened it to the public. With the help of many, including people who attended this school, descendants, residents, and interested people, the Strawberry Schoolhouse was dedicated as a Historical Monument on August 15, 1981.
This schoolhouse, the oldest in Arizona, is located along Fossil Creek Road in Strawberry. It is open from May through September on weekends and holidays. To arrange group tours at other times, write to the Pine/Strawberry Archeological and Historical Society, Inc., P.O. Box 564, Pine, AZ 85544.
Informational paper from the Strawberry Schoolhouse