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As It Was: Southern Oregon’s First Public School Opens in 1854

The first public school district in Southern Oregon, School District No. 1, opened in Jacksonville on  Aug. 11, 1854.

Thirteen years later, a two-story-frame school was erected on Bigham Knoll but was destroyed by fire in 1870.  Fires also destroyed its replacement in 1903 and a new brick building in 1906.

Undaunted, voters approved another school bond and erected a new two-story, six-classroom, brick building in 1908.  It had a large assembly room with a stage and electric footlights, and a steam-heating plant.

During World War I, the school board rented Jacksonville’s U.S. Hotel ballroom for a basketball court. When many high school boys left school to fight in the war, those left behind transferred to Medford High School for the remainder of the year. 

When the Jacksonville school reopened, voters approved a levy for a gym.  In 1924, the girls’ team coached by Principal Chester Cook won the Southern Oregon Girls Basketball Championship.  The glittering trophy was placed beside others in the school trophy case.

Sources: Smith, Larry. "History of Bigham's Knoll-Jacksonville's "School House Hill"." Jville Heritage, edited by Larry Smith, Dec. 2005, www.jvilleheritage.org/PDFlinks/BKhistory_Lsmith.pdf. Accessed 1 Dec. 2018; "Bigham Knoll 1-4." Blog:Historic Jacksonville, Inc., May 2016, www.historicjacksonville.org/history-trivia/. Accessed 1 Dec. 2018; "Champions of 1924." The Table Rock Sentinel, Aug. 1987, pp. 18-20.

Luana (Loffer) Corbin graduated from Southern Oregon College, majoring in Elementary Education.  The summer after graduation she was hired to teach at Ruch Elementary, where she taught for 32 years. After retiring, Corbin worked for Lifetouch School Photography and then returned to Ruch as an aide helping with reading instruction and at the library.  More recently, she has volunteered at South Medford High.