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As It Was: Pistol River School IQ Test Challenges Students

In the early days, isolated Curry County settlers built schools that serviced several neighboring homesteads.  Students of all ages walked or rode horses on trails to school, often accompanied by their dogs. 
In 1925, The Upper Pistol River School was constructed on a flat near a swinging bridge.  It had tall sides made from hog-wire fencing with woven walking boards on the bottom.  Although solidly anchored by 18-inch oak posts, it shook and wobbled. 

Old-timers described a so-called “Pistol River IQ Test” that consisted of walking alone through the woods to school.  By avoiding bears, wild hogs, and cougars, a child passed the test and was deemed smart enough to attend the school.

Many River families were poor.  The teacher often made soup to share for lunch from ingredients the students brought in used sugar sacks, including potatoes, onions, and meat or fish. Other families sent milk, hotcakes, whatever they could spare.

The school closed its doors forever in 1938 when attendance dropped to only one student.

Source: Sponaugle, Ella. Pistol River Recollections. Gold Beach, Oregon, Curry County Historical Society Press, 2003, pp. 187-94.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.