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As It Was: Callahan, Calif., School Closes Doors in 1974

In June 1974, the little Callahan School closed its doors forever, spelling an end to the 100-year-old school district in Callahan, Calif. Constructed in 1911, it was actually the third schoolhouse built in the mining town.

The first school opened in 1874 with 36 students and Miss Rose Barnum as the teacher. At that time, the community was booming with more than 1,000 miners living in the gulches outside of town. By 1880, there were 85 pupils enrolled. Interestingly, this remote town was one of the first to have electric lights in Northern California.

The second school was so poorly built that the wind blew through in winter, making it very hard on the students. The schoolhouse was also used as a hospital during a smallpox outbreak in 1900, and the building became known as the “pest house.” Unhappy parents did not want to send their students to the school and a team of horses pulled the old building down.

The remaining one-room Callahan School was the center of the town’s social life and served as a Sabbath school and meeting house for organizations such as the “Knights of Templar.” The school closed in 1974 when the population had dwindled to two students.

Sources: "Callahan School District." School History: Callahan School. Siskiyou County Office of Education, Web. 15 May 2015. <http://sisscoe.sisnet.ssku.k12.ca.us/~imcftp/SchoolHistory/callahanpics.html>.

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Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.  She co-authored Historic Inns & Eateries in the State of Jefferson, featuring 30 locations and their recipes.