Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Walla Walla School District 24-A Unique Building and Unique Name

Organized in 1872, Walla-Walla was also District 24 in Davis/Geary County. Located near present day Milford Lake, the school district was organized in June of 1872 and school was held the following year in a house near the John Frazee home. The first teacher at Walla Walla was Charles Manley, Sr. While many people think of country school teachers as women, there were a good deal of men who also taught at country schools.
Many country schools began their tenure in the home of district members, and many teachers boarded with these families after the district built permanent schools. Walla Walla’s original schoolhouse was built in 1874.  The building was made of local limestone, and opened in 1875.
In 1873 before there was a permanent school, the district decided it should have two school buildings, but later decided that one in the center of the district would be a better choice. The schoolhouse they built cost $1000 to build and $500 to furnish.
Walla Walla is one of the more unique names for Geary County schools since unlike the most other country schools the name has no ties to the community.  According to Henry Lichtenhan, “Some of the Montagues made a trip to Washington, and when they returned, they talked about ‘Walla Walla.’ Later when people were seeking a name for the new district, ‘Walla Walla’ was the answer, and it stuck” (Project Heritage, 239).
One thing most people probably do not expect is that even rural school districts engaged in journalism.  Today, there are numerous classes devoted to the subject including newspaper, yearbook, and even television. And in 1935, Walla Walla published a student publication. For the anniversary of the school in 1935 this monthly publication, The Walla Walla Booster, wrote a history of the school for the previous sixty years. They covered the origins of their school’s name and the length of previous school terms, and much more.
For their school’s sixtieth anniversary the district sent out over 100 invitations to former students, teachers, school board members, and patrons. The program for the event was a prayer, dinner, a group photo by Anderson, and the community song followed by programs on a history of the school, school life sixty years ago, thirty years ago, and the present (1935), and finished with a ball game and visiting.
The original limestone building held classes until a cold December morning in 1943. While riding to high school in town with a friend, Norman Manz discovered the school ablaze.  He returned home and called in the fire.  However, it was too late and there was nothing to do but wait for the fire to consume the school.
Investigation of the burned school revealed that the windows on the south side were blown out, indicating that the furnace exploded.  Even though school wasn’t in session yet, the teacher and the 29 students, the largest number in the district, lost all their personal property in the building, some of which had been gathered for the Christmas program the next week. By the time the fire was out only the naked limestone walls remained. 
Walla Walla after the 1943 fire that destroyed the original building. This School is now private property at K-244 and the K-244 Spur south of Milford Dam.
Students attended Acker School, which was empty at the time, until a new building was constructed. The new building was erected in rather a different style than the original. The new building looks like it belonged in southern California, where flat top roofs are more common.  The new boxy building, was one of the most original-looking school buildings in Geary County. 
The school closed in 1962 when the district consolidated with neighboring districts and students began attending Tell, Joint District #88. Today the school is a private residence and stands surrounded by evergreen trees at the junction of K-244 and the K-244 spur just south of Milford Dam.
            While we have a lot of information on the school’s anniversary in 1935 we lack any other stories about the school or school life at Walla Walla.  We would love to hear from you.  If you or a family member attended Walla Walla, School District #24, please, contact the museum so we can record your stories.