On February 5, 1913, the Hamilton School District was formed. Our first school in this area, then known as Cahuilla Plains was in Joe Sherman’s barn, located east of the Community Church, in 1913 and 1914. The teacher was Eula DeVana. Information from Emily Cary Lauridsen states that a United States Post Office was established and the area became known as Baptista on August 22, 1913. On November 1, 1924 the name was changed to Bautista and again another change was made on September 16, 1926 to its present name of Anza, the namesake being in all three cases, Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza.
Mildred Evans, who went to school there from 1913 to 1921, wrote that her father, George B. Evans, helped contractors, J. W. Shaney and Will Collins put up the present building. William Daniels and other homesteaders from the Mitchell Road area helped. Starting on May 22, 1914, the men from Baptista drove to Hemet to haul lumber for the new school. Others who helped put the building up were Gus Wishnand, John Arbuckle, A.B. Baker, Joe Dashner, G.P. Weatherill, Bill Cort and Antonio and John Contreras.
The school was built on land given by George Turner, (north-east corner of his homestead) and was to be returned to his family, when no longer used as a school. The building was erected during the spring of 1914 and was ready to be used as a school in September 1914. One month prior on August 25, the first election was held in the nearly completed building. There were 72 voters that day.
The first woman teacher in Hamilton School, Nellie Miller didn’t stay long. She resigned in November 1914. Mr. John H. Stoner drove his team of Percherons, a wagon and some equipment to the town of Baptiste, as the town was then known. He arrived December 1, 1914; put his animals in Mr. Shaney’s barn on Mitchell Road and Bautista and walked through the fresh snow to start teaching at 9:00 a.m. He taught until June 1918 and then worked his homestead one mile north.
When Cahuilla Road became State Highway 71 in 1964, the traffic was deemed to be too heavy and the school site was condemned by the State as dangerous.
John Bohlen gave 20 acres of land on the corners of Mitchell and Bohlen Roads, where the present Hamilton School is located. His sister Nan Bohlen, gave an additional 10 acres some years later, to enlarge the playground. The present buildings were built by the Hemet Unified School District.
Since the School District could not find any members of the Turner family, the original school and land were auctioned off in 1964. The highest bidder was James Minor, who then gave the land and the building to the Anza Civic Improvement League. The President of the League was one of the graduates, Henry R. Lichtwald. The Vice President was Fred “Rudy” Whestine; William H. Gleck was the Treasurer and Leona Hyde, the first Secretary.
Many public elections, church and Sunday school classes, holiday group gatherings, potlucks and celebrations were held there for all the Valley; and still are! Later the school became a library and the bookshelves on the west side replaced the blackboard and the high louvered windows. The school was then used again as a church for a few years, a meeting place for the Anza Valley Chamber of Commerce and then again as a private school, San Jose Academy. The outhouses that were down by the trees on either side of a hay barn, the hitching posts, where students and parents tied up their horses are all long gone. Automobiles replaced the horses in those shady parking spaces. The Co-op men installed the original picnic tables and cement platform on the west side of the school.
NOTE: Information collected from letters by Mildred Evans, John Stoner, Emily Cary and Frank Laurdisen, and Fanny Contreras as provided to the Stagecoach Press, an Anza Valley Chamber of Commerce publication.
Below follows the list of teachers at the Little Red Schoolhouse as proved by Emily Cary Lauridsen.
Miss Nellie Miller
Mr. John Stoner
Inez Parks (1 day only)
Mrs. Peterson (later Arbuckle)
Miss Virginia Geare