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Taking You Back in History: Chalk Board Days Part 1

By Kathy Brown, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum/Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society

Deer Flat School, 1889

Most Grovelanders know that the Premier Valley Bank on Main Street was once a schoolhouse. But were there other schools before it? If so, when and where?

The early mining camps of this area were populated almost entirely by men. By 1851 ranchers and storekeepers, often accompanied by their wives and children, arrived to provide for the miners' needs. Newspapers published complaints of children wandering the streets without supervision and proclaimed the need for schools.

The earliest known schools in Tuolumne County in 1852 were privately run and the first public schools recorded in the county opened in 1855. Usually only eight students were required in an area to qualify for a public school so early schools were built wherever a few families clustered to live and work. These schools only had to be open three months a year to qualify for state funding, with a change to five months by 1868. The Big Oak Flat and Groveland School District officially formed in 1858.

Area history locates the first school “on the hill” near the “The Scar” just west of the Oak Grove (Divide) Cemetery. There is mention of miners trimming a huge pine tree in that area for a flag pole for the school. Other sources cite the school near Mecartea’s Blacksmith which was near Cemetery Road. No specific dates were found for this school but it would probably h