“OLD SCHOOLS”

Old one-room schools that eventually became Mossyrock School District 206, was the subject of Mossyrock Area Historical Society’s meeting on December 6, 2023.

Buddy Rose provided this recap and the images used in his slideshow presentation on the subject, at the December 6th, 2023 meeting of the Mossyrock Area Historical Society.

School District 206 was formed in 1910 by consolidating the smaller school districts that were in the area between Salkum and the former town of Nesika. Nesika was about 6 miles east of Riffe where the highway crossed over onto the north side of the Cowlitz River going toward Kosmos.

The first of those schools were established about 1870 at Mossyrock where two schools existed, one on Klickitat Prairie (Klickitat School) about where the Burley Road intersects Hwy. 12 and another (Doss School) located near where the current high school stands. Other schools were added as the area became more settled. The schools were generally located in concentrations of settlement and were usually not far apart since most kids walked to school.

The early schools included Salkum, Silver Creek, Mayfield, Wilson (Salmon Creek area), Harmony, Klickitat, Mossyrock, Ajlune (Richland Valley), Swofford, Green Mountain (Alta Vista), Riffe, Baugh, Nesika and Lone Trail. Lone Trail was one of the last ones to be established, probably about 1917. It was started by Hunt and Cook families who had homesteads on the north side of the Cowlitz River opposite the Baugh School, which was about halfway between Riffe and Nesika. They added the Lone Trail School so kids wouldn’t have to cross the dangerous Cowlitz River by ferry to attend Baugh School.

The decision to consolidate the schools into Mossyrock School District 206 was primarily to standardize the education kids would be getting in the area and to equally share funding available for teachers and education supplies. Although approved in 1910, consolidation wasn’t complete until a high school building was constructed in 1912 beneath the town’s namesake “mossy rock.” The first Mossyrock High School graduates were Neil Kjesbu and Henry McKinley in 1914.

Eventually, as transportation of pupils became more readily available, the one-room schools closed and all students were brought to Mossyrock. A new Mossyrock elementary and junior high was constructed in 1938 and most students in the district began attending there that year.

An addition to the old high school was built in 1917 and a community center/gymnasium was added nearby. After the community center burned down in 1931, a new high school was constructed where the current schools are located later that same year. In 1959, to accommodate the influx of students associated with families relocating into the area for construction of Mayfield and Mossyrock dams, the current high school and gymnasium were added. The 1931 high school is now the junior high.

Attendance in the Mossyrock School District peaked about 1966, when total school enrollment was 736. That compares to about 600 today.

Notable District 206 administrators over the years included Lewis Duncan, who was Superintendent from 1929 until 1952, when he died from a heart attack during Christmas break. Ralph Morris, a former teacher and very popular coach at Mossyrock, was coaxed into leaving his new coaching position at Centralia High School and returning to Mossyrock to take over Duncan’s post. Morris continued as Superintendent from 1952 until 1970 and was instrumental in getting the new high school built. Last but not least was Lawrence Deacon, who was high school principal from 1934 until 1967.

Also at the meeting, Don Varo and Wisten Aldrich brought a number of old photos of the area that were displayed There was also a tasty meal including loaded baked potatoes furnished by Tom and Jan Meade along with delicious desserts brought by others.