Early History of the Talent School

by Elton Petri -- May 15, 1973

It is said "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge". The fear of the Indians contributed its share in the beginning of knowledge in the Rogue River Valley, particularly in the Talent area. It was while the settlers were "forted up" at Fort Wagner that the need for a school was discussed, and action taken to establish one. Fort Wagner was located west bank of Wagner Creek and south of Old Pacific Highway, (Talent Ave) on what was later known as Evergreen Gardens or the W.H. Breese place. (It is now occupied by mobile homes.)

The office of I.E.D. in Medford has nearly three pages of data contributed by Anna Beeson Carter, daughter of Welburn Beeson; from whose diary much information has been derived and from which we will quote from time to time. It would seem from this data, that the first school in the area was taught in the upper story of the Samuel Culver house in Phoenix (Pike or Pike Town) in the winter of 1853. It is stated that this was not so, as the house had not been built at that time. An entry in the Welburn Beeson Diary for Christmas Day 1856 has this statement: "Culver has his large house built up two story high, but it is not covered yet." This statement would seem to preclude any possibility of there being any school at that location in the winter of 1853.

Quoting from the Beeson Diary, December 15, 1853: "In the evening of this date Father and I went to a school meeting at the Fort. At this meeting it was decided to build a schoolhouse near a spring on the Smith and Chase Donation Land Claims. The Rev. Fletcher Royal is to go around with subscription papers tomorrow." From the Beeson Diary on May 15, 1854: "I went to help raise the schoolhouse. Father (John Beeson) hauled a load of lumber for it. There were 13 men to help raise. We got it raised. I think it will be ready for meeting soon." Information from the diary of Orson Stearns is said to state that the schoolhouse was constructed of pine logs, 16' x 32'.

Among the first pupils, were children from the Anderson and Reams families as well as Welburn Beeson. The books were those brought by the settlers across the plains or around the Horn. The first teacher was Mary Hoffman. The Andersons, from which Anderson Creek derives its name, lived west of Talent: the Reams property adjoined the west side of the Anderson property. The Beeson claim was south of Talent and included such places as the Holdridge, Carter, Foss and Gleim properties. An entry on May 16, 1856 in the Beeson Dairy may be a clue to other pupils who attended: "I went to hunt for a cow that got out of the pasture last night, but I could not find her. I stopped at the school ... (afternoon) I went in swimming with Calvin Wagner, Joe and Sam Robison, Thomas Reams and Orson Stearns in Bear Creek. The water is rather cold. It has been a very warm day." [end page 1]

After the school was organized, it was to be known as the Vernon school; and in the Beeson Dairy, it is frequently referred to as the Mt. Vernon School. As to its exact location, we can not be sure. From all information, both written and hearsay, it would seem it stood on the West bank of Bear Creek; a short distance downstream from where the present road crosses Bear Creek at Suncrest and Fern Valley. Judging from a copy of an old map, it would seem to have been in Sec. 23 of Township #38 S., Range #1 West of Willamette Meridian. There was also a cemetery quite near the school as the Beeson Dairy frequently refers to burials taking place there. One instance was of a man by the name of Fields, who was killed by Indians on the Siskiyous (at the place where the present road leaves the highway to the ski resort on Mt. Ashland) His body was brought to the school before being removed to the cemetery.

There seems to be no definite date available as to when the Vernon or Mt. Vernon School met for the first time. It is known that the settlers were interested in more than just education in the three "R"s for their children. Long before the schoolhouse was completed, they were planning the religious training of their children as well. From the Beeson Dairy, we have these entries: May 21, 1854, "On this date the first Sunday School was organized. Father went to a meeting at Mr Rockefeller's, Rev. Fletcher Royal preached. He organized a Sunday School. If the new schoolhouse is finished, it will commence Sunday." June 11, 1854; "Sunday, Father and I attended Sunday School at the new schoolhouse. Mr. Rockefeller was elected superintendent. There were quite a number for the first Sunday School in the Rogue River Valley." Thus the fourth "R" entered into the life of the community.

After the schoolhouse was completed, it was used for many purposes. Among the unusual, was the Singing School that met there. Something, which people of this day and age, hear little of. From the Beeson Dairy of June 25, 1854; "Quarterly meeting today and tomorrow, 25th & 26th of June, 1854. A great many present. The house was full and many outside. Mr Wilbur preached assisted by Mr Hoxie and Mr Taylor." (The first quarterly meeting in Jacksonville was held September 24, 1854, in the new church in Jacksonville) Another meeting held in the building that was not a credit to the community, was one at which the above mentioned (Rev.) Mr. Taylor presided. This meeting was referred to as a "Protest Meeting" by Welburn Beeson. At this meeting, action was taken that caused Welburn's father to slip away in the dead of night. He went to Fort Lane and was given a military escort out of the valley. The meeting "protested" the speaking and writing by John Beeson, defending the Indian cause. Rather ironic, that a man who was so influential in having the building erected should find himself the victim of action taken therein.

There seems to be no record as to how long the Vernon School existed as such. It is known that about 1856 a school was built on Wagner Creek. It was no doubt the one which was sometimes referred to as the George Lynch School and sometimes as the South School. A school was later built approximately in the N.E. corner of the Everett Beeson field on Wagner Creek Road. It was sometimes referred to as the North Wagner Creek School. In later [end page 2] years when the school ceased to be, the building was removed to the Talent Orchard Co. west of Talent. The South School which was District #56 remained until it consolidated with the Phoenix District in July of 1951. A third school was built in the central part of Talent and now used as the City Hall. Students from this school wishing to complete high school had to go elsewhere, usually to Ashland to complete their training. Following the construction of the present brick building in 1911, a four-year high school was instituted.

The Anderson Creek School District #72 was split off the Talent School District in 1892. It was first situated about a mile and a half up Anderson Creek from the first fork in the road. At that time a sawmill stood on a flat between the present road and the creek. One of the mill shacks was renovated for the schoolhouse. Its first teacher was Grant Rawlings, who later-became County Recorder, the first ever elected on a Populist ticket. The Populist Party was a political group which was somewhat meteoric in life, in that it flourished quite effectively for a few years and then died out completely. (At this same time Welburn Beeson Jr. became Deputy Assessor as he was an effective worker for the Populist Party.)

District #8 was another school which few people knew existed in this day. This District consolidated with Talent on January 16, 1948. It was commonly referred to as the Windy Point School. It was first located on or near the old Ben Sheldon place, east of Talent on Kenutchen Creek and later removed to Windy Point. From Archie Ferns we learned that he and his brothers and sisters attended this school. His brothers, Charles and Mark also attended school in Talent. From Frank Davis of Ashland, we obtained the information that the school was correctly named for the building was frequently warped by the wind which blew with such force that if the door was open, it was almost impossible to close, if closed it could scarcely be opened. From out of somewhere we had heard that Clarence Lane of Ashland attended there when a boy. It is entirely possible that among the students, could have been Jim Briner, uncle of Everett and Ellis Beeson, and Sylvester ("Ves") Patterson. It is known that these two attended the same school and were boyhood playmates and they did live in that area, as the Pattersons were large property owners in the district. Bert Bell also attended.

In about 1911 or 1912 the district was divided into Valley View and Vern Valley. Among the early high school students to attend at Talent were the three older Stratton children from Valley View. The old Windy Point School building may be seen standing in a pasture across the Suncrest Road from the Ivan Olson home, having been removed from Windy Point. It is now being used as a shed and barn. [end page 3]

In 1949-50 the white building to the East was built and is now Talent Jr. High, was completed during the school year 1954-55; the high school moved to the new facility, leaving the original building (brick) to grades four through eight. During this time Roy Parr was Talent School Superintendent. He served in this capacity for about 27 years, ending his superintendency in 1960 when Talent and Phoenix Districts consolidated. At this time E. R. James became the superintendent of the district. The high school moved to Phoenix and all 7th and 8th graders of the district took over the former Talent High School. Elementary principals serving during this time were Loran Casebier, Bruce Hitt, & R.E. (Gene) Farthing.

Later, as the school population continued to increase, the building south of the primary building was added. Henry Pete was superintendent and George Zickefoose was principal.

The original brick structure continued to be used as classrooms for grades five and six & for the Library, lunch room, resource program, special services, furnace room, and storage for all six grades.

During the present school year, 1972-73, the brick building was declared unsafe for school use. Double sessions were instituted for levels one through four in the primary building, and the fifth and sixth levels utilized the newest building. Upon passage of bond issue to build a new structure, mobile classrooms were moved in and full day sessions were resumed in January, 1973. Hot lunches were served in the gym. The original brick building was last used for classrooms during the superintendency of Anthony Scafani and the principalship of William (Bill) Rupp. The last weekend of May, 1973, an [sic] All students that attended any of the Talent Schools held a reunion, with a dance held in the old gym that evening. There were a great many former students attended along with Gene Farthing. A good time was had by all and renewed friendship of years past...

UP TO DATE DATA: [by Wilda Schmelzer-1985]

The move from the mobile units to the "round building" was made in October, 1974. The Media Center (Library) is located in the center of the building with eight classrooms around it. Music and Art room were on each side of the building. The office, staff room, and work room on the other side. Joe Funderburg was the principal.

After Henry Pete left, Anthony Scafani became the superintendent until he retired in the Spring of 1978. William (Bill) Force was the next and he left in July, 1980. Harlan Mayfield was our vice superintendent and became superintendent until he retired in July, 1985. Joe Diamond succeeded him.

William (Bill) Rupp became Principal of Talent Elementary after George Zickefoose in July, 1971 to July, 1973; Joe Funderberg July, 1973 to July, 1976; George Johns July, 1976 to July, 1981 (he was also Parade Marshall for the Talent Harvest in September, 1981); Steven Trout July, 1981 to July, 1983; William (Bill) Rupp returned July, 1983 to July, 1985; Roland W. (Bill) Mayer July, 1985 to ---. [end page 4]

SCHOOL HISTORY ..... from THE LOOKOUT .... 1938 Annual

A few high school subjects were taught in the old school building which is now the Talent City Hall, but a regular high school was not established until the new school was built in 1911. J.B. Coleman was chairman of the school board and Welburn Beeson and G.A. Morris also was board members when the new school house was erected. The money for building the school was raised by selling bonds. F.C. Smith was the principal when the school opened in the fall of 1911. At first the freshman and sophomore classes were taught and the juniors & seniors were sent to Ashland.

The first year there were just two pupils in high school and the second year there were three. F.C. Smith was principal for two years. In 1913 a vote was taken as to whether to teach four years of high school, and the majority thought that it would be best.

G.W. Ager, who had been principal in 1910, returned in 1913 and stayed four years. He was followed by P.L. Spencer in 1917. H.C. Baughman came in 1918, but he died in the middle of the term and G.R. Robinson picked it up in January, 1919. He finished that term and the next. In 1920 and '21, H.B. Jewett was principal. E.E. Evans started in 1922 and stayed three years. While L.P. Miller was principal in 1927, '28 & '29, the high school students went out among the people of the community and got donations to build the gymnasium. The boys built all of it except the roof. Following Miller came C.R. Bowman, principal in 1930 & '31, and in 1932, R.H. Southwick, N.B. Ashcraft, who has been here five successful years.

In the 27 years of the history of Talent high school the enrollment has grown from two pupils to approximately 60 pupils. Talent high has won many trophies in sports and athletics and has been, indeed a successful school.


The Talent School Building was built in 1911, a two year high school was established in 1915, and approximately two years later, a four year high school. The first graduating class consisted of one student, Mrs Everett Bailey (nee Maude Rice). This was in 1919.

Another activity which was very popular for a few years was the county track meet which was held at Talent. Competitors from all over the county would be at Talent for this field day. There were hot dog and lemonade stands just like the old time county fairs and everyone had just as much fun.

In 1917 Talent was outstanding, having won two cups in track. These meets were discontinued at Talent about 1926, a few years after a track field was established at the Fair Grounds near Medford. [end page 5]

The first Talent Annual was started in 1938. It was called the LOOKOUT. The next year the name of the annual was changed to THE TALENT and last year it was again changed by an amendment to the constitution. This time it was called THE BULLDOG. There have been many changes and improvements from time to time until the annual has become one of the most important features of the school year.

The school gymnasium was started in 1929 by the student, body and was finished later by the district. In the last few years there have been many improvements to the gym including enlarged seating capacity, rest rooms, a storage room and a music room.

Talent High was the first "B" school in Jackson County to start school carnivals. Since then others have followed the lead, but in our opinion anyway, we think we have had the most successful ones. The net proceeds from the annual carnivals have gone into the student body funds and have helped buy many of the things which have improved Talent High from year to year.

In 1939 six-man football was started as a competitive sport. Here also Talent was first and had a good following of all the other "B" class schools in Jackson County. We have had our share of defeats and victories, ranging from a very poor team to winning the county football championships in 1943, 1944 & 1945. Football has been a favorite sport with many of the students and towns-people and the competition between the schools has been sharp and educating in sportmanship.

Talent was the only "B" school in Oregon to have a lighted football field up until last year; now there is one other located near Portland. This field was built and paid for by the student body out of funds raised by the students through contributions and school activities. The fence around the field was also built and paid for by the students.

Basketball is another sport to which Talent High has devoted much time and energy. We have had some excellent players who have contributed much to the winning of county championships in 1921, 1922, 1933 & 1943.

Here, also we would like to say something about Talent Yell Leaders. They have been many and of varied types, but always they have done their best to give the ball teams the much needed boost in moral.

The school colors were changed in 1940 from orange and black to burnt orange and black because of the difficulty in obtaining good-looking athletic equipment in the proper colors. Burnt orange was more vivid, quite an improvement, and has since become well-known as Talent's colors. [end page 6]

The insignia of the school was also changed in 1939 from "Hornets" to "Bulldogs", and it is doubtful now if very many people recall that we were once "Hornets".

In 1939 Talent High had many innovations ... among these were the organization of a school band and orchestra, and girl's drill team with majorettes, girls' & boys' glee clubs, and the production of Talent's first operetta. Up until this time class plays had been given each year... then however, they were changed to "all-school" productions.

There was a general rearrangement in 1940 of the administration of Talent High. Up until this time there had been no constitution for the school. A constitution was adopted by the student body and an active student council was also established and a few years later the office of Business Manager was created. The Business Managers are the financial managers for the school, and their job entails a lot of hard work and great responsibility.

In 1940, 1941 and 1942, the student body sponsored "Home Comings" for the alumni which consisted of a banquet, dance and lots of fun. This event was discontinued because of such a rapid increase in the number of alumni and no increase in the school funds.

Another thing Talent has of which to be proud is the record of its girls. Besides winning the County Basketball Championship in 1925, Talent girls were for years acclaimed to be the best groomed and nicest looking girls in the surrounding territory.

Talent has also prides itself in being able to place its girls in the business world thoroughly trained and fully capable of holding responsible positions. There have also been many certificates and awards won in our commercial department, and in 1947 we won national honors in the International Commercial Contests.

Graduates from Talent High have attended universities and colleges all up and down the coast. Most of them are successful businessmen or farmers, with a few in the lumber and fruit industries. Talent High can always be proud of the men and women who have passed through her portals. They are good substantial citizens who would do credit to any educational institution.

Those people who have attended Talent High will, we know, always have a "warm spot" in their hearts for her, and it is not without regret that we merge with Phoenix, although we know it is probably educationally sound. It was then known as District #4.

Jackson County Oregon Library System #000330561, location Talent Branch.

[Photocopy of typescript.]