As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of Elk Grove Unified School District that was formed in 1959, we need to take a trip to the past and see how education began in our Elk Grove and South Sacramento areas.

Elk Grove has had several “firsts” with its schools, especially these three: the first official school in Sacramento County; the San Joaquin School of 1853; the first rural high school in California in 1893, Elk Grove Union High School; and the first rural library, Elk Grove Union High School, in 1908. We truly have much to celebrate!

Our very first schools were those of our Miwok families that lived along the Cosumnes River. They recognized the value of keeping their children informed of what was needed for them to lead successful and happy lives. They were our first teachers, and from them, we have moved on to become a huge school district with 67 schools and the education of nearly 63,000 children.

The first school that we know of was that of Mrs. Murphy in 1844. She referred to it as a “kindergarten,” but it was for all ages of children. It was located on the Martin Murphy Ranch north of the Cosumnes River and west of today’s Highway 99. The location was near the site of the later San Joaquin School, named for the township that included most of our present Elk Grove area.

Our next school was the Rhoads School - not the one in Elk Grove Regional Park, but the first one that was built by Jared Dixon Sheldon in 1849 and located near the Cosumnes River near  Sloughhouse. The school was closed because children were getting ill from mosquito bites, likely  malaria. The second Rhoads School was built by the farmers on Grant Line Road in 1872. That is the school that can be visited at Elk Grove Regional Park to see what our one room country schools were like.

During the gold days, many little schools were created in the Sloughhouse area and what is now Rancho Murieta. The gold days of the 1850s brought forth many tent cities and hastily put-together structures for hundreds of families. The miners built little schools to educate their children, and the mothers did the teaching. There were seven schools that we know of, but we have no information about these three: Alabama, Buckeye, and Bridgehouse. We do know a little about these gold field schools:

Cook’s Bar School, 1854 - Gold was found in 1849 at this bar  by Dennis Cook. From 1854-1860, there were a hotel, stores and saloons there for the 500 inhabitants. By 1860 everyone had left, moving on to better diggings.

Katesville School, 1854 – The school in this mining camp was named for a miner’s wife who was a teacher. There were 33 students in 1866. By 1883, mining had diminished and almost everyone had left the area.

Live Oak School, 1857 – There were 60 children at the school in 1865, and the teacher was paid a salary of $75 each month.  In 1869, Live Oak School closed.

Sebastopol School, 1854 – The mining camp and school were named during the Crimean War when the name was prominent. The camp only lasted until 1859, and the school closed. Many Chinese mined in the area until 1876.

These three mining camp schools lasted until the late 1940s when they, along with Rhoads School, became Cosumnes River Union Elementary District in 1948.

Michigan Bar School, 1857- The miners had come from Michigan, and the “bar” referred to the place in the river where gold was found.  A thriving community developed, and in 1869 there were 50 students at the school.   

Stone House School - This school was on Jackson Road near today’s Stone House Road. It was named for a stone house that was built by Chinese who had been railroad workers. Blanche Spencer told of teaching at Stone House from 1937-1941.  The school was a real community center.  The attendance had been running at  five pupils, but things changed dramatically when a Florida dredging company established a village of workers in the area. Student attendance jumped to 25! Parents were very active in the school. All the students were taken to football and baseball games in Sacramento and to the World’s Fair in San Francisco. The fathers built a stage and wired the school for electricity. The mothers made curtains for the stage and cooked hot dogs on the pot-bellied stove. They also had a Mothers’ Orchestra. In 1941, the dredging company returned to Florida. The Stone House School continued with much smaller enrollment until 1947.  

Wilson School, 1857 – The school was in Lee Township, on the south side of the Cosumnes River. Six years later, there were only seven students. Myrtle Sturgess (Sims) was the teacher when there were 26 students.

In 1946, Cosumnes River Union District was formed.  The new district included Michigan Bar, Stonehouse, Wilson, and Rhoads schools.  A new school was built at what is the present location of Cosumnes River Elementary School. The school opened in 1948.

To be continued… read next week to find out about the schools that were created by the farmers.


History Happened Here, Book 1 – River, Oaks, Gold

History Happened Here, Book 2 – Fields, Farms, Schools

We the People, a Story of Internment in America

All book proceeds go for student scholarships, and I thank the many purchasers who have made possible the 75 scholarships with each one $1,000  – make your check for books payable to Laguna Publishers and send to me at 9227 Lamprey Drive, Elk Grove, CA 95624.  Books are $20 apiece and California sales tax is included. Add $3 for shipping of one or two books; $5 for 3-6 books. Call me at (916) 685-0606 or email me at    And, you can always purchase books at meetings of the EGUSD Board of Education and the city of Elk Grove. Look for me in the entry area of both places.