Masonville Fought for First School
from the Loveland Reporter-Herald, October 5, 2003
By Ken Jessen

 

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The Masonville School is south of the town on the west side of Buckhorn Creek. Today it is a private residence.

 

The primitive Buffum School predated the Masonville community and was in an advanced state of decay in 1887, when a school election was held and School District 51 was organized to serve the Masonville area. Residents voted to replace the old Buffum School. Through the generosity of H.C. Brumet, one acre of land was donated a short distance from the old school and near the Masonville Road. The acre was part of a 20 acre parcel that Brumet subsequently sold back to the original owner, Elijah J. Thompson. The title to the donated land stipulated that should it ever be used for anything other than a school, it would revert back to the grantor.

The Masonville area was poor, and to raise money for the school building, James Catlett started a door-to-door subscription drive. Eventually there was enough money to begin construction of a fine one-room school. It was constructed of rough pine lumber on the outside, but with smooth, plastered walls on the inside. It had three windows on the left side and three windows on the right side plus a pair of windows in the back to provide natural light for classes. Opened in 1890, the school was furnished with discarded furniture from a Fort Collins school.

 

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James Catlett's motives to build the school were quite clear; he had five children enrolled. For the handsome sum of $45 per month, Maggie Gerge was the first teacher to use the new building. There is historical confusion on the original name of this school. It may have retained the Buffum name or possibly it was called the Buckhorn School. The town of Masonville had not been founded at the time the school opened. It is clear, however, that after the Masonville post office opened in 1896, the name Masonville School was used.

Due to increased population in the area during the 1920s, District 51 needed to construct a new school. The old school was moved and converted to a residence. It burned to the ground in 1950. The new school opened in 1926 and was more modern and larger. It had more windows, and two classrooms divided by a folding door.

Grades one through four sat on the east side of the folding door while the other grades sat on the west side. Drinking water came from a well served by a hand pump. The water was used to fill a cooler each morning. Each pupil had his or her own tin cup kept neatly in a wooden box attached to the wall above the pump. Prior to lunch, a washbasin was held by two students while the other students would file past to wash their hands. A bucket was placed on the floor below the basin to catch the waste water.

The number of students varied according to the fortunes of the area and the activity at the nearby stone quarries. During good economic times, as many as 60 students attended the Masonville School.
The outhouses were two­holers, one for the girls and the other for the boys. Heat was provided by a wood- and coal-burning furnace in the basement. In the tradition of country schools, classes were called to order by a hand-held bell.

 

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The Masonville Hotel was converted into a home by A.H. Anson, and the Anson family still owns and lives in the structure.

 

Gertie Trevarton wrote about her experiences with one of her teachers, Pearle Talbot. This teacher could not stand the use of chewing gum during class and anyone who was caught would have to spit out the gum and chew a large piece of wax. Gertie didn't have any gum, but thought that chewing wax might be a great deal of fun. She pretended to have a piece of gum in her mouth and was soon caught by Miss Talbot. Gertie was handed a large piece of wax and commanded to chew it constantly. Soon Gertie's jaws began to ache, and later in life, she seldom chewed gum.

A young school teacher by the name of Ella Leonard started each day seated at her desk in front of the students. As was her custom, she opened her top drawer. On this particular day, she gave out a loud gasp and fell over backward in her chair. Some young rascal had placed a large bull snake in the drawer. The snake, upon seeing the light of day when the drawer was opened, sprang to the floor and slithered to freedom.

Ella composed herself and got to her feet. She immediately singled out Gerald as the source of the prank since he came in early and had access to the building. Gerald denied any involvement so Miss Leonard turned to the next most likely candidate, Leslie McWhorter. Leslie freely admitted that he placed the serpent in the drawer. His punishment was to remove the snake from the school
and kill it outside in the playground. Leslie had to pass though the adjacent room where the younger students were taught, and the sight of the snake draped over a yardstick created a sensation. Once outside, Leslie released the snake unharmed into the bushes.

In the interest of efficiency, voters within the school district decided to consolidate their district with District No. 2. The Masonville School became surplus, and the last class was held in May 1952. Several years went by, and the school board used the building as a meeting hall. As was mentioned, the original landowner stipulated that if the land was ever used for anything but education, it would revert back to the grantor.

In April 1958, the school district discovered that the school had been fenced off, a padlock placed on the gate and that the heirs of the Thompson family now claimed the property. The school district filed a lawsuit claiming the school could not be taken away, but lost.

For more information and stories about the Masonville School, please refer to "History of Masonville School," published in 1986 by the Morning Glories Extension Homemakers Club.

Kenneth Jessen is a Loveland author with 12 books and more than 700 articles to his credit. He was an engineer for Hewlett-Packard for 33 years and now runs a publishing company.