This striking white school looks ready for eager students, but the deep stillness and the big weeds in the schoolyard make this yet another Oregon Ghost. It's located some 30 miles east of Prineville, Oregon, lost in the red-barked, piney forests of the Ochoco Mountains. Its elevation of 3630 feet is almost exactly that of downtown Bend. Although a "Howard School" is listed in Crook County local history in 1900, this pictured building may not be the original schoolhouse.
Update, summer 2015: RESCUE OF HOWARD SCHOOL. The old Howard School has been relocated about a mile west of where it was for many decades (eg. in the 1999 picture above). The new location is in an open field on the north side of the road, (same side as its original location). The classy building is looking good in its new Life, not as surrounded by big trees as before...One of my sources tells me that the school went out of service sometime in the 1960s and faced a crisis of destruction in recent years, similar to the crisis faced by the historic Gribble Barn in the Willamette Valley (click link)..I was told that at one point the old school was actually listed on Craigslist as an item to "come take it away"-- perhaps just for its old wood. Apparently a major force in the saving of the school was the wife of a local rancher. She'd gone to school in the old schoolhouse! So the school got moved to new land where it is safe, at least for the time being.....(image above: PCD 0932, img 76, 10/15/1999)
CLICK HERE for pictures of the new location, taken August 2016
A brief history of this area is gotten from Phil Brogan's classic book "East of the Cascades," published 1964 by Binford and Mort of Portland..Other sources included staff at the Bowman Museum in Prineville and the classic reference book of Oregon place names "Oregon Geographic Names" 1982, by Lewis McArthur..... In 1872, a rancher and prospector by the name of Howard found gold in Sissors Creek, "...a stream which held golden flakes and occasional nuggets." The gold led to the establishment of what Brogan called "an active mining community for many years" named the Ochoco Mines. He says the gold mining boom faded in the 1890s. Meanwhile, the Howard Post Office (1877-1918) was a place "that was to migrate from place to place through the years and eventually disappear." It was long-gone by the time Brogan was doing his field research in the early 1960s. As far as the mines themselves, if one hikes less than 2 miles northeast from the site of the schoolhouse, they will find a number of old mine shafts and diggings scattered around the Ochoco Valley at elevations from about 3850 to 4100 feet (beware of private land, however). Also, there were two actual mining camps at high elevations on nearby Lookout Mountain (the lower one named the Independent Mine, and the upper one with the big refinery named the Mayflower Mine).... The Mayflower was active up until about 1970... Up there, miners lived and worked and at the Mayflower even refined the "Cinnabar" (mercury) that they were digging. Another big mine was the Blue Ridge Mine, on the road toward Big Summit Prarie. At times, there were other school houses scattered through the area, designed to be no more than a six mile walk for any school child!
Overall, then, the Howard School's purpose was to educate the children of the mining camps and the children of the local ranchers.