In the 1870s more settlers were arriving in the area and their children needed to learn “read’n, write’n and ’rithmatic.” At first teaching was done at home, but many adults were uneducated and unprepared to pass on “book learnin.’”
Sometimes settlers were in clusters that became communities. But there was also a need for the outlying ranches and sometimes a school was established for a large family. Distance and poor roads made it necessary to have a school at a place where trails met and most neighbors could reach it on foot or horseback.
So it was that schools like Myrtle, Rim Rock and others were established. The buildings, erected by neighbors, were one room with a woodstove in the middle. Children looked forward to days at school because homes were so isolated and the chores were difficult.
Parents were eager for their children to learn, often considering an education the road to an easier life than pioneering. The school books were set out after supper and the kerosene lamp lit for homework. Parents were usually eager to learn what their children learned at school.
The county superintendent of education would recognize the school and appoint a teacher if there were at least eight students. Three local men served as the school board, raised money for the teacher’s salary and decided dates for the school sessions, usually working around important ranch and farm activities. When the required number of pupils fell below eight the school would close, only to reopen when there were enough children. Schools often had to close when children grew up or families moved away.
These outlying schools were also social centers for dances and holiday celebrations. That’s when the children presented plays or readings.
Typical of these was the Rim Rock School, located where Dude Creek flowed into the East Verde. This was just north of today’s Whispering Pines. Among the students at Rim Rock were the children of Bartolomeo and Mercedes Belluzzi. Margaret Murphy, a granddaughter of the Belluzzis, told me in an interview, “Growing up we heard of the Rim Rock School all the time, because the older people used to tell about going to Rim Rock to the dance ...”
Ida Bell Haught Martin, daughter of Henry Haught and later known as Aunt Sis, recalled, “When we became dancing age the girls would bring their good clothes, change at the Belluzzis’ and stay all night. We went to the dances at the Rim Rock school house.”
On upper Tonto Creek the Myrtle school, just under the Rim, was a four-mile walk for 13-year-old Richard Haught. Each day he would meet with other children where trails crossed and they walked together. Encountering a bear on the way was always a possibility, so Richard carried his rifle to school. One October he shot and killed a large bear on his way home from school. The Haught girls, had been on horseback, leaped off to examine the animal. The horse ran home where their older brother Ollie caught it and raced back along the trail concerned about his siblings. He found his brother and sisters gathered around the bear. They packed it back to the ranch. At the time Zane Grey was staying with them. He had come to hunt bear and was discouraged that he hadn’t bagged one. When the youngsters came in with their kill the famous author exclaimed, “Here I am sitting up on the porch writing on my book and a little 13-year-old boy goes out and kills a bear!”