By Lisa Robinson
Tragedy struck twice when the Alba Schoolhouse burned in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. The lumber from the Sequoia one-room schoolhouse originally built after the second Sequoia School House succumbed during the dreadful 1904 fires, also perished in the blaze.
The new third Sequoia Schoolhouse was completed in 1905. It was located on China Grade at the new road to the Big Basin. It closed in 1924 due to lack of enrollment. Alba School had been built in 1895 for the children of the families that lived on Ben Lomond Mountain. By 1934, the one room schoolhouse on Alba Road was bursting at the seams. So, the Sequoia School building was dismantled, the lumber transported to Alba School, and it was reassembled on the back of the building.
The Sequoia school district was formed in 1886. The district was located five miles above the town of Boulder Creek on the Boulder Creek Road near the Big Basin. It comprised 12,320 acres divided into 77 quarter sections. Of those quarter sections just 13 were occupied by local residents. There were two sawmills, Chase & Co.’s and McAran’s, and ground was being broken for a third.
The schoolhouse was built on the land belonging to William A. Day. The elected school trustees were William Day, Winfield Scott Rodgers, and Alfred S. Dennis. The school “house-warming,” held in June, included a country dance, with music provided by an organ and a violin, and continued until midnight when supper was then served to the sixty participants.
Just a few years later in June 1893, the schoolhouse was lost to a devastating fire. All the school’s books and a new organ were lost in the suspicious blaze. Just a day later the Presbyterian Church in Boulder Creek was also lost to fire. At the time it was suspected that the two incendiary events were not unrelated.
A second schoolhouse was built at Missouri Flat on what is now China Grade. That building was lost in the huge fires of September 1904. Tom Maddocks and his son James “made a gallant fight” to save the building, only to have it burn later that night when it was thought that the danger had passed. There were multiple fires raging throughout the region, threatening the old-growth redwoods of the Big Basin, and surrounding the town of Boulder Creek. The fires destroyed structures such as the Big Creek Power Company, the McAbee-Rider mill, and Chase’s mill. Other fires were raging on Ben Lomond Mountain, on Zayante Creek above Felton, and on Bear Creek at the summit. The Bald Mountain School on Smith Grade was also destroyed. The fires were described as “the greatest forest fires the county has ever seen.”
Rebuilding the Sequoia schoolhouse began soon after and classes reopened temporarily in the unoccupied cottage of the Crawford family of Sequoia Dairy, while the new schoolhouse was being built. James Wilson of Boulder Creek won the contract for the reconstruction with a bid of $525. The building was insured but the funds would not cover all the costs of rebuilding, so there was a special election to vote on a school tax to raise $250 for the rebuild and for school equipment–no one voted against it.
In July 1924, the board of supervisors granted a petition put forth by the residents of the Sequoia District seeking consolidation with the Boulder Creek Union School District. Sequoia had just fifteen students. They were admitted into the Boulder Creek Grammar School and, much to the vocal opposition of some old-time Sequoia residents, the Sequoia Schoolhouse was abandoned.
For several years subsequently, the schoolhouse was used as a polling place for the residents of the district until in 1934 it was razed.
At Alba, the Alba Improvement Association, which used the schoolhouse as its headquarters, sponsored an old-time fair to raise money to pay for the schoolhouse addition. There were games, ice cream, shooting galleries, a barbeque, and a dance. Several hundred people attended.
Sequoia, like a phoenix, has risen from the ashes twice before–let us hope it can do so again.
Lisa Robinson is the Collections and Exhibitions Curator at the San Lorenzo Valley Museum.
Featured photo: Sequoia Schoolhouse with Charles Johanson, Davis Moncrief, and Florence Moncrief. Contributed by Lisa Robinson