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A short history of Keizer School

The first schoolhouse in the Keizer-Clear Lake area was a small log cabin at the intersection of the present North River and Wheatland Roads, about where the Bonny Dell apartments are located.

No one knows when it was built but the remains were still on the site in the early 1900’s.

In 1866 Hugh McNary brought his wife, the former Margaret Claggett, and his family from Linn County back to the Keizer area, presumably to the Claggett farm. He became the school’s teacher, and preacher for those who gathered in the little schoolhouse for religious services.

In 1878 John and Sally Pugh donated 1-1/2 acres at the Keizer comers (Schoolhouse Square) and a frame one-room school was immediately built. It was furnished with the handmade desks and benches from the old school. The first teacher was Nina McNary, a daughter of Hugh and Margaret McNary.

Sometime between 1894 and 1898 a smaller room was added on the north side and a gallery or balcony was added to the back of the large room to be used by the audience at school functions.

According to Mrs. Arthur Cummings the school became the social center of the community. Also, church services were held there, although baptisms took place at the steamboat landing near the Cummings home.

In 1915 the school board voted to build a larger school and the two-room structure was torn down.

A sturdy four-room school was erected at a cost of $8,OOO. One of the rooms had a stage for school and community programs. There was also a full basement and a small furnace room with a wood furnace. The basement was partitioned into four rooms for future expansion.

A concrete walk led to a courtyard and stairs wide enough for students to march four abreast up to the double doors of the main floor. There were 17 steps as the school was built high off the ground because of frequent high-water problems. A large belfry held the school bell which could be heard as far away as Verda Lane.

The first two teachers in the new building were Cora Miller (Clark) who taught the four upper grades, and Anna Lindgren (Myers) who instructed the younger pupils. Cora Clark celebrated her 100th birthday in 1987 and resides, in the Willamette Lutheran Home.

Only four years later all four classrooms were in use, and the lower floor was completed into classrooms.

Little shops sprang up around the school and became the town center.

By the mid-1930’s the school was crowded and a large wing was added in 1939. It contained four classrooms, a health room, teachers’ lounge, a kitchen, auditorium, and principal’s office. The use of the basement rooms as classrooms was discontinued.

As enrollment grew, they came into use again until 1948 when ten more classrooms were added. A year later five classrooms, two storerooms and a teachers’ lounge were built. Part of the basement was used as a music room and part as a library.

These rooms were needed again for classrooms even though Cummings School was built in 1953 to relieve the overcrowding. More land was acquired until the school grounds reached almost seven.

Keizer School was now the largest grade school in the county.

The school bell could no longer be heard over the sound of traffic, not even throughout the building itself. It was taken down and placed on a platform in the school’s entry. However, children delighted in thumping it to the great annoyance of the staff in the adjoining office so it was retired to a storage room in the basement.

In 1955 Keizer voters were faced with forming a union high school district or consolidating with the Salem School district. The vote favored consolidation which became effective July 1,1955.

By the 1980’s, the school complex was deemed unsafe by the fire deparunent and obsolete by the school system.

A large modern school was built off Olsen Road on part of the old Hoffman farm now owned by Arleen and Keith Olsen. The new Keizer School opened in 1987. The road leading to the school was named McClure after a well-loved teacher, Mickey McClure.

The old school property was put up for sale. Springer Development Co. completed the purchase in 1989.

In the meantime a group was formed to preserve the 1916 structure. It has been moved to the northwest comer of the old school grounds, with the cooperation of the developers.

In 1988, plans were tentatively made to house the Keizer Art Association, the Keizer library and a historical museum in the restored school, Keizer’s only historic public building.

Published September 1988. (The complete detailed hislory of Keizer School may be found in Volume 13 (1979-1982) of the Marion County Historical Society publication, page 44ff.)