History of Public School Education in Arizona/Chapter 3

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Chapter III.

THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOV. SAFFORD—THE STATE SUPERINTENDENCY ESTABLISHED, 1869–1879.


The law of 1868 brought to a close what may be called the first period of public education in Arizona. Little was accomplished during that period. The school system was not organized and had not yet found its leader.

This leader came in the person of Anson P. K. Safford, who on April 7, 1869, was appointed third governor of the Territory. Gov. Safford had been a member of the California House of Representatives, had been surveyor general of Nevada, and is said to have been unusually well equipped for his new position. He was governor for nearly eight years—the longest term during which any one man has as yet held the office. He is believed to have influenced the history of the Territory far more than any other executive, and was more generally supported in his efforts for the public good. Owing in part to more favorable conditions, he was also more successful than his predecessors in advancing the material interests of the Territory, but his fame as an able administrator rests mainly on his successful efforts to solve the educational problem of Arizona.

It should not be understood, however, that Gov. Safford’s task in convincing the members of the legislature of the correctness of his educational views was an easy matter, or that the vigorous, self-contained, and self-reliant men who made up that frontier legislature were won except by the strongest and soundest arguments, as the following pages will show.

His message to the legislature of 1871, the first which met during his administration, is in part an eloquent oration on the importance and necessity of education. When we consider the character of the country, the scarcity of population, the savage Apache, and the lack of all facilities for education, the sublime faith and devotion of Gov. Safford really earned the reward which posterity has recognized as being his due, and which they have in part repaid by calling one of the towns of the upper Gila Valley, in Graham County, in his honor.

Fortunately for the historian, Gov. Safford has himself told in glowing periods of this educational development; and his review, when supplemented and reenforced by his messages, presents a story well worthy of being retold for the sake of those who face difficulties less severe than those faced by Gov. Safford in 1871.

In his report to the Commissioner of Education in 1876, Gov. Safford said:[1]

Upon assuming the duties of the office of governor in the year 1869 I found that several previous legislatures had enacted school laws, but in none had any positive provisions been made to sustain public schools, it having been left optional with school-board trustees and county boards of supervisors to levy a school tax or not. The result was that no means were provided and no schools were organized. I saw clearly that the first and most important measure to adopt was to provide the means by making the tax compulsory and as certain as the revenue for carrying on the machinery of government. I at once, after assuming the duties of my office, began to agitate the subject. The first legislature convened in 1871. I prepared a school bill and presented it to the members as soon as they assembled.

Gov. Safford emphasized and made clear to the legislature his position when he said in his message:

Next in importance to the Indian question, none will claim your attention over that of devising some plan for the education of the youth of our Territory. The recent census returns show a population of children, under the age of 21 and over 6 years, of 1,923, and the mortifying fact has to be admitted that we have not a public school in the Territory. There is, and has been for some time, a school in Prescott under the management of S. C. Rogers, and much credit is due that gentleman for his zeal and efforts to encourage education. The Sisters of St. Joseph have recently established a school in Tucson for the education of females, and too much praise can not be accorded them for leaving home and its surrounding comforts and coming to this remote Territory to promote education. With limited means and in a strange land they have overcome every obstacle, and in a few months established a school creditable to any country, and which is already attended by about 130 pupils.

But the object most desirable to attain is the adoption of a school system for free public schools, so that the poor and rich alike can share equal benefits. In a country like ours, where the power to govern is derived from the consent, of the governed, it becomes a matter of vital importance and necessity, if we are to protect and make permanent our republican institutions, that the people shall be educated. Not only this, but history records the fact that the power and glory of nations and peoples keep pace only with their enlightenment and intelligence. * * *

I am of the opinion that our Government should adopt a system of free schools for the whole people, and that, as soon as it were put in operation, it should by law compel the attendance of every child of sound mind and proper age throughout the length and breadth of the Republic. * * *

I consider it imperatively necessary that we shall do something for ourselves.

The present school law has been found inadequate to accomplish the desired object; in fact, it has been wholly inoperative. To obtain the means to put a free school system in operation I would recommend that a portion of the Territorial revenues be set apart for school purposes, and that this fund be divided between the several counties of the Territory in proportion to the number of children that attend school. The boards of supervisors of the several counties should be compelled to divide the counties into one or more school districts, and levy a tax upon all the property of the county to raise a sufficient fund, with the money derived from the Territory, to maintain, for a term of at least six months each year, one or more free schools in each of the counties. This will undoubtedly, to a small extent, increase taxation; but I hardly believe there is a property owner who would not prefer to pay an increased tax than see the rising generation grow up in ignorance; and the small extra tax that is required to maintain free schools will very soon be doubly repaid in the saving of expenses in criminal prosecutions.[2]

The school bill was introduced by the Hon. Estevan Ochoa, probably the most prominent Mexican of that day in Arizona. He was generally respected and had great personal influence, and the spectacle of a citizen of that race presenting an educational measure in an American assembly ought to have spurred his neighbors to action; but somehow it did not, and the bill received but a half-hearted support.[3]

Gov. Safford himself tells how his message and bill were received by the legislature:[4]

Scarcely a member looked upon it with favor. They argued that the Apaches were overrunning the country; that through murder and robbery the people were in poverty and distress; that repeated attempts had been made to organize schools and that failure had always ensued. To these objections I replied that the American people could and ultimately would subdue the Apaches; that unless we educated the rising generation we should raise up a population no more capable of self-government than the Apaches themselves; and that the failure to establish schools had been the result of imperfect statutes during the entire session.

Finally, on the last day of the session, they passed the bill, after striking out nearly all the revenue which had been provided. The measure was the best that could be secured and had to be accepted as it was.

I. THE BASIC ACT OF 1871.

But even then the act of February 18, 1871, was a long step on the road leading to complete school organization. It was the first law that provided for a general or Territorial tax for the support of schools, and it has served as the basic law for subsequent educational enactments.[5] To begin with, it levied a general Territorial tax of 10 cents on the $100 of property and directed that this be collected and paid into the Territorial treasury “as a special fund for school purposes.” It was provided also that it be levied and collected “at the same time and in the same manner as other Territorial revenues,” thus placing school taxes on the same level as other taxes. They were not relegated to a different category, put on a different footing, and the power given to every disgruntled voter to say whether there should be taxes at all, and if so, how much, and how they should be collected, as was done in some of the States. In other words, the schools were recognized as one of the necessary requirements of modern government, to be provided for just as the police department or the executive officers. We may accurately say, then, that while Arizona did not escape the almost universal struggle which has been waged at one time or another by one interest or another against the public-school system, there has never been a day since the organization of the Territory when the public-school idea did not stand out boldly and distinctly as a function of the modern State.

The law of 1871 ordered that the county board of supervisors should levy a county school tax not to exceed 50 cents per hundred, to be collected as other taxes, and it provided further for the enforcement of this action if the county authorities fail to act.

A Territorial board of education was created, consisting of the Territorial secretary, the superintendent of public instruction, and the Territorial treasurer. Since the governor was made ex officio Territorial superintendent, and the Territorial treasurer was one of his appointees, it is evident that he controlled the situation, and that the schools would fare well or ill according to his own individual enthusiasm for education. The board was to hold at least two meetings per year “for the purpose of devising plans for the improvement and management of the public-school funds and for the better organization of the public schools of the Territory. The governor was made ex officio superintendent of public instruction, but with no increase in salary for these extra duties. He was given, however, $500 for expenses.” [6] His duties were to apportion funds between the pupils 6 to 21; make an annual report; prescribe forms; prepare a school register; visit each county every year; and make estimates of future expenditures on which was to be based the county school tax. All school moneys, both county and Territorial, were to be regarded as special funds and were to be used for school purposes only.

The probate judge of the county was made ex officio county school superintendent, but with no extra pay,[7] except $100 for traveling expenses. He was to apportion the county school money among the school districts in proportion to children 6 to 21, provided the schools had been kept open for three months;[8] he was to visit the schools; distribute blanks; and make reports. In case he failed to make reports he was to be fined.

In each school district a board of three public-school trustees was to be elected, in whose hands, when organized, was placed the direct management of the schools and the granting of teaching certificates. They were to take the school census every year; were to provide and furnish schoolhouses; and when Territorial and county money was not sufficient to keep the schools open “for at least three months in each year” they might levy a district tax sufficient to make up the shortage; by a two-thirds vote also the district might levy a further tax to extend the term beyond three months and to erect schoolhouses. New school districts might be set off on petition of 10 families. A uniform series of textbooks was adopted, and indigent pupils might be supplied, but the books were not otherwise furnished free. The subjects taught in the schools covered spelling, reading, grammar, arithmetic, geography, physiology, “and such other studies as may be by said board deemed necessary.”

This law furnished the Territory for the first time a complete system—a Territorial center in the Territorial board and superintendent; county organization and supervision; district or local supervision, with a tax levied by each of the three divisions and all contributing to the support of the system. Its vital weakness was that all the supervision was to be done by ex officios, who, engaged in other lines of administrative work, had often little time and possibly less inclination to see the duties of school administration carried out. The acme of this folly is seen in the section which ordered the probate judges to make certain school reports and fined them for failure, but did not pay them for performance.[9]

Under date of November 3, 1871 (the law was passed Feb. 18, 1871), Gov. Safford writes to the United States Bureau of Education that “every effort has been made to place a free school system in operation with as little expense as possible. It is now confidently expected that by January 1, 1872, a free school will be established in every school district of the Territory.”[10] At this time also Gov. Safford further urged that Congress allow the Territory to sell some of the lands which were to be donated to it for schools when it became a State.

Later Gov. Safford gave some further account of the workings of the act of 1871.[11] He then said:

As soon as the legislature [of 1871] adjourned every part of the Territory was visited, and appeals to aid in establishing schools under the law, which constituted the governor ex officio superintendent, were everywhere made. A desire for schools soon began to appear among the people. We had no books nor teachers; all had to be procured in the older States. In the course of the following year, several schools were in successful operation.

In his report for 1872 he grew enthusiastic:

A free school has been put in operation during the present year in every school district where there was a sufficient number of children, and has been or will be in all cases continued three months, in most of the districts six months, and in some nine months. The board of supervisors should be compelled to levy a uniform tax for school purposes in every county. The trust is too sacred to leave to the discretion of three men. Before the free-school system was inaugurated in this Territory many doubted its practicability, and but few believed it could be made a success, but now all, with one accord, are pleased with it, and I think but little difficulty will be met in continuing and perfecting the system. The larger part of the children are of Mexican birth, and but few of them can speak the English language. They have been taught altogether in English, and their progress has been all that could be desired.[12]

It may be of interest to summarize at this point what Prof. McCrea has to say on the results of this law. His opinion is of the more value because he was for years a part of the movement of which he wrote.

In his opinion, and in this view he is doubtless correct, the school law of 1871 was the basic law of the subsequent Territorial educational development. He has given with great clearness the steps which followed looking to the organization of schools:

Immediately upon the adjournment of the assembly the governor [Safford] entered upon a wonderful educational crusade. Notwithstanding the inadequate means of travel, the widely scattered population, and the hostile Apaches, every part of the Territory was visited, and every effort was made to encourage the people to organize public schools under the new law. A desire for schools began to appear among the people, and under the able leadership of this masterful man the good work was at last begun. There were no teachers and no school books, except the few brought in by the governor some months before. All had to be procured in the older States.[13] In his labors he was ably seconded by the probate judges of the respective counties whom he had named to assist him in this important work.

As Gov. Safford pointed out, when the legislature of 1873 assembled, the school sentiment had grown so strong that members came generally fully instructed to strengthen the system to the extent of their power. But, on the other hand, McCrea has shown in his study that, while the legislature was willing to do a great deal for the schools, they wanted to do it in their own way and had not yet learned that the governor knew the needs of the schools far better than they could know them.[14]

It was clearly the purpose of the governor to see to it that no failure could be rightly charged to him. In his message to the legislature, in 1873, he says:

It is a source of pride and satisfaction to me, with all the obstacles, that so good a commencement has been made. Free schools have been taught, during the past year, in every school district in the Territory for at least three months. The advancement by the pupils has been extraordinary, and the sentiment of the people has become interested and cemented into a determination to make almost any sacrifices to educate the rising generation. No officer interested with putting the school law into operation has yet received any compensation for his services; so that every dollar raised for school purposes has been applied to furnishing schoolrooms, the purchase of books, and payment of teachers. In many instances the establishment of schools was delayed for the want of books and teachers; and the almost entire lack of schoolhouses has been a serious embarrassment.

Since there remained a surplus of more than $17,000 in the Territorial treasury after paying all debts, the governor suggested that $5,000 be divided among the counties for the erection and improvement of schoolhouses, provided that the districts raised twice the sum for the same purpose. This wise proposal was rejected. He suggested also that $5,000 be transferred from the general to the school fund to be distributed to the counties under the law. This sum was so appropriated, but was ordered to be divided equally among the counties,[15] as was a further sum of $1,500 which was appropriated “for the benefit of the public schools,”[16] except that the share assigned by this act to Pima County was ordered to be paid to the Sisters of St. Joseph in Tucson.[17]

The school law of 1871 had provided that the county school tax should be “not to exceed” 50 cents on the hundred, but experience led Gov. Safford in 1873 to recommend a uniform tax rate in all the counties for school purposes. He then inaugurated also the movement looking toward compulsory attendance. The legislature of 1874, for its part, while doing some things that were of service, did others that were reactionary. With the new and excellent provisions for a Territorial school tax of 25 cents on each $100 of valuation and a uniform county school tax of the same amount,[18] was linked the repeal of all sections of the law apportioning school money according to attendance, and thus the one powerful incentive for building up attendance was removed.[19]

The county probate judges as ex officio county school superintendents were also relieved from the requirement to visit the schools, but the $100 given under the act of 1871 for expenses was retained as salary.[20] Of this phase of educational development McCrea remarks:[21]

With this amendment begins the agitation of the probate judges to secure legislation to increase their emoluments for work as school superintendents without increasing their duties to any corresponding extent. These officers were also most unwisely given the authority to select textbooks for their respective counties.[22]

Gov. Safford says that the schools flourished from 1873 to 1875 “to the entire satisfaction of all interested.” Statistics in somewhat detailed form are given by him in his reports to the Commissioner of Education, and they show for the most part a steady development and a growth that promised well for the future. It was believed that there would be revenue enough to maintain free schools in each of the districts for six months in the year, and under date of August 30, 1873, he wrote that arrangements had been made to open a free school in every district in the following October. He urged the necessity of keeping all religious instruction out of the schools and concluded by saying:

After four years’ incessant labor I have succeeded in obtaining means, books, and teachers for excellent schools, so that every child within the Territory may obtain an education. While I remain in office our free schools will be kept open, and I shall endeavor at the next session of the legislature to make education compulsory.

Again he says:

Without books, schoolhouses, or teachers to commence with, in less than two years the free-school system has been fairly and successfully put in operation throughout the Territory.

McCrea has given some additional information on the difficulties encountered which is worthy of quotation here:[23]

In the various communications made by Gov. Safford to the Commissioner of Education during 1873 we learn something of the difficulties under which he labored, the patience and persistence he displayed, and the wonderful success which began to reward his efforts. The work undertaken was enough to daunt anyone not possessed of a heroic soul. The Territorial census of 1872 showed a population of but 10,743, and these were scattered over a rough and barren country about as large as New York and all New England. Most of the people spoke an alien language to which they were much attached. There were few opportunities for profitable employment. Supplies must be brought a thousand miles from California and were very costly. The effort to subdue a wilderness such as they lived in was enough for any people, without being subjected to the barbarity of the unspeakable Apaches. With so many varied duties pressing upon him, it is remarkable that the governor could find time to devote to educational improvement, and yet he became familiar with all the details of the work.

Fortunately there is a contemporary witness who has given his testimony to the same effect. John Wasson, surveyor general, said in his newspaper, the Arizona Citizen, on May 14, 1874:

Less than two years ago the free-school system was started in Arizona, without schoolhouses, books, or teachers. It seemed a forlorn hope for the poor Apache-ridden people to provide for the education of the children under such adverse conditions, but the same undaunted spirit that had faced death and torture through a long series of years said, “We must either have schools or more jails, and we prefer the former”; and the result shows that people can do if they will, Yuma has a good schoolhouse, neatly furnished, and one will soon be erected at Ehrenberg. We are assured that Mohave County will erect schoolhouses as fast as required. The people of Prescott are now constructing a schoolhouse that will be a credit to the town and Territory. A schoolhouse was built below Phoenix, in Maricopa County, last year, and now the people of Phoenix are making arrangements and already have the necessary subscriptions to build one worthy of that enterprising and growing town. A schoolhouse is in process of construction at Florence in every way suitable for the purpose. The people of Tucson are determined not to be outdone by their young neighbors, and are now making arrangements to build a house with sufficient capacity to accommodate 200 pupils, and we trust that the Sanford [Safford?] and San Pedro settlements will not be behind in the good work. But the most encouraging feature of all is that our late legislature made provision for sufficient school revenue to keep free schools in operation in every school district in the Territory for from six to nine months during each year. With these advantages the poorest children of the Territory are provided with ample opportunities for an education, and if in after years they do not make useful men and women, it will be their own and not the fault of the Territory.

Continuing his remarks in this connection, Mr. Wasson says further:

We think it but right that credit should be awarded to the man whose persistent efforts have brought about the present interest in education. * * * We refer to Gov. A. P. K. Safford, who has worked night and day and traveled all over Arizona in this cause. We know that the people of the Territory will second what we say.[24]

Such was contemporary and later opinion on the school work of Gov. Safford. It seems that with him the schools became almost a religion, for the unknown writer on the history of the public schools in 1894 credits him with using as a school motto:

The school first, the church second; no person can well understand and fulfill his obligations to God and to country without education.[25]

II. THE SITUATION IN 1875.

Gov. Safford’s message to the legislature in 1875 was intended to advance still further the program already entered on and was couched in much the same noble and inspiring terms:

Under the present school law the free-school system has been made a success, and the means are afforded by which every child in this Territory can obtain the rudiments of an education. But a trifling sum is paid to officers for their services, and nearly the entire revenues are applied to the maintenance of schools. Great care should be taken to preserve the same economy now practiced in the disbursement of this fund, and radical changes in a law that has worked well should always be avoided. It is a subject of pride to every citizen that with all the difficulties we have encountered—amid poverty, death, and desolation, occasioned by our savage foes—the people, with great unanimity, have provided the necessary means to educate the rising generation, and upon no other subject are they so thoroughly united.

The legislature of 1875 made an extensive revision of the school act, but without changing its general essentials. The rate of Territorial school taxation was now fixed at 15 cents per hundred as against 10 cents in the act of 1871 and 25 cents in the act of 1873. The county school tax was fixed at 35 cents on the hundred as against 50 cents in 1871 and 25 cents in 1873; the pay of the county superintendents was continued at $100 per year. The law of 1875 provided also that a county board, of which the county superintendent was to be the chairman, be appointed “for the purpose of examining applicants and granting certificates of qualification to teachers” covering spelling, reading, grammar, arithmetic, geography, physiology, “and such other studies as may be by said board deemed necessary.”[26]

Under the recommendations of Gov. Safford the first compulsory school act was passed in 1875.[27] It was, however, a mild one. It required children between 8 and 14 to attend a public school for at least 16 weeks in each school year, but there were numerous exemptions. They might be taught in private schools or at home, and were released from the obligation to attend if they lived more than 2 miles from the schoolhouse. As a matter of fact, the children were generally as willing to attend school as the people were to furnish schoolhouses. It was sometimes even impossible to enforce the act because of the lack of accommodations.

The most successful years of this period, the time when the schools reached their high-water mark, was in 1875 and 1876.[28]

The actual accomplishments of the schools during that time, as reported by Gov. Safford, show that there were 2,508 children of school age in the first of these years and 2,955 in the second. The enrollment was 568 and 1,213, respectively. Men still predominated as teachers, and in 1876 received on an average $110 per month of 28 days; for the same period women averaged $90. In 1875 the State tax produced $4,690, the local tax $9,232, and other funds $14,837, making a total of $28,760; in 1875–76 the total was $31,449. In 1875 the total expenses were $24,152; in 1876, $28,744. One schoolhouse was erected in Prescott, costing $17,339.30; one was built in Tucson out of private contributions costing $9,781.96. It was thought—

that very nearly 50 per cent of the children in the Territory can now read and write. Every district in which there are sufficient children is supplied with a good free school. Many schoolhouses have been erected that would do credit to the older States. Considering the short time schools have been established and the many obstacles they have had to overcome, the situation, it is thought, is very encouraging.[29]

The relations of church and state had not yet been definitely settled, however. So earnest was Gov. Safford in his effort to maintain their separation that he even proposed that the law of exemptions be changed and that church property, except such as was used for schools and hospitals, be subject to taxation.[30]

The setting in which Gov. Safford found himself shows that his exhortation against sectarian influence was not out of place. The Territory had celebrated its entrance on responsibility by giving public funds to a church institution, and in 1875 an effort to divide the public funds in the same manner had been defeated, not without effort. Says McCrea:[31]

In regard to the final settlement of the question we have this statement of the governor: “At this session (1875) an attempt was made to divide the school fund for the benefit of sectarian schools. The measure, though ardently supported by the chief justice of the Territory (Judge E. F. Dunne), was defeated by a large majority in the legislature.”[32] Of this struggle, fraught with so much of good or ill for the future of the schools, not a word is recorded in the journals of the assembly that settled it. Happily for Arizona, it was settled right, though that Territory then and there parted from New Mexico in educational policy.

Gov. Safford resigned his office in April, 1877, on account of ill health, and ceased to be superintendent of public schools. But to this interest he was true to the end. To the legislature of 1877 he said, in review of the past and in exhortation for the future:

The education of the rising generation has kept steady pace with the increase of population and wealth. This is a very marked and gratifying decline in illiteracy, and from the present efficiency and prosperity of the school system a continued or ever [sic] greater decline in illiteracy may confidently be expected. This large increase of revenue has been found necessary to supply the constant demand for new schools, the number of these having increased from 9, as reported two years ago, to 19. It is believed that the revenue referred to will be found sufficient to maintain the school system and provide for the constantly increasing demands upon it. After watching carefully the present school law during the past two years, I am of the opinion that in the main it meets the requirements as well as any law that can be devised. School laws, of all others, should be changed as seldom as possible.

Then follows an exhortation to guard the school as a “sacred trust” and to keep it “free from sectarian or political influences,” for—

to surrender this system and yield to a division of the school fund upon sectarian grounds could only result in the destruction of the general plan for the education of the masses, and would lead, as it always has wherever tried, to the education of the few and the ignorance of the many.[33]

The legislature of 1877 was mindful of the governor’s injunction against too much legislative tinkering; only a single school law was passed this session, and it provided for a school census once in two years and required the district trustees to make full reports. The school year was now to begin on December 16; 5 days were made a week and 20 days a month, and no school might receive any benefits under the act unless its teachers had been “duly examined, approved, and employed by legal authority.”[34]

But the heyday of the schools had passed for a time; the guiding hand was being removed. Gov. Safford was succeeded by Gov. John P. Hoyt, who was compiling a code for the Territory and had other interests, and the schools soon showed the ill effects. In 1876–77 Gov. Hoyt could report only 903 pupils in school, as against 1,213 for the previous year, with an average attendance of 580 against 900. The schools had increased from 21 to 28, the teachers from 21 to 31, the length of term to 190 days, but the pay of men teachers had fallen from $110 to $100 and that of women from $90 to $50. This was in keeping with income and expenditure; the former had decreased from $31,449 to $20,708; the latter from $28,744 to $18.407.[35]

III. PROGRESS UP TO 1879—BEGINNINGS IN THE CITIES.

The year 1877 may be counted as something of an era in Arizona. Gov. Safford left the Territory in a prosperous condition. The Indians had in the main been pacified, although outbreaks occurred after this date; the railroad was coming in from the west; many rich mines were being discovered, and prospectors were swarming into the Territory; since there was safety from the Indians, stockmen were bringing in herds of cattle and sheep to graze on fresh pastures, and the export and import trade was growing rapidly. The section north of the Gila received the bulk of this immigration, and this change in the balance of power was signalized by the removal of the capital from Tucson back to Prescott. At this date Mexican representation in the assembly practically ceased. In matters of education also a change was coming; on the one hand, a reaction had set in, but this was not clearly apparent till the guiding spirit of Gov. Safford was removed; on the other hand, the larger schools, like that at Prescott which had hitherto paid all its expenses as it went, now discounted the future by selling bonds to meet the cost of building schoolhouses.

Having summarized statistically the educational progress made throughout the Territory under the administration of Gov. Safford up to his resignation in 1877, it may be of interest to say a word on the particular centers in which school work was then best developed, giving some notice also of the leading teachers, for whatever there was of local, as well as of Territorial school growth, was due in the main to the enthusiasm of Gov. Safford.

It appears that the first general survey of the school facilities of the Territory was made in 1874. In that year there was issued, under the direction of the legislature, a brief history and summary of “The Territory of Arizona,” compiled by Gov. Safford.[36] That pamphlet shows the school development of each town, and indicates further that the public school entered upon a field entirely unoccupied by private enterprise:

Phoenix.—A good schoolhouse has been erected here, and a most excellent free school is now being taught and is attended by about 40 pupils. Six miles below, another school district has been organized and a schoolhouse erected. A free school has been open in this district four months during the year.

Florence.—The inhabitants have just completed a good schoolhouse, and a free school is now open, which is attended by about 40 pupils.

Cerbat.—A free school has been open in this place during six months of the year.

Tucson.—There are two public free schools in successful operation in charge of able and experienced teachers. The daily average attendance is about 75, and the number is constantly increasing.

Prescott.—A good public free school is now in operation in charge of a most excellent teacher; the daily average attendance is about 40, and a good schoolhouse has been erected at a cost of $2,000.

Arizona City.—A good schoolhouse has been erected and a free public school in charge of an experienced teacher is now being taught. The number of children requires another teacher, and one has already been engaged.

Ehrenberg.—A free school has been open in this place three months during the present year, and it is anticipated that it will be kept open at least six months during the year to come. McCrea says that this school was opened in 1872 by Miss Mary E. Post, of Yuma.

In 1879 Col. Hodge made a record of all the schools of the Territory. There were then public schools at Yuma and Ehrenberg, Mineral Park, Cerbat, Prescott, Williamson Valley, Verde, Walnut Creek, Walnut Grove, Chino Valley, Kirkland Valley, Peeples Valley, Wickenburg, Phoenix, Florence, Tucson, Tres Alamos (on the San Pedro), Safford, and a few other points. There were Catholic schools at Yuma and Tucson, and Indian schools had been established by the Federal Government at San Carlos and Sacaton.[37]

The opening of the public schools in the various towns in the Territory, according to McCrea, McClintock, and the school reports on which these later writers are based, may be summarized briefly for convenience.[38]

Apparently the oldest schools in the Territory, both in the matter of actual age and in that of practical continuity, are those of Tucson.

McCrea says:

Under the law of 1868 or, as some claim, by private subscription, a public school was opened at Tucson, probably the first in the Territory, in the spring of 1869, by Augustus Brichta. The school term lasted six months, for two of which Mr. Brichta never received any pay, and 55 Mexican boys were enrolled. The school room was 25 by 40 feet, with a dirt roof and a dirt floor and no furniture except a few rudely constructed benches. The teacher found it difficult to obtain schoolbooks. There were no geographies in the school, and the pupils relied solely on the teacher for a knowledge of the earth beyond what they could see of it. Mr. Brichta was a man of character and ability and of prominence as a clerk in the legislative assembly, both before and after his experience as a schoolmaster in the Old Pueblo.

Apparently the next school in Tucson was that of John Spring, which was opened early in March, 1871. Of this school McCrea remarks:

The term continued for 15 months, and 138 boys were enrolled, most of whom were Mexicans. The attendance for the term was excellent, reaching 78 per cent of the enrollment.

Few of the pupils knew any English, and the teacher had to go over their lessons with them in Spanish before trying to teach them in English. A few of the older pupils had attended school for brief periods in Mexico or had received a little private instruction. The entire 138 seem to have been present by the third day. How one teacher could handle so many can be explained only by their known gentleness of nature, their general willingness to obey, and the constant support of the teacher’s authority by the parents.

The school facilities were of the most primitive character. The schoolroom was a long adobe structure with dirt roof and dirt floor and homemade benches and desks in one piece, notable in no way except for solidity and liability to shed splinters.

It took much tact and persistence on the part of the teacher to break up truancy and keep tardiness within bounds and to induce pupils to “put in their appearance washed, combed, and brushed.” The process was accelerated by reporting truancy to all parents and by the teacher taking some of the negligent boys to the school well and assisting them in their morning ablutions.

Gov. Safford showed his interest in this educational experiment in his capital in various ways. He presented the school with two dozen Ollendorf’s Grammars, which were very useful for the more advanced class. Mr. Spring does not fail to pay a hearty tribute to the man who made the school possible. He says: “In conclusion I beg leave to say that all my hard work was made lighter and all my efforts were made more efficient by the constant kind help and advice of Gov. A. P. K. Safford, whose memory this and all future generations should forever revere as ‘Father of Our Public Schools.’”[39]

The next heard of the Tucson schools was in the summer of 1872, when a girls’ school, which later became a part of the public-school system, was opened by Mrs. L. C. Hughes, wife of the probate judge of Pima County, who later became governor of the Territory. On February 4, 1873, this school received an official visit from the legislature, and during that year Gov. Safford, seeing that the schools had been carried on at irregular periods and by persons who had other vocations than teaching, and seeing, according to McCrea—

the great need of trained and experienced teachers and of continuity of effort, determined to secure such teachers for the schools of Tucson, if possible, and then to see that the schools were carried on for a fixed term each year. Through Surveyor General Wasson he got into communication with Miss Maria Wakefield, a teacher in the schools of Stockton, Cal., and was able to persuade her and a companion, Miss Harriet Bolton, to attempt the trip to the new land of promise. I have been able to secure an account both of their journey and their reception at Tucson from the daughter of Mrs. E. N. Fish, formerly Miss Wakefield, which account is approved by her mother and is given herewith:

“In 1873 my mother was teaching in the public schools of Stockton, Cal., when she received a letter from Gov. Safford asking her to come to Tucson, bringing a competent primary teacher with her, to open the public school. This letter also advised them to start immediately, as the Apaches were then in the eastern part of the Territory and travel was comparatively safe. Accordingly, on October 26, they left Stockton for San Francisco, where they took a steamer for San Diego. From there, after five days and nights of continuous stage riding, the longest stop being 20 minutes to change horses and partake of the wretched food provided at the stations, they arrived in Tucson. Few can realize the terrors of such a journey, with the bright moonlight transforming every giant cactus into an armed Apache and every clump of brush into an ambush. Each driver contributed a new lot of stories of the horrible deeds of the Indians, pointing out here and there along the way where this freight train was captured and the men murdered, and that stage taken, and that family massacred, keeping those two terror-stricken women constantly, by day and night, on the lookout for Apaches. They did not then know that Apaches do not attack by night.

“The good people of Tucson had arranged two very comfortable rooms for them. Gov. Safford and his good friend, Surveyor General Wasson, left nothing undone to assist in the difficult task of establishing a public school. The priests were bitter in their denunciations, and were formidable antagonists, even going so far as to threaten parents if they allowed their children to attend the public school. Gov. Safford was generous almost beyond his salary in giving books and clothes to needy children to enable them to attend school. Above all, the one great desire of Gov. Safford’s heart was the welfare of the public school.” * * * The success of the schools during this period was marked. One teacher had charge of the boys, the other of the girls, in separate rooms. There was an average attendance of 50 boys and 25 girls. Nor did those teachers lose their interest in education when they left the schoolroom, for not long after we find one of them a leader in a successful effort to supply the town with a much-needed school building, and we may be sure the other heartily seconded her efforts.

This effort grew directly out of the struggle in 1875 over the question of State support of sectarian schools. After this question had been definitely settled the need for better school facilities was more keenly realized. The effort to secure a better public-school building in Tucson has been graphically told by McCrea:

Nothing was more characteristic of this assembly [1875] than the following resolution, offered by Hon. S. R. De Long, of Tucson, and readily adopted by the council of January 15, 1875; “Resolved, That the use of this hall is hereby offered to the ladies of Tucson who propose giving a social party on Thursday evening next, 21st instant, for the purpose of raising funds to be appropriated to the building of a public schoolhouse.” The party was duly given and was so well managed by the ladies in charge, Mrs. Lord and Mrs. Fish, that $1,300 was realized from it. A second dancing party netted $1,100, and a third $1,000. It is said that at one of the parties given a cake was sold and resold until the proceeds from the sale reached more than $200. This money was turned over to the school board, composed of Estevan Ochoa, R. N. Leatherwood, and Samuel Hughes. Mr. Ochoa either donated, or sold at a nominal figure, the lot needed. The lumber used in the great porch in front was donated by the Army officers at Fort Grant and was hauled free of charge by the teams of Tully and Ochoa more than 100 miles. At last the Congress Street building, an adobe structure of three rooms, was completed at a cost of $9,782 and was for a brief time the best school building in Arizona.

Of the later history of the Tucson schools, Prof. McCrea continues:

In the fall of 1874 Prof. W. B. Horton, who was a Scotchman by birth and a graduate of a college of Edinburgh, was elected principal of the Tucson Public School.[40] During the first year he was supplied with two assistants, one to teach the girls and one to aid him in teaching the boys. The schools greatly prospered under his management. Although he began school work in Arizona later than Prof. Sherman, he is worthy in every way to be ranked with him. For the next five years he continued to demonstrate the value of the public school as a civilizing agency, under circumstances far less favorable than were then supplied at Prescott.

Prof. Horton remained at Tuscon for more than six years, being succeeded in February, 1881, by George C. Hall,[41] who says that Horton was the real founder of the public schools there. Prof. Hall adds:

To his hands was committed a difficult task, and to properly estimate the value of his work one should understand and appreciate the obstacles and difficulties with which he had to contend in conducting a cosmopolitan school in which there was more or less race prejudice and where, in the minds of certain members of the community at large, there existed an unfavorable opinion of our public system of instruction. The instability of society, incident to all frontier cities, and the rude appliances with which he began his work were further obstacles. Many young men of this city and other places in the Territory owe to him all that makes them useful members of society. Six years’ faithful service in the schools of a city should entitle a teacher to the gratitude of its people.

Gov. Safford mentions a school as being taught in Prescott as early as 1870 by S. C. Rogers, but nothing is known of its subsequent history. Of education in Prescott Prof. McCrea says:

Having set the schools of Tucson in motion, the governor turned his attention to northern Arizona. In 1873 Prescott, which was the center of a considerable American population, became much interested in education. Capable teachers were hard to secure. In that year Gov. Safford induced Prof. Moses H. Sherman to come to Prescott to be principal of the public school. It is claimed that the governor even borrowed and sent Prof. Sherman the money necessary to meet the expense of the long and costly trip from Vermont to Prescott. The new principal was a graduate of the New York State Normal School at Oswego, and proved a most successful teacher. Under his management was inaugurated the first graded school in Arizona. The school grew so rapidly that a new and better building was demanded. The work of raising funds by popular subscription—the only method available—began in 1874, and the building, which was a fine two-story brick, was completed in 1876, costing, when fully furnished, more than $17,000, and capable of seating 200 pupils. In providing this building, by far the best in the Territory for several years to come, the Prescott people found themselves in debt, and the school district officials thought best to ask the legislative assembly for authority to issue bonds to meet the remaining indebtedness.

The first public school was opened in Phoenix, September 5, 1872, by J. D. Daroche. This school was located on the present First Avenue, just south of Washington Street. Later a little adobe building was erected on North Center Street and served as the permanent school home for some years. The salary of the first teachers, of whom there was a rapid succession, was $100 per month. The head of the school in 1879–80 was Robert L. Long, later State superintendent.

The first school was opened in Tombstone in February, 1880, by Miss Lucas, “in a little room with a dirt floor and a mud roof. Nine was the number of pupils in attendance the first day, which was increased to about 40 before the close of the term. Miss Lucas was succeeded by Miss McFarland. The school grew with the growing town.” The trustees began the erection of a school building, 50 by 30 feet, which was ready in January, 1881. A second teacher was employed, and the enrollment that year reached 128, with an average attendance of 83.[42]

McCrea reports (p. 92) schools in Florence, Safford, Ehrenberg, Yuma, and other towns in 1873. In 1879 the schools of Florence were said to be in a flourishing condition.[43]

The first schoolhouse in Globe was built in 1880 in the southern part of what was then the camp and was placed in charge of G. J. Scanlan.[44]

So much for the development of the schools in separate centers in the Territory. Although evolved under a Territorial law, there was as yet little unity among them, for they were largely supported by local funds, there was little connection with one another, and solidarity of feeling had not developed. A new stage of development and progress began with the school law of 1879.

It seems proper to add as a fitting close to this chapter the appreciation of Gov. Safford’s work written by the first historian of education in Arizona. Prof. McCrea,[45] in concluding his estimate of this period, says:

Whatever might have been his feeling in the matter, Gov. Safford had reasons for being proud of his work for education in Arizona. He was a great governor in many respects, but he was greatest of all in his labors for the public school. He had been able to lead an unwilling assembly to adopt an efficient school law, and to modify it only as needed. From a scanty population scattered far and near, and constantly harassed by the Indians, he had secured liberal appropriations for schools. Though unused to American institutions, the strong foreign element had been won over by his wisdom and patience, and the Americans were glad to follow so able a leader. At the close of his work he could point to a score of teachers employed, and to as many schoolrooms erected by the voluntary contributions of the people. Since 1871 more than $120,000 had been raised for school purposes, yet he left the Territory to his successor practically free of debt, a happy condition it has never since known. But of all the success of this period was the great heart and strong purpose of a man anxious to see a good start made on the work, not yet completed, of making good Americans of some very unpromising material through the agency of the public school. The idea seems to have been his religion, and right well did he live it. Although no school building bears his name in the town he did so much to rescue from oblivion, he will live in the affections of the people of the Territory as the “Father of the Arizona Public School.”

To this high but well-deserved praise the present writer would give his most unqualified assent.


  1. Rept. U. S. Commis. of Educ., 1876, pp. 431–433.
  2. See Jours. Legislative Assembly, 1871, pp. 43–45.
  3. The Historical Sketch of the Arizona Public Schools, printed in the Report of Tucson Public Schools for 1893–94, p. 25 et seq., says that this bill was introduced by Hon. H. S. Stevens, of Pima County. The apparent contradiction can probably be explained by referring one introduction to one house and one to the other. See McCrea, loc. cit., p. 84.
  4. See Rept. U. S. Commis. of Educ., 1876, p. 432. The bill was passed Feb. 18, 1871.
  5. McCrea points out that the Arizona school law of 1871 “was evidently taken from the Revised School Laws of California (1866), as the general plan for the proposed system was the same as that of California, while many of the provisions were couched in the same language.” The sketch in the Tucson school report for 1893–94 makes the same statement.
  6. This item appears again and again in the official records of the Territory as if it were a real salary paid to the superintendent instead of a mere extra allowance to the governor to meet extra expenses when acting in his capacity as Territorial superintendent.
  7. By the act of Feb. 13, 1871, the salary of the probate judges was fixed at $300 per annum.
  8. The Weekly Miner (Prescott) complains in its issues of Nov. 25 and Dec. 2, 1871, that the school law was defective. It said the school system, when once under way, might go on indefinitely, but there was no way to start it, for the law provided that no school should have any public money unless it had had a school for three months in the previous year, or before the first distribution. The trustees must conduct the school for three months at their own expense or ignore sec. 33 of the law. It urged that it would be only by utmost and immediate attention that they could hope to establish a school by Jan. 1, 1872. They seem to have risen to the occasion, however, for on Jan. 2 the Miner announces that the board was to lease a building and open a school as soon as the textbooks ordered from San Francisco arrived.
  9. The act of 1873 allowed the probate judges $100 per year for their services. See Sess. Acts, 1873, sec. 15, p. 66.
  10. Rept. U. S. Commis. of Educ., 1871, p. 377. In June, 1871, John B. Allen, Territorial treasurer, reported that he had $519.92 to be divided among the counties (Weekly Miner, June 15, 1872). Money was apportioned Dec. 31, 1871, as follows:
    Pima County 503 children $695.23
    Yuma County 364 children 419.66
    Maricopa County 94 children 108.38
    Yavapai County 211 children 243.28
    Total 1,466.55

    The Weekly Miner of Jan. 2, 1872, in commenting on these figures, claims that Pima had too much and the others too little. It was reported in the Miner on July 1, 1871, that Yavapai had a county school rate of 10 cents and a Territorial rate of 10 cents.

  11. Rept. of U. S. Commis. of Educ., 1876, p. 432.
  12. Ibid., 1872, p. 365.
  13. Ivison, Blakeman & Co., of New York, donated in 1872 several thousand school books to the Territory, while A. L. Bancroft & Co. secured the contract to furnish school books up to 1879. See Tucson Public School Report, 1893–94, p. 26.
  14. Arizona Report, 1908, p. 87.
  15. Sess. Laws, 1873, pp. 93, 94.
  16. Ibid., pp. 25, 26.
  17. The act provided that this grant was to be made in case that “Territorial warrant No. 383, drawn on the 17th day of October, 1872, for $300, in favor of the ‘Sisters of St. Joseph,’ shall be first surrendered and canceled without payment.” See acts of 1873, pp. 25, 26. An act of Feb. 18, 1871, had appropriated $300 to the Sisters of St. Joseph “who are teaching and maintaining a school for the education of young ladies, in the town of Tucson, to enable them to pay for the school books now in use in said school.” The appropriation under the act of 1871 had not been paid by the Territorial treasurer because he believed it illegal. (Jours. Legislative Assembly, 1873, p. 88.) The effort was then made by the law of 1873 to charge this gift up to the school fund of Pima County, but it again failed, for the act of 1875 (Sess. Laws, 1875, p. 91) ordered that it be paid out of the general fund.
  18. Sess. Laws, 1873, pp. 64–66, secs. 1 and 2.
  19. Sess. Laws, 1873, pars. 6 and 16, pp. 65, 66. See also McCrea in Superintendent’s Report, 1908, p. 87. Girls seem to have been admitted to the Tucson schools now for the first time. See McCrea, op. cit., p. 89.
  20. Sess. Laws, 1873, par. 15, p. 66.
  21. Arizona Report for 1908, p. 88.
  22. Sess. Laws, 1873, par. 31, p. 66.
  23. Arizona School Report for 1908, pp. 90–92.
  24. From Rept. U. S. Commis. of Educ., 1875, p. 469.
  25. Tucson Public School Report, 1893–94, p. 26.
  26. Sess. Laws, 1875, pp. 80–90.
  27. Sess. Laws, 1875, pp. 40–42.
  28. See reports of Gov. Safford to the United States Commissioner of Education and printed in his reports as follows: 1870, p. 318; 1871, p. 377; 1872, pp. 365–366; 1873, pp. 425–428; 1874, pp. 461–462; 1875, pp. 467–469; 1876, pp. 431–433; 1877, p. 275. The Commissioner of Education gives these years as running for 1874—75 and 1875–76, but Gov. Safford repeats them as of January to December, 1875 and 1876.
  29. Rept. U. S. Commis. of Educ., 1876, pp. 431–432. See also Gov. Safford’s annual reports on the schools for 1875 and 1876 (Tucson, 1877).
  30. Jours. Ninth Legislative Assembly, 1877, p. 44.
  31. McCrea, in Long’s Report for 1907–8, pp. 95–96.
  32. Judge Dunne’s address was entitled: “Our Public Schools: Are They Free or Are They Not?” It was delivered in the hall of the House of Representatives in February, 1875, and was first published in the San Francisco Monitor and in the New York Freeman’s Journal. It was then republished in pamphlet form (New York, 1875, O.. pp. 32). As a result of his arguments, the introduction states that “a bill was introduced in the legislature providing for corporate schools such as Catholics desire. It came within one vote of passing in the council.” In this lecture Judge Dunne also opposed compulsory-attendance laws. In both cases he based his arguments on the right of individual liberty.
  33. See Jours. Ninth Legislative Assembly, Arizona, 1877, pp. 30–32.
  34. Sess. Laws, 1877, ch. 20, pp. 14, 15.
  35. Rept. U. S. Commis. of Educ., 1877, p. 275.
  36. Safford, A. P. K.: The Territory of Arizona; a brief history and summary. Tucson, 1874, pp. 6–10
  37. McClintock, James H.: History of Arizona, II, p. 497
  38. See McClintock, James H.: History of Arizona, II, 496, 567, 590; McCrea, passim, and superintendent’s report for 1881, pp. 38–44
  39. Superintendent’s Report, Arizona, 1908, pp. 86–87. See also historical sketch in Tucson Public School Report, 1893–94, pp. 30–32. Under date of June 17, 1872, Gov. Safford sent $30 to the school trustees of Prescott as a gift from his brother, A. B. Safford, of Cain, Ill., “to help build” a schoolhouse there. Arizona Miner, July 20, 1872.
  40. So says McCrea. Ex-Supt. Long says that the statement as to Horton’s birth and education is an error, and that he was a native of Georgia.
  41. Hall served from 1881 to 1884. For list of later superintendents see Tucson Public School Reports, 1893–94, p. 32.
  42. Superintendent’s Report for 1881, pp. 40–42.
  43. Rept. U. S. Commis. of Educ., 1879.
  44. Ex relatione, R. L. Long.
  45. McCrea, in Long’s Report for 1908, pp. 100, 101.