The second school building in the Summit area was
Burrell School. Today, the building is a private home and winery, a
visual reminder of life in the mountains over a hundred years ago.
Lyman Burrell donated an acre of land to build a school named for
his family. He could afford it. His homestead covered a thousand
acres of the Rancho Soquel Augmentation.
The Burrell School District was formed in 1877.
Mary Beattie Smith was the first teacher and a native of Rhode
Island. After the Civil War, she went to the South to teach the
freedmen. She married, then came to California with her husband who
was in the Navy. They had two sons. After her husband died, she
supported her family as a teacher. Mrs. Smith taught until about
1883. She was given the affectionate name of "The Mother of the
School" because she was the first teacher.
The Burrell school building was a simple, white
structure with a cloak room, two entrances, and a large classroom
with blackboards. A grass fire in 1889 burned the building. The
community rebuilt a school building on the original foundation,
according to the present owner Dave Moulton. He has been under the
building and found ashes.
The Burrell School District straddled the county
line with students coming from Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.
That meant that the teacher reported to the superintendents of both
counties. A school that draws students from two counties is known as
a joint district as in the title of the Loma Prieta "Joint" Union
(consolidation of two or more schools in the same county) School
Unlike the Summit School District that had one
teacher, Miss Olga Brecke, for thirty years beginning in 1921, the
Burrell School District had many teachers over the years.
The next teacher that I can document after Mrs.
Smith was Laura Josephine Berry who came to the mountains in the
summer of 1883 as a newly graduated teacher from San Jose Normal
School. Miss Berry rented a room from Reverend and Mrs. Arthur E.
Sears whose home was across the road from the school. At that time
their son Arthur L. Sears was in Missouri. When he came to
California, he met and later married Miss Berry in 1888. Arthur and
Laura each bought mountain property. The parcel on which they built
their home was named Hazelhurst for the many hazelnut trees on the
property. The location was also on the main road (Old San Jose
Turnpike from Soquel) to the current Morrell Cut Off connecting with
Summit Road to the Old Santa Cruz Highway. Their beautiful home
still stands today.
A friendly rivalry continued among the mountain
schools. Burrell School bragged that they had the first school bell,
flagpole, and piano. The local newspaper, The Mountain Realty
(1903 to 1927) carried a letter in its July 1908 issue about the
first flagpole. The flagpole was made from a twenty-foot long
redwood pole that Marvin M. Wilson and Erle T. Smith (son of Mrs.
Mary Smith) selected, felled, and hauled to the school ground. The
community held a fundraiser to purchase a flag and set a date to
celebrate. On July 4, 1890, a large crowd of people, many from out
of the mountains, attended the event. The Realty reported
that ". . . Miss Minnie Morrell flung it (the flag) to the breeze
while the strains of the Star Spangled Banner greeted its
unfurling." The patriotic celebration included the Reverend J.R.
Wright (for whom Wrights Station was named) and Reverend Arthur E.
Sears who welcomed the crowd and gave the benediction. Someone read
the Declaration of Independence, and the crowd sang patriotic songs.
To further commemorate the day, a photograph was taken of the
Burrell was also the first school to have a piano
furnished by the board of trustees. Some people thought each school
should have a piano and that school teachers should be able to play
and teach the piano. The school bell, which was very loud, was used
by the teacher to announce the beginning of school so that the
children would come into the building.
Mixed in with the happy times was a tragic death.
In 1908, Miss Ruth Hall, a teenage Burrell student, was killed by a
trolley in San Jose. She was a wonderful pianist who had earned a
scholarship to continue her music.
Until the late fifties, when the fruit was ripe,
mountain schools closed so that the children could help with
harvest. The norm seemed to be one week off, but Burrell closed for
three weeks in September 1911 so that students could pick prunes.
In 1911, former students of Burrell School
organized an alumni organization. About ten years ago, Burrell
alumni organized reunion picnics that were expanded to include
former Summit, Highland, and Hester Creek school alumni.
In the early years, a young woman teacher had to
be single or a widow. Once a teacher married she had to resign her
teaching position. Some of the young women who came come to a
mountain school met a nice young mountain man and they married. Some
of the Burrell teachers who married and stayed in the mountains were
Laura (Berry) Sears, Ella (Johnson) Lindsay,. and Frances (Green)
Two sisters who were students at Burrell later
became Burrell teachers. They were Lucy and Kay Papac who lived on
San Jose-Soquel Road. Lucy Papac also taught at Los Gatos Elementary
School. The last teacher at Burrell was Mrs. Robert (Eleanor) Bruce.
Six of her 1951 students graduated as the last class.
The Radonich family of Highland Way have lived in
the mountains since 1919. The four Radonich children—Peter, Andy,
Bill, and Nancy—went to Burrell School. Often they walked. Three of
the Radonich children live in the mountains today, along with a
grandson and his children. The children have attended Loma Prieta
and C.T. English Middle schools.
Juanita Goldmann graduated from Burrell School in
1889. She was a community volunteer and served as a Burrell School
trustee. Shortly before the district consolidated, Miss Goldmann was
honored with a fifty-year pin at the 1949 graduation ceremony.
After the consolidation, the Burrell school
building was used for storage before it was sold at auction in late
1954 to Rudolph Hirsch, husband of Clara Burrell. Hirsch leased the
building to the Loma Prieta Club for meetings and parties. The
property passed to Mrs. Hedy Novotny, a niece by marriage to Hirsch.
She sold ten acres of the property to Dave and Anne Moulton in 1973.
The site is known today as Burrell School Vineyards and Winery.
Ron Powell, Soquel Augmentation Story, 1990
Billie J. and Reece C. Jensen, A Trip Through
Time and The Santa Cruz Mountains. 1994.
Photograph of the July 4, 1890 flag raising is on
page 123 of the Jensen book.
The Mountain Realty. Issues: July 1908,
August 1908, October 1911. Obituary of Erle T. Smith.
The photograph of Burrell School is, I believe,
the original building, because this photo was among the numerous
photographs in the Laura (Berry) Sears collection. Plus, Laura took
many mountain photographs. As a teacher at Burrell in 1883, she
would most likely have taken a photograph of "her" school.
A list of Burrell school teachers and school
board trustees compiled by Marlene Wiley.
Loma Prieta Club minutes.