Gibbs Community History

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History of Gibbs School

Established in 1858, Gibbs School District #35 was originally Chehalem Mountain School of Yamhill & Washington Counties. We only have one document of that date, but it’s a reliable one, as it’s a photo of a scale model log cabin school on a Newberg Parade float. The picture itself isn’t dated, but the sign on the miniature log school says 1858. The picture was taken sometime prior to 1944, because Lee Winters, who passed away in 1944, is driving the team that’s pulling the float.

Gibbs alumni, Dean Tessman recalled that the log school replica was then placed on the school grounds for the children to play in. His attendance at Gibbs School was from 1938-1947. He was the last graduate from Gibbs before they consolidated with Springbrook District #56, and the only graduate that year.

In the 1980’s, Ruth Stoller researched the book “Schools of Old Yamhill” for the Yamhill County Historical Society. She found this among some papers at the Newberg Library: “A cabin built and used as the Philip Winters home was the first school in the section, and taught by James McKinsey.” (We think this may have actually been Jane McKenzie, but we only have teachers documented back to 1876, so we can’t verify this). The cabin on the Winter’s claim was on the north side of Bell Road, directly across from the present site. No date or source was included with this scrap of document. Philip Winters, donor of the log cabin for a school, was the father of Leander (Lee) Winters, and would have taken out the original donation land claim. Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Heater) Winters taught in the log school at age 16 in 1863. She married Lee Winters later, at the age of 35. We have recently discovered from the Heater family, that Lizzie was teaching in 1878, when her youngest brother, Grant, started school there. She is on the teacher’s roster for 1878 & 1879, followed by her sister Susan in 1880 & 1881.

On April 10, 1865, Martin J. Shuck deeded one acre of land in the northwest corner of his donation

land claim to the school directors. This was directly across Quarry Road from the present site. The log school on the Winter’s claim was used for 7 years, the site on the Shuck claim for 21 years. The John Tessman family moved to Gibbs District in 1937 and can remember a pile of old boards in that corner of their property, which is assumed to be the remains of that school.

The present site is a donation from the Greene C. Rogers land claim, but by the time of construction, the land was in the possession of John B. David, who deeded the acre to the school district. The Gibbs Community Club, chartered in 1955, re-organized and began research on the school in 1988. They published some newspaper articles about plans to rebuild and restore the school. Shortly after that someone turned in a lot of old Gibbs School clerk books to the Newberg Public Library.

We have books for:


Fortunately, the library personnel knew they needed to contact Ruth Stoller of the Yamhill County Historical Society. She called Gibbs Community Club’s Secretary and she picked up the valuable documents.

What wasn’t documented in the minutes of the school board meetings they were able to be obtain from the financial records. With that information it was possible to compile a list of officers and clerks on file from the year 1875, as well as many of the teacher’s names. The original clerk books are in fireproof files at the Yamhill County Historical Society Museum in Lafayette, Oregon.

A census of school children wasn’t kept by the County until 1911. Yamhill County’s E.S.D. office in McMinnville, Oregon photocopied all those for us. They list each child’s name and the Post Office where they got their mail. In 1933 the forms began providing a space for recording birthdates.

District #35 was a joint district of Yamhill and Washington Counties. On the census sheet, the students of the separate counties were divided. This gives us a rough idea of the direction from the school in which they lived.

It must be explained here, why the name of Chehalem Mountain School was changed to Gibbs. Addison C. Gibbs, Oregon’s second governor, came from New York state. According to the book by George Turnbull titled “Governors of Oregon”, and information in an old Oregon history text, he graduated from Griffith Institute and New York State’s Normal School. He then taught for a living while he studied law, as finances permitted. He was said to be a popular Addison Gibbsteacher with students and parents alike. He’d tried the world of politics while still in New York. He was admitted to the bar in 1849. In 1850, he came west to the California gold fields and soon after sailed to the Oregon Coast, where he took up a donation land claim at the mouth of the Umpqua River. He helped establish the town of Gardiner, Oregon. In 1853 he volunteered for the Rogue River Indian War. Also in 1853 he was elected to the Oregon Legislature, 6 years before statehood.

In 1858, he moved to Portland and formed a law partnership with George H. Williams, who became Attorney General of the U.S. under President Grant. Now representing Portland, he campaigned hard against slavery. He won the Governorship in 1862 and with the help of others, swayed Oregon to the side of the Union in the Civil War. Another thing of note he accomplished while in office was to improve the availability of schools in Oregon and he implemented the purchase of several thousand acres of school lands. Governor Gibbs was laying the groundwork for a separate Oregon Department of Education. That finally took place in 1873. He served as Governor until 1866 and we can only assume he returned to private practice after losing the election.

Sometime around 1873 he bought a large house for his family of 7 children at the comer of Bell and Mountain Home Roads. It’s the one that was owned by Earl & Jean Mills and is now owned by their daughter Gloria and her husband Don Larson.

We find no date recorded as to when the name of Chehalem Mountain School was changed to honor ex-Governor Gibbs, but by this honor, it seems obvious he was respected by the community and is said to have been well liked.

The school was called Gibbs by the year of 1876 when Emeline (Mrs. William) Vincent moved there (she is the great grandmother of Ed Savage, a current member of the GCC). We can tell by deed transfer dates that the school she refers to in her memoires was the one deeded by Martin Shuck, east of Quarry Road and east of the present site and was apparently a log structure. We can only wonder why the decision was made to move the site from there to its present location west of Quarry Road.

Original SchoolhouseWe can trace the evolution of the present building though, through the minutes of school board meetings, their income, expenditures, and census lists of school children. While interviewing Bertha (Beringer) Tessman about 1988, she assured me that the one room school building standing now is the same one she started school in, about 1903, and the building would have been less than 20 years old at the time.

On March 1, 1886 the school board voted to tax the district $500.00 for the purpose of building a new schoolhouse. They stipulated that the directors would choose the site and let the contract go to the lowest bidder. It’s obvious the schoolhouse went up during the summer of 1886, because later, on September 29, 1886 the clerk paid out $125.50 for school desks, charts, maps, lamps, and one dozen coat hooks. There is also a lumber bill paid to Edmunson & Vincent, a nearby sawmill. One partner was William Vincent whose wife Emeline was left widowed by his death as a result of an accident in that mill. On December 31, 1886 the school board paid Albert Heater $450.00 for building the schoolhouse.

On March 7, 1887 the district voted to allow $250.00 for building the woodshed, two “water closets”, and to complete the schoolyard fence. The vote was carried “14 for and nary a one against”. The October minutes of 1887 tell us that Albert Heater was again, the carpenter and received $134.00 for part of the project. On March 5, 1888 a vote passed to have the school grounds cleared, graded, plowed, and planted to white clover. Frank Gustin and William Parrish were paid for the landscaping.

During the modem history of the school, no one had any knowledge of a water well on the property. Drinking water was fetched from either the Henry Seidel place next door, or from the Winter’s farm across the road. The older boys were assigned the task of carrying water, based on good behavior. A water pail and dipper, and later, a crockery water cooler with a spigot sat beside the classroom door. In the days after 1947, when school was no longer held in the building, a five gallon milk can with a faucet soldered into the base supplied the Community Club with drinking water for their monthly meetings and dances. It was the supper committee’s responsibility to fill it before each gathering or potluck.

When the old records fell into our hands, we discovered a well contract was given to F. P. Woods in 1889. He agreed to insure 6 feet of water in a 38 inch diameter dug well, to be completed in 30 days for $40.00. However, the last mention of a well or pump repairs is in 1891.

The 1889, students of the west portion were sent to the newly formed Springbrook School District #56. There was a new frame building there when County School Superintendant L. H. Baker made his newspaper report in 1891. That report is widely quoted in the book” Schools of Old Yamhill”. Students leaving Gibbs District in 1889 indicates Springbrook was formed by re-apportioning from other districts in an effort to make school more accessible. The records show tuition being paid to Springbrook for those out-of-district students, from Gibbs District funds.

The next major change in districting occurred in 1900 when Nate Wiley donated land for Rex School and the students from the south portion of Gibbs District then went to Rex School. Still, there were 26 children of school age, 5 to 18 years of age, listed on the 1911 census. The census count varied from 26 in 1911, up as high as 38, then down to 20 in 1947.

The school didn’t have any play equipment at all. The children made their own games – the usual tag, Annie over, jump rope, marbles, tree climbing, and baseball in the clearing. Dean and Alan Tessman cut poles from their woods across Quarry Road and made an airplane in the schoolyard to play on.

There was a flagpole, but the building had no belfry, so the teachers used a hand-held bell to call the students in from recess and to take up morning classes.

In October of 1933, the Gibbs Dramatic Club was organized and their first program was given in November. At January’s program and plays in 1934, the Newberg Graphic reported the schoolhouse was so full there was no standing room, demonstrating the need for an auditorium. The Newberg Scribe announced on April 19, 1934 that Gibbs District had built a new gymnasium/auditorium and a dance would be held April 28. What the newspaper doesn’t say, though, is that the building itself was a W. P.A. (Works Project Administration) project, done by the area’s unemployed or self-employed farmers. Elinore (Winters) Sprecher, Gibbs resident for many years and school alumni, said there was some discussion, worry and doubt about whether they legally qualified for government assistance. Senator William E. Burke, who by then owned the Gibbs house, assured them all was in order.

If the walls of the old gymnasium could have talked, they could have told some great tales! After school was no longer held at Gibbs, residents met monthly for socials and dances, right up through the 1960’s and families had a place to hold gatherings and reunions.

But the ideas of education were changing and the property’s lack of a water system and improvements, plus the dwindling number of students, all pointed to the Gibbs School’s closure. Consolidation with Springbrook made sense. They had a larger, sturdier building and by car, the roads were “shorter” . But it must have been an emotionally hard decision to make, for most of the families were third and fourth generation community, and had all attended Gibbs School for all those years.

Ola (Winters) Ingraham captured this melancholy in her poem about her Grandmother’s school bell.

“If this old bell could talk
What stories it could tell!
But for this bell and for its school
It’s rung the last farewell.

A modern bus calls boys and girls
To ride to school today,
To a modem school with modem rule
And less work, now, than play.

Where are the old geography,
The blackboard work each day,
The history, the rule of three
And recitations, grave or gay?

The one room country school has gone
With its teacher, to its fate;
But from its teaching came the men
Who rule out country and our state.”

In the fall of 1947, the Gibbs kids were transported to Springbrook School by car, and a station wagon served until about 1953 when the district bought a yellow bus. The school census was still taken separately for the two districts until 1952 and a full slate of school board members were kept on. At graduation from Springbrook, diplomas were presented to the eighth graders from Gibbs by their own school board chairman, and to Springbrook graduates by theirs.

When the two schools consolidated, not only did the pupils come there, but also the blackboards, the desks and some of the books. Springbrook’s auditorium was pressed into use as a classroom and a third teacher was employed for the added attendance of eight to ten pupils.

So the doors of the old Gibbs School didn’t open every day anymore, but they did open to community potlucks, dances, family reunions and skating parties until the late 1960’s.

Membership in Gibbs Community Club finally dropped off to two families. We asked if the gym might be used for 4-H firearms safety classes and marksmanship. We sponsored a very active club, junior teams who represented us well at the Yamhill County and Oregon State Fairs, and we served kids from Boys & Girls Club and Boy Scouts as well.

The heirs to the school property decided in 1970 to let the site revert back to Yamhill County. They didn’t realize it was still in use and, somehow, a notice of sheriffs sale did not get posted on the door. But when County Commissioner Rudolph Schaad drove by to inspect the newly acquired property, he saw that it was still in use and being kept up. Thanks to him, the deed was re-issued to read that the Gibbs Community Club is granted the use of the site in perpetuity, so long as it is for the community. With the deterioration of both buildings it was becoming increasingly necessary that we do something about them. In about 1987, they were vandalized to the point that they were no longer useable. The only thing left of any value was stolen – the antique light fixtures from the classroom.

1984 saw the school placed on the Yamhill County Registry of Historic Places, so it was required that we go through the proper hearings to get permission to demolish the gym and to get the Conditional Land use Permit for the community center.

 Gibbs Community Timeline


District #35, called Chehalem Mountain School, is organized & taught by Jane McKenzie in a log building on the Philip Winters Donation Landclaim. It was across Bell Road to the North of the present site. Gibbs Community Club President, Irene (Ingraham) Tessman is a descendant of Philip Winters & Gibbs School alumni.


Martin J. Shuck deeded 1 acre of land from his Donation Landclaim for a new school across Quarry Road, East of present site.

About 1873

The school’s name was changed to Gibbs, honoring Oregon’s second governor, the Civil War governor, Addison C. Gibbs. He moved into the district into a large house still standing on the comer of Bell & Mountain Home Roads.


William & Ernaline Vincent established a sawmill with Mr, Edmunson, at which boards for the present Gibbs School were sawed. Gibbs Club’s assistant secretary, Ed Savage is a descendant of the Vincent family.


John B, David deeded 1 acre of land, originally the Greene C. Rogers Landclaim, for the present school site.


Albert Heater was paid $450.00 for building the school house which stands today. The desks, lamps, map charts & coat hooks cost $125.50


Albert Heater built the woodshed, schoolyard fence & two privies, delicately referred to in the clerk’s minutes as “water closets”.


The schoolyard was worked and planted to clover by Frank Gustin. Donna Jean (Wright) Baron is his descendant, an alumni of Gibbs School and Gibbs Community Club member.


Some students left to go to the newly built District #56 Springbrook School. Eventually Gibbs wouldconsolidate and all the students go to Springbrook.


More students left to go to the new Rex School District #88 to the South.


Gibbs Dramatic Club was organized & began putting on plays and programs in the little school. The soon needed more room. The Newberg Graphic reported the schoolhouse so full there was no more standing room, in January of 1934.


A combination auditorium/gymnasium was built at the South of the school. It was constructed by the local residents as a W.P.A. (Works Projects Administration) Project under President Franklin Roosevelt.


Gibbs School graduates its last student and consolidates with Springbrook.


Gibbs Community Club writes its charter, more or less evolving from Gibbs Dramatic Club. It’s stated purpose: “to conduct activities for the betterment of the community & it’s youth.”


Alumni Reunion held at Gibbs School with students from as far back as 1905.


The Gibbs Site reverted back to the county. Yamhill County granted it to Gibbs Community Club in perpetuity, so long as it shall be used to the good of the community.


Gibbs School is placed on the Yamhill County Registry of Historic Places.


Gibbs Community Club is re-organized. We gain permission from Yamhill County to improve the site.


The gymnasium, beyond repair, is demolished. We hold our 1st Annual Gibbs Reunion Picnic.


We stabilize the one room school, awaiting restoration. (Temporary roof, level building)


Keith Gearhart introduced himself, comes to sing “Holding on to Memories” for us, a friendship is born, adoption takes place.


Groundbreaking ceremonies for construction of the new Gibbs Community Center.


The Center’s footings go in & walls are poured.Construction of Concrete Range


Concrete roof goes on the community center and the floor is poured. Finisher Dennis Heeman & volunteers.


Backstop construction is complete, firing sound tests are done and use of the safety/ firing range commences.


The Community Center is dedicated by the members and Tony Burtt of Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, their grants coordinator. The O.D.F.W. bronze plaque is presented to us by Mr. Burtt.


We stabilize the schoolhouse & install new sills, cut by Dean & Alan Tessman’s mill next door. A support beam, donated by Parr Lumber makes the concrete construction ready to receive the schoolhouse. Classes in Hunter Safety & Marksmanship commence for youth & adults. Classes to prepare adult students for a Permit to Carry Concealed Weapons take place about every three months. An agreement with Newberg Police Dept. to conduct four firing qualifications per year goes into effect. We open our range to all area Hunter Safety instructors for their use at live-firing for their students.


Sept. 19 – former resident Grant McCulloch arranged for his crew from G. H. McCulloch, Inc. to set rigging for Campbell Crane to lift Gibbs historic schoolhouse over onto the concrete construction.

Nov. 23 – Fischer Roofing roofed the schoolhouse & members re-glazed its windows.


Work commences of development of lower level classroom: electrical, plumbing, interior wall finish, septic, pumps & pump house.


The air Plenum for the ventilation system is built, the school gets some replica siding sawed & planed by Alan & Dean Tessman, alumni, & schoolhouse gets a coat of white paint, bathrooms are working & we have propane heat.

We built the lower level porch.


Our water is approved for drinking. Members replace the schoolhouse door. The concrete structure has been finished andMoving the Schoolhouse the school moved to its new location atop the structure. The school has recently been repainted and work on the classroom within the concrete structure is in its completion stages.


The lower level rooms now have a small kitchen facility and storage cabinets. A wind break by the East door was completed and security floodlights illuminate the yard. Inside the historic Gibbs schoolhouse, the brick chimney has been rebuilt, replacement lighting installed and the interior walls have been primer painted.


The parking areas have been enlarged and improved. Remaining interior doors have been installed with hardware and trim now in place. We have set a pole to proudly fly the American flag. Handicap access has been further improved with sidewalks and ramps. Repairs to the schoolhouse interior walls are complete and the interior of the schoolhouse has been painted in the original color scheme.


Current Schoolhouse LocationWe have done some further expansion of the parking lot. Have added fill-dirt and re-seeded in areas. A maple tree donated by Gibbs Alumni Alan & Irene Tessman is doing very well and a fir tree from Ed & Cathy Dechenne is showing a big increase in height. The schoolhouse floor has been beautifully refinished and the school desks put back in place on new runners and some of them refinished. Restoration of the original woodstove was completed by Alan Tessman & put back in its place. The coat hooks were also restored and await use in the front entry hall. Improvements in the lower level classroom include chair rail added to the walls and more tables for use.


History of Gibbs school compiled by Donna Jo King, Secretary of Gibbs Community Club.

Updated November 1, 2003