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November 28, 2007 > History


Pioneer Private Schools

Most villages had small private schools before public schools were begun. John Horner established the town of Centerville and built a small school house there in 1850, the first English language school in the present Alameda County. Harvey Green and Rev. W. W. Brier both taught here. Harvey Green also taught for a few months in the Naile adobe and Miss Sarah Scott taught a private school at her Niles home. Mr. Spencer operated a school for eight pupils in a small building in present day Irvington where Clark Hall stands now. He was paid $20 a month "without the privilege of boarding around."

Because of problems financing and building public schools in pioneer days, private schools flourished. Many of the best teachers in public schools in California were attracted by the better conditions and attractive salaries in private schools.

Irvington community members developed Washington College as a private, co-ed, high school in 1871 on land donated by E. L. Beard. A three-story dormitory was erected for 100 young women, and a second building constructed to house 50 young men. The Washington College of Science and Industry officially opened July 31, 1871 under the leadership of Rev. and Mrs. S. S. Harmon. There were 130 students enrolled in 1873 from places as distant as Santa Barbara ad Salt Lake City. The usual high school courses along with the practical features of business, surveying and "vegetable physiology" were offered.

The college fell into financial trouble in 1881 and Henry Curtner reclaimed the property and leased it to the Christian Church to continue Washington College as a sectarian school. Principles of the bible were taught as "the foundation of a true education." Washington College was forced out by competition from the public high school in 1894.

Henry Curtner resumed responsibility for the Washington College property and hired Rev. J. D. Ingram to run the Curtner Seminary for Young Ladies. er Seminary for Young Ladies. The school specialty was its normal course where young women were trained to become teachers. The Seminary attracted wide attention and new buildings were planned. A disastrous fire and Mrs. Ingram's fatal illness closed the school.

The college was rebuilt with the help of local residents; William W. Anderson moved his elite military academy there in 1900 and renamed it Anderson Academy. The school had an excellent sports program with strong baseball and football teams. Anderson died in 1914 and the college campus became the private home of the Anderson family.

Mission San Jose became a center for several private schools. St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary operated here from 1883 to 1885. Mother Pia Baches, superior of the Dominican Sisters, purchased the property with its empty building and opened a school in 1892. The school became an orphanage and the Sisters opened a Normal School in 1908. Queen of the Holy Rosary College was established in 1930 and the School of Music in 1947. The Dominican Sisters took over Rev. Patrick Blake's rest home on the present Washington Boulevard, moved their students there and established St. Mary of the Palms. The school had up to 135 boarding students and for a while, served students from nursery school to high school. The school closed in 1967 and the building burned the next year.

Japanese Americans operated language schools at Centerville, Alvarado and Sunol from the 1920s until 1942 when they were forcibly evacuated to relocation centers. The Centerville building served as a meeting place and cultural center for many years.

Gladys Williamson operated a nursery school on the Shinn Ranch from 1930 to 1936. It became an experimental school and attracted wide attention.

The 1956 Fremont Shoppers Guide listed the Fremont Nursery School and the Humpty Dumpty Parent Nursery School. Two years later, the Congregational Church Nursery School, the Playland Nursery School and the Presbyterian Church Nursery School were also listed. Holy Spirit School was opened in 1956 and Prince of Peace the next year. A number of private schools were launched in the 1960s including St. Joseph's (1960), St. Edward's (1963), St. Leonard's (now Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1964), and Fremont Christian and Newark Presbyterian in 1968. The list of schools and colleges in the current telephone book includes a wide variety of offerings and covers several pages.

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