By Kristen Kauffman

Oakdale was a town about six miles south of Prescott along Senator Highway. Settled by miners and prospectors in the Bradshaw Mountains, it became a town in July of 1901, when they established a post office. Two months later, the town changed the name to honor a member of the first Arizona Territorial Legislature, a man who had mined and prospected in the Bradshaws since 1862 –“Colonel” Robert Groom—thus changing the name to Groom Creek.

There were several one-room schoolhouses established in Groom Creek, the first recorded in 1896. Few records exist from this early period, but the schoolhouse moved several times until “Country School #39” was built in about 1902. This building was clad with river rocks over a wooden interior, proving so durable that it exists today.

School calendars at this time were structured by the harvest schedule, a pattern that persists today. Schools would go into session after harvest season, students would study through the months when there were fewer tasks on the farm and then school would be adjourned in time for planting to start in the late Spring. The structure of the school calendar at Groom Creek was somewhat different, however. Because of the intense snow the area received, school would be in session through the warmer months, and their school break would occur during the Winter when it was difficult to get to school. Mittie Cobey attended school there in the 1930s and reported that one of the things she remembered was her dad walking her to school after a bad snowstorm. Once they got there, her dad lit the fire in the wood burning stove for the teacher, Mrs. Hyde.

Not being in school during tough winter months is understandable given the weather in the area, but not being in school to help with farming is understandable, too. While Groom Creek was an area settled by miners, ranchers and lumbermen, there were farmers in the area, as well. Perhaps this explains why the average population of the school was around ten students.

Most accounts of the school day sound pretty typical, including a lunch break. Today visitors can see the large lunch area with numerous picnic tables under large pines; Cobey said that her mom would bring lunch (usually biscuits) to her every day there. Les Eckert, born in Groom Creek in 1902, recounts a time when an unnamed student was disciplined for eating the sweets out of other kids’ lunches. While the rest of the class was studying, this student would sneak back to where the lunch pails were (usually tobacco tins with handles and lids), and he would eat all of the cakes and sweets.

The teachers did not have their own homes, but instead the families of the town would house them. In fact, part of the teacher’s salary included room and board. “County School #39” is a building that still exists to this day, although now it is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, who acquired it in 1967 when the school district Quit Claim Deeded the building. Today the Forest Service uses the site for administrative purposes; however, they also rent the interior spaces for daily use, where you can see the charming chalk     boards still intact. Visitors can reserve the space April 1-October 31 on Daily use of the outdoor space is free (the Forest Service asks that you respect anyone who has reserved the spaces), and visitors can see the outdoor lunch space, an amphitheater and the paved Lion’s Club Accessible Nature Trail that winds 1500 feet around the vicinity.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International ( This and other Days Past articles are also available at The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at for information or assistance with photo requests.