The Kern River Valley Historical Society is celebrating over 50 years of operation! Our mission is to preserve and communicate the rich and colorful history of this region. The Kern Valley Museum in downtown Kernville, next to the Post Office, welcomes visitors to explore our rich history.


49 Big Blue Road
PO Box 651
Kernville, CA 93238

(760) 376-6683


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The Havilah Parochial School (1864-1868) was opened in 1864 by circuit priest from Visalia, Father Daniel Francis Dade. The Visalia Delta, dated March 28, 1866, reported that the Parochial School was the first school to be located in Havilah. According to the article, Father Dade was said to have earned $100 a month as parish priest and teacher.

Miss Molly Lively, who would become the lead teacher of the Havilah Public School in 1869. She reported that she attended the Havilah Parochial School in 1866 “because a public school did not exist” in Havilah at the time. She also stated that she and the other students were always in “mortal dread” because of Father Dade’s sternness.

According to Eugene Burmeister in The School at Havilah, the Havilah Parochial School was discontinued in 1868, and Father Dade returned to Visalia.

The Havilah Public School (1866-1919 ) was sanctioned with the formation of Kern County in 1866. The Havilah School became the first public school to open in the newly formed county. The school was established on November 1, 1866. However, it did not open until April 1, 1867. The county superintendent of schools was Edward W. Doss. He started the first classes in the county Court House with Rev. Joseph H. Cornwall as teacher. The school trustees were elected on June 30, 1867. According to the Havilah Weekly Courier of July 6, 1867, the trustees were: William G. Mills, a merchant and minister, Verres Greenwood Thompson, a merchant, and Joseph Fontaine, a miner.

The new school house opened early in 1868 with 22 students at a cost of $940. The Havilah School was taught by Miss Molly Lively beginning September 28, 1869. Like many schools in the west, the Havilah School was often forced to temporarily close, or have fundraisers to fund the school when it fell into debt. The Havilah School was forced to close in April 1872, due to the lack of school funds. The county and the state funded the school for several years from 1873 to 1880. Female teachers during that time received $70 a month salary. Male teachers received $80 a month. Records indicate that in May of 1868 and in 1870 northern portions of the Havilah district were annexed to neighboring school districts.

In the early 1900’s, salaries were paid directly to the teachers instead of the common practice of cash payments from the community. As a result, the year-end records of the teachers and the number of students became more available. Most of the reports talk about the excellent progress of the students and how enthusiastic they had been. These reports include the condition of the school. In 1904 Miss Reid reported that the grounds “were not pleasing to the eye” even though the students had planted a small garden. “The scarcity of water makes it hard to keep things in good shape.” In 1905, Miss Carnall wrote in her report about the brightness of the students and stated, “The school and outhouses are very old ones and sadly in need of repairs.” In 1911 Therese Dormeyer was the teacher. Her year-end report stated “the school was in debt . . . We raised $40 to apply to the school debt.”

Miss Caroline V. Payne (1888-1983) was the teacher during the 1911-1912 and 1912-1913 school years. The enrollment dropped to 5 students in 1911 and included 10 pupils in 1912. Caroline Payne Harris, in an article written in 1956, recalled that she was hired by mail in 1911 and arrived by train in Caliente, traveling by stage to Walker Basin and on to Havilah. She later became principal of Franklin School in Bakersfield. The Caroline Harris School in the Bakersfield City School District was named in her honor.

Between 1913 and 1919 the Havilah School suffered with low enrollment and was annually threatened with closure. The 1918-1919 school year was the last year that class was held in Havilah with an enrollment of 4 students. Mrs. M. T. Bonham was the teacher and the 4 students were: Herman, Willard, Gordon, and Dorothy Greenslitt. The largest enrollment for the Havilah School was during 1879-1880 school year with 51 students.

On September 2, 1919, the Havilah School District was suspended. On September 1, 1920 the district was declared lapsed and its territory added to the Vaughn School District. The Havilah School provided education for 52 years in the gold country of Kern County. The original school house was torn down and a replica now stands as part of the Havilah museum.

- CharlAnn Gregory


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The Greenhorn School District was formed in 1917 from territory that was formerly a part of the Poso Flats School District. The school and the teacherage (a house provided for the teacher) was located near Petersburg on Rancheria Road approximately half way between today’s Highway 178 and the Greenhorn Summit. Petersburg, located 9 miles south of the Greenhorn Summit in Greenhorn Gulch was a way station on the Greenhorn Road (Trail) to Keyesville. It was named by Peter Gardette, who came to the gold fields to find his fortune in the 1850’s. He realized there was more than one way to obtain gold. He and a partner established a store and post office to supply the miners.

The remoteness of the Greenhorn School made it difficult to retain teachers for more than one school year. As World War II drew miners from the mines and lumbermen from the forest and the mill into the military, families began to leave the area. A lack of students caused the school to be suspended in 1943. It was permanently closed (lapsed) on 6 August 1945. The territory of the Greenhorn School District was annexed into the Linns Valley School District in 1945. [Photos: The Greenhorn Emergency School and the Greenhorn School from School District Origins in Kern County California by J. Kirkland.]

- CharlAnn Gregory


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As the population began to grow in the Kern River Valley and surrounding area, the need to educate the children became increasingly important. The first recorded school started in Linns Valley in 1854, known as the Linns Valley School. The first classes were held under a large oak tree on the Lavers Ranch where the barn stands. Schools were then built to accommodate the growing number of students. This school district is still an active school district.

As Kernville began to grow, and families moved in, Adam Hamilton, of Whiskey Flat fame, gave up selling spirits and whiskey to the Big Blue miners. About 1860, he opened a private school and became the first school master. It is little wonder that many children were sent to relatives to further their education. Prominent families, like Andrew Brown, hired private tutors for their children.

In 1866, Kern County was formed from the northern portion of Los Angeles County and the southern portion of Tulare County. Four school districts were formed at that time: Linns Valley School District; Havilah School District; Kernville School District and Kelso School District. The history of our schools is as rich as the gold history. My research to date has found 35-40 schools. To name a few of those schools: Kelso School District; Erskine School District; North Fork School District (an Edison school); Breckenridge School (a WPA school); Havilah Parochial School (a Catholic school); and Greenhorn School District. If you have information, pictures, stories, that you are willing to share about our schools, I would appreciate your input. You may email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or send in care of the Historical Society, P.O. Box 651 Kernville, CA 93238. Please indicate if the materials should be returned to you.

- CharlAnn Gregory