History of Buckeye and the Buckeye School
A Union Pacific Railroad line ran from Fort Collins to Buckeye, opening for traffic on September 1, 1924. During this time, there was a station house, railroad bunkhouse, corrals and depot directly east and parallel to the Buckeye Lateral Ditch and North County Road 17. Railroad cars shipped sheep and livestock to larger stockyards in Denver and elsewhere. The Munroe Ranch was a large sheep producer in the upper Boxelder Creek drainage, northwest of Buckeye. Edward F. (Buster) Munroe, who attended Buckeye School, was the last person to bring his herds of sheep down Poudre Canyon, off the Mummy Range summer grazing in the late 1960s. Several thousand head of sheep were brought down to the ranch along County Road 80. After abandonment of the line in 1965, railroad tracks and buildings were disassembled and removed. The Buckeye Lateral Ditch, however, is still one of the main irrigation ditches in use for North Poudre Irrigation Company.
School District records indicate a school operated under the name Buckeye School in 1925, prior to the current nominated school building opening, but where these students met is not known. This earlier school is documented in the Teacher’s Register of January 19, 1925, showing a J.W. Peterson teaching 21 students from January to May 15, 1925, and Miss Hannah Hoffman teaching 24 students from September 8, 1925, to May 21, 1926.
School District No. 55 contained the following schools: East, Round Butte, Buckeye, Soapstone, Fairmont and Spring School. A school was built for every 9 miles of populated land. At the May 25, 1925, School District No. 55 Board of Directors meeting, the Board discussed plans for the Buckeye Schoolhouse. They traveled to Buckeye to inspect the area for a school site and chose the space between some ranch buildings and the railroad right-of-way (District Proceedings, May 25, 1925). This is where the school still stands today, on the southeast corner of West County Road 80 and North County Road 17 in northern Larimer County. The school is approximately seven miles north of unincorporated Waverly and 15 miles northwest of Wellington and sits in the center of the Buckeye community.
Historical documents show that C.V. Owens donated three acres of land on which to build Buckeye School, including the oil and gas rights. He also planted some trees, donated concrete for a cistern, and offered to haul gravel for a playground. On June 15, 1925, O.A. Decker was awarded the bid to build the Buckeye School. It was to be 26’ X 60’ with ten foot ceilings for $3,630. A cistern supplied water for the school. The cistern sits south of the school building but is no longer used. The cost of construction exceeded the bid and on November 7, 1925, Decker submitted the final invoice, bringing the total cost to $4,983.17. It was considered to be a very large school, having two upper classrooms and a basement with living quarters for the teacher. School was held from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., September through May, with sunlight being the main source of lighting, explaining why most of the windows are on the south wall. Kerosene lanterns served as back-ups. The school year was conducted so as to allow students summer-time off to work on the family farms. A wood/coal cook stove was located on the east wall of the teacher’s living quarters. According to oral history, students would bring potatoes to school and the teacher would bake them in the cook stove, thereby providing a hot lunch.
Students attended Buckeye for 1st through 8th grades, and then went to the Waverly School for “high school.” Buckeye School was the last school built in District No. 55. In 1926, the school district underwent a consolidation. Students from the East, Round Butte, Buckeye, Soapstone, Fairmont and Spring schools were sent to Buckeye, Wellington and Carr schools. This increased the enrollment of Buckeye School. The development of several oil wells in the north Wellington area occurred at this time. Many of the oil workers sent their children to Buckeye School since it was “new.” Teacher Register books for District No. 55 indicate Mr. Jess Trower was the first teacher in the new school, operating from August 30, 1926 to May 1927. He had 37 students enrolled for 1st through 8th grades, and was paid $120 per month.
In the school’s early history, the Buckeye Square Dancing Club, Soapstone Grazing Association, and the Buckeye Ladies Club regularly used the building for meetings, as did School District No. 55. A used, but well preserved, piano remains in the west alcove. It was played for square dancing until they acquired a record player. The record player and original 78 RPM square dancing records still exist and are in safekeeping with current Club members.
The Buckeye Busy Belles (girls) and Buckeye Buck-N-Ears (boys) 4-H group formed in 1957, beginning with seven members. In 1958, the groups merged and became the Buckeye Buck-N-Ears 4-H Club. In 1960, only two years later, enrollment increased to 17 members. The club held its monthly meetings at the Buckeye School until 1995, when enrollment exceeded the 100 person capacity of the building. The Club has since returned to the Buckeye School and its founding roots.
In addition to hosting the 4-H Club, Buckeye School was the site of the polling place for Precinct No. 404 for many years. When Larimer County instituted Vote Centers and implemented the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the county discontinued voting at Buckeye School. However, a historic voting booth remains in the basement storage room.
In 1933, Congress set up Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps as work programs for young men, ages 17-23, all over the nation. CCC Camp No. 809, Buckeye CCC Camp, was in operation from 1935 to 1940. Soil conservation was the main focus of CCC Camp No. 809, as gully control and erosion were important issues for the 90,000 acres comprising the Buckeye and Boxelder projects. During the camp’s five-year existence, over 240,000 trees were planted. Other accomplishments include the building of one large dam, 32 small earthen dams, and irrigation ditches, one of which runs right by the Buckeye School, thereby increasing the availability of water for irrigating fields and crops (Ahlbrandt, 1998). Trees around the school are irrigated with water from these ditches. The Camp was located in the upper Boxelder Creek drainage, about 2 miles northwest of the school, with Gillman Mountain as its backdrop.
Over time, the school saw upgrades such as electricity and indoor plumbing. With the installation of plumbing, a drinking fountain was installed in the east classroom as well as basement restrooms. The wood stoves were first converted to butane stoves then to propane, and finally to natural gas. The thinking in the community was that if the school facilities were updated, it stood a greater chance of not being closed by the consolidation. In 1959, a major consolidation took place and the new district, Poudre R-1, closed the Buckeye school on July 1, 1960. Students were then sent to Waverly School. It is not known what happened to the other schools in the District. Some were moved from their original locations and refurbished as homes (Munroe, 2008).
After the District officially closed the school in 1960, community members were allowed continued use of the school as long as they maintained the building. When the district talked about selling the property in 1967, community members, including the 4-H club, organized and eventually purchased the property in 1970 for $767.00. The Buckeye Community Club obtained the school building and 3 acres of land with 26 families contributing the money. The Buckeye Club uses the building as a community gathering place. Square dancing, box lunches, picnics, plays, weddings, birthday parties, monthly 4-H business meetings, summertime 4-H “tour-day” picnics, Christmas dinners, and other activities have occurred in the building since consolidation.
In 1993, Karrie Ackerman planted a wind break of 285 bare root evergreen trees for her 9th grade civics class at Wellington Junior High. In 1999, 17 large trees were donated by members and planted around the school. Club members routinely water these trees and both the building and grounds receive regular maintenance. Summer clean-up days for both the Community Club and the 4-H Club coincide with summertime picnics.
Buckeye Community Club charges members yearly dues to cover the water, insurance, utilities, and maintenance supplies to keep up the grounds and building. Recently, members painted both the men’s and women’s restrooms. Buckeye Community Club also holds fundraisers to increase the Club treasury. In the past, this included tractor pulls, turkey shoots, food/beverage concessions at farm auctions, and raising and marketing sweet corn, as well as receiving memorial contributions. The Buckeye Buck-N-Ears 4-H Club applied for and received $500 in 4-H Community Pride Grants for necessary repairs and improvements to the building.
The school building gives members a place to gather for monthly potlucks, play games and cards or just socialize. Sometimes, potlucks are held in conjunction with meetings and presentations of general community interest. Recently the club hosted a discussion on the uranium mining proposal affecting northern Weld County. An agricultural tour day and open house at Buckeye School is being discussed as a potential fundraiser for 2008.
Clearly, the community has formed a long-standing tradition of support for the school and its agricultural history. The Buckeye School building was “created by a community for its children, [and] stands today as a symbol of the communities’ spirit” (Boresen 1999). It serves as a visible reminder of the high value and importance the early settlers had put on educating their children. The Buckeye School retains its historic integrity and is a prominent landmark for the community of Buckeye.