Blankenagel, Norma P.
In June of 1881, Alonzo Hatch settled in the north end of Dry Valley. He farmed his ranch for less than a year and then moved to Moab. Hatch Ranch was a stopover for travelers between Monticello and Moab. If you know where Mr. Foster and that group of people are living in the rocks ( now a bed and breakfast) that’s Hatch Rock. Hatch Wash is down below that and we take our cattle through the wash every time we move them to Dry Valley. It was named after this early pioneer. I guess that was quite a popular stopover there at Hatch Ranch. They stopped over to rest their horses and rest the people that were on the mail stage. This stage took mail from Thompson through Hatch Wash to Monticello and on to Mancos Colorado.
The First Schools – The Leemasters and McCartys moved from Coyote to be nearer the school, which is up on Old La Sal Creek, and fifteen scholars attended that first La Sal school. Another school was built in 1916, which is kind of a long plain building. It was there for a long time, but it has been taken down now. There were long swing bars, just out of tree limbs, and you could see where the swings had been. In fact when we first came here, some of the swings were still there. That was the children’s playground for recess and such. It was used until 1931. A Miss Stair, of Philadelphia, taught a six month term here and was paid cooperatively by everyone who had children attending classes. Quite often each family would put the school teacher up for such percent of the month as determined by how many children they had in the school. This is how the teacher’s wage was partially paid by families. So the wages were mostly in living expenses.
The La Sal school system was the second organized in San Juan County, Bluff being the first one. Coyote, or the new town of La Sal was organized in 1909, and a school was organized there at that time. It is interesting that in this school they had eight grades, plus a class that was beginners. That was a total of nine classes taught by one teacher. Two boys were imported from Moab to make up eight students. They had to have eight students to rate having a teacher, so they imported Carl Berry and Alma Duncan from Moab. The other children were Lacy and Thelma Stocks, Isabella and Alma McCullum, and two other children, names unknown.
For several years school was held in the LDS Church building on the town site. That town site is just north of where the LDS church now stands. This building had a stage, curtains, and dressing rooms on either side of the stage. It had a partial basement with two rooms, a furnace room, and a Relief Society room, with a cook stove. Grade school, plus two years of high school were taught in this building. This historic building was used as a church and school until it was condemned. In 1927, a two-room frame building was erected about a 100 yards south of the church. This was still on the old town site. It was moved to the present town of La Sal and, in 1956, because of the uranium boom, a large addition was added to it, giving the school a multi-purpose room with a stage. Later another section was added, giving the school another two school rooms. But the original building was heated with a little potbellied stove, which had to be stoked up every morning by the teacher. He would get it going early so it would be warm enough for the students, when they arrived. The various families would chop up wood and bring it to the school, so the teacher would have a box full of wood. Those old potbelly stoves were good old heaters though. They had isinglass square windows on them, and you could see the flames flickering. It is quite a chore in addition to teaching sometimes as many as six grades. That potbelly stove was replaced by a furnace that heats the whole building now. It is so efficient. Up in the old CCC building, I remember going to church there. At first they had a potbelly stove, then they had butane and propane heaters and we would be almost hot from the waist up, and our feet would be freezing from the draft in the building. It was difficult.
School was held for a short time in 1956 at an old white CCC building, which had been used by the LDS Church as a chapel. This was necessary, while the new addition was built on the original square school. CCC is short for the Civilian Conservation Corps that was begun by Franklin D. Roosevelt to give unemployed men, during the depression, a place of gainful employment.
Before the uranium boom it was hard to get enough students in La Sal to merit one teacher. During the boom, there were as many as four teachers, teaching up to eighth grade students. Before the boom of the fifties, a few high school students would drive themselves to Moab to attend high school. With the population influx of the fifties, a school bus was driven from La Sal to Monticello. Later, in 1979, two buses were used to haul children to Monticello school, and over 100 students rode those buses. So, La Sal has had quite an interesting history.