MEEKER I At a meeting held Nov. 21, 1883, in Meeker, a unanimous vote was cast by ballot to reorganize White River Precinct No. 3, which included the town of Meeker and at that time was part of Garfield County, with Glenwood Springs as county seat.
The school district formed was designated as District 2, Garfield County. Members were elected as a governing board. School was held in temporary structures. After a period of five years, an election was held April 1888, in Meeker, and again a unanimous vote created a bonded indebtedness of $10,000 to erect a school building. At this time, the first school building in Meeker was built. In 1889, the county of Rio Blanco was formed from Garfield County with Meeker as the county seat. As a result of this reorganization, the Meeker school district was designated as District No. 1.
In 1917, due to the nature of the soil, the Meeker grade school settled and was declared unsafe for school purposes and another building costing $42,000 was constructed in the year 1919. However, in October of 1937, some very discouraging news came along, and this building was declared unsafe due to a broken water pipe, which allowed water to run under the foundation and caused major damage, so due to the soil and leaking water pipes the second school building settled and was condemned for school purposes.
At this time, the school board was confronted with unprecedented financial difficulties, namely a bonded indebtedness of $32,000 on building No. 2 and a decreased valuation in District No. 1 that would permit no additional indebtedness.
Several public meetings were held relative to a solution, to no avail. The school board attempted in vain to obtain funds with which to build another structure. Even going so far as to write to the state superintendent stating that school children were being housed in five different buildings in town, some buildings being unsatisfactory for school purposes.
The school superintendent, Mr. Ray Hume, requested emergency funds from the state. By return mail, he received a reply stating, “There is no emergency fund in the state to meet your needs,” closing with this paragraph, “I appreciate your efforts to maintain school in whatever buildings or rooms you may be able to provide,” signed by Inez Johnson Lewis, state superintendent.
Finally in February 1938, F.A. Carstens, director of welfare, whose efficiency in Rio Blanco County was outstanding, had a vision as well as an ability to foresee a solution of the problem through a WPA (Work Projects Administration) project. More public meetings were held in order to acquaint the public with the worthwhile features of the project. Mr. Carstens guided the board through the technicalities involved in obtaining a WPA project.
As soon as the project was granted, the town council presented a 99-year lease on the town park to the school district for a school site. Ground was broken July 7, 1938. Piling was driven and foundation set upon the piling to safeguard against the soil conditions that promoted the collapse of the two previous buildings.
Mr. Carstens donated beautiful red building stone from his quarry in Upper White River for the structure. Under the supervision of Harry Pollard, construction foreman, the WPA workers developed a civic pride in the achievement of a super structure. The rock work was superb. Every detail was given careful consideration. The following was taken from a writing by Josephine Holland, co-superintendent of schools, dated Jan. 30, 1939. This was given at the cornerstone ceremony. “The foundation and partially constructed walls give promise of a structure that will be one of beauty, majestic dignity, and endurance.”
I believe we can take each one of these features and analyze them as we think of the present elementary building — beauty, yes; majestic dignity, yes; endurance, 70 years. I would say yes to that without question.
This article was written by Mrs. Holland at the time of the cornerstone ceremony.
A cornerstone ceremony was held at the Meeker Grade School building Jan. 30, 1939. The Masons conducted the ceremony of laying the cornerstone. In a receptacle of the cornerstone was placed a metal box, within this box was placed the following:
1. Photographs of the teachers and students of each grade with names of each
2. A Bible
3. A history of the school district and building program
4. A program of the cornerstone ceremony
5. A message for anyone who opens the container in the far distant future
6. A United States and Colorado state flag
7. A copy of the Meeker Herald, which featured an article about the ceremony.
Aside from the financial problems, there were many more problems to deal with. Even before the decision was made to build, there were many meetings with citizens to decide on repair or a new structure. Finally, after the building was determined to be unsafe, we had the stoker dilemma.
Apparently, a stoker maker had been purchased and installed in September (a month before the building was condemned) from a company in Salt Lake. Following the distressing news concerning the building, it was hoped some arrangement could be made with the company for either retaining the stoker for the present time or receiving information as to the cost of the stoker if removed and then returned to the company. Not to be, a return letter one month later stated, “It was understood that stoker be paid for on installation.” Also stating, “We have not received payment. It will be appreciated if you will send funds to cover by return mail. We would like this matter settled by the first of the year.” This letter was dated Dec. 23, 1937.
Letters were sent back and forth for another three months before the issue was solved. Finally on March 23, the stoker company did receive a check for $133 and they agreed to remove the stoker from the school and we moved on.
After a decision was made to build a new school under a WPA project, the worries weren’t over yet. There was rent to be paid to the various owners of locations housing students at this time, the matter of purchasing, reinforcing steels, the cornerstone purchase, the sheet metal work, the misunderstanding of window differences, the rock work, the roof, door plaques, gym addition plan, the insurance loan, the heating layout, the ceiling, lighting, the landscaping and, finally, unsatisfactory crystallite mop wax.
However, the biggest concern outside of financial problems was the WPA shut-down July 1, 1939 (two months before the expected opening of the school). Finally, after numerous telegrams, applications were processed and then approved and after only a month shut down, work continued in August. Also during this period of time the superintendent of the school, Ray Hume, resigned and a new principal, John Atkinson, was hired.
A date was decided for opening of the school. Through the efforts of many dedicated people, the new grade school was opened Monday, Oct. 16, 1939.
From the Meeker Herald October 1939: “Everyone in Meeker is proud of this new grade school building and the work which has been done. Many have worked hard to give Meeker and surrounding community a school which will stand for many years to come.”
And that it did. At least 70 years.
— Rogers is a retired Meeker Elementary School teacher.