With its Mission-style architecture, the school was the grandest building in town.

Almost every traveller on the section of Route 66 between Seligman and Kingman, Arizona, stops at the famous Hackberry General Store. But few realise that there is more to Hackberry than a cold soda and some picturesque photo opportunities with old cars. Just to the south of the General Store and Route 66 lies the remains of what was, from 1874 until shortly after the Great War, a thriving town.

Originally a mining camp at the foot of the Peacock Mountains, Hackberry supported the twin trades of ranching and mining – indeed, it was the former that brought the railroad to Hackberry in 1882, as much to transport cattle as to carry ore from the Hackberry Silver Mine. By the time the mine closed, some $3 million of gold and silver had been dug out and perhaps one of the obvious indications of the temporary prosperity of the town can be seen in its now disused elementary school.

By the time this photo was taken in 1924, the school had been open for 7 years. Sadly, I don’t know whether the teacher is the ‘pleasant young Miss Jones’. Photo courtesy of the Mohave Museum of History and Arts

At a time when most schools were little more than wooden shacks or barns (for example, the Red School in Valentine to the west), the community of Hackberry commissioned a rather grandiose stone building. In May 1917, the School’s Board of Trustees called for bids for the erection of ‘a one-story public school building, to accommodate at least 80 pupils and cost not to exceed Seven Thousand Dollars; building to include all necessary wardrobe closest, teacher’s room, library room, etc, and to have chimney and fresh air vents for heating and ventilating purposes and to be as nearly fire-proof as the sum to be expended will permit.” You have to love that ‘nearly fire-proof’, but clearly not if it was going to cost more money!

The design that was accepted turned out to be a quite ornate Mission-style building with red roof tiles, two tiny decorative towers and even a Spanish-style bell. Nor did the Trustees hang about once having made a decision. At the end of August 1917, the Mohave County Miner reported that contractor Axel Ericson was completing the cornice work on the school (incidentally, Mr Ericson had just won the contract for his next job, which would be installing radiators and steam heating in the Hotel Brunswick in Kingman).

The bell still seems operational, but I decided not to try…

The school had two classrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and living quarters for a teacher, one of the first of whom was a Miss Jones who, a visit to Kingman being enough of an occasion to make the local newspaper, was described as ‘a pleasant young teacher’. To the young children who attended Hackberry Elementary School – they ranged from kindergarten age to the 8th grade – the building must have seemed almost like a castle. Teachers came and went; children grew up but often stayed in the town. Many of them were Griggs and several generations of that family were taught in the school. In fact, virtually everyone in Hackberry now (although that’s only around 20 people) is either a Grigg or related to the family.

An abandoned basketball hoop beside the school.

But, by 1994, the Board of Trustees (all of them, by the way, retired and without children in the school) decided that the little school should be closed. The parents of the 22 remaining pupils fought the decision but without success, even though the reasoning seems in hindsight a little vague. Joseph Averna, one of the three Trustees called the school ‘inefficient and ineffective’ (it quite possibly was, the tendency to follow the curriculum was, by all accounts, less than enthusiastic) and, on the eve of the meeting to decide the future of the Hackberry Elementary school, proclaimed; “We are going to drag [the parents] kicking and screaming in the 20th century. The people who pay the bills want the school closed.” He then went on to admit that no-one had actually looked at a budget, nor did they know how much money would be saved by the closure. Nonetheless, the decision to shut the school was made the following day.

Today children are bussed to schools miles away, leaving Hackberry as more of a ghost town than ever, while the school – which is owned by the Grigg family – stays resolutely shut and fenced off. The family hopes one day to refurbish, but no new generation of Griggs will ever be taught there.

Hackberry Elementary School, still as if the children had just left for the day.


  1. What a remnant of past glory! It is truly a beautiful structure speaking to us of a strong past that has since faded. I will look for this place. Isn’t there an Indian school that was built in nearby Valentine and never used?

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is indeed, a very imposing building that has stood unused overlooking Route 66 since 1937. There is also the ‘Red House’ school, a wooden (and now sadly dilapidated) building which was for the white children. I intend to write a future post about the schools and their history. 🙂


      • I attended the school at Hackberry for two weeks in 1945. There were two teachers and the front of the building has 2 very small apartments for the teachers. The bathroom was an outhouse out back and was still there when I visited a few years ago. I have pictures too. The building was used as a Montisouri School for awhile. When it was discovered that I was only 5 and would not be 6 until January, I was not allowed by law to attend. Students had to be 6 by December 31e and I was 18 days too young. My father was working for the Santa Fe Railroad and that was why we were in Hackberry. There was the store and gas station as well as a bar just up the road which may have also been a cafe. The Post Office was across the tracks in the town near the school. Dances were held there in a tin barn. We sat on boards laid across hay bales. Dances in those days always had a live band made up of local residents. I have pictures taken there a few years ago.Near the railroad tracks there was a Depot, Section Foreman’s house and bunk house for track laborers, as well as boxcars set on the ground and made into houses for other employees of the Santa Fe Railroad.. .

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    • The little Red School at Valentine was used. I was across the tracks from the Indian Boarding School which consisted of 3 large three story brick buildings. There was a row of Government behind it that were for teachers. Bureau of Indian Affairs offices were to the right of the School buildings. After tje Valentine school was closed in the early 50s, the playground equipment it had was taken to Peach Springs Public School where I was attending.We got a big swing and a Giant Stride. I can send you pictures I took a few years ago. Community dances were held in the Valentine one room school. Chairs would be placed away from the wall so y9ung children could be bedded down and parents could keep dancing.There was a kitchen in the basement. Women brought pie and during the 10;00 break everyone went downstairs for coffee and pie. Men had bottles of alcoholic drink in their trucks and would take occasional trips out to the parking lot. There was an outdoor toilet. The school was located on the south side of the Santa Fe Railroad tracks.

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  3. Great story, and photos! In the 25 years I spent in Northern Arizona, including a few trips on this stretch of Route 66, I never knew this structure was there. I also seem to recall reading that an old Harvey House was now serving as the local water board office for the town of Peach Springs. Anyone know if that’s still standing?

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    • Now, very few people know that there was a Harvey House restaurant in Peach Springs. It was, by all account, quite primitive and only lasted from 1884-1889. Fred Harvey also had a dairy farm at Peach Springs to provide fresh milk for passengers but water supply was a problem and in 1912 he moved the dairy farm to Del Rio, north of Chino Valley.


  4. My sister and I attended school here. I “graduated” 8th grade in ‘94, along with 3 others. Crazy to think we were it. The closing of the school was without a doubt, an early lesson in politics for us. I remember my hands shaking as I stood up and spoke to a roomful of parents and news cameras. Despite being told by one of the board members to not say anything negative about the board or the school closing, I used the opportunity to do just that. Afterwards, my dad and grandpa told me how proud they were that I’d spoke my mind. Something that still gets me in trouble today haha. Thanks for the pics. It looks as if we were just dismissed from class yesterday. And you shoulda rang the bell. After checking it for yellow jacket nest of course. That wasn’t very much fun.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I remember I’d finished up the customary generic speech that I was reading off my notecards. The place was packed, standing room only. The double doors in the back were open and people were crowded out into the main entryway. A couple news cameras were in the back and on the side. My eyes found my grandpa. And he knew what I was about to do. He was sitting there with his arms crossed and he gave me a nod. Despite this being 25 years ago, this moment left a huge impression on me and I remember parts of it so clearly.
        I remember trying so hard not to cry as I started out by saying something to the effect of…. Ummm, I was warned by some people earlier today, not to say anything in regards to my school being shut down, but I just graduated so I will say what I want because it needs to be heard. The lessons that I’ve learned here over the last 6 years, may have been taught to me in an unconventional way, but because of that, they will stick with me forever. I didn’t learn about metaphors by reading about them in the standard boring textbook. Our teacher had us listen to and dissect a Jackson Brown song titled “Doctor my Eyes”. We didn’t learn about the Grand Canyon or the desert in books. We visited those places, saw them with our own eyes, touched the prickly cactus’s and smelled the rain storms as they moved in across the sky. I learned social skills with kids of all ages because we all rode the same school bus. We all ate a home cooked lunch at the same table and played together on the playground.
        The adults in charge, making the decisions, never bothered to ask us if we wanted to continue to go to school here. They never explained how riding a bus 1 hour each way to school everyday, would be better for us. Or how attending a school where a teacher has 25 other kids needing their attention. In fact, they haven’t given us any examples of why it is best that we don’t attend school here anymore and I’m realizing now, it’s because there aren’t any good reasons. I’m thankful that I was able to graduate from here today, but I’m sad that my sister won’t be afforded the same opportunity. And I’m sad for this old schoolhouse that for almost 100 years, had generation after generation, walking through its doors, will now sit here empty and alone in the middle of nowhere.

        And I sat back down and I remember those that were sitting, were now standing and clapping. After the ceremony was over, we all walked out the big front doors, under the bell that taught us about yellow jackets, down the stairs that I’d slipped on and busted my lip open, down the walkway past the corner of the building that I had my first kiss at during recess not long before, never to return again.
        And here it is, 25 years later. That once grand building that was so loved by many, sits alone and sad in the middle of no where. A missed opportunity to shape the lives of more generations, in a way that would stay with them forever.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I spent a semester there doing the 308 observation course for my teaching degree, in 1994 if I’m not mistaken, so I must have known you, Cathy. I’ve always been glad that I did it there. Great school, great teacher, well mannered kids. I still don’t know how the teacher managed that many grade levels at one time though. lol Those awesome homemade lunches were the best! I remember the teacher would having to chase the cattle off of the playground before recess and kick the swamp cooler when it stopped working. Great memories to take with me!

      Liked by 2 people

      • i too would like to get a hold of the owners. i fell in love with this wonderful school back in 2007 and was wondering if permission could be granted to photograph the inside of the building. to see the old blackboards, walk the same floors as those from the past would be a joy. i made a few images from the outside that fall. but old schools hold such energies of those children who were there in the “olden days”. it would be quite a project to capture.

        i am putting some pics from my hackberry trip on instagram. laraphotographer0 (that’s a zero) 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I was also one of the 4 Remaining 8th graders that graduated from here! I remember my Kindergarten teacher quite well! She spanked me with the biggest paddle!, Mr Henry! Haha! I’m am so greatfull I was given the opportunity to make my most valued childhood memories here! I still remember the day of the closure of the school and the mass off people that came with hopes that we could change these individuals minds . I stood there trembling as I recalled past memories that I had made and that school and how disappointed I was That other children will not experience the one on one schooling that I got! Not only from the teachers but older class mates as well! Also I remember a day one of our Teacher Wrangled a rattle snake under the flag pole! But my most positive and exciting memory was Walking outside and down the flight of stairs and putting up the American flag and watching it fly, Underneath the desert sky with this beautiful bell ringing to come in to start class And filing into the classroom where I would stand at my desk every morning and recite the Pledge of Allegiance!


  6. I attended school from fall of 1953 until until spring of 1960. My parent owned Northside Grocery which in now called Hackberry General Store. My parent, Vernon and Edna Warren and Charles (Chug) Grigg and his wife Blance Grigg were school board members.
    My brothers, sister and I went to school with the Grigg children.
    I could not of picked a more favorable spot to grow up.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The teachers that I remember were John Frerichs, Mrs. McDonald, Mrs. Berg. I recall Francis Hunt teaching there after I started riding the bus to Kingman, starting in the 6th grade.
    I don’t remember ever being more than 20 students.
    I wish I could remember more but that was along time ago!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My mother and father owned the Hackberry store for several years in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Myself and my siblings went to school their during this time. I graduated from the eighth grade there in 1970. My father went into road construction and my parents sold the store shortly after I graduated from eighth grade.

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  9. I was one of the Last 4 8th graders to graduate from Hackberry! My most fond memories are well played in my mind! I received my first spanking in Kindergarten from Mrs. Henry! I was a hell raiser! The one on one classroom time that I receive not only from the teacher but also from other older students blossomed my education! It was almost like a walk back in time! The thought of this school closing down broke my heart! I will never forget he excitement of ringing the bell with the old tattered rope! Placing the flag up in the Morning and taking it down in the afternoon! So proud to be a part of a beautiful environment! Field trips on the train to the Grand Canyon! Riding horses to school! Thankyou for such a beautiful article brought back so many wonderful memories

    Liked by 1 person

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