Terlingua School

The Last One-Room Schoolhouse In Texas

1973 to 1978

Terlinugua Teacher, Trent Jones

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"The remarkable lessons taught and learned in a one room school house."
Terlingua School 1973, Last one room school house in Texas.
Terlingua School 1973

Sometimes history is made when you are the first at something.

Sometimes history is made when you are the last at something.

Here, history was made because this was the last one room school house in Texas.

And I was a part of that history because I was the last one room school teacher in Texas.

When I first signed the contract, at age 25 to take the teaching job in Terlingua I had no idea what adventures and challenges lay before me. When I made the application to the common school district for the job I had not seen the facilities and conditions I would be teaching in. All I knew is that I loved the Big Bend Country and wanted the opportunity to live there. I did not know that the 3 person school board and county judge superintendent were dissatisfied with their current teachers and were desperately looking for a new younger teacher that would bring some life back to the school.

Once Olga and I learned that the job was mine we needed to find a place to live. Of course the Ghost Town and community of Terlingua had no homes for rent and it was our sole job to find living accommodations. Out of desperation we took all of our savings and purchased a small, used one bedroom mobile home for $3000 and contracted to have it hauled some 300 miles from San Antonio to Terlingua.

We had purchased a small plot of land near the Terlingua ghost town that we would park the trailer on. The lot had no water, electricity or road access. Hearing that we had no road access to our property the county commissioner took pity on us and, using county road equipment, carved in a road and parking pad for the mobile home to sit on.

Electricity was our next big challenge. Usually such a process took months, but with a few words from some of the local “good old boys” we got the job done in record time.

For water we had plans for hauling it, in the back of our pickup truck in a rusty old 55 gallon barrel. The process would be simple. I would take the barrel to school with me in the morning, fill it up, and then bring it back home each evening. I would then pump the water into another tank that was on the roof. The water then would flow into the house by gravity.

When the driver who pulled our mobile home arrived at our new desert plot of land he asked us if we were absolutely sure we wanted him to leave the trailer in this desolate spot. “Mister, it ain’t none of my business, really, but his country looks like pure hell to me. Dammit, the fact of the matter is, I hate to leave you folks here. You give me the word and I’ll turn this rig around and haul that trailer back to San Antonio and not charge you an extra dime.”

We of course turned down his most generous offer. We were here to stay.

My first visit to the school house was a shock. It was basically a wooden shack with bad electrical systems, a leaking roof, old wooden windows that allowed the wind to blow through and dirty outdoor toilets that were in need of repairs. Water was piped in, gravity fed from a spring one mile away in old black plastic pipe that was simply laid out on top of the ground. The water pipes, I learned later were a continuous problem breaking on a regular basis leaving us many days without water.

The school house sat on Fulcher property. The Fulchers were an old ranching family that owned thousands of acres. Mr. Walter Fulcher had donated the use of the land and built the school house from the remains of old mining buildings.

When I drove up to the school house for the first time I was taken aback by how quiet it was and how lonely the little building looked sitting out in the open, barren, desert field all by itself. I knew in that moment that something outside of myself had brought me here to this little school. The building was unlocked; no keys were ever needed to get into the school. The inside was full of old dilapidated furniture and worn looking books and supplies. Cob webs hung from the corners of the room and it appeared that a good cleaning would be the first order of business. There seemed to be a spirit here that welcomed me. It was like a quiet whisper in the air, “I have been waiting for you, welcome.” I noticed, under the flag pole, a bronze plaque with the name of “Walter Fulcher” the late rancher that had donated the building and the use of the land for the school. Alone, I went over to the plaque and sat down rubbing my hand over the words and dates displayed there. “I do not know who you were,” I said to the plaque “but here I am and I am really scared. If you are watching please help me out.”

Somehow, I knew in that moment that the universe had conspired to bring me here for a reason. That reason would later be revealed to me in our battles to save the school from being consolidated into the Alpine school system. In that moment I did not know it, but eventually I would learn, that it was no accident that I was here in this very time and place to save this little school from extinction.

I would soon discover that, with all of its imperfections, this basic, run down building was actually perfect. It was not the traditional, concrete, sterile box that most Texas schools were. It was one of a kind. The last one room school house in Texas. Its simplicity, being old and open to the desert around us, would continually enhance the learning process. Here, my students and I were part of the wild, wide open spaces and as close to this sacred land as we could get. Along with reading, writing and arithmetic mother nature would nourish learning in many other ways.

And so began what would be some of the most exciting, difficult, challenging and rewarding adventures of my life.

What I learned from my Terlingua experience would serve me well and bring me much success and happiness in my life and in others.

Last one room school house in Texas, Terlingua School
That little white, dettached building was the his and her bathrooms. They were continually out of order. So the students had a his and her hill to wonder off too when nature called. The trailer behind the pick up truck was what I used to haul water to my house. I would put a hose into the tank upon arriving at school in the morning and, because of low water pressure it would take 5 to 6 hours to fill the tank. I would then attach it to my truck and haul the water home.
Trent Jones, Terlingua Teacher, Terlingua School 1973
As the story goes the school building was once part of the mining community of Terlingua. It was moved to this location.

In 1928 Walter Fulcher was elected trustee of Terlingua School District , in which position he served for 25 years.  During this time he was in charge of hiring the teachers and maintaining the school house.   

Terlingua School Students 1973
Terlingua School Class of 1973. Last one room school house in Texas.
Old Terlingua School House 1973

1973

In 1973 a gallon of gas cost around .42 and gallon of milk $1.30.  The average price of a car at this time was around $3600 and the average annual salary was $7500.00.  My starting salary for 1973 was $6300.00.

Nixon was President in 1973 and the Vietnam war had just come to an end. Nixon, on national TV, accepts responsibility, but not blame, for Watergate; accepts resignations of H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman, fires John W. Dean III as counsel (April 30).Spiro T. Agnew resigns as Vice President and then pleads no contest to charges of evasion of income taxes while Governor of Maryland (Oct. 10).In the "Saturday Night Massacre," Nixon fires special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus; Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson resigns (Oct. 20).  

The closest food market was 90 miles away in Alpine.  Usually we made a trip to town once a month to buy groceries and supplies. 

Computers, the internet and cell phones were not even a part of our vocabulary. 

When we arrived in Terlingua there was no TV or Radio reception.  For news we would get a copy of an old news paper that someone had left at the gas station, local cafe or post office. We had a telephone at the school but it was a 10 party line. So there were many times you had to wait your turn to make a phone call.  And, when using the phone you never knew who might be listening on another shared line.  Whenever the wind blew hard or we had a huge rain storm we would loose our telephone and electrical services for days on end. 


Do you remember this school house? Were you a student here? If so send us your comments/stories and we will post them below. Send to lifeisverygood@live.com
One Room, Terlingua School House 1973
"Not much to look at on the outside, but inside learning was happening..."
Inside Terlingua School 1973
Inside Terlingua School 1973 to 1975
1973 Terlingua School, last one room school house in Texas

Walter Fulcher Plaque 1951 Terlingua School
With the help of Google I was able to find this historical picture of the dedication of the Walter Fulcher plaque at the Terlingua School in 1951. To the bottom right 1973 morning flag raising at Terlingua School with teacher Trent Jones and students. To this day this plaque is still at the Terlingua School in front of the flag pole.

In 1928 Walter Fulters was elected to the school board for the Terlingua School District. He served as a board member / trustee for 25 years. The school district went through may challedging times during his 25 years of service to the community and school. It was through his efforts that the one room school house, that I began teaching at in 1973 was survived.

The little giril in the picture, Emery Fulcher, niece of Walter Fulcher is seen here in 1951 unveiling plaque dedicated to the memory of Arl Walter Fulcher, by Terlingua school children at Terlingua, Texas. Also pictured are (L-R) Jack McNamara, Pat Kenzie, Jr., David Kokernot, Bruce Sutton, Rev. Austin Holingsworth, and Supt. Peyton Cain.


Drawing of Terlingua School 1974