The Lake School

The Lake School – Circa 1900

Acting on a petition on August 9, 1866, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors created a new school district to serve the area just north of today’s Lemoore. This was a time when the area between the north side of Tulare Lake and south Kings River was just beginning to be populated. The areas residents were just to far from the nearest school north side of the Kings River above Kingston. The Kingston School district had been created a few years earlier in 1860, by upon a motion of Supervisor Justin Esrey . The first Trustees of this new school district were Justin Esrey and T. B. Thire . The school was built on on Justin Esrey’s own property and in the 1892 Official Historical Atlas Map of Tulare County land is shown as belonging to Justin’s brother-in-law Nicholas Winsett.

The recording of the meeting by the clerk of the court stated:
A petition having been presented, signed by eleven heads of families at Kingston, praying for the setting apart of a new school district, to be cut off from the Kingston School District, and said petition having been endorsed by S. H. Hill, Superintendent of common schools; after being duly considered by Board, on motion of Supervisor Hill carried unanimously, it was ordered that said petition be granted, and that the said new School District be know as the “Lake School District”, and be bounded as follows: Commencing at the boundary line between the counties of Fresno and Tulare, thence running immediately North of the residence of John Sutherland, in a straight line, striking Kings River at or near the residence of Wm. D. Mann and that the territory lying south of said line shall constitute said Lake School District.

The Lake school reportedly started in an old adobe house, a bit north west of it’s final location. Although this has never been proven. It is possible that the school was a school/house of a settler’s cabin. The total enrollment for the first class was seven students taught by Miss N. Ellis.

The Lake school first students might well have been the Rhoads children, Mary, John, and Elvira. Three Rhoads nephews were living with the Rhoads at this time. This may be why the locals referred to the school as the “Rhoads School.” The desks of the school were made by splitting willow logs in half, using the flat side of the log for the desk, and inserting pegs in bored out holes on the underside for legs.

In 1871, a one room wooden building was erected, a bit to the west of the schools final location, which became the new location of the school. Although the number of pupils increased only one teacher, a Miss Sarah Foster was employed. The interior of this building was slightly better than the adobe; the desks were made of one by twelve inch rough boards planed smooth on the top side. This crude furniture was used for several years. A library was also established in this new building that consisted only of volumes for references to the subjects taught, which were reading, writing, arithmetic, and spelling.

In 1877 a new one room wooden building was erected east of the existing school building that was built in 1871, and the school was moved. More subjects were taught and the library was enlarged. With the increase in the enrollment new desks and other necessities were purchased.

The year 1894 brought an addition to the east side of the 1871 building. An additional teacher, Miss Jennie Espey was hired for the primary grades and Mr. Fred Moore taught the advanced grades.

Lake School District, with the realignment of county boundaries in 1908, was is Kings County for the first time. The district was consolidated with the Lemoore Elementary school district in 1920. The buildings were reportedly burned down by prohibitionists because they were being used for the manufacture of products [liquor] in violation of the Volstead act.1

The Lake School was a much-used center for many community activities as there was no town nearby. In the early 1870s the Methodist Episcopal Church South used the school for the first church services in the area. Adventists used the school at least until 1883. Both denominations used the school until their first buildings were finally built after Lemoore was founded. In 1873 the school was the ‘principal place of business’ for the newly formed Lower Kings River Ditch Company.

  1. In January 1919, the 18th amendment achieved the necessary two-thirds majority of state ratification, and prohibition became the law of the land. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto 9 months later. The Volstead Act provided for the enforcement of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Prohibition Amendment. []