Friday, June 23, 2017

History pertaining to the small Colorado School long forgotten.

History about the Colorado School in Austin, Texas has been long forgotten as the Colorado School is one of the many forgotten educational institutions of Austin that have faded away with time. Only longtime Austinites from generations ago may remember the Colorado School located in rural Travis County. Colorado School is one of the many schools in Austin/Travis County that did not receive a Texas Historic Landmark plaque or was revitalized to house school district offices. Colorado School is also historically significant and important because the Colorado School was listed as a defendant in the 1948 court case of Delgado v. Bastrop ISD regarding racial segregation in public schools. That court case declared segregation illegal in Texas public schools.


The Colorado School was one of Del Valle's earliest schools as it was the oldest school in the Del Valle ISD school district at one point in time dating back to 1874. Colorado School was the first school operated by Del Valle ISD. Years of operation for Colorado School ran from 1876 to 1948. The Colorado School itself was located at the present day intersections of US 183 & SH 71 near Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA).

The Colorado Common School District in Austin was established in 1874. A school house was needed. Land where Colorado School was located on land owned by the Martin Family and Andrew M. Davidson. Enoch Martin, Sarah Elizabeth Martin, and Andrew M. Davidson deeded land to S.G. Sneed, Travis County, and the Colorado Common School District for a school house to be built on in the year of 1874 along with land for a city cemetery which would later become the Greenwood Cemetery. 5.6 acres of land were deeded to Colorado Common School District in the same year by F.A. Maxwell and Andrew M. Davidson. Colorado School was located on the Davidson tract named after Andrew M. Davidson.

Martin Family Cemetery had preceded the small school by a couple of years as their cemetery was plotted in 1874. The Colorado School was to be located north of the Martin Family Cemetery as a part of a land agreement with Travis County and City of Austin. Cemeteries called Martin Family Cemetery and Greenwood Cemetery were plotted south of the Colorado School.

A cistern was built in 1875 predating the school but not the cemetery. Water was gathered from a cistern from the years of 1875 to 1895 until the cistern got old and needed replacement. The 1875 cistern was built fairly well under a sturdy foundation.

Building a log cabin school was no easy task. It took a few months for the school to open after construction was completed. The log cabin was built and completed in 1876. Local citizens and several businesses donated wood for a log cabin school to be built. Colorado School was built in to serve as a public school which was operated under Colorado Common School District now known as Del Valle Independent School District bka Del Valle ISD. The Colorado School along with the Colorado Common School District itself were named after the Colorado River.

Colorado School was built as a single story log cabin in 1876. The log cabin School was located near Colorado River adjacent to a large group of live oak trees and a clear spring. The school itself was 12 feet tall at maximum height as the school was only 1 story tall. The school was a one room school. Originally grades 1 through 8 were educated there. Later on, grades 1 through 12 were taught at this school.

Average daily attendance was 26 to 30 students for the Colorado School. Some days 30 students attended school at best. Attendance was never very high due to the agricultural lifestyle. Students had to tend to family farms during harvesting season. Students had to pick cotton and work in the fields.

Students had to use outhouses located not too far away from the school as the Colorado School did not receive indoor plumbing until near mid-20th century. 2 separate outhouses were located outside the Colorado School. The wait to use these facilities was long and time consuming. Some students and teachers simply used the forest that surrounded the area.

Of course racial segregation was implemented by law in Texas and southern United States, so schools were separated by race. Separate schools were built for white, black, and Hispanic students. Black students attended separate schools from white students. White students attended separate schools from black students. That is the reason why the "Colorado White School", "Colorado Mexican School", and "Colorado Negro School" existed. The Colorado Mexican School was built adjacent to the Colorado White School.

Despite being racially segregated, black and white students shared the one room School with Hispanic students. Black students were taught alongside with white students here at this school. Some of the other schools were like this. Hispanic students had either attended the negro schools or white schools. Usually Hispanic students attended both the negro schools or white schools.


A new cistern was built to replace the old cistern in 1895. The school district decided to eventually to drill a new water well in 1895. The well had to be drilled away from the cemeteries for sanitary purposes. So this led to a controversy to where the school district would locate the new water well. Another new water well and a cistern were installed in 1905.

The Colorado Mexican School was built next to the Colorado White School in 1906 which eventually became combined into one school. Black student had sometimes attended the Colorado Mexican School. Roof replacement was installed in the same year.

1921 was the year the log cabin school was demolished. This time the Colorado School was built on top of a concrete cement slab foundation that was built over an old graveyard. A single story brick building at a height of 12 feet was constructed in to replace the log cabin school to accommodate growth in enrollment as the log cabin school became overcrowded due to lack of space in classrooms. A sign with the words "Colorado School" had been placed on top of the school painted in a blackish brown color.

Schools known to local citizens as Colorado Mexican School and Colorado Negro School were constructed in 1934 adjacent to the Colorado White School although the original Colorado Mexican School had been built next to the Colorado White School for some time earlier. Prior to the Colorado Mexican School operating, Hispanic students attended the Colorado White School before a separate school for Hispanics became available. Hispanic students were not required to attend school. Hispanic students had either attended the negro schools or white schools. The Colorado Negro School was added as an additional building to accompany black students.

An additional room was added to the Colorado School in 1935. A number of additional rooms were later added to be expanded. Average daily attendance was 26 to 30 students on daily basis during the 1930s. But the attendance rate still remained low as it historically was and has been.


By the 1940s, the Colorado School receive indoor plumbing with 2 separate toilets inside the brick building. Water pipes were upgraded and fixed.

By the late 1940s, both the Colorado Mexican School, Colorado Negro School, and Colorado White School had experienced extreme overcrowding. Extreme overcrowding was common for schools in the Colorado Common School District such as the Elroy School, the Garfield School, Lamar School, Cloud School, and Popham School unfortunately. The Colorado School had a daily attendance rate of 100 students in 1944. 100 students was the average on a daily basis. A huge increase from the 1930s attendance rate. The rate remained the same even in 1945.

Colorado Common School District was 1 of 4 school districts listed as a defendant in the 1948 court case of Delgado v. Bastrop ISD. Colorado School was listed as a prime example of racial segregation in the lawsuit against the state of Texas. LULAC brought suit against several school districts for denying Hispanic students the use of school facilities and educational services. The suit claimed Hispanic students were separated and segregated from white students even though under state law they were considered "White" or "Caucasian". Although US Court found both the Colorado School and Colorado Common School District to be operating within the terms of the decree, overcrowding of the school witnessed would contradict the provision for “equal school instruction.”

By the late end of 1948, the school was closed due to overcrowding conditions. Travis County Schools Superintendent Irving W. Popham described conditions at Colorado School as “the worst Travis County has ever known.” Travis County Schools, Austin Independent School District (then Austin Public Schools which is now known as Austin ISD) and Colorado Common School District deemed the Colorado School unfit and inadequate for a learning environment due to overcrowding from a lack of space and growth in enrollment. Overcrowding was extreme. Travis County government officials determined the Colorado School deemed to be unfit and antiquated.

From 1948 to 1950, the Colorado School was used as a community center and church. As part of the land agreement with Travis County and City of Austin, the school was to be zoned as a church and community if in the event the school were to close down due to overcrowding, structural error, or declining enrollment. Colorado School held religious services during operation as a church.

When the Colorado School was closed, elementary students attended the Popham School while the junior high students attended Del Valle Junior High School. The high school students had  attended Del Valle Senior High School which was later Del Valle Junior-Senior High School which had eventually became Del Valle High School. Other students were sent to Austin ISD schools to relieve overcrowding.


In 1950, the old Colorado School was all but abandoned by the school district as students were being shipped to other schools as part the consolidation into Del Valle ISD on part of Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Colorado Common School District. Grass was kept untrimmed. Windows and window panels were boarded with thin plywood. Vegetation sprawled over Colorado School.

The Colorado Common School District along with Travis County Schools & TEA was consolidating school districts & schools in Southeastern Travis County in the 1950s in an effort to collect more on property taxes, declining enrollment, and lack of funding. Schools and school districts that were consolidated into Colorado Common School District were Elroy, Creedmoor, Pilot Knob, Dry Creek, Hornsby-Dunlap, Maha, and Garfield.

1950 is also when the Del Valle schools became slowly integrated. Some schools were no longer separated by race or ethnicity. Integration was slow to come to liberal Austin and Del Valle, but it came easy as the racial integration process went smooth with no trouble.


1952 is the year when the city of Austin began annexing portions of the Colorado Common School District in both Austin and Del Valle. The Colorado School was within the city limits causing confusion with Austin ISD and Del Valle ISD school district boundaries. Because the Colorado School was within The Austin city limits, the school district had to find a new location for its own schools. Although the Colorado School had an Austin address, it served students from the communities of Del Valle, Austin, Montopolis, Bergstrom Village, Glenbrook, Valle Del Rio, Colton, and Timber Creek.

Enrollment stood at 600 students in 1952 for the Colorado Common School District. That created a demand for new schools in Del Valle. The new renovated Popham School was open by then. Del Valle High School and Del Valle Junior High were underway.


In 1958, grass vegetation took over the driveways as the school was totally abandoned. The buildings were still standing by then. 1958 is also the year when the Del Valle schools became integrated. Schools were no longer separated by race or ethnicity. Integration was a smooth process for the large Del Valle school district with no hassle or race riots.

In 1958, Austin Public Schools (Austin Independent School District bka Austin ISD) sold the land to United States Government as the school was located dangerously close in a flight path being so close to Bergstrom Air Force Base. Davidson tract was located outside the former Bergstrom Air Force Base. The Colorado Common School District was renamed the Del Valle Independent School District in 1964.


In 1964, the Colorado School was demolished after years of being abandoned. All that remained in 1965 was a gravel pit located on site of the former Colorado School. That gravel pits sat out there for years before becoming overgrown by vegetation. Outbuildings sat in their positions. All outbuildings have been demolished. A portion of an outbuilding for the Colorado School was added to the Del Valle ISD district offices on Shapard Lane in Del Valle, Texas in 1967 which remains there today. To this day, the school district boundaries for Austin ISD and Del Valle ISD remain chaotic.


Colorado School is one of the many forgotten schools and institutions of Austin & Del Valle that have faded away with time and from people's memories unfortunately. Schools such as this one should be preserved as a museum, converted to a dance studio, bank, or revitalized into government offices. This can be listed as an example of priorities placed in the wrong place. Historic preservation should be a secondary priority for a school district.

Something needs to be done to commemorate the Colorado School as a part the 1948 Federal Court ruling on Delgado v. Bastrop ISD. People don't recognize how LULAC fought for equal school instruction and facilities. Efforts of LULAC also need to brought to attention.


*Colorado Common School District was known to Travis County Schools officials and civilians as Colorado Common School District No. 36 or as School District No. 36.
*The Colorado School was simply just called "Colorado School" at one point in history.
*Colorado School had an Austin address despite being zoned to Del Valle ISD.
*Colorado School was adjacent to 2 other schools before the schools became molded into one school called "Colorado School" due mainly to racial integration following 1948. Thus Colorado Mexican School and Colorado Negro School were eventually combined into the Colorado White School.
*Old Del Valle Road was also known as Old Austin-Del Valle Road, Austin-Del Valle Road, and Del Valle Road.
*The Martin Family Cemetery preceded the Colorado School.
*Popham School bka Popham Elementary School was built in 1948 to relieve overcrowding from other schools located in the Colorado Common School District. From 1952 to 1953, Popham School went under construction during an extensive renovation period. In 1953 the school was finally open to the public again.



As for the Martin Family Cemetery, the Martin Family Cemetery was plotted and constructed in 1874 by Enoch Martin and Andrew M. Davidson when they deeded land to Travis County for a school to be built on and a city cemetery. Many family members from the Martin Family were buried there. Last recorded burial in the Martin Family Cemetery was Walter Martin in 1909.

The Martin Family Cemetery is now behind a secure fence located southeast of the US 183 & SH 71 intersection near the northwest corner of Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA). Martin Family Cemetery is located 140 feet north of Greenwood Cemetery also. Permission must be obtained to view the Martin Family Cemetery due to Homeland Security restrictions. Homeland Security restrictions require visitors to be escorted by ABIA staff to the site.


Enoch Martin, Andrew M. Davidson, and F.A. Maxwell deeded land to Travis County and City of Austin for another cemetery that was to become a city cemetery in 1907. Other acres were purchased in 1910. This cemetery would eventually become Greenwood Cemetery. Austin-Del Valle Road served as the northeast boundary between separating the Martin Family Cemetery from the Greenwood Cemetery. Martin Family members are also buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Greenwood Cemetery operates as a public cemetery owned by the City of Austin to this day. ABIA staff and Homeland Security staff patrol both cemeteries on a daily basis. Greenwood Cemetery is located directly south of the Martin Family Cemetery adjacent near ABIA. Both Greenwood Cemetery and Martin Family Cemetery are located at 1927 Old Lockhart Road, Austin, Texas, US 78742.

*Martin Family Cemetery is located near Old Del Valle Road.
*Also Martin Family Cemetery is located less than 1 acre north of Greenwood Cemetery.

No comments:

Post a Comment