Friday, July 15, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For The Daniels School Open House Celebration!!!


Great News!

Phase 2 of the restoration is underway!

Our sincerest thanks to the SONOMA COUNTY LANDMARKS COMMISSION for a 2nd grant of $15,100, and to all the individuals and businesses for their donations to the  project.

 Presently donating labor with a deadline!:

Dan Harbin- (Midstate Construction)
Mark  Rogers  -Mark  A Rogers Construction
Richard Colombini - Colombini Construction

Saturday September 17, 2016
1:30pm - 4:00pm

 Meet former student -Stewart Wade of Hawaii- age 101


Call Bonnie (707)-433-3301
Visit our blog:
Donations: Venado Historical Society - 8000 Mill Creek Road,  Healdsburg, CA  95448

If you WILL OR MAY BE attending the Open House


1:30pm - 4:30pm


Restoration celebration nears for one-room school near Healdsburg!

Stewart Wade, who will turn 102 in a few months, was born before commercial airline travel existed, but in September he’ll board a jet for a trip back into his past.

Wade plans to fly from his home in Hawaii to Sonoma County to mark the planned completion of a restoration effort for a one-room schoolhouse in the hills west of Healdsburg that he attended in the 1920s.

“It’s a big thing for me to think my school is still there,” Wade said last week by telephone from Kailua, Oahu.

The 133-year-old Daniels School on Mill Creek Road has slowly been restored over the past 15 years with the help of volunteers and donations, although there is still plenty of work to be done prior to the Sept. 17 dedication.

But the end is in sight.

“At last we can see the end to this restoration project and we are really looking forward to a big celebration and this open house to honor former students and people who were so generous with donations and their time,” said Bonnie Cussins Pitkin, 72, an alumna who spearheaded the restoration.

One-room schoolhouses once were common in rural areas across the country, including Sonoma County, where a survey a century ago counted 120 of them. Today only a handful survive.
At Daniels School, which was built in 1883, one teacher taught academic basics to boys and girls in grades one through eight, the typical arrangement.

Children came from miles around on foot or horseback, from surrounding countryside that was successively logged for giant redwoods and mined for magnesite before a tanbark industry took hold, along with vineyards, and prune and apple orchards.

Former students remember the pot belly stove they used for warmth on rainy days and the water bucket filled from a nearby stream they all shared because there was no running water.
They staged plays in a meadow, and their playground was in the road, because there were so few vehicles.

Wade, a sharp-minded centenarian who still works part time as a real estate agent and swims three times a week in the ocean, recalls how he and other boys trapped raccoons near the school and sold them for $3 per pelt.

Sometimes they caught skunks and “the school stunk from that,” he said. “Kids would take guns to school,” part of a hunting culture when it wasn’t out of the ordinary to carry a .22 rifle in the woods. Wade went through all eight grades, from 1921 to 1929, and later graduated from Healdsburg High in 1933.

He credits his longevity to “exercise and attitude.”

“He doesn’t let anything bother him. He’s not a Type A person,” said his wife, Ceci, who also will attend the rededication of the school.

Pitkin attended Daniels School as a first-grader just before it closed in 1951.
She wants local schoolchildren to take field trips to Daniels School and learn what it was like to attend there, with refurbished desks, a piano, even the school’s 45-star American flag which has been housed at the Healdsburg Museum.

Pikin’s family owned the school until donating the 16-by-26-foot building and a half-acre around it to the Venado Historical Society, which draws its name from the surrounding community established in the early 1900s.

In the late 1990s, efforts were launched to rehabilitate the old schoolhouse.
The foundation, porch and awning were rebuilt, but things stalled when one of the main organizers, the late Flora May Cootes-Caletti, began to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Last year, restoration efforts regained momentum with a $14,500 grant from the Sonoma County Landmarks Commission, coupled with donations and volunteer work.

A new roof and windows were installed. Now cedar siding donated by Healdsburg Lumber Co. is being put up.

Mark Rogers, a Santa Rosa contractor who is donating his time on the project, said he can use help. Skilled or semi-skilled help would be great, but he is willing to train anyone who wants to assist.
“If they can hold the end of a board or tape measure, or they have skills with painting — any level of knowledge — if they want to learn, come out and do that,” he said.

He said the building still needs to be weather-proofed, along with electrical work, insulation and dry wall.

Regardless of whether all the work gets completed by then, Pitkin vowed the Sept. 17 celebration will go on.

“We will have the opening, whether it’s finished or not,” she said.

More information on how to volunteer or donate to the project is available at

Link to original article in the Press Democrat:


Monday, July 13, 2015

Restoration effort resumed for 132-year-old Daniels School in Venado!!!

June 29, 2015, 2:27PM
It’s been 78 years since Florence Nylander Bates attended a one-room schoolhouse in the hills west of Healdsburg, but the memories are still vivid — the white dresses the girls wore on graduation day, the play they staged in a meadow, the potbelly stove they warmed themselves with on rainy days, and the 12-mile, daily round-trip journey she made on her horse to get to school.

Bates, 90, sat outside the 132-year-old Daniels School on Mill Creek Road last week recalling those halcyon days.

“It was almost idyllic. You felt protected and everybody was nice to you,” said Bates, who graduated from the school’s eighth-grade class in 1938.

Florence Bates attended R.A. Daniels School off Mill Creek Road near Venado, west of Healdsburg, in 1938.  The school had been in disrepair for years, but in the past few years, restoration has begin to preserve the old school,
Monday June 22, 2015. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2015

She is part of a handful of alumni working to restore the schoolhouse, an effort that has regained momentum thanks to a $14,500 grant from the Sonoma County Landmarks Commission, coupled with donations and volunteer work.

A new roof and windows were installed this spring on the schoolhouse, which was built from old-growth redwood but exposed to the elements following its closure in 1951. Next comes siding and interior work, including a renewed electricity supply, something the old structure only had after World War II, when its kerosene lanterns were replaced.

“I’m making real progress,” said Bonnie Cussins Pitkin, 71, who is spearheading the $40,000 restoration effort for the cherished school, which she attended one year prior to its closure, when she was in first grade.

New Windows at the R.A. Daniels School off Mill Creek Road west of Healdsburg frames school alumnus Bonnie Pitkin, Monday June 22, 2015. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2015

Pitkin’s vision is to provide an opportunity for local schoolchildren to take field trips to Daniels School and learn what it was like to go to a one-room school, which were common in rural areas across the country. At Daniels School, one teacher taught academic basics to boys and girls in grades one through eight, the typical arrangement.

In 1916, there were 120 one-room schoolhouses in Sonoma County — including Daniels School — according to a thesis written then by Stanford University student Tillman Elliott Baker, who proposed reorganizing the school system.

Today, only a handful of the one-room schoolhouses survive.

Daniels School sits on a slope up winding, redwood-lined Mill Creek Road, seven miles from the intersection with Westside Road and a little more than eight miles from Healdsburg.

Pitkin’s family owned it until they donated the 16-by-26-foot building and a half-acre around it to the Venado Historical Society, which draws its name from the surrounding community established in the early 1900s.

These days, about the only time Venado gets mentioned is when a meteorologist calls out the impressive rainfall totals it can reap in winter storms. Located in a step of the steep hills on the edge of the Cazadero “rainforest,” one TV weatherman dubbed it “the rain capital of the Bay Area.”

Venado, Spanish for “deer,” was named by mining engineer Stillman Batchellor, the first postmaster in 1921. By then, earlier generations that came to log the giant redwoods and work a magnesite mine had departed.

The schoolhouse was built over eight days in the spring of 1883, following a bitter fight over where it should be located. The land was donated by Daniel Davis, a sea captain from Maine whose wide interests landed him in Sonoma County, according to Holly Hoods, curator for the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society, who wrote the grant proposal to help restore the school.

Daniels School Students From A Bygone Era

By 1903, the resident population dwindled and the school shut down for lack of pupils. But it reopened four years later and was rechristened in honor of Ray A. Daniels, a primary mover and shaker in re-establishing the school.

Fruit ranching and the tanbark industry brought new purpose, people and prosperity to upper Mill Creek, according to Hoods.

“The land that has been cleared has proved fine fruit land, and vineyards and prune orchards are taking the place of the redwood groves,” is how the Healdsburg Tribune described Venado in 1925.

One of those who attended the school at the time, from 1921 to 1929, was centenarian Stewart Wade, whose father was a contractor and road builder who helped complete Mill Creek Road.

“We had very good teachers; I thought they were quite dedicated,” Wade said of the female instructors who came for two-year stints and were put up in the homes of area families.

Wade, who will turn 101 in November and still works part time as a real estate agent, spoke by phone from his Honolulu home this week.

He remembers there was no running water at the school.

“We had to carry a bucket from the spring down the road,” he said, adding that all the children used the same dipper to drink from. If one caught a cold, he said, they would all get it.

The oldest boys in the school got the job of janitor and were paid a few dollars a month for sweeping the floors with redwood sawdust soaked in oil.

“The only playground we had was a road where we played most of the time,” he said. “It was very safe in those days. Cars didn’t travel very fast, and the wagons, we could hear them coming from a long way.”

One wagon in particular, Wade said, came from a Santa Rosa candy store, but it wasn’t there to satisfy the children’s sweet tooth. It was during the Prohibition era and the sugar hidden under a canvas in the back of the wagon went to a nearby still where it was used to make booze, he said.

Wade also recalled the “fruit tramps” who came to work the summer harvests. They hailed from the Midwest and typically had one big car with all their possessions and family inside. They were on a circuit that included the raisin harvest in Fresno, with a swing through Sonoma County before heading to Oregon for the pears and apples.

Usually, they had two or three kids with them, who would end up for a short time at Daniels School.
When Bates graduated in 1938, a decade after Wade, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, Babe Ruth was coaching the Brooklyn Dodgers, a gallon of gas was 10 cents, and the average price of a new car was $763.

But her family was poor and she was still riding to school on her horse named Lady, sometimes having to navigate the rain-swollen East Austin Creek with the help of her father and sometimes getting home after dark.

“My sister would ride double with me to the top of the ‘ladder,’” she said of the steep grade at the top of Mill Creek Road where her older sister would get off the horse and walk back home while Bates headed for the schoolhouse.

On the way to school, she said, “you would talk to yourself, which I still do,” and look out for bird nests to see if the eggs were hatching. “If I saw a rattlesnake, I killed it. That’s what you did in those days,” she said.

Bates relishes those bygone school days.

“I remember the teacher taking us to the creek and reading out loud to us. I loved that,” she said.
She also lifted her forearm to show the scar she has from when she fell onto a broken windshield near the school and needed stitches to close the cut.

There hasn’t been a lesson taught in the little schoolhouse since 1951, when unification brought five small schools (Felta, West Side, Mill Creek, Junction and Daniels) together in the Westside Union District.

Efforts began in the late 1990s to rehabilitate the old schoolhouse. The foundation, porch and awning were rebuilt, but renovations were delayed when the leader in the effort, Flora May Cootes-Caletti, became ill.

In 2010, a fundraising drive was renewed, with local contractors, including Mike Flower, donating time to the rebuilding, ZFA Associates doing the structural engineering and local businesses like Healdsburg Lumber Co. donating materials.

Contributions are still being solicited to complete the interior work. And Pitkin is still looking to hear from former Daniels School pupils.

Contributions can be made at, or sent to the Venado Historical Society, 8000 Mill Creek Road, Healdsburg 95448.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or On Twitter@clarkmas.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Daniels School In The Healdsburg Tribune!

Daniels School Restoration Proceeding In Rural Healdsburg

A work in progress...Bonnie Cussins-Pitkin, a former student at the Daniels School, is working to restore it and create a historical resource for the community.

The Daniels School, a one-room schoolhouse built in the 1800s, is receiving a thorough restoration by a dedicated group of former students and history buffs.

Bonnie Cussins-Pitkin is leading the current phase of the restoration, which was begun by her former third grade teacher, Flora May Caletti, a dozen years ago.

Cussins-Pitkin and other Daniels School supporters formed the Venado Historical Society and were able to set aside a half acre along Mill Creek Road as a historic district.

They are working with engineers and contractors to restore the school, and the old redwood siding is now shored up inside with new framing. New windows are coming soon.

The ultimate goal is to create a historical resource, so local students can learn about rural life a century ago. “We want students to come and visit and go see the wild flowers we used to pick and draw,” Cussins-Pitkin said.

She went on to explain that students will be able to learn about local trees, walk to the creek to see where rural students once got their drinking water, and find out about the Pomo Indians, who were in the area prior to European settlers.

Once restored, the schoolhouse will have a real slate chalkboard, an upright piano, wooden desks and photographs that illustrate local history.

Cussins-Pitkin attended Daniels School for first grade, and now lives up the hill from the old school, which was first built farther up Mill Creek Road in 1883.

It was originally called the Venado School, and was moved a few years after it was built.

“A man named Daniels sad they could move it to his property if they renamed the school after him,” Cussins-Pitkin said.

Leafing through a binder of old documents and photos, Cussins-Pitkin shows that the old wooden flagpole for the school is still there, and points out photos from “the day the goat came to school” and the shaved heads of the boys the year the students got headlice.

Holes in an outside wall show where pegs were installed for students to hang coast and hats.

Funding for the project is coming from a Sonoma County Landmarks Commission grant and local donations.

ZFA Structural Engineers and Mike Flowers of Oak Shadows Construction are donating time, and Healdsburg Lumber is providing building materials at or below cost. “We try to help nonprofits anytime we can,” said Eric Ziedrich, president of Healdsburg Lumber.

To support the Daniels School project and see photos of the restoration, visit

By: Ray Holley, Managing Editor
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Daniels School Update: May, 2015!!!

Dear Donors and Friends of the Daniels School Restoration Project,

Sitting on the porch of the Daniels School, I was waiting for delivery of windows.  I glanced around to see the pastel pink buds of the old rose bush on the corner of the porch.  Then I remembered the wedding we had in a play held in the Spring of l951.  Richard Tabor was the only other 1st grader and he was the groom.  The students threw rose petals at us as we walked down the steps and walkway..

I cherish that joyful memory of the past, but the jubilation I feel in the present is beyond compare.  At last work has commenced on the restoration of Daniels School again.

Many thanks to Mike Flowers owner, Oak Shadows Construction, who has volunteered his time.  The framing inside is complete, including the "sistering in" whenever possible to preserve the old redwood, and we can look up outside at the new shake roof with pride.

Sincerest thanks to Eric Dietrich of the Healdsburg Lumber Company for the generous reduction on lumber costs as well as the windows from Hudson Street Design.

The flagpole, restored to white again stands amongst a patch of  yellow Diogenes Lanterns.  These and the Redwood Orchid are among the many wildflowers we collected, identified and drew.  The teacher displayed the art work above the windows and I was amazed at the fine detail, color and likeness in every petal to those we had collected.  These memories in the school and down by the creek, where the teacher read to us, come back to me as I watch the restoration unfold.

Most of all, we wish to thank the Sonoma County Landmarks Commission for their grant funds, as well as the many dedicated and generous donors who have continued to support this project over the years.  We will be applying again to the Landmarks Commission for Phase 2 of the project, but will move forward to continue the project as monies and volunteer time allow.




Bonnie Cussins-Pitkin, President
Gloria Egger, Treasurer

Friday, September 19, 2014

2014 Project Update!!!

GREAT NEWS!!!  The Venado Historical Society was awarded a grant agreement from the Sonoma County Landmarks Commission in the amount of $14,500.00!!!

This will allow us to begin Phase 1 of the project which is to secure the building.  We will restore and rebuild, (as needed) the exterior including rafters, roof, windows, and some of the siding.

Special thanks go to several professionals who donated their time and expertise to fulfill the requirements for the grant proposal:

Dennis Fagent ~ Engineer
Obie Bowman ~ Architect
Holly Hoods ~ Historian
Pete Deidrich ~ Architect
& Healdsburg Lumber

The project will begin according to our contractor's schedule.  We greatly appreciate his offer to volunteer his labor for this historic restoration project.

If you are interested in donating time or funds to help with this worthy local project, please send your donations or correspondence to:

Venado Historical Society
8000 Mill Creek Road

Healdsburg, CA 95448

Bonnie Cussins-Pitkin, President & Gloria Egger, Treasurer

Monday, March 11, 2013

2013 Update!


TO:                  Donors and Friends of the Daniels School Restoration Project

FROM:            Gloria Egger, Secretary/Treasurer and Bonnie Pitkin, President
                        of the Venado Historical Society

Much has happened since our last update!
  • The decision was made to acquire a grant (s) in order to obtain the $30,000 to $40,000 needed to complete the restoration of the school.
  • Gloria attended a grant writing class at SRJC and began the lengthy process of applying for the Federal and State Exemption Status, which is a requirement of foundations or corporations who award grants.
  • An attorney was secured, who reduced his fee, after seeing all the paperwork and endless forms Gloria had completed.  All request forms have been filed with the U.S. Treasury and State and now we have a waiting period of up to six (6) months.
  • In the interim, Gloria will research foundations that may be interested in the project and then grant forms will be prepared.

 Don’t give up on us.
We will preserve and complete the restoration of the Daniels School.
We look forward to conducting field trips for students in the near future.

If you know of any foundations or corporations that may be interested in preserving this California Historic Landmark, please contact the:

Venado Historic Society
7751 A Mill Creek Road,
Healdsburg, Ca. 95448

 or contact Gloria Egger directly at 707-433-7732
 or by email at:
 or contact Bonnie Pitkin at 707-431-3301.

Thank you for your continued interest and support of this project !

Friday, May 6, 2011

Project Update!

707.433.7732 - OFFICE

DANIELS SCHOOL RESTORATION PROJECTThe 120 year old - one room school house on Mill Creek Road in Healdsburg
Project Update!
Progress Report: 
  1. In May 2010, we began the Daniels School Restoration Project by asking for donations to pay for the various Sonoma County conditional requirements and permits to place Daniels School into a minor subdivision and begin the restoration of the old school house.
  2. We were able to raise nearly $6,000 in generous donations from local residents, organizations, and businesses.  In addition, many professionals drastically reduce their fees to help us and 45 people attended our barbecue fundraiser at Mill Creek Winery.
  3. We were able to obtain a waiver of approximately $3,700 from the County Board of Supervisors, under the guidance of the previous supervisor, Paul Kelley.  We now have enough funds to finish the paperwork for Title Insurance requirements, Map Check fees, Architectural Design fees, Sonoma Landmark Commission fees, and Sonoma County Building Department fees.  However, the previous donations will be gone.
  4. So now we begin again to raise funds for materials for the restoration.  We need framing materials, such as 2x4's, 2x6's, 4x10's, 4x12's, etc., windows, doors, roofing materials, interior/exterior siding, interior ceiling, electrical wiring, a pot belly stove (circa 1889), school desks and bookcases, blackboards, as well as a teacher's desk and chair.
  5. In May 2011 we launched the NEW Daniels School Restoration Blog: - We will be utilizing this website to solicit much needed monetary donations from the general public.  We came to understand that many businesses and individuals have been asking for an online option to donate to our worthy cause, so we listened, and now that request has been realized.  Please visit the Blog today to make your donation, it takes less than 3 minutes!  We will also be using this website as a forum for communication...Sending updates of upcoming events, giving you updates on the work we do at Daniels School, and also a place we can recognize everyone that has helped us so far.
We have already scheduled a work day on Saturday, June 11, 2011 ~ 9am - ???

Now that Spring has sprung, the weather has warmed up and our thoughts have now turned to CLEANING!  The sunny weather fills us with optimism and enthusiasm.  There is much to do at our little schoolhouse, so please come out for a day full of productivity and community spirit!  We need to clean the grounds and remove the old lumber, brush, leaves and other debris around the schoolhouse and surrounding property.  We can also remove some of the old siding.  Please wear your work clothes and bring your rakes, pruning shears, hoes, loppers, chain saws, hammers, other yard tools, and of course your work gloves.  A delicious Hamburger Bar-B-Que lunch will be served to all workers and volunteers who show up to lend a helping hand.  Come work and have fun as we begin the long awaited preparation to rebuild our beloved Daniels Schoolhouse!

Finally, if you can supply any of the above materials, please contact, Gloria Egger at 707.433.7732 or Bonnie Cussins-Pitkin at 707.433.3301.  All financial donations may be sent to the address above, or simply log on to our blog at:  Your donation is, of course, tax-deductible!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Daniels School Kids With A Pet KID!

"The Day The Goat Came To School"
Daniels School children pose with the school mascot during recess break.
Pictured left to right: Elizabeth Gray, Mildred Stuart (front), Eleanor Harper (back), Stanley Stuart, Stewart Wade, Leland, Bob Wade (holding goat), & Georgie Lawler

Monday, May 2, 2011

Daniels School Work Day ~ Come One, Come All!

Daniels School Work Day
Saturday, June 11, 2011
9am - ???

Now that Spring has sprung, the weather has warmed up and our thoughts have now turned to CLEANING!  The sunny weather fills us with optimism and enthusiasm.  There is much to do at our little schoolhouse, so please come out for a day full of productivity and community spirit!

We need to clean the grounds and remove the old lumber, brush, leaves and other debris around the schoolhouse and surrounding property.  We can also remove some of the old siding.

Please wear your work clothes and bring your rakes, pruning shears, hoes, loppers, chain saws, hammers, other yard tools, and of course your work gloves.

A delicious Hamburger Bar-B-Que lunch will be served to all workers and volunteers who show up to lend a helping hand.  Come work and have fun as we begin the long awaited preparation to rebuild our beloved Daniels Schoolhouse!

Please R.S.V.P to Gloria 707.433.7732 or Bonnie 707.433.3301 By June 5, 2011 ~ THANK YOU!!!

Reviving Daniels Schoolhouse

Published: Wednesday, August, 2010


Tucked away underneath the redwoods, Daniels Schoolhouse stands empty and silent in the hills above Healdsburg. Cars occasionally pass by on Mill Creek Road, often driven by the children and grandchildren of the original settlers who first came to the logging community of Venado in the early part of the 20th century.

Gloria Egger and Bonnie Cussins-Pitkin remember a time when the one-room schoolhouse was not silent. A time when perhaps a dozen students—children of a handful of families living in the remote hills of Mill Creek—gathered to learn.

The two Mill Creek Road residents, along with neighbor Kimberly Flowers, have come together to raise money to restore the schoolhouse so future generations of children may visit and understand how the original settlers lived. They estimate they’ll need up to $50,000 for the project--$10,000 for county permits and up to $40,000 to rebuild and maintain the structure as a local landmark. They’re also looking for the schoolhouse’s original furniture and any items rescued by neighbors in the years after the school closed.

“It’s like a dream come true,” said Cussins-Pitkin. “I always came back here thinking, when will we bring this back?”

The school closed in 1951 when the number of students had declined to the point where it became necessary to send them down the road to Mill Creek School, another one-room schoolhouse. It’s sat nearly undisturbed for long decades.

Daniels, like most of the one-room schoolhouses in the Healdsburg area, was housed on private property. Unlike many of these buildings, the property owner spared Daniels.

Local historian Kay Robinson has researched one-room schoolhouses in recent years, documenting 15 in the Dry Creek watershed including Daniels School. “About a third of the ones I researched still exist,” she said. “The others, I’m pretty sure, have been destroyed. Burned, removed, taken down for lumber, I don’t know.”

The fate of these schoolhouses varies from district to district. Of the five in what is now the West Side Union School District, only one, Felta School, has been totally restored.

Junction School was converted into a residence after it closed in 1952. Mill Creek School was dismantled in the late 1950s.

Lafayette School was dismantled around 1970. Jerry Arrigoni, the owner of the Westside Road property where the schoolhouse once stood, said it was in bad shape when he bought the land in 1969.

“When I bought the place hippies were living in it,” he said. “They’d burned a hole in the floor and were tearing out the old redwood for firewood. It really wasn’t worth putting a lot of money fixing it up because of the fire they did.”

So Arrigoni, a former school administrator himself, sold it to a neighbor for $1 to build a barn.

While the area’s other four schoolhouses met various fates, Daniels School sat undisturbed. Property owner Stanley Stuart—Cussins-Pitkin’s uncle—lived in Concord and left the structure alone. Then in 1993 Cussins-Pitkin bought the property and inherited the schoolhouse.

“I was delighted,” she said. “I was hoping that one day it could be renovated.”

Her hopes were nearly met in 1998 when the Venado Historical Society formed to restore the schoolhouse and community post office. In 1999 contractors raised the schoolhouse building and put in a new foundation, cripple walls and a front entrance porch and stairs. The full restoration halted when Floramay Caletti — a former student at the school and teacher at Mill Creek School — fell ill.

Now, nearly a decade later, the new group of Mill Creek ladies have come together to continue Caletti’s work. “Floramay started it and practically had it finished,” said Cussins-Pitkin.

Egger and Cussins-Pitkin chattered back and forth on a recent weekday afternoon, recalling stories of their youth at the schoolhouse. Egger, a few years senior, attended the school for one year in the late 1940s when her father fell ill and she lived with her grandparents. Cussins-Pitkin, who also attended the school for only one year, attended the Daniels for the school’s final year in 1951.

“We’d build forts on the hillside above the school, and throw rotten fruit and vegetables at each other at recess,” said Egger, standing inside the long abandoned schoolhouse. “We wouldn’t hit each other. Those are the things I remember. The good, clean fun.”

The two spoke of Christmas recitals, of drawing water from the spring and ladling out of a bucket, and dunking for apples. “Our teacher went out wildflower picking with us,” remembers Cussins-Pitkin. “I knew the name of every flower, or every tree.”

The Venado Historical Society is now accepting donations for the project and ask donors to send a check to the Venado Historical Society, 7751 A Mill Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448. Those with questions can call Gloria Egger at 707.433.7732 or Bonnie Cussins-Pitkin at 707.433.3301.

It's Official, We Are A Historic Landmark!

County Of Sonoma
Daniels School
No. 186
This is to certify that the above historic site has been officially designated as a County Landmark by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on 09/18/2001.
Paul Kelley

Aging Healdsburg Schoolhouse Set For Restoration

Posted by Town Hub Staff on July 24th, 2010


A 120-year-old, one-room schoolhouse sits off winding Mill Creek Road west of Healdsburg, a remnant of the nearly forgotten community of Venado.

By this time next year, if local residents are successful in raising enough money, the decaying structure will be restored as an example of the schoolhouses that once dotted rural America.

“Daniels School” as it was known closed in 1951. But on Friday two women who attended it walked around the dusty inside and reminisced about those long-ago days.

“I remember all the paper and crayons. I was probably five or six. There was one other boy in the first grade with me,” said Bonnie Cussins-Pitkin, who attended for one year prior to the school closing due to falling enrollment.

Pitkin, 66, remembers that first day of school, when the teacher asked her to go to the blackboard and write the numbers from 1 to 10. She turned to the boy in her grade and asked him quietly, “Richard do you know?”

“I know some of them,” he replied.

“So the two of us worked together” to produce all the right numbers on the chalkboard, she said.

The memories came flooding back Friday: the potbelly stove, the placement of desks for the teacher and her eight or ten pupils, the two outhouses, the songs they sang, the games they played at recess.

Gloria Egger, 71, also attended the school for a year.

“We had people riding ponies to school,” said Egger, a semi-retired real estate agent, who like Pitkin still lives nearby.

Egger remembers rainy days when her grandfather would put her in galoshes and stick her on the back of his tractor to take her to and from school.

She has vague memories of the classroom itself. One female teacher taught first through eighth grades, all in the room measuring 284 square feet.

But Egger remembers playtime vividly.

The children brought rotting fruit and vegetables to toss at each other.
“We’d build forts and would throw rotten fruits in recess,” she said.

“We didn’t know we were girls, we just played with the boys,” she said.

The two women are spearheading a $40,000 fund-raising drive to rebuild the decaying historical landmark from floor to roof. Historical accounts and the two women say the school is named after R. A. Daniels, who agreed to move the school to its present location more than a century ago.

They need to obtain the necessary county permits and also subdivide the half-acre school site from a larger parcel, so it can be donated to the Venado Historical Society.

Venado is the Spanish word for deer or venison. The hamlet in the hills eight miles west of Healdsburg got its name from Stillman Batchellor, a mining engineer turned fruitgrower who settled in the area in the early 1900s after working in Cuba and Mexico.

Even before Batchellor established his El Venado Ranch, settlers were attracted to Mill Creek by the mining, logging and tanbark. March’s Mill, one of the earliest sawmills in the county, gave the creek its name in the 1850s, according to historian Gaye LeBaron.

Besides the school house, about the only tangible remnant of the community is the redwood-shake Venado Post Office that operated from 1922 to 1941, according to the Russian River Recorder.

Old-timers remembered how early automobile dealers used the start of Mill Creek Road as sort of a proving ground. They would drive the steep and slippery “Hopper Hill” at the start of the road to demonstrate how good their cars were.

In 1925, an article in the Healdsburg Tribune Weekly reported that “Venado is so new, and so far from the regular beaten track of tourists that is has attracted little attention.”

That assessment about the lack of tourists still rings true today, though occasional bicyclists use that same hill as a training ground.

The old school house sits on a slope up winding, redwood-lined Mill Creek Road, seven miles from the intersection with Westside Road.

Even though its off the beaten path, the stories live on of the events at Daniels School and the backwoods: wild pigs, rattlesnakes, traplines and fighting forest fires.

Efforts began in the late 1990s to rehabilitate the old school house. The foundation, porch and awning were rebuilt. But the dream of renovating the schoolhouse was delayed when the leader in the effort, Flora May Cootes-Caletti, became ill.

About two weeks ago the fund drive was renewed. Letters have gone out to local residents, Healdsburg businesses and wineries. So far, almost $900 has come in.

A local contractor is donating his time to the rebuilding and Standard Structures of Windsor is donating some materials.

Contributions can be sent to the Venado Historical Society, 7751 A Mill Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA, 95448.