By Miller Valley Historical Team

As with all things, there is a beginning and an end.  There is a birth, a lifetime to be celebrated and a legacy to be remembered and cherished.  So it is with Prescott’s Miller Valley School.  Preliminary preparations for a centennial celebration have become instead a 99th anniversary celebration and/or eulogy.

In 1878, the West Prescott School was opened in a one-room building alongside Iron Springs Road.  Later, it was renamed Miller Valley School honoring pioneer brothers Sam and Jacob Miller who homesteaded the area they at first called Spring Valley.

A new brick and concrete school building with two rooms accommodating 60 students was completed in 1916.  The trustees hired Annie M. McEachran as teacher/principal, and her sister Mary T. McEachran as a teacher. 

In a 1966 Courier interview, Vic Swanson, who came to Miller Valley in 1918, told of students’ modes of travel:  “At the rear of Miller Valley was a stable for four horses which were ridden daily by students to school as well as one kid who rode a burro.   Usually a student’s residential area could be pegged by his mode of travel.  If you walked you could bet he was from the hill country of Prescott.  If he was fortunate enough to live on level ground, he might appear on a shiny bicycle.”

The original brick portion of Miller Valley School still stands in front of many additions constructed over the years.  By 1922, two classrooms were added and the staff increased to four teachers for the eight grades.  Another two rooms were added in 1927.

Miller Valley District joined Prescott Unified School District in 1930, and the seventh and eighth grades were moved to Prescott Junior High School.  In 1939 another wing with four classrooms was added.  With an enrollment close to 300, the school provided classes for kindergarten through sixth grade. 

Increased enrollment in 1947 forced the rental of two buildings from the nearby Yavapai County Fairgrounds.  Another addition in 1955, included office space and a cafeteria. For students of that era, Snow Cap across Iron Springs Road was the favorite after school destination.

By 1962, the student population reached 555 and the school was again overcrowded. The basement (nicknamed the dungeon) and a Quonset hut were used for temporary classrooms.  Space in the nearby Baptist Church was used for a kindergarten classroom, while additional space was rented at the Yavapai County Youth Center.

In September 1963, Miller Valley was on double sessions for six weeks while awaiting completion of Taylor Hicks School.  The proximity of the new Cornet Store was a boon for the students who especially enjoyed visiting their ice cream counter.

Another addition in 1972 added four rooms, including special education, reading and art rooms. K-6 enrollment tallied 516 students.

In November of 1990, a PUSD Board proposal for listing Miller Valley School on the National Register of Historic Places died due to the lack of a second.  The property was discussed as a potential piece of commercial real estate, a recurring subject over the years.  1992 brought other additions; a gym and music and art rooms.  The closure of Dexter School in 1997 sent enrollment numbers to 504.  Space was again an issue.  A final addition consisting of four classrooms was completed in 2007.

Current Miller Valley students and staff are shown in this farewell photo taken April 1st (Photo Courtesy of Terry Pemberton).

In 2010, controversy over a mural painted on the exterior wall facing the Iron Springs/Miller Valley Road intersection briefly gained national media attention.

On December 2, 2014,after exploring options to address a $2.1 million budget gap, the PUSD board voted to close Miller Valley and Washington Schools.

As the footsteps of eager children excitedly scamper down the halls and out the doors for the 2015 summer vacation, the lights will go out and the doors will close for the last time.  The sounds of laughter and learning will be heard no more in the halls of Miller Valley School, but its light will shine brightly in the hearts and minds of those who were fortunate enough to call it their home. Their Miller Valley family will be remembered as they journey through life, carrying with them the indelible imprint of lessons learned, and relationships formed, all embodied in the school motto, “Loving to Learn and Learning to Love.”

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit ideas for articles to dayspastprescott@gmail.com.Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastprescott@gmail.com for information.