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Mitchell Elementary named for 19th century pioneer

Posted: May 27, 2008 1:41 a.m.
Updated: July 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 
Thomas Finley Mitchell came to California from Texas, and in 1860 he became the first United States citizen to reside in Soledad Canyon, where he started a cattle ranch and also farmed and raised honey bees.

The only occupants of the canyon prior to Mitchell's arrival had been Native Americans, grizzly bears, coyotes and jackrabbits.

This adventurer - who also provided an adobe for the first school in the area - is the namesake of Mitchell Elementary School on Goodvale Street in Canyon Country.

Anyone curious about Mitchell Elementary's namesake need look no further than the school's Web site, www.sssd.k12.ca.us/mitchell, where a group of fourth graders in the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program posted information about the school's history in 2000.

The history project was done by former Mitchell students Bree Mobley, Trevor Yslas and Bryce DeFigueiredo, currently seniors at Canyon High School.

"When we were that young, we didn't really think it would amount to anything but a fun project," DeFigueiredo said of the information on the school's site. The only time he thought about it was when he would occasionally "Google" himself and that site would come up, he said.

According to the GATE project information, after Mitchell married and a couple of other families, the Langs and the Stewarts, moved into the canyon, the need for a school became apparent.

"They formed the Sulphur Springs School District, the second district in all of Los Angeles County," the site reads.

Mitchell's wife, Martha Mitchell, started the school in her adobe kitchen in 1872 with four of her own children and six other students, according to the Mitchell students' research. The site of the original Mitchell adobe is now the site of the playground at Sulphur Springs Elementary School.

The Mitchell Adobe School House was about to be torn down in 1986, but the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society managed to save it, moving the remaining bricks to Heritage Junction in Newhall where the building was restored. Yslas, Mobley and DeFigueiredo visited the original schoolhouse as part of their research in 2000.

"I remember it was the first school in the area, and a lot different from Mitchell school now, that's for sure," DeFigueiredo said.

Visitors to Heritage Junction today can still see where pioneer children practiced their lessons more than 100 years ago, in the old adobe schoolhouse.

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