The town of Higley
Newspaper article: A 1930 photo shows the old Higley general story and post office, built in 1910, at Higley and Williams Field roads. The postal district created for area farmers led many to call the area Higley, though no official town exists.Higley was named after Stephen Weaver Higley, born May 3, 1857, who was one of the early land owners in the area. In 1872, Stephen accepted a job offer from a Santa Fe railroad passenger.Stephen is credited with the Santa Fe railroad line from Cadiz, California to Congress, Arizona. In 1905/1906, he bought more than 8,000 acres of land in the area believing it to be very fertile soil for farming.The original Higley town site consisted of 40 acres, and is believed to have been donated by him.1909
The Beginning StagesOn June 28, 1909, a group of parents in the Higley area delivered a petition to A.H. Fulton, the Maricopa County School Superintendent. The parents requested the formation of a school district for their children in the vicinity of Higley and including up to six miles of the surrounding agricultural area.On July 1, 1909, Fulton forwarded the petition to the Maricopa County Board of supervisors with his recommendation that the board grant the request. On July 19, 1909, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors created Higley Elementary School District #60. The District boundaries originally included a large portion of the southeast Valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area, but much of that was transferred to other districts over the years.The first teacher that taught in Higley Elementary in 1909, was Nellie Martin Sirrine. The school territory records show Nellie M Sirrine taught from October 4, 1909 to April 22, 1910. In all 15 students ages 6 to 15 attended school when it opened in fall 1909.By 1910, the school board had erected a small, one-room wooden schoolhouse on the northeast corner of Higley Road and Pecos Road.1915
“Higley to Build School at Once.”- February 19, 1915Higley’s first two room school houseIn 1915, the board of Higley School District authorized construction of a new, brick school building on a different location with $6,000 in bonds. The bonds were sold at par and carried only six percent interest, which was considered very advantageous at the time.The new, red brick, two room school building, was located on two acres on the north side of the railroad tracks, it was on the northeast corner of the 40-acre town site, half a mile north of Williams Field Road. The two-acre land was generously donated by the Town Site Company, W.P. Pleasant of Chandler was the contractor selected to build the school. The total building construction cost came to be $3,000. Higley School opened in the fall of 1915.The first school board members of Higley were P.B. Werdon, Homer Owen and Mr. Raymond, who resigned before serving. Higley School District #60 encompassed a large area that included the Higley school and Rittenhouse school which is considered Queen Creek now.1920s
Segregated DaysPicture 1: Students standing in front original school building in 1932, Picture 2: Rocendo Martin, Picture 3: Martin kids names in Higley’s old school register bookThe early days in Arizona, along with Texas, California and many other states, mandated the segregation of Mexican American students. School districts in Arizona often established separate “Mexican Schools” for Mexican American students.In the late 20s through the early 40s, Higley school was segregated. The students met in a 1910 two-wooden frame room house where the Higley Traditional Academy library now sits. The wooden house was moved onto the Higley school property sometime during the early days, the exact date is unknown. The two rooms were for the Mexican and Native American children.Archives show that in 1928 Higley had its first Mexican school class. The class was taught by Linda Hill, with an average of thirty students. The children ranged in age from 6 to 16. Common Spanish last names of students at the time were: Perez, Lopez, Ramirez, Contreras, Ruiz and Gonzalez.
Mary Tomas, age 9, was one of the students that attended Higley in the 20s. Her ethnic background was Papago Indian. Mary only went to school three months.In 1938, Rocendo Martin attended Higley as a child during the segregated days. Rocendo had two siblings that attended Higley that same year: Joe and Manuel. In the early 80s Rocendo became one of Higley’s School Board Members.The Martin kids attended Mrs. Wealthy B Martin’s class.Rocendo remembered going to school in the two wooden frame room house in the back of the main school building. Mexican American students would sometimes go in the main building 100, normally to deliver a message to another teacher or to get something for their teacher.The last school segregated register book that was found for Mexican Americans that attended Higley elementary, dated back to 1939. This shows that Higley segregated days ended in 1939, but nothing was written to back that date, so it cannot be confirmed.