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Who Were They?

John Rico

Many of the newcomers to the community do not know the origin of the names of several of our schools. Among the names of individuals after whom local schools are named, the most prominent was the well known poet, Edwin Markham, whose “The Man With the Hoe,” was recited by millions of school children quite a few years back. Markham came to the Vacaville area when a. boy of 7, and attended schools in Vacaville and Suisun. The family home was in Lagoon Valley, south of Vacaville. The Edwin Markham School is in the Markham Heights section of Vacaville.

In 1931, Markham wrote to Miss Edith Bassford, a student at Vaca High, briefly telling of his boyhood in Vacaville, revealing he had attended the Hisperian College in Vacaville. “I rode to it daily on my bucking bronco,” he wrote.

The new Will C. Wood High School on Peabody Road perpetuate; the name of a native of Elmira, who died in May 1939. Will Wood was a nationally known educator, and at one time held the position of superintendent of schools of California, and was also state superintendent of banks, and a vice president of the Bank of America. He graduated from Vaca High School in 1900 and received his grade school training at Elmira. In later years he became president of the San Francisco Commonwealth Club, and was a vice president of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce.

The Willis Jepson School perpetuates the name of Willis Linn Jepson, born in Vacaville in August 1867. He went to Cornell and Harvard universities, and also studied in Berlin. Keenly interested in botany, he became professor of botany at the University of California, and authored many books on the subject which are widely used throughout the United States. He died in 1946.

A former principal at the Vacaville Grammar School, the late Eugene Padan, is honored by having one of the local grade schools bearing his name. One of the highlights of his stay with the local school was the organizing of a drum and bugle corps which brought much publicity of the school and community.

Local school trustees have not been consistent in the naming of schools. They have followed no set pattern, taking names at random, whether they be those of individuals, geographic locations, or “places and things.” We find a conglomeration of school names here, such as Fairmont, Hemlock, Monte Vista, Elm, Alamo, and Ulatis, the latter being the name of an Indian tribe that roamed the Vacaville area. Fairmont is the name of a housing subdivision in the eastern section of Vacaville, while Hemlock, Monte Vista, Elm and Alamo are names of local streets, where the schools are located.

Vacaville’s continued growth is reflected in the increasing number of graduates who annually receive their diplomas from Vaca High. Back in 1906, the first graduating class of the school had four graduates. In 1969 there were 260.

We believe we have in our possession one of the oldest year books ever published at the Vacaville High School. It is dated 1906, and it was the senior annual. The faculty in that day consisted of the principal and four teachers. It is interesting to note pictures of the graduates, among them being the Marshall sisters, now Edna and Willa Schaefer, both having married Vacaville brothers, the late Walter and Ralph Schaefer.

These old yearbooks contain a wealth of information, and the day may come when it will be possible to preserve a copy of these books in one place where they can be viewed by the public.

To show the frame of mind of the graduates of the Class of 16, we reprint the following paragraph:

“We wish to commend the Seniors on the handsome and appropriate present, which they leave to the school as a class souvenir. The gift is a large bust of Shakespeare and greatly adds to the interior appearance of the building, standing in its imposing place in the front hall. Seniors, the school will not forget you.”