The historic Waldron Schoolhouse near Mitchell, built in 1874 for pioneer children, was vandalized this spring. The windows were broken, subjecting the school’s interior to birds, yellow jackets and dust.
Toney Ryno of Mitchell learned of the damage and leapt into action. Toney’s family (Paul) moved to the area in the 1870s and has a long history with the school. Toney phoned the landowner, Larry Gabbie and began working on a plan.
Ryno says that she looked for grants and other sources of funds to repair the schoolhouse but was encouraged by others in the community to start a GoFundMe campaign online.
People from Wheeler County and beyond chipped-in. “The page went active at 7:00 PM and we reached our goal by 9:30 AM the next morning,” Ryno said.
From there Ryno began looking for glass companies that would travel to the area. With an unprecedented demand on building materials, this was no easy task.
But Ryno spoke with Precision Glass Service in Powell Butte and they were on-site within days.
Precision Glass Service is owned by Gary Evans and his two sons, Daniel and Andrew. Evans says that he and his sons are equal partners and that they feel a sense of accomplishment when they get such calls in an emergency.
“I grew up in the glass industry,” Evans says, “my father had a glass company for 37 years.”
The opportunity to work on the Waldron Schoolhouse with his two sons was something that Evans jumped at.
“Toney contacted me on May 5th and told me about the schoolhouse and the broken windows,” Evans says. “I went out, met the landowner – a couple days later my sons loaded up and fixed the windows.”
Evans says that the experience was a positive one and that his sons saw the value in preserving historic buildings.
“I was impressed with the condition the schoolhouse was in,” he said. “It still has the names on the wall of the kids who went to school there, by nails where they hung their coats.”
Evans says that he does a lot of hunting in the Mitchell area and that Precision Glass Service provides services in the area. “I couldn’t go turkey hunting this year because I was too busy but it was nice to still go out to Mitchell,” he said.
Waldron was once a town, before Wheeler County had been established. It was known as “Shoofly country,” and was complete with a post-office. Waldron was even considered for the county-seat when Wheeler County was established, according to the definitive book on the area: The History of Wheeler County. In 1938, there were 10 students at the Waldron School, tutored by Lola Parker whose husband owned the Fossil Journal. The Waldron School was still operating through 1941. There was no water at the school; it was delivered in two give-gallon cream cans each week. The teacher insisted that they wash their hands and faces before school, then use Rose hand lotion and Rose hair oil. There was a wood stove which children would help get going in the morning. The Keys children rode horses to school from a few miles away. Fred Dunn said that he believed Mrs. Parker most likely never received a profit from her teaching as she paid for all supplies and musical instruments herself–even the material for the girls May Day dresses.