The Orchard School District was founded as a political subdivision on May 19, 1856. That might be too conventional a statement with which to begin an account of its history were it not for the sheer remarkability of the date. For the school to have been organized by that early day, three men had to meet in a small Missouri town twelve years earlier.
In 1844, three men met to discuss the possibilities of arranging a joint venture across the Great Plains, over the Rockies and the Sierras, to the limit of the American West, California. The first member of the group was Martin Murphy, who sought the land as the cure for his restlessness. One finds three of Murphy's attributes consistently mentioned: his intelligences, his industry, and his piety.
Son of Martin Murphy, James Murphy traveled with his family to California in 1820. James Murphy became one of the first settlers in the Orchard area.
In spring of 1846, Joseph Aram was leaving Illinois for California. By October 1846, Aram reached the Bear River, and met Colonel Fremont at Fort Sutter and was led to the Santa Clara Mission by some of Fremont's men.
In 1848, Mark Farney at age 23 was stepping off a ship in Boston from his native Ireland. Farney came to America for "better opportunities for advancement, more freedom, more room to play the game of life than was afforded by overcrowded Ireland." Boston satisfied his curiosity until 1853 when he prepared to head to California.
In 1852, Bernard Fox, a highly respected botanist from Boston, left Massachusetts with a large number of trees bought a short time earlier by Commodore Robert Stockton. After spending a year and a half with Stockton, Fox sought to build a nursery of his own, and arrived in the Orchard area in 1853.
Fox first bought 126 acres on Milpitas Road, but soon rented 150 more. The land he developed would eventually be called the Santa Clara Valley Nurseries and Botanical Gardens.
Fox built his residence on the land, and proceeded to grow three varieties of peas, and many fruits, including pear, apricot, cherry, apple, and silver prune trees.
In 1862, the children of the settlers began attending the first Orchard School, as their parents were busy buying and developing more land. James Murphy built the Ringwood Farm in 1872, located at the corner of Wayne Street and Old Oakland Road.
The Schallenberger School was built in 1866 for approximately $1,700. The building was a two-room structure, each room being 20" by 30" with 15' ceilings. The first teacher at Schallenberger was Ann Fuirtee who received $100 per month salary.
In 1896, a new school was built on property owned and donated by Richard Fox. The picture below shows the class of 1922-23.
Jeanette Wildhofer arrived at Orchard School in 1934. She was a graduate of San Jose State College and was known for the wide wardrobe of colorful dresses she wore. Mrs. Wildhofer was highly respected by her teaching partners for the thoroughness of her academic approach. She taught at Orchard School for 37 years.
In 1949 Al Saxe replaced Kate Doyle as principal of the Orchard school at the Gish Road site. Mr. Saxe supervised the building of two new wings and a cafeteria/kitchen to the site. Soon after Saxe arrived, the first mobile home park, Riverbend, was built, bringing an extra 100 pupils to the school.
In 1949, Maxine Timmons began a 17 year stint as a 6th grade and music teacher at Orchard School. She was particularly fond of the ukulele, so she struck a deal with a second hand store owner on Market Street to provide her students with ukuleles.
In 1952, Mabel Farley was hired as principal when Al Saxe was named superintendent. When Saxe retired in 1964, he was replaced by Mable Farley.
When Mabel Farley retired in 1970, she was replaced with Donald Adam. One of the first things Adam did upon arriving at Orchard School was take a needs assessment. The priorities were threefold: finish the renovation schedule, build a school library, and construct a third wing.