Tucson Indian Training School
Among the best sources of information on the Escuela school is the 1949 Arrowhead, the school yearbook. “Street Smarts: Tucson Indian School Taught Hoeing, Sewing,” is a 2015 newspaper history of the school by David Leighton. Home Mission Monthly by the Women’s Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church carried regular news items about the school. The Church also published a school history in 1937.
In January 1888 Mary Whitaker started classes for ten students in a rented adobe school building. Later that year Howard Billman arrived and began classes for 54 students in a new building. Most students were from the Pima and Papago tribes. The 1937 school history states, “The aim is to equip individuals to meet conditions in the local communities on the reservations to which most of them will eventually return.” In 1903 newspapers reported that students had become proficient in spelling, writing, geography, and psychology. At the same time they were being taught agriculture and other building and hand skills, while the girls were taught sewing and housekeeping skills. By this time enrollment had reached 103. In 1911 Escuela became an experimental school for dry lands farming.
The 1937 history of the school notes that it educated students from grade seven through grade 10, with provisions for better students to continue at the local high school and the university. By 1949 the Arrowhead shows an enrollment of about 130 in grades 7-12.
The commencement of 1903 featured students displaying skills in oratory and recitation as well as musical selections from a chorus and a boys’ quartette. In 1915 students performed a locally written operetta called “The Feast of the Red Corn.” In 1919 the school orchestra performed a cantata as part of the program “The Mound Builders.”
In the 1950’s the school began to wind down. Farm operations ceased around 1957. Before 1960 Escuela was primarily a boarding facility for native students who attended Tucson High School. Tucson Indian Training School was closed in 1960.
1908 graduates of Tucson Indian Training school wearing native dress.
Image from Home Mission Monthly.
Bricks and Mortar
The Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church leased land around what is now 22nd Street and 10th Avenue and also purchased land for a school farm. The new school building opened there in 1888. Leighton reported that in 1907 the board was able to sell this campus for profit and purchase 160 acres “about four miles south of downtown for a new campus.” The dirt road leading to the campus later gave the school address as “820 Ajo Way.” A new administration building was completed in 1922; It appears to be a single-story brick structure with a mansard roof. Other campus buildings included a chapel and matching dormitories for boys and girls. A later headmaster wrote that the “School plant covers 160 acres, 60 acres under irrigation, has 9 buildings, capacity 130 pupils.”
After the school closed, the Tucson Citizen newspaper announced that the landmark was being razed to make room for Santa Cruz Plaza, a shopping center.
The Escuela campus. The Administration Building is in the center. Image from Home Mission Monthly.
Team name: Braves
Tucson Indian Training School made a name for itself in football early. Coach William Ruthrauff led teams to a 26-4-4 record through 1904. Most opponents were over other Indian teams from San Xavier Agency and Sacaton School as well as reserve teams from Tucson High School. But between 1899 and 1908 they played the University of Arizona 18 times.
The Braves were also tough in cross country, defeating the University of Arizona three times running. In 1915 Escuela fielded a women’s basketball team which according to the Citizen lost to Tucson High school 70-1.
The Arrowhead shows a typical sports program for a small high school with teams in football, basketball and track
Members of the Tucson Indian Training School cross country team that defeated the University of Arizona. Image from Home Mission Monthly.